Transform Windows Explorer with Filtering Options

Windows ExplorerWe will continue our series about Window Explorer with an article about filtering options. I will share some useful tips and tricks about how to do basic filtering. Then I will go into a bit more depth and share some more advanced filtering options which allow you to group and filter content by any criteria you desire. Also, I'll show some examples of how to integrate search with filters and groups so that you get some really powerful results.

Basic Filtering of Files & Folders in Windows Explorer

You can do basic filtering of the content with the help of the sorting and grouping options, as follows:

  • Sort By - With the help of the Sort By option you can quickly sort files and folders by size, name, type (document, application, text, image, etc.) and much more. To use this option, right click on the blank space from the right side of the Window Explorer window. In the contextual menu go to Sort By and select the sorting criteria which you would like to use.

    Windows Explorer

    You can also use more sorting filters by clicking the More option located in the Sort By menu.

    Windows Explorer

    If you have selected the More option, the Choose Details window will appear. Check the additional sorting criteria you want to have. You can also move up or down the columns, using the 'Move Up' and 'Move Down' buttons.

    Windows Explorer

    Once you have selected them, click the OK button. To use the new sorting items, right click again on the blank space, go to Sort By and click on the new sorting option you want to use.

    Windows Explorer

    You can also show the sorting results in either ascending or descending order. For example, when using Sort By Name, if you click on the Ascending option it will make the files and folders to be sorted from A-Z. The descending option will make the sorting to be reversed: from Z-A.

    Windows Explorer

  • Group By - with the help of this option you can quickly group files and folders by size, name, type (document, application, text, image, etc.) and much more. This means that you can categorize the files and folders to filter or separate from all the folders and files just the ones you need. To use this option, right click on the blank space from the right side of the Window Explorer window. In the contextual menu go to Group By and select the grouping criteria which you would like to use.

    Windows Explorer

    Important: Any changes done from the More menu (add, delete or change the order of items) will show up both in the Sort By and the Group By categories. Also, any changes done from the More menu will only be available for the current folder and not for its sub-folders.

    Windows Explorer

    To get rid of a grouping item, in the Group By menu, select None.

    Windows Explorer

    Important: The sorting and the grouping options can be used simultaneously. For example you can group by size or type and sort the given grouping by date, name or other properties.

    Windows Explorer

    Also, by left clicking on the title of a certain group, like Small for the size grouping, you will automatically select all the content of that certain group.

    Windows Explorer

Advanced Filtering of Files & Folders in Windows Explorer

For the following filtering options it is mandatory to use the Details view. More information about views and how to switch between them, can be found in our article called Explaining the Windows Explorer Views. The advanced options can be seen as an extension of the Group By filtering. You can use this to further filter files and folders based on very specific criteria.

In the Details view, you have several columns like name, data, size, etc. If you move your mouse over a column, you will notice a small arrow on the right side. Click on it and you will see several alternatives for you to filter by certain groups (e.g.: files with names from A to H). Select the groups you want to see and, when done, the contents of the folder will be automatically filtered. Also, you will see a small check sign on the right side of the column, showing you that a filter is active.

Windows Explorer

If you check any checkbox, you will see the grouped items corresponding to your selection. To disable a group filter, click on the checked box to deselect it.

Windows Explorer

You can filter this way on multiple columns based on different criteria. Also, you can use the search box to filter even more the results. But for more details about search, read the next chapter.

How to Filter Using Search

When considering filtering options, the most powerful tool is the search box on the upper-right side of any Windows Explorer window. This option extends the power of filtering. For example, by using the search box you can type the name of a file or folder and quickly find a result.

To start a search, press the 'Control + F' keyboard combination or left click on the search box. You can also change the default behavior of Windows Explorer so that, when you start typing something, it will automatically start a search, instead of you needing to type the search term in the search box. If you want to learn how to do this, check our article called How to Improve Windows Explorer Using Folder Options.

Windows Explorer

The default filtering options shown in the search box are related to date and size. However, you can use as a search filter any of the column names available in Windows Explorer. For example, you can use the type column as criteria for filtering from the search box. Some useful filtering terms would be: type:application (searches mainly for executable files), type:word, type:image (searches for all types of image files: .jpef, .png, .gif, .bmp, etc.), type: documents or type: doc (searches for all extensions typical of documents: . pdf, .doc, .docx, .rtf, etc).

Windows Explorer

You can also use other column names for filtering the data. For example, you can type size: to filter the size of searched files.

Windows Explorer

Making use of more than one filter in a search box can help you find what you need much faster. For example, you can search for all the installation files which you downloaded or created last week. For this, use the following search terms: 'type:exe name:setup date:last week'.

Windows Explorer

The possible combinations are numerous and only limited by your imagination.

How to Use Boolean Filters with Search

You can also further filter the results by using Boolean values. The Boolean conditions and properties that can be used are the following:

  • OR (ex: MyPictures OR OurPictures) - gives results for any of the words used.
  • AND (ex: MyPictures AND OurPictures) - gives results containing all the given words.
  • Parentheses (ex: author:(Ciprian Rusen OR Florin Gontariu OR George Grigorita) date: yesterday) - shows results containing all the present criteria from the list.
  • NOT (ex: MyPictures NOT OurPictures) - gives results for MyPictures and excludes OurPictures.
  • Minus sign "-" (ex: MyPictures - OurPictures) - shows results for MyPictures and excludes OurPictures.
  • Quotes (ex: "Summer image02") - returns the images that have the exact name "Summer image02".
  • > (ex: size:>50MB) - criteria (size, date etc) must be bigger than the value.
  • .. (ex: size:50MB..200MB) - gives results that are between two given values (in this case, between 50MB and 200MB).

Conclusion

As you can see, Window Explorer can provide some powerful tools for grouping and filtering. After a bit of experimentation you will get used to all the options available and find your way much faster. If you have any other cool tips, don't hesitate to share them. We will be happy to include them in future articles and share them with the whole world.

Related articles:

How to Improve Windows Explorer Using Folder Options
Set a Default View Template in Windows Explorer for Any Folder
Configure the Default Viewing Templates in Windows Explorer to be as YOU Want Them!
How to Use Search in Windows 7 and Customize the Search Index

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