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The Ribbon and Quick Access Toolbar inside File Explorer in Windows 8

There are so many new features introduced in Windows 8, I wouldn't even know where to begin. Microsoft even renamed Windows Explorer to File Explorer. But they didn't add any truly 'new' features to File Explorer. In fact, they brought in some features from older programs and versions. Let's take a look at the Ribbon and Quick Access Toolbar inside of the Windows 8 File Explorer.

The Ribbon and Quick Access Toolbar locations in Windows 8 File Explorer
The Ribbon and Quick Access Toolbar locations in Windows 8 File Explorer

The Ribbon first appeared in Office 2007, and over the past few years, other software companies have adapted the Ribbon as well. The Ribbon is meant to optimize file management by exposing over 200 top-level features that were previously hidden in right-click context menus. The Quick Access Toolbar (QAT) first appeared in the Windows XP version of Windows Explorer.

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The Quick Access Toolbar in Windows 8 and Windows XP

Some of the Ribbon features are:

  • Every command in the ribbon is given a keyboard shortcut. Press Alt to reveal them.
  • You can pin your favorite commands to the Quick Access Toolbar (QAT).
  • The Ribbon is collapsible to maximize vertical screen space. Even with the ribbon visible, more vertical screen space is provided in the default configuration than Windows Explorer in Windows 7.
  • The Ribbon is minimized by default.
  • File menu includes options for things like opening a Command Prompt as an administrator, opening a new File Explorer window, and accessing the folder and search options.
  • The Ribbon contains three main tabs: Home, Share and View, plus a File menu and a variety of contextual tabs.
  • Contextual tabs are shown when selecting certain areas or file types in File Explorer.

Standard Ribbon Tabs (shown at all times)

Tab nameCommand Group(s)
File Open new window, Open command prompt, Open Windows Powershell, Delete history, Help, Close
Home Clipboard, Organize, New, Open, Select
Share Send, Share with, Advanced security
View Panes, Layout, Current view, Show/hide, Options

Contextual Ribbon Tabs (shown when selecting certain areas or file types)

Tab nameCommand Group(s)
Library Tools Manage, Restore settings
Music Tools Play
Picture Tools Rotate, View
Video Tools Play
Drive Tools Protect (Enterprise only), Manage, Media
Search Tools Location, Refine, Options, Close search
Compressed Folder Tools Extract To, Extract all
Application Tools Pin to taskbar, Run
Recycle Bin Tools Manage, Restore

Working with Libraries in Windows 8

When I'm working on my computer, the one thing I hate having to do is navigating File Explorer to get to a folder. Windows 8 has a really useful feature built-in called Libraries. With Libraries, I can get to my documents, music, pictures, videos and frequently used folders with just a couple of clicks. Here's how to work with Libraries inside of Windows 8.

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View of Libraries inside of Windows 8 File Explorer

What is a library?

Libraries are collections of where you can get to all your documents, music, pictures, and other files in one single place. In some ways, a library works like a folder: you can use it to browse and sort files. But unlike a folder, a library gathers files that are stored in several locations. This is a subtle, but important, difference. Libraries don't actually store your items. They pull from folders that contain your items, and let you open and arrange the items in different ways. For example, if you have music files in folders on your PC and on an external drive, you can get all of your music files from the Music library.

There are four default libraries (Documents, Music, Pictures, and Videos), but you can create new libraries for other collections. You can also add and remove folders from libraries. Libraries can include up to 50 folders.

What folder locations are supported in libraries?

You can include folders in a library from many different locations, such as your C drive, an external drive, or a network. Only folders can be included in libraries. Individual files and other items can't be included.

How to create a new library

  1. Swipe in from the right edge of the screen or press the Windows logo key Windows logo key + C to bring up the Charms bar and then tap or left-click Search.
  2. Enter File Explorer in the search box, and then tap or left-click Apps. Tap or left-click File Explorer in the search results
    or
    press the Windows logo key Windows logo key + E.
  3. Tap or left-click Libraries.
  4. Tap or left-click the Home tab, tap or left-click New item, and then choose Library.
  5. Enter a name for the library, and then press Enter.

How to add a folder to a library

If the folder you want to add is on an external hard drive, make sure the drive is connected to your PC and that you can open it.

  1. If you're viewing the New Library page in File Explorer, tap or left-click Include a folder, select the folder, and then tap or left-click Include folder.

If you don't have the New Library page open, continue following these steps.

  1. Swipe in from the right edge of the screen or press the Windows logo key Windows logo key + C to bring up the Charms bar and then tap or left-click Search.
  2. Enter File Explorer in the search box, and then tap or left-click Apps. Tap or left-click File Explorer in the search results
    or
    press the Windows logo key Windows logo key + E.
  3. Expand the location to find the folder you want to add, and then select it. (For example, if you want to add a folder from a network, expand the network location and select the folder.)
  4. Tap or left-click the Home tab, tap or left-click Easy access, choose Include in library, and then select the library to which you want to add the folder.

Notes:

  • If you don't see the Include in library option for a network folder, it means the folder isn't indexed. Follow the steps below to add the folder to a library.
  • Folders on removable media (such as CDs and DVDs), network-attached storage (NAS) devices, and some USB flash drives can't be included in a library.

How to add a network folder that isn't indexed to a library

If your PC is running Windows 8 Pro or Windows 8 Enterprise, the easiest way to do this is to make the folder available offline, and then add the offline folder to a library by following the steps above.

If you don't want to make the folder available offline because you don't want to keep the folder contents on your PC, go to the PC where the network folder is located, and make sure the folder is in an indexed location. If it isn't, add the folder to the list of indexed locations or move the folder to an indexed location.

If neither of these options will work for you, follow these steps to add the folder to a library. Note that doing this will make searching, sorting, and filtering in the whole library slow. For best results, we recommend creating a new library for the network folder alone.

How to add a network folder that is not indexed to a Library in Windows 8

  1. Swipe in from the right edge of the screen or press the Windows logo key Windows logo key + C to bring up the Charms bar and then tap or left-click Search.
  2. Enter File Explorer in the search box, and then tap or left-click Apps. Tap or left-click File Explorer in the search results
    or
    press the Windows logo key Windows logo key + E.
  3. Tap or left-click Computer and create a folder on your drive for your network folders, for example c:\share.
  4. Create another folder within that folder, for example c:\share\music.
  5. Select the subfolder you just created, tap or left-click the Home tab, tap or left-click Easy access, choose Include in library, and then select the library to which you want to add the folder.
  6. Delete the folder.
  7. Open a Command Prompt with Administrator privileges (click here for complete instructions)
  8. Enter mklink /d, and then enter the path of the folder you just deleted and the path of the network folder. For example, mklink /d c:\share\music \\server\music. If either of the folder names has spaces, encase the path(s) inside of quotes. For example, mklink /d "c:\shared files\music" "\\server\shared music". This creates what is called a symbolic link.

How to remove a folder from a library

If you don’t need a folder in a library anymore, you can remove it from the library. When you remove a folder from a library, the folder and everything in it is still kept in its original location.

  1. Enter File Explorer in the search box, and then tap or left-click Apps. Tap or left-click File Explorer in the search results
    or
    press the Windows logo key Windows logo key + E.
  2. Select the library where you want to remove a folder.
  3. Tap or left-click the Library Tools tab, and then tap or left-click Manage library.
  4. In the dialog box that appears, select the folder you want to remove, tap or left-click Remove, and then tap or left-click OK.

Left hand keyboard shortcuts for Windows 8

A while back I wrote an article on left hand keyboard shortcuts for Windows. I like to use them so I don't have to take my right hand off of the mouse. With the release of Windows 8, Microsoft added in more shortcuts, primarily for the Start screen. So here is a list of Windows 8 keyboard shortcuts for just your left hand.

The desktop and laptop versions of the Windows 8 Power User command menu
The desktop and laptop versions of the Windows 8 Power User command menu

Left hand keyboard shortcuts for Windows 8

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PressTo

Windows shortcuts

Windows logo key Show the Start screen. If you have the Desktop running, you can also use this key to toggle back and forth between the Start screen and the Desktop.
Windows logo key + D Show just the Desktop (all running applications will be minimized). You can also use this combo to start the Desktop.
Windows logo key + E Start a new instance of Windows Explorer / File Explorer.
Windows logo key + C Open the Charms bar. When you open the Charms bar inside of a Windows RT app and select Settings, it displays the options for that app.
Windows logo key + F Open Files in the Search charm.
Windows logo key + Q Open Apps in the Search charm.
Windows logo key + W Open Settings in the Search charm.
Windows logo key + X Open the Power User command menu. There are over a dozen different apps you can run from this menu.
ALT + TAB Switch between open apps using Task Switcher.

Application shortcuts

CTRL + A Select all
CTRL + C Copy
CTRL + S Save
CTRL + V Paste
CTRL + X Cut
CTRL + Y Redo
CTRL + Z Undo

Check out these related articles:

A complete list of Windows 8 keyboard shortcuts
General Windows keyboard shortcuts

How to organize the Start screen in Windows 8

Being organized is a necessity when you are an IT consultant. You have to know where things are, so when you need them, you can find them. The same is true for the Windows 8 Start screen. If you can't find it, you can't use it. So here's how to organize the Start screen in Windows 8.

Here's a video on how to organize the tiles on the Windows 8 Start screen. The complete instructions are below.

How to pin tiles to the Start screen in Windows 8

Windows 8 Start screen with tiles and groups organized
Windows 8 Start screen with tiles and groups organized

Using a mouse

  1. Go to the Start screen.
  2. Right click the Start screen background to bring up the app commands.
  3. Select All apps.
  4. Scroll to and right-click the app tile you want to pin to the Start screen.
  5. On the app command bar at the bottom of the screen, left-click Pin to Start.

Using a keyboard

  1. Go to the Start screen.
  2. Press the Windows logo key Windows logo key + Z to open the app commands.
  3. Press Enter to select All apps.
  4. Use the arrow keys to navigate to the app tile you want to pin to the Start screen.
  5. Press the Application key Application key to bring up the app commands.
  6. On the app command bar at the bottom of the screen, use the arrow keys to navigate to Pin to Start and press Enter.

Using touch

  1. Go to the Start screen.
  2. Swipe up from the bottom of the Start menu to bring up the app commands.
  3. Select All apps.
  4. Scroll to the app tile you want to pin to the Start screen and press and hold it to bring up the app commands.
  5. On the app command bar at the bottom of the screen, tap Pin to Start.

How to unpin tiles from the Start screen in Windows 8

Using a mouse

  1. Go to the Start screen.
  2. Scroll to and right-click the app tile you want to unpin from the Start screen.
  3. On the app command bar at the bottom of the screen, left-click Unpin from Start.

Using a keyboard

  1. Go to the Start screen.
  2. Use the arrow keys to navigate to the app tile you want to unpin from the Start screen.
  3. Press the Application key Application key to bring up the app commands.
  4. On the app command bar at the bottom of the screen, use the arrow keys to navigate to Unpin from Start and press Enter.

Using touch

  1. Go to the Start screen.
  2. Scroll to the app tile you want to unpin from the Start screen and press and hold it to bring up the app commands.
  3. On the app command bar at the bottom of the screen, tap Unpin from Start.

Moving tiles on the start screen in Windows 8

Using a mouse

  1. Go to the Start screen.
  2. Click and hold the left mouse button on the tile you want move and drag it to the location you want.

Using touch

  1. Go to the Start screen.
  2. Press and hold the tile you want move and drag it to the location you want.

Move groups on the start screen in Windows 8

Windows 8 Start screen zoomed out with tiles and groups organized
Windows 8 Start screen zoomed out with tiles and groups organized

Using a mouse / keyboard

  1. Go to the Start screen.
  2. Hold down the Control key (CTRL) on the keyboard while using the mouse wheel and zoom out to view all of the groups on the Start screen.
  3. Press and hold the left mouse button on the group you want move and drag it to the location you want.

Using touch

  1. Go to the Start screen.
  2. Pinch two fingers on the screen and zoom out to view all of the groups on the Start screen.
  3. Press the group you want move and drag it to the location you want.

Rename groups on the start screen in Windows 8

Using a mouse / keyboard

  1. Go to the Start screen.
  2. Hold down the Control key (CTRL) on the keyboard while using the mouse wheel and zoom out to view all of the groups on the Start screen.
  3. Right-click on the group you want to rename and select Name group from the app command bar.

Using touch

  1. Go to the Start screen.
  2. Pinch two fingers on the screen and zoom out to view all of the groups on the Start screen.
  3. Press and hold the group you want rename and select Name group from the app command bar.

Other related articles:

How to create a shortcut on the Desktop and Start menu in Windows 8
How to create log-off restart and shutdown shortcuts on the Start screen in Windows 8

How to create log-off restart and shutdown shortcuts on the Start screen in Windows 8

When it comes to doing computer repair, there are some things you do quite often. Restarting and shutting down computers has to be at the top of the list. So when I found that there was no easy way of doing this in Windows 8, I decided to see what I could do. Here is how I created my own log-off, restart and shutdown shortcuts on the Start screen in Windows 8.

Log off, restart and shutdown shortcuts on the Start screen in Windows 8
Log off, restart and shutdown shortcuts on the Start screen in Windows 8

  1. On the Start menu, left click on the Desktop tile.
  2. If you want to create a toolbar on the Taskbar containing these shortcuts, you will need to create a new folder for them. If not, you can just create them on the Desktop. Then Right click inside of the new folder or any empty area of the Desktop and select New > Shortcut.
  3. Enter the syntax and parameter(s) below for the different shortcuts.
  4. Right-click on the shortcut you just created and select Properties.
    Log-off, restart and shutdown shortcut properties in Windows 8
  5. Select the Shortcut tab, pull-down the Run drop-down menu and select Minimized.
  6. Right below Run is the Change Icon button, left-click on it. A warning may appear telling you that the program contains no icons. Select OK.
    Log-off, restart and shutdown change shortcut icon properties in Windows 8
  7. Select a icon from the default library (shell32.dll). Or you can use another library by browsing for it. When finished selecting an icon, select OK twice.
  8. Right-click on each of the shortcuts you just edited and left click Pin to Start.
    Log-off, restart and shutdown shortcut toolbar on Windows 8 Taskbar
  9. If you created a shortcut folder, go to the Desktop and right-click on the Taskbar and select Toolbars > New toolbar... and select the folder you created the shortcuts inside of.

Windows 8 log off shortcut Syntax and parameter(s)

C:\Windows\System32\shutdown.exe -l -f

Windows 8 restart shortcut Syntax and parameter(s)

C:\Windows\System32\shutdown.exe -r -f -t 00

Windows 8 shutdown shortcut Syntax and parameter(s)

C:\Windows\System32\shutdown.exe -s -f -t 00

Shutdown.exe Syntax and Parameters in Windows 8

Syntax
shutdown [{-l|-s|-r|-a}] [-f] [-m [\\ComputerName]] [-t xx] [-c "message"] [-d[u][p]:xx:yy]
Parameters
-l Logs off the current user, this is also the defualt. -m ComputerName takes precedence.
-s Shuts down the local computer.
-r Reboots after shutdown.
-a Aborts shutdown. Ignores other parameters, except -l and ComputerName. You can only use -a during the time-out period.
-f Forces running applications to close.
-m [\\ComputerName] Specifies the computer that you want to shut down.
-t xx Sets the timer for system shutdown in xx seconds. The default is 20 seconds.
-c "message" Specifies a message to be displayed in the Message area of the System Shutdown window. You can use a maximum of 127 characters. You must enclose the message in quotation marks.
-d [ u ][ p ] : xx : yy Lists the reason code for the shutdown.

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