Archive for the ‘Windows’ Category


Word: Use the keyboard to add a word to the dictionary

April 23, 2023

In the category of ‘OMG—I didn’t know I could do that!!’ comes this tip from Allen Wyatt’s WordTips newsletter: where he describes several ways of using the keyboard instead of right-clicking with the mouse to add a word to the dictionary.

I just tested the ‘right-click’ button on my keyboard on a misspelled word in Word and it does as he says! But more importantly, it’s not just for adding words to the dictionary—in fact, you can use it ANYWHERE and in ANY program where right-click options are available (including your browser, desktop etc.) and, depending on the context, you’ll get the relevant shortcut menu displayed, from which you can use the arrow keys to navigate to the function you want.

I guess I’ve never really noticed some of the newer keys on the keyboard over the years (I started with computers in the mid-80s, getting my first PC in 1994). And if I knew about that right-click key at any point, I’d forgotten about it.

So, where is this magic key? On 104-key Windows keyboards it’s immediately left of the Ctrl key on the right. Try it out! (I have no idea if there’s anything similar on a Mac)


Windows 11: Customise Explorer views and options

April 1, 2023

One of my clients sent me an email despairing of the changes in how Windows 11 displays folders etc. in Windows Explorer/File Explorer (Microsoft seems to change what they call it so I’ll just use ‘Explorer’ here). Basically, he lost the functionality he used to have and wanted to get it back. I helped him with a few things, like pinning most-used folders to the Quick Access area of the left navigation pane, but because I don’t use Windows 11 yet, I couldn’t help him with others.

He got back to me with a link to an EXCELLENT YouTube video that explains how to customise Explorer so that it better matches what you’re used to in Windows 10:

(NOTE: This video is useful for Windows 10 users too, as most of the things the narrator talks about can also be done in Windows 10 [Options settings are under the View tab  > Options icon drop-down list > Change File and Folder Options.)

Some other resources I sent my client include:

[Links last checked April 2023]



Windows: Can’t see files in folders

January 31, 2023

I was freaking out a few minutes ago thinking I’d lost ALL my files on the server. I could see the folders, but NO files. I checked the various drives with the same result—folders, but no files. What on Earth had happened to them?

I was getting ready to call my IT people to restore all the files from a backup. And then I realised I was navigating the folder structure via a ‘Save all attachments’ window from Outlook! As soon as I closed that navigation window, everything was available to me again. But it certainly gave me a scare!!!



Windows 10: Display hidden system tray icon

December 15, 2022

Back in the dim dark ages of Windows XP etc., there was a method to display hidden system tray icons (see this blog post from 2010: But those instructions don’t apply to Windows 10.

I’d installed something that had ended up in the system tray, but it was hidden under the arrow and I had to click the arrow each time to see it. I wanted to see this icon all the time because when it’s off it indicates that my IT people can’t see my computer and thus the internet connection may have failed.

Displaying a system tray icon is very simple in Windows 10:

  1. Click the arrow to show the hidden icons.
  2. Click and drag the one you want into the visible area on the system tray. (To put it back in the hidden group, click and drag it onto the arrow and then into the group.)

That’s it!

Once it’s on the system tray, you can click and drag it to another position.


Windows: List all files in a folder and its subfolders using Excel

November 26, 2022

I first wrote about the methods for doing this back in 2008 (!), but today I found another, much simpler way of getting a list of all files in a Windows folder and its subfolders using Excel (any version after 2010, I believe). (Update 28 November 2022: There are some issues with Method 1 that I found while testing it, so for an even quicker and cleaner method, skip to Method 2 below)

Method 1

It’s quick, clean, and you can specify which data to keep, delete or add before you get your final list. And any updates to the folders can be updated automatically via Excel if you save your list. Details and demo in this 3 minute YouTube video.

In case that video ever gets deleted or moved, here are the basic steps:

  1. Open a new Excel document.
  2. On the Data tab, click the drop-down arrow next to Get Data.
  3. Select From File > From Folder.
  4. Click Browse and choose the topmost folder containing the files you want to list.
  5. Click OK. Depending on how many files there are, the list could take several seconds (or more) to display.
  6. A preview of the data found is shown in a new window (NOTE: This is NOT all the data, just a sample).
  7. Check the data columns:
    • If you’re happy with what you see, click Load and go to Step 8.
    • If you want to add or delete columns, click Transform Data. In the next window, right click on the column header of any column you don’t need, then select Remove. By default the Attributes column likely displays ‘Record’—you can click the double-arrow icon to the right of that column header to show the attribute types you can select from. By default, all are selected. To clear the list and just select one or two, clear the ‘Select All’ checkbox at the top of the list, then choose the attributes you want to list. If not all attributes are shown, click the ‘Load More’ link. Don’t expect to see everything related to a file’s properties—for example, for a list of photos, the Tag, Title and Subject properties were NOT listed. Once you’ve selected your attributes, click OK to close this window.  To now load it all into Excel, click Close and Load on the Home tab.
  8. Once all the data loads, you can continue to modify columns etc. Save the file if you later want to update the list.

(NOTE: In my testing, everything worked fine initially, but in later testing, I ran into an ‘Evaluation ran out of memory…’ error message consistently, even after closing and reopening Excel. In the comments under the YouTube video some people said that they’ve been able to extract 37,000+ file listings, but mine were nowhere near that big, more like 200 to 500. I couldn’t find the cause or how to fix it. If I do, I’ll report back here.)

Update from testing (27 Nov 2022): Testing results: I think the ‘Evaluation ran out of memory…’ error message MIGHT be related to the size (or type?) of the individual files. It runs perfectly well on a set of Word docs in a client’s folder and subfolders, where the biggest docs are 80 MB or so. But it chokes on a folder of videos, where most are in the several GB range. It’s almost like Excel is looking to load the actual files into the spreadsheet in the background, as versus just reporting the names of the files. This is a guess and further testing would be required, but as it ran perfectly well on a set of Word (and related docs) but not on videos, and then ran correctly on the Word docs again, I’d say file size might be the reason. I just tried it on a top-level folder of music files—it ran fine (3200+ files, with a total size of 20 GB). So I tried it again on a smaller subfolder of just 12 videos with a total file size of just over 3 GB, and it gave the error message again. So, more likely the file type than the size?

Method 2

For an even simpler option, check this 3-minute YouTube video. It’s all good, but if you’re looking for just the method to copy everything in subfolders as well as the selected folder, jump straight to the 2-minute mark:

As before, if that video ever goes missing, here are the basic steps:

  1. Open Word or Excel or another text editor where you’ll copy your results.
  2. Open Explorer to the top-level folder.
  3. In the Search box type a single period and press Enter. This will list everything in the top-level folder and all its subfolders (the default option on the Search tab showing the results).
  4. Go to the Home tab in Explorer.
  5. Select Copy Path.
  6. Paste (Ctrl+v) the results into your Word, Excel, or other document.

[Links last checked November 2022]


Some useful DOS and Windows commands

November 26, 2022

I was hunting out some old information I knew I’d written up years ago, and discovered that it wasn’t on this blog (started in late 2008) but on my old website! Fortunately, I had copies of those webpages and so here’s the information I wrote ‘way back when’ of some useful DOC and Windows commands that may help you.


  • List of all files in a directory: dir *.* /s > filelist.txt (see also this blog post:
  • Getting help with DOS commands: dir /? | more
  • Copy the contents of a CMD window: Right-click anywhere in the CMD window, select Select All, press Enter (yes, Enter!), then paste the copied content into an email, text editor, etc.


  • Force Windows File Explorer to open at a particular drive: Using some little-known commands, you can force Windows Explorer to open at a particular drive, folder, or file by default. Right-click on an Explorer shortcut, then select Properties. In the Target field, type: %windir%\explorer.exe /e, C:\ (Note: This command opens Windows Explorer at the C: drive; change C:\ to the drive or folder where you want it to open.) Hint: You can add this as a taskbar icon too, to quickly jump to a particular drive.
  • Copy a Windows error message: You can copy any text in an error message by pressing Ctrl+C then pasting the copied error message into an email, text editor, etc.

[Links last checked November 2022]


Tagging photos within Windows

November 11, 2022

Some years ago I started scanning my old photos and tagging them. I got very sick of adding tags one by one so I started using the tagging features within Adobe Photoshop Elements and later using AnalogExif (a photo tagging tool) (see this blog post for details: Well, I’ve started back on that project again (small steps!), and I’m finding some limitations with AnalogExif, so I went looking for another tool. And in the process I discovered that you can tag multiple files at once from WITHIN Windows! I only knew about the right-click Properties option, but that’s an incredibly tedious way to do it. And with the Windows tagging option, Windows remembers your previous tags used so you can select from them as you type without having to type the full tag again (as you have to do with AnalogExif) and thus potentially introducing typos.

  1. In Windows Explorer (also know as File Explorer), open the folder containing the photos you want to tag.
  2. For ease of identifying photos, switch to Large icons view.
  3. Select one or more photos that you want to add the same tag to.
  4. On the View tab, click Details pane (far left of the ribbon). This opens the details of the selected file(s). NOTE: This is NOT a full list of all properties for the file type, but it should have enough for you to work with, especially when making changes [e.g. date, description, tags] to multiple files.)
  5. In the Details pane, go to the Tag field and type the tag(s) you want to apply to the selected photos—you can use multiple words. Use a semicolon to separate individual tags. If the tag has been used previously, Windows will show you a drop-down list of similar tags and you can select the checkbox of those that match (NOTE: This doesn’t seem to work as well as I thought it would initially—I’m not sure where Windows gets its list from, but I found it flaky).
  6. Click Save.

Note: This Details Pane works for all sorts of file types, but the properties you see will vary according to the file type (e.g. MP3 files show different properties to JPG files).

Thanks to these websites where I found out how to do this:

[Links last checked November 2022]


Change the mouse cursor size and colour for ease of finding it

January 27, 2022

It’s not that I found a cursor hard to see on the screen… or so I thought.

I’m presenting some online training for a company tomorrow and as I’ll be pointing at stuff on the screen, I figured I should set my mouse pointer to be larger and a different colour so they can see it easily. I changed it a few hours ago — and haven’t changed it back! It certainly makes finding and clicking things quicker, though the very large I-beam cursor is a bit of a nuisance when I need to type/edit.

If you want to try this, here’s where I changed it on Windows 10: Mouse Settings > Adjust Mouse and Cursor Size — I set mine to size 4, though 2 or 3 would’ve be fine too, and to a lime green colour.

(I was going to get a screenshot of it, but SnagIt reverted the cursor to the default size, though it did keep the colour change – I’ve logged a support ticket with the SnagIt people, as I suspect this is a bug)


Windows: When shutdown doesn’t mean shutdown

January 21, 2022

Yesterday I learned that Windows’ ‘shutdown’ doesn’t actually shut down your PC or laptop under the default Windows 10 (and later?) settings. Instead, it puts the PC/laptop into a partial/deep hibernation state, ready for fast startup when you next press the power button. Over time, your computer can become sluggish or exhibit odd behaviour, so your best option then is to do a restart, as this shuts down all Windows services and restarts them from scratch. It seems this is why most IT helpdesk people often suggest restarting the computer before they try other possible solutions.

There are various ways to make your computer shut down fully:

  • Single instance: Press Shift as you click Shutdown. This forces a full shutdown, but you have to do it every time.
  • Permanent setting change: Change the setting for fast startup, which is turned on by default (Note: you may not be able to change this setting in a managed corporate environment):
    • Go to the Start button and type power then choose Power & Sleep Settings.
    • Under Related Settings, click Additional power settings.
    • On the Power Options window, click Choose what the power buttons do (on the left).
    • Clear the Turn on fast startup checkbox, then click Save Changes.

How do you know if your computer has fast startup activated? Well, you can check the setting (see the 2nd bullet above), or you can check Task Manager.

To check via Task Manager:

  1. Press Ctrl+Alt+Del and then click Task Manager.
  2. Click the Performance tab (click More Details if you don’t see tabs across the top of the Task Manager window).
  3. On the Performance tab, check the Up Time value below the graph—that will tell you how long your computer has actually been ‘on’ even when you thought it might have been shutdown fully (in dd:hh:mm:ss format). If it’s many days, then it may be time for a restart, or something more permanent, such as changing the fast startup setting.

Performance tab under Task Manager, with an arrow pointing to the Up Time value


See also:

[Links last check January 2022]


Windows: Customize file/folder view in Explorer by customizing the template used

July 25, 2021

A recent major Windows update on my PC totally screwed with the settings I had for folder/file views in Windows Explorer (which I’ll call Explorer in this post). This post is not about changing the file attributes displayed for one or two files/folders—there are plenty of other sites that will tell you how to that. No, this post is on how to change the displayed attributes for a file type template and thus ALL files/folders that use that template. Microsoft rarely calls these templates, but that’s what they behave like, so I’ll call them templates here.

What am I talking about? Well, when you create a new folder in Explorer and add files to it, by default the attributes shown for that folder and its files in the Details view use the General Items template (you can see the template used by right-clicking on a folder, selecting Properties, and checking what is set on the Customize tab under Optimize this folder for). If Windows detects that all the files are image files or music files or document files, it might default to the attributes of those templates instead. The template used dictates what attribute columns you see in Details view in Explorer (View > Details).

Below is a folder with Documents set as the template—in Details view you can see that the file name, date modified, file type, and file size attributes are shown.

Explorer properties for Document include Name, Date Modified, file Type, and file Size

This one has Videos set as the template—its Details view has similar attribute columns, with the addition of the length of the videos in hours, minutes, and seconds.

Explorer properties for Videos include Name, Date (created), file Type, file Size, and Length of the video in hours, minutes and seconds

You might ask why this is important. For most people, this is of no consequence and they can live with the default settings, or perhaps change them every so often if they want to see other attributes. Many others have no idea that these attributes shown can be changed, or have no need to change them. But for some people the attributes shown in Explorer are hugely important—for example, photographers or anyone who needs to curate their photos; musicians or those who have an extensive music collection on their computers; movie buffs with thousands of videos etc. These people work with their files every day and need to see at a glance the attributes that interest them. So when Microsoft stuffs up the attributes displayed, this can anger these users because they likely have many thousands of files in many hundreds or thousands of folders that get reset to the default values. Changing the attributes one folder at a time is NOT what you want to do!

But if you change the underlying template’s attributes, you can then apply that template to a high-level folder containing files with that type of content, and the changes you make cascade to all subfolders and to other folders that have the same template applied to them. Unfortunately, this is NOT an intuitive process and requires going into two places—one to set it up how you want, then another to save it to that ‘template’. It took some Google sleuthing and trial and error based on some of the clues I found before I could test and then document these steps. Hopefully they will help others who are equally frustrated by this.

Part 1: Pick the template suitable for the types of files

  1. Open Windows Explorer and go to a folder that contains files of the type you want to amend. In this example, I’ll use a folder containing music subfolders and files.
  2. Right-click on the folder’s name in the left panel, and select Properties.
  3. Select the Customize tab.
  4. Select one of the drop-down options for Optimize folder for. In this example, I’ll select Music.
  5. Check the Also apply this template to all subfolders checkbox.
  6. Click OK.
  7. Go to the next set of steps.

On the Folder Properties window, select the type of files (Music is selected) and check the box for Also Apply this Template to all Subfolders, then click OK

Part 2: Set up the attributes you want to see in Detail view

  1. Change the Explorer view to Details—click the View tab, then click Details in the Layout group.
    View tab in Explorer showing Details in the Layout group selected
  2. At the top of the right panel are column headers, named with file attributes (e.g. Name, Size). Right-click anywhere in this column header area.
  3. The current attributes for the template are checked. You can click on any (except Name) to show or hide them (if already selected, clicking will deselect them; if not selected, clicking will select them). Yours will likely look different to this example, which is set for what I was testing with Music.
    Right-clicking on a column header shows the attributes selected to display in Details view
  4. Click More at the bottom of the list to see the full list of attributes you can choose from, arrange the order shown across the screen (Move Up moves the column closer to the left; Move Down moves it to the right), and adjust the column widths (all optional). Once you’ve made any changes here, click OK to close the Choose Details window.
  5. Adjust the column widths and positions, if required.
  6. Go to the next set of steps.

Part 3: Save those attributes to the template

  1. Once you have your folder set up with the attributes you want to display for the template you selected in Part 1, step 4, you need to ‘save’ it to the template. Go to the View tab in Explorer, if you aren’t already there.
  2. Click Options (far right on the View tab).
  3. On the Folder Options window, go to the View tab.
    Folder Options window where you click the Apply to Folders button
  4. Click Apply to Folders.
  5. You will be asked if ‘you want all folders of this type to match this folder’s view settings’. This message is a little confusing—what it’s really asking you is do you want to apply these settings to the TEMPLATE you selected for this folder. Click Yes if you do. Then click OK to close the Folder Options window.
  6. ALL folders on your PC that use the template you choose when you changed this one should now update their Details view to reflect the attributes you chose.

Details view for a folder using the Music template now shows Bit Rate, Size, Year, and Length (time)

NOTE: This isn’t an exact science! You may find that some folders/subfolders don’t change as you expect, and others you didn’t think would change, do. With luck there shouldn’t be too many of these and you can reapply the correct template to them (e.g. if the attributes for some General Items folders changed to reflect the Music attributes, then change those folders back to General Items.)

Part 4: Optional: Apply those attributes to other folders

If you have, say, music files stored in folders that use another template (e.g. the default General Items), then you can change the attributes shown just by changing the template for those folders. To do this, follow steps 1 to 6 in Part 1 above.

Tip: If you have LOTS of folders/subfolders containing a particular type of file, change a top-level folder and make sure you select the checkbox to apply to all subfolders.