Quick Tip: Two features in Windows 8.1 File Explorer you want to know about

The Windows 8 File Explorer has several features, which makes manipulating files a much more efficient experience.

While many, rightly or wrongly, continue to dismiss Microsoft Windows 8 as a failed operating system, some users, like me, continue to find little features which make the operating system more palatable than you might want to believe. The Windows 8 File Explorer for example, has several features that are either new or just newly made obvious, which makes manipulating files a much more efficient experience.

Invert selection and click boxes

I like having click boxes next to files when I am using File Explorer, but that feature is off by default, as you can see in Figure A.

Figure A


No check boxes

In Windows 7, you would have to navigate to the Tools tab and then the Folder Options screen and then find the check box that would turn on check boxes. In Windows 8, the check box feature is an item on the ribbon under the View tab, as shown in Figure B.

Figure B


Just click the box to turn on Item check boxes

Now that we have check boxes enabled, when can highlight and mark specific files for copying or pasting or whatever. In Figure C, I have marked a few files recently downloaded for my test machine.

Figure C


Ready to do some file manipulation

Again, while this next feature for inverting the selected files was available in Windows 7, it was hidden under a not very intuitive tab. In Windows 8, the invert selection feature is right there in the ribbon under the Home tab, as you can see in Figure D.

Figure D


The invert selection is right there on the Home tab ribbon

All one has to do is click the feature and your file selections are inverted. (Figure E)

Figure E


The original selection is inverted

Give the Ribbon a chance

Both of these features are more obvious and available because of the presence of the "dreaded" ribbon interface in Windows 8 File Explorer. While the ribbon interface does take some getting used to, there are definitely some benefits to its presence.


Mark W. Kaelin has been writing and editing stories about the IT industry, gadgets, finance, accounting, and tech-life for more than 25 years. Most recently, he has been a regular contributor to,, and TechRepublic.

Dr Doppio
Dr Doppio

+1 for a dual-pane option in the file manager. Anything else is smoke and mirrors.


What's need soonestly is exactly what @kevsan said: a dual-pane file manager.


If only MS would add dual panes to its file manager  It would enhance its usability so much. I just cannot understand why MS have resisted  doing this


Oh, to be a software company that rakes in billions simply by not completely undermining the feature set of its last major release!   I am really shocked that Windows 8.1 does not have a Windows 7-mode switch ... seriously.  I credit this pre-/review for accurately damning with faint praise but I have to ask not completely ironically:  aren't there structural improvements to 8.1 that justify the obliteration in user experience posed by this 'new' release?  I'm stunned, once again, like I was last year ... I thought the K-car went out of style in the 80s.


So this is just like the Ctrl+A for select all and Invert Selection commands, both available from the edit menu of the pre-zombified ribbon explorer?


I didn't initially care for the navigation changes in Windows 8. But as I started migrating old servers to Server 2012, I had to get used to it. Now, I really like some of the new features like the task manager, and in Server, the revamped Server Manager console. Being able to monitor multiple servers from one console is a real time saver, especially when working with a datacenter install without a GUI.

Since both OSes have a similar feel, I find myself not minding it at all anymore.


Big whooping deal.  So the Win8 FM has a couple more options cluttering the tool bar.   Considering I always replace the file manager when I set up a MSWindows system, I'd never notice anyway.  In general; if the only USEFUL changes in Win8.x are little tweaks in the default applications, it doesn't matter since I don't use the default applications in MSWin anyway.  

Not that it matters much for me, since the file manager I use on a daily basis is Nemo...

Mark W. Kaelin
Mark W. Kaelin moderator

The more I use Windows 8 the less I have to complain about. Has your opinion of Windows 8 changed over time?


@Dr Doppio  There's several people here asking for dual pane, apparently. But with these windows that Windows, Mac and so on offers... can act as dual pane. These windows can be moved and altered freely, and not limited to just left-right/up-down in the same window that dual pane is limited to. And you can have three windows, or four, or even twenty...

What does dual pane offer, that two windows doesn't have?


@kevsan  Why would you need dual panes when you have windows? Start+Left and Start+Right makes them fill each left and right part of screen. Or just open one windows for Source, and another for Destination. The whole thing with windows are to not being forced to have dual panes... and you can have quadruplet panes in any formation you want.

And I'm talking about windows, like those squares you find in Windows, Mac, Linux and so on...


@catskinner I wouldn't say the CTRL+A .. because that is an ALL selector .. which the check box option does have the same ability ... but its for selecting individual files out of a plethora of listed file names.. oh if there were only some other way to do that ;) like say .. holding down the control when  you "left click".  To the check box's credit, it doesn't screw up as badly as accidentally clicking something while not holding the CTRL key down, and loosing all the hard work you would have put in to selecting 50 out of 500 files.. or so.. 

But one thing you failed to mention.. note that on previous windows file explorers ... this super hidden "Invert Selection" was the 2nd menu over ... ie.. File - Edit - View - Tools - Help ... and where is it now? The second TAB not menu .. right? cause this ribbon crap isn't supposed to be any different.. f*tards at microsoft.

They even did this study showing how compared to previous iteration of showing buttons atop the explorer, the new ribbon actually takes up less space than the buttons and you get 3 more files listed.. as compared to the menued system like we had before, which would do what? oh yeah.. give us at least another 5 to 8 file names, *AND* would not shift file names down to make a menu appear (ie, auto hide the ribbon, and when ribbon appears, your file window's view gets shifted.. wonder how many times that was a minor gotcha for someone prepping a screenshot to show someone something)

It seems all microsoft really wanted to do, was throw more features onto the EDIT menu and because they didn't want to make the edit menu 2x the height of your screen ... the "ribbon bar" was their go to destructive force just as it has been before, and I fear will be their defacto standard moving forward.  Its like virginia creeper (the invasive plant / vine / thing) ... it didn't get "creeper" in the name for nothing .. Ribbon Bar ... Feature Creeper.. because menus are too hard for stupid people.


@Mark W. KaelinI like it, and the more I use it the more I learn. My wife, who knows next to nothing about pc's likes it much better than Windows 7.

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