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Using Windows Explorer

In Windows 7, all the items stored on your computer—including programs, documents, and configuration settings—are accessible from Windows Explorer. This is a window that displays all the disk drives, folders, subfolders, and files on your computer system. You use Windows Explorer to find, copy, delete, launch, and even configure programs and documents.

You launch Windows Explorer from either the taskbar or the Start menu. Just click the Windows Explorer icon on the taskbar or select Documents from the Start menu.

Windows Explorer is also used to go directly to various types of documents on your hard drive. For example, when you click the Music icon on the Start menu, you open Windows Explorer looking directly at the open Music folder. When you click the Pictures icon on the Start menu, you open Windows Explorer looking directly at the open Pictures folder. And so forth.

Navigating Windows Explorer

When you open Windows Explorer, you see four icons. These icons let you go directly to all the Documents, Music, Pictures, and Videos stored on your hard drive. Double-click an icon to view the subfolders and files of that type.

On the left side of the Windows Explorer window is a Navigation pane, divided into several sections. The top section, Favorites, lists your most-used folders—Recently Changed, Public, Desktop, Downloads, Network, and Recent Places. Next is the Libraries section, which repeats the four icons in the main window—Documents, Music, Pictures, and Videos. Below that is a Homegroup section, which lets you access other computers on your network HomeGroup. The Computer section lets you access all the disk drives and devices connected to your computer. And the Network section lets you access all of your networked computers. Click any icon in the Navigation pane to view the contents of that item.

Figure 3.14

Figure 3.14 Navigating through your folders and subfolders with Windows Explorer.

Let’s examine how Windows Explorer works. Double-click the Documents icon in the main window (or click the Documents item in the Navigation pane), and you see a window full of folders, such as the one shown in Figure 3.15. Double-click a folder icon to view the contents of that folder—which could be individual files or additional folders (sometimes called subfolders). To launch a program or open a document, double-click that item’s icon. To perform other tasks (copying, deleting, and so forth), right-click the icon and select an option from the pop-up menu.

Figure 3.15

Figure 3.15 Browsing through the folders and files stored on your system with Windows Explorer.

When you want to copy, delete, or otherwise manage files and folders, you use the Organize menu on the Windows Explorer toolbar. This menu includes most of the operations you need to manage your system’s files and folders.

Managing PC Resources with Computer Explorer

Windows 7 includes a special version of Windows Explorer, called Computer Explorer, that you use to access each major component of your system and perform basic maintenance functions. For example, you can use Computer Explorer to “open” the contents of your hard disk and then copy, move, and delete individual files. To open the Computer Explorer, simply click the Computer icon on the Start menu.

As you can see in Figure 3.16, Computer Explorer contains icons for each of the major components of your system—your hard disk drive, external drives, CD-ROM or DVD drive, and so on. To view the contents of a specific drive, simply double-click the icon for that drive. You’ll see a list of folders and files located on that drive; to view the contents of any folder, just double-click the icon for that folder.

Figure 3.16

Figure 3.16 Use Computer Explorer to manage your hard drive and other key components.

Managing Windows with the Control Panel

There’s one more variation of Windows Explorer, similar to Computer Explorer, that you need to know about. This Explorer, called the Control Panel, is used to manage most of Windows’ configuration settings. To open the Control Panel, click the Control Panel icon on the Start menu.

When the Control Panel opens, as shown in Figure 3.17, you can select a particular category you want to configure. Each item you select opens a window with a different set of options; just keep clicking until you find the specific item you want to configure.

Figure 3.17

Figure 3.17 The Windows 7 Control Panel—configuration tasks are organized by category.

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