Using Checkboxes to Select Files with Windows 7

Each semester I have the opportunity to present a workshop called “Basic Computer Basic Basics.”  I should have called it “Elementary Basic Computer Basic Basics for Novices for Dummies 101.”  You get the idea.  It is a workshop that covers the basics.  Actually, what happens is that computer beginners never come to this workshop.  At the college level I don’t think there are any computer beginners.  The people who come are those who wish they had asked certain critical questions early on, but didn’t, and now it is too late.  Those are the ones who are the intended audience for the workshop.  What actually gets covered in this workshop is not all basic basics.  I’ve noticed with computers it goes like: 1.  This is a keyboard; 2,,) this is the mouse; 3) this is the calculus.  Things have a way of getting very complicated very quickly.  We try to minimize this effect in the workshop, but it is had to stay basic.  In any event, here is a tip I include in that workshop that even some non-basic users appreciate.

In part of our workshop we talk about selecting files with Windows 7.  It comes as news to many that you can select a contiguous range of files by clicking on one file, holding down Shift and clicking on another.  Every file between the two clicks is selected.  You select a non-contiguous range by holding down the Ctrl key and clicking on selected files.

So far, so good.  What inevitably happens, though, is that some people who attend the workshop have trouble with consistently holding down Ctrl while clicking various files.  All it takes is one slip, to deselect a group of selected files, and then you have to start all over again.  It actually takes practiced fine motor control to do this successfully.  Some people simply do not have this sort of control, or are unwilling to perfect it.

All is not lost.  With Windows 7 there is a way to select files by clicking in a check box, without the aid of the Ctrl key, to select multiple files, contiguous or non-contiguous.  In fact, it is such a useful setting that one wonders why it is not a system default.  Tradition, I suppose.  Here is how you turn it on.

Open Windows Explorer.  Click the drop-down next to Organize and choose Folder and search options.

Folder and search options in Win 7Click on the View tab, scroll all the way down, and then place a check next to “Use check boxes to select items.”  Then click OK.

Now in Windows Explorer you can click check boxes, without having to hold down Ctrl to select non-contiguous files.

In Details view (i.e., if you click the Change your view drop-down and choose Details) you will see a check box next to the Name field header.  Checking this box will select all files, or hovering over individual file names will cause a check box to appear next to it so that you can select individual files.  If you click the check box next to Name all files will be selected and then you can individually deselect any files you don’t want selected.

Name Selector in Detail ViewIf you choose one of the other views (i.e., not the Details view) you will not see the check box next to a Name field, but can achieve the same sort of functionality by selecting the top file, holding the Shift key and selecting the last file, and then, after the check boxes appear next to each file, de-selecting the ones you do not want.

Simple, elegant, and useful.