A reader wrote to tell us he doesn't like Windows Explorer in Windows 7, and asking if he could use it in a Windows XP mode. Our Helproom expert told him how to configure Windows Explorer so it works just the way you want.

QUESTION I'm running Windows 7, but I don't like Windows Explorer. It doesn't sort files alphabetically, instead splitting them across several columns. I can no longer bring up the folder I want with a single click – I now have to click the Explorer symbol, then choose a folder. From a productivity point of view it has slowed me down considerably. Is there any way (either by tinkering with Windows 7 or using third-party software) that I can return to the methods used by Windows XP to browse through folders and files? Glyn Foster

HELPROOM ANSWER Believe it or not, Windows 7's Explorer is far more flexible and configurable than the XP version. Not only can you arrange files alphabetically, but you can also adjust the size of folder icons.

Additional features also make the updated version much faster. For example, Favorites can be pinned to the left side of any Explorer window. This will allow you to access these folders with a single click.
If your files and folders are presented as multiple columns, you probably have the List view selected. Click the first of the three icons at the top right of the window, just below the search box, to cycle through five layout options. Clicking the small down arrow to the right brings up a vertical slider that lets you change the size of the folder icons or select a view style by name.

If you pick the ‘details' view, you can sort files and folders in any order you want – including alphabetically.

Selecting the My Computer icon is in essence the same as selecting Computer in Windows 7. Both bring up an Explorer window containing icons for your available drives. These behave in the same fashion
as they do in Windows XP.

You may be having some trouble with the Taskbar. Whereas XP would create a separate button for each open window, Windows 7 combines all the windows for each program under a single button. It's worth sticking with the Taskbar and getting used to its many features, but you can view your windows as individual buttons if you prefer.

Right-click on any empty area of the Taskbar and select Properties. Select ‘Use small icons'. Next, in the same window, select the option ‘Never combine' under Taskbar buttons. Click Ok when you're done. If you find there's not enough room for all your buttons when you have several windows open, you can select ‘Combine when Taskbar is full' instead.

See all How to articles

Get free tech support in the Helproom Forum