Simple mouse and keyboard tricks for efficient file management

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I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: keyboard shortcuts will set you free.

Yes, they’re a pain to learn, and many of us are used to sticking with a mouse. Nevertheless, being familiar with even a handful of shortcuts will help you get around your system faster—plus it has the added benefit of making you feel like a power user.

Even if you’re a tried and true mouse-only user, I’ve got one old—yet little known—trick for you too. All of today’s shortcuts center around file management with File Explorer/Windows Explorer and will work with Windows 7 and up.

Alt-ernative keyboard shortcuts

These shortcuts only work once you’ve been navigating for a while in an open File Explorer window.


Navigate File Explorer quickly with the Alt and arrow keys.

Going up one folder level

Let’s say you are looking at a group of folders such as Documents>Vacation Plans>2014>Summer. But now you need to get back up to the Vacation Plans folder, which is two levels up from where you are now.

Instead of clicking through with your mouse, you could just press Alt-Up Arrow (hitting the up arrow twice) to take you back to view the contents of the Vacation Plans folder.

  • Alt-Up Arrow: Move up the file tree by one level.

Back and forth

Now, let’s say you changed your mind and want to go back inside the 2014 folder. Just hit Alt-Left Arrow, which is just like hitting the back button in File Explorer. And that means, you guessed it, hitting Alt+Right Arrow is just like clicking the forward arrow in File Explorer.

  • Alt-Left Arrow: Go back.
  • Alt-Right Arrow: Go forward again.

Right-click hat trick


Your mouse also has a right-click trick to help you copy, move, and create new shortcuts for files. This trick works in Windows XP and up.

Let’s say you want to copy a file from the Desktop and move it to OneDrive. The standard way to do this is to right-click the file on the Desktop, select copy, open OneDrive, right-click again and select paste.

That’s an awful lot of steps so try this instead: Right-click the file on the desktop and drag it into OneDrive. Then release your mouse and a new contextual menu pops up with options to copy, move, or create a shortcut to your file in OneDrive. Select the option you want (in this case copy) and you’re all done.

Much faster.

These are pretty minor tricks, but learning them will make you just that little bit more efficient on the desktop.

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