Software

How to track down files in File Explorer with the Group By command

A subtle feature in Windows 10 can help you manage the files on your hard disk. This walk-through explains how to take advantage of it.

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Image: iStock/nicomenijes

When it comes to data files, no matter how organized you are, chances are good that you don't know where every document on your hard disk is located. Nor do you even remember every document that you have on your hard disk. While Windows 10's File Explorer has a great search feature, there are other features that can help you make quick work of tracking down your files. One such feature is the Group By command, located on the View tab in File Explorer.

As its name implies, the Group By command is designed to display all your files in groups. But the best aspect of the command is that it's contextual. In this case, contextual means that the Group By command provides options that are appropriate for the type of object you've selected, such as a location or a folder. Let's take a closer look at how the Group by command works in the different folders in File Explorer.

SEE: Windows 10 power tips: Secret shortcuts to your favorite settings (Tech Pro Research)

Documents

When you select the Group By command in the Documents folder, a dropdown menu appears displaying the Group options that are appropriate for the folder, as shown in Figure A.

Figure A

Figure A
Choosing Group By in the Documents folder will display this menu of options.

The Group By options in the Documents folder include Name, Date Modified, Type, Size, Date Created, Authors, Tags, and Title. (The Ascending and Descending options are not always selectable; however, you can still sort by clicking column headers.) You'll also notice the Choose Columns command at the bottom of the Group By menu. If you select this command, you'll see the Choose Details dialog box, shown in Figure B. There, you will be able to add other column headers to the display and to the Group By menu.

Figure B

Figure B
The Choose Details dialog box allows you to add other column headers to the display and to the Group By menu.

You can also combine the Group By command with view features. For example, you could choose the Group By Type option and then select the List View, as shown in Figure C. In addition to the groups, this configuration shows you how many files are in each grouping.

Figure C

Figure C
You can investigate different types of files using the Group By Type option.

Suppose that you want open up disk space on your hard disk. To do so, you could choose the Group By Size option, select Descending, and then select the Details View, as shown in Figure D. You can now more easily find out which files are hogging disk space.

Figure D

FigureD
You can find out which files are hogging disk space if you use the Group By Size option.

If you happen to select a Group by option that doesn't work with some of the files in your folder, you'll see those files appear in a group titled unspecified. For instance, in my test folder, I selected Authors and those files that don't have that meta data appeared in the Unspecified group, as shown in Figure E.

Figure E

FigureE
Files that don't fit the Group By option you choose will appear in a group titled Unspecified.

Once you select a Group By option, the Group By menu will display a new command: (None). Selecting this option ungroups the files and returns the display to normal.

SEE: 12 tips to get more out of Windows 10 (free TechRepublic PDF)

Music

When you select the Music folder, the Group By menu contains options that apply to music files. For example, if you wanted to find a file for a short song, you could use Group By Length, as shown in Figure F.

Figure F

Figure F
In the Music folder, the Group By menu contains options that apply to music files.

Pictures

When you select the Pictures folder, the Group By menu contains options that apply to images. For instance, suppose that you want to find a file by its proportions. You could use Group By Dimensions, as shown in Figure G.

Figure G

Figure G
In the Pictures folder, the Group By menu contains options that apply to images.

This PC

In addition to files, the Group by command works with other objects. For example, when you select This PC, the Group By menu contains a host of options you can use to display the items you find in This PC. Let's say you have a number of external drives connected to your computer and want to find out what file system each is formatted with. You could use Group By File System, as shown in Figure H. In addition, you can group by other options, such as Total Size, Free Space, or Percent Full. This will provide you with a different perspective.

Figure H

Figure H
When you select This PC, you'll find a host of useful options on the Group By menu.

Network

When you select Network, the Group By menu contains options that can be useful in a number of situations. For instance, suppose that you want to find out what IP addresses are being used by the systems on your network. You could use Group By IP Address, as shown in Figure I.

Figure I

Figure I
In Network, the Group By menu provides options you can use to view your network in helpful displays.

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About Greg Shultz

Greg Shultz is a freelance Technical Writer. Previously, he has worked as Documentation Specialist in the software industry, a Technical Support Specialist in educational industry, and a Technical Journalist in the computer publishing industry.

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