The shortcut

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Inside Microsoft Windows 95

A Publication of The Cobb Group

Published March 1997

You probably know that a detailed view of a folder in Windows Explorer reveals four pieces of information about each of its files, as shown in Figure A. This view lists each file's name, size, type, and date of last modification. To display these details, click the Details button

However, you might not be aware that you can sort these details by any category of information shown in the four columns. In fact, sorting the details before you browse a folder will let you find files faster. In this article, we'll show you a shortcut for sorting the details and discuss how doing so can speed your work in Windows Explorer.


Figure A: This detailed view of a folder in Windows Explorer displays four pieces of information about each file.

To sort Windows Explorer's details according to a category shown in one of the four columns, you simply click the corresponding title bar above that column. Of course, you can also sort the information by using the Arrange Icons option on the View menu. However, you'll find that clicking a title bar is much more convenient.

On This Page

Working smarter
Reversing the sort order
Just browsing

Working smarter

The criterion by which you sort the details depends on your search. For instance, suppose you want to locate the wdreadme.txt file, shown in the right pane in Figure A. Instead of scanning the unsorted list—which would be tedious—click the Name title bar, and Windows Explorer will alphabetize the list, as shown in Figure B. (By the way, notice that Windows Explorer arranges folders before files.)


Figure B: : When you click the Name title bar, Windows Explorer arranges the files and folders alphabetically.

At some point, all of us have probably forgotten the name of a file, although we know approximately when we created it. Ever forget the name of the presentation file you were working with the day before? Or perhaps the Word file you created three days ago? If this is the case, sorting the information by the Modified column can really be helpful. Click the Modified title bar, and Windows Explorer will arrange the most recently modified files at the top of the list. (Of course, you don't have to open Windows Explorer to find the most recently used file. You could try looking at the list of recently opened files displayed at the bottom of the File menu of the application you were using.)

Sorting files by Type can save browsing time when you know only the type of file. Click the Type title bar, and Windows Explorer will arrange the information alphabetically by type, as shown in Figure C.


Figure C: : Sorting the details by file type makes it easy to locate the Word templates in this folder.

Now you can locate all the Word template files, for example, by scanning the Type field for the description Microsoft Word Template. While you could find the Word template files by searching the Name column for the group of filenames with the DOT extension, keep in mind that since you can save a file with any extension, not all files of a particular type will have the same extension. So, using the method we describe here is more foolproof.

Finally, suppose you need to delete some unwanted files to free up disk space. To find the files that are taking up the most room, click the Size title bar. Windows Explorer will arrange the files from smallest to largest. You can then simply scroll to the bottom of the list to examine the largest files to see which ones you can safely delete.

Reversing the sort order

If you want to arrange your file information in reverse (descending) order, you can simply click one of the title bars twice. The first time you click the title bar, Windows Explorer will arrange the file information as we described in the previous section. The second time, it will reverse the arrangement. For instance, clicking the Name title bar twice would arrange the filenames in reverse alphabetical order (from z to a).

Just browsing

When you haven't the faintest idea where a file is located on your PC or network, you should use the Find command on Windows Explorer's Tools menu. However, when you know the folder in which a file is located, all you need to do is browse that folder in Windows Explorer. Sorting the details will make quick work of your search.

The article entitled "Sorting the Details Makes Browsing Folders Easier" was originally published in Inside Microsoft Windows 95, March 1997. Copyright © 1997, The Cobb Group, 9420 Bunson Parkway, Louisville, KY 40220. All rights reserved. For subscription information, call the Cobb Group at 1-800-223-8720.

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