Windows Explorer Explained: What is Windows Explorer?

Today I received an e-mail from a self-described novice user who's confused about Windows Explorer. He says he searched the Internet for information on how to use it--and came up empty.

You know what? So did I? For a program that's so integral to Windows operations, there's surprisingly little information about what it is or how it works. So for the next couple days, I'm going to give beginners an overview on Windows Explorer.

For starters, let's not confuse Windows Explorer with Internet Explorer--Microsoft's efforts to the contrary. The latter is your Web browser, of course, but Windows Explorer is the operating system's file and folder manager.

In fact, the one thing Microsoft should have done with Windows 7 is rename the tool to something like Windows File Manager. (At least it finally got a home on the taskbar, after years of staying relatively hidden.)

You've probably used Windows Explorer without even realizing it. Every time you open, say, your Documents folder or the photos folder on a memory card, that's an instance of Windows Explorer.

The tool's fundamental purpose is to let you view, open, copy, move, and otherwise manage your files and folders. So learning how to use it is key for tasks like importing photos from the aforementioned memory card, copying files to a flash drive, setting up folders to keep your data organized, and so on.

I'll tackle those and other areas in the days to come. For now, at least you know what Windows Explorer is--and what it isn't (i.e. Internet Explorer).

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