Navigate Windows File Explorer with These Handy Shortcuts

Most Windows power users will tell you that the key to speed is to forego the point-and-click of a mouse in favor of keyboard shortcuts. We’ve covered shortcuts using the Windows key, but this week’s QuickTip focuses on shortcuts to help you quickly navigate the file tree in Windows Explorer, the familiar file browsing interface integral to the operating system (not to be confused with “Internet Explorer,” Microsoft’s web browser). Windows Explorer looks like this:


The below NUM LOCK combinations only work when you’ve selected items in the left-hand pane:

  • NUM LOCK + ASTERISK (*)Displays all the subfolders within the selected folder.
  • NUM LOCK + PLUS SIGN (+)Displays the content of the selected folder.
  • NUM LOCK + MINUS SIGN (-)Collapses selected folder.
  • LEFT ARROWCollapses the current selection if expanded, or selects the parent folder.
  • RIGHT ARROWDisplays the current selection if collapsed, or selects the first subfolder.

The shortcuts below work on both panes:

  • END—Highlights the last file in the browser.
  • HOME—Highlights the first file in the browse

Another useful trick for finding a particular folder or file in a window is merely to type the first letter of the subfolder you wish to find (this works best when the files are sorted alphabetically). For example, if I want to find the folder titled “Quicktime” in the Program Files directory, I would open the Program Files directory and then press Q to go to the first folder that starts with “Q” in the right-hand pane.


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