Speed up navigation in Explorer using keyboard

Jul 11, 2008
Updated • Jul 5, 2008

Just like Martin, I prefer using keyboard shortcuts wherever feasible and after reading several latest articles of his about this topic, an idea struck my mind. Although the following tip is dead simple and supposedly also generally known, reiterating it for some of the readers shouldn't hurt.

Navigating through your folders and files in Explorer using keyboard instead of mouse is rather a matter of personal preferences and comfort (as long as we ignore the "I wanna look more pro" part). Simple and widely recognized navigation hotkeys like arrow keys, PgUp/Dn and Backspace aren't worth mentioning. However, in complex folder structure with many objects in it, this kind of navigation becomes a bit clumsy since it often takes longer to hop to the object of interest than it would take with mouse. The solution to this can't be easier than it is.

When looking for something specific within the folder structure, you usually do have an idea of what the name of the container or file is and it's therefore easy to quickly identify such an object, which is moreover in most cases alphabetically sorted. Still, even using the ABCs for easier navigation can become a bit obsolete in stuffed folders. Fortunately, Explorer ain't as stupid as it might appear and if you simply type the beginning of the object's name, it immediately tries to find a suitable match and points to it by selecting it. That's it, just use a small part of the object's label to quickly get to it as though you were using Launchy or similar app launcher with the difference that Explorer takes care of this by default too.

To provide a simple example and clear out any confusion, imagine we want to quickly navigate to the Windows' wallpapers folder to tinker with some of them. Say your system partition is labelled Primary, go ahead and type "pri..." within the MyComputer window, then hit Enter as soon as it gets selected. Our final destination (C:\Windows\Web\Wallpaper) can be easily reached in a similar way, perhaps by typing something like "wi", "we", "wa" while always hitting enter in between, of course. The number of chars required to select the desired object is naturally dependent on the amount of objects in a folder as well as the variety of their labels. But it does work pretty fast in most cases.

This kind of quick navigation should be supported by virtually any file manager under Windows, including Frigate (advanced implementation of this feature), TotalCommander as well as registry editors and other applications listing folder structure or any other elements. Another way of quick navigation through your folder structure is by engaging an application launcher like formerly mentioned Launchy. Though, the disadvantage resulting from this is a much larger database that has to absorb much more data if you set it to index your whole drive and its contents.


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  1. eRIZ said on July 11, 2008 at 6:22 pm

    Whatever, using explorer instead of NC’s clones is a total waste of time…

    One day I was “benchmarking” speed of performing simple copy operation (with finding file). Exact file, exact location. Explorer vs. Total Commander, using only keyboard. Results? Explorer: >30 seconds, TC: 12 ;]

  2. Tobey said on July 11, 2008 at 3:00 pm

    Hehe, good point guys. The thing is, I’ve already made my choice. It’s called Frigate :)

    BTW this type of navigation works in many places outside Explorer, which was just an example.

  3. Rarst said on July 11, 2008 at 1:17 pm

    >So, why are you wasting your time by not using something like Total Commander?

    I second that. :) Total Commander may not fit people who are set on using freeware only, but even they have some proper file manager options like FreeCommander (pretty much clone of core TotCom functons).

  4. eRIZ said on July 11, 2008 at 11:16 am

    I prefer using keyboard shortcuts wherever feasible

    So, why are you wasting your time by not using something like Total Commander?

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