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Basic Navigation and Operations

Now that you've looked at how to customize the look and feel of Windows XP's folders, let's turn our attention to some basic drive and folder navigation and operations.

Navigate Disks and Folders

You can navigate through disks and folders My Computer, My Documents, and other folders in several ways:

  • To view the contents of a disk or folder, click the selected item.

  • To move up the hierarchy of folders to the next highest folder or disk, click the Up button on the toolbar.

  • To move back to the disk or folder previously selected, click the Back button on the toolbar.

  • To choose from the history of disks and folders previously viewed, click the down arrow on the Back button and select a disk or folder. View the complete history by selecting the History icon on this pull-down menu.

  • If you've moved back through multiple disks or folders, you can move forward to the next folder by clicking the Forward button.

  • Go directly to any disk or folder by entering the path in the Address Bar (in the format x:\folder\subfolder) and pressing Enter or clicking the Go button.

You can also go directly to any folder by clicking the Folders button to display the Folders pane, and then selecting the folder in the Folders list.

Selecting Files and Folders

Sometimes you want to perform an action on a single file. To select a single file, just hover your cursor over the file until it is highlighted; the filename and icon changes color, and information about the selected file appears in the Details section of the activity center pane. (If you're using double-click mode, you have to single-click a file to display the Details.)

At other times, however, you want to perform a single action on multiple files. To select multiple files, hover your cursor over the first file you want to select, and then hold down the Ctrl key on your keyboard. Select additional files by hovering your cursor over them until they are highlighted. Keep holding down the Ctrl key until you've selected all desired files.

Creating Folders

Folders act kind of like drawers on your hard drive to hold other folders or files. They enable you organize your hard drive by putting common files or subfolders together.

This is how you create new folders:

  1. Navigate to the current drive or folder that contains the new folder.

  2. Select File, New Folder—or click the Make a New Folder task in the File and Folder Tasks panel of the activity center pane.

  3. A new, empty folder appears, with the filename "New Folder" highlighted. Type a name for your folder (which overwrites the "New Folder" name) and press Enter.

One of Microsoft's most important "little" changes is the addition of the "make new folder" command in so many places within each folder window. Used to be you could only access this command from the File menu. Now you can create a new file directly from the activity center pane, or by right-clicking anywhere in the folder window.

Thanks, Microsoft!

Finding Files

Locating a file on your system can be difficult, especially with today's extra-large hard disk drives. Windows XP includes a new Search Companion utility that makes it relatively easy to find specific files on your system.

The Search Companion replaces the old Find utility, found in previous versions of Windows. Not only do you get the companionship of an animated dog (named Rover), you also get some decent help and advice on how to fine-tune your search.

To search for a particular file, follow these steps:

  1. Open the Start menu and click the Search icon. (Alternately, you can click the Search button found on the toolbar in any Windows folder.) This displays the Search Companion pane, as shown in Figure 3.16.

    Figure 3.16 Use the new Search Companion to find files on your hard disk.

  2. Select what type of file you want to search for. If you're not sure what file type to select, select All Files and Folders.

  3. The pane that appears next depends on which type of file you wanted to search for. In most cases, you can choose to search by all or part of the filename, as well as choose where (what drive or folder) you want to look for the file.

  4. If available (and if relevant to your search), select one or more of the advanced search options, such as when the file was last modified, or the file size.

  5. Click the Search button to start the search.

  6. The Search Companion now displays a list of files that meet your search criteria—along with advice on how to refine the search. To narrow down your results, click one of the suggestions, and follow the onscreen advice.


Just as you could with the old Find utility, you can use "wildcard" characters when searching with the Search Companion. For example, if you use an asterisk(*) in place of multiple characters, searching for file* finds filename, filetype, and files. If you use a question mark (?) in place of a single character, searching for file? finds only files.

By the way, you can change the animated character that appears in the Search Companion pane—or get rid of it completely. To change the animated character, click the Change Preferences link and then click With a Different Character. Windows XP comes with four characters built in.

To kill the Search Companion character, click the Change Preferences link and then click Without An Animated Screen Character. Bye bye Rover!

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