Using the Windows file explorer without a mouse

The Windows File Explorer has a number of keyboard shortcuts that do not apply to Windows programs in general.

First of all, you can type Windows key-E to open the File Explorer. You can close it by typing Alt-F4.

Alt-D highlights address box. (Alt-D also highlights the address box of web browsers: IE, Firefox, Safari, etc.) F4 opens a drop-down list of folders in the address bar.

There are several numeric keypad shortcuts for expanding and collapsing folders.

  • * expands everything under the current selection
  • + expands the current selection
  • - collapses the current selection.

Note that the above keys must be on the numeric keypad; the - on the top of the main part of the keyboard, for example, has no effect on the File Explorer.

You can use the up and down arrow keys to move between files and folders.

The right arrow key expands the current selection. If the current selection is already expanded, the key takes you to the first child.

The left arrow key collapses the current selection. If the current selection is already collapsed, the key takes you to the parent folder.

F2 lets you rename an object. (For the rest of this post, “object” means “file or folder.”)

Shift-F10 opens the context menu of an object, as if you had right-clicked on the object. (There’s also a special key for this; the key has a picture of a mouse selecting something from a list.) Once you bring up the context menu, you can use the up and down arrow keys to¬† highlight a menu item and the enter key to click it.

Alt-Enter opens the Properties dialog for an object, as if you had right-clicked and selected its Properties from the context menu.

F6 lets you cycle between the panes of the File Explorer.

* * *

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5 thoughts on “Using the Windows file explorer without a mouse

  1. In Windows 8.1 it highlights the line where your mouse cursor is. This is annoying, as I usually navigate Explorer with the keyboard, so I see the wrong thing selected. Any idea how to deactivate the blue highlight bar that appears where the mouse is?

  2. Hi
    I have a question please.
    Can File Explorer be made to search ‘via/within’ a shortcut? ie like we have Search in all Sub-folders, do we have Search in all Shortcuts?

    – I have a folder called Folder_A which contains only one thing; a shortcut to a different folder called Folder_B. In Folder_B there exists a file called test.txt.
    – I open Folder_A and search for test.txt. Result: No files found.

    My question: Is there some setting or option to cause the search to find the file by continuing the search ‘via’ the shortcut to Folder_B?

    Thanks a lot in advance
    Windows 10, 64 bit.

    (I tried searching online for the answer but was swamped by pages suggesting useful File Explorer Shortcuts.)

  3. When in the navigation panel and moving between folder with the up/down keys, the displayed folder contents are not updated (until I press return).
    This is misleading, because the displayed files and subfolders are not always the content of the currently highlighted folder.
    How can I setup explorer so that the selected folder and displayed contents are always in sync?

  4. Alt + D to select the address in the addressbar
    Ctrl + Shift + 6 to change the mail pane to Details view

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