How To Filter, Group & Search Files & Folders In Windows/File Explorer

When you work with lots of files and folders it may be difficult to find a specific file or set of files. That's why both Windows Explorer in Windows 7 and File Explorer in Windows 8.1 include several options for filtering, grouping and searching files and folders, using all kinds of criteria. In this article we will share how to use them, so that you can be more effective in finding what you are looking for.

How To Sort And Group Files & Folders in Windows/File Explorer

  • How To Use "Sort by": - you can quickly sort files and folders by size, name, type (document, application, text, image, etc.) and much more. To use this option, right click or press and hold the blank space from the Window/File Explorer window. In the contextual menu, go to Sort by and select the sorting criteria that you would like to use.

    You can also use more sorting filters by clicking the More option located in the Sort bymenu.

    In Choose Details window, check the boxes for the additional sorting criteria that you would like to use.

    You can also move up or down the columns, using the Move Up and Move Down buttons. As you can see in the picture below the Year criteria was moved up in the list.

    Once you have selected your sorting criteria, click or tap OK. To use the new sorting criteria, right click again or press and hold the blank space in the Windows/File Explorer window, go to "Sort by" and click or tap the sorting criteria that you want to use.

    You can also have the sorting results displayed in either ascending or descending order. For example, when using "Sort by Name", if you click or tap the Ascending option, it will make the files and folders to be sorted from A-Z. The descending option will make the sorting to be reversed: from Z-A.

  • How To Use "Group by" - you can quickly group files and folders by size, name, type (document, application, text, image, etc.) and other criteria. With this option you can categorize files and folders and separate them from others that you don't need. To use this option, right click the blank space from the right side of the Window/File Explorer window or press and hold on it. In the contextual menu go to "Group by" and select the grouping criteria that you would like to use.

    We would like to note that any criteria that you add using the More option in this menu will show up both in the Sort by and the Group by categories. Also, these options are available only for the current folder and not others, including its subfolders.

    To stop grouping your files and folders based on previously selected criteria, select (None) in the Group by menu.

    The sorting and the grouping options can be used simultaneously. For example, you can group by size or type and then sort the group by date, name or other properties.

    Also, by clicking or tapping the title of a group will automatically select all the content of that group.

How To Use Advanced Filtering & Grouping In Windows/File Explorer

For the following filtering options it is mandatory that you use the Details view. More information about views and how to switch between them, can be found in this article: Explaining the Windows Explorer Views. These advanced options can be seen as an extension of Group by filtering. You can use them to further filter and group files and folders based on very specific criteria.

In the Details view, you have several columns like Name, Date modified, Type, Size, etc. If you move your mouse over a column, you will notice a small arrow on the right side. Click or tap it and you will see several alternatives for you to filter by certain groups (e.g.: files with names from A to H). Select the groups you want to see and, when done, the contents of the folder is automatically filtered.

Also, you will see a small check sign on the right side of the column, showing you that a filter is active.

If you check any checkbox, you will see the grouped items corresponding to your selection. To disable a group filter, click or tap the checkbox to deselect it. You can filter files and folders using multiple columns and many different criteria.

How To Filter Files & Folders Using The Search Box

When considering filtering options, the most powerful tool is the search box on the upper-right side of any Windows/File Explorer window. The most common use for it is to type the name of a file or folder and quickly find the desired result.

To start a search, press "Ctrl + F" on your keyboard or click or tap inside the search box. You can also change the default behavior of Windows/File Explorer so that, when you start typing something, it will automatically start a search, instead of you needing to type the search term in the search box. If you want to learn how to do this, read this article: How to Improve Windows Explorer Using Folder Options.

The default filtering options shown in the search box are related to date and size. However, you can use as a search filter any of the column names available in Windows/File Explorer. For example, you can use the Type column as criteria for filtering. Some useful filters are: "type:application" (searches for executable files), "type:word" (searches for Microsoft Word documents), "type:image" (searches for images of all types:.jpeg,.png,.gif,.bmp, etc.), "type: documents" or 'type: doc' (searches for documents of all types:.pdf,.doc,.docx,.rtf, etc).

You can also use other column names for filtering your searches. For example, you can use "size:" followed by a size you are interested in, to find files with that specific size.

Making use of more than one filter when using the search box can help you find what you are looking for much faster. For example, you can search for all the setup files that you have downloaded or created last week. Use the following search terms: "type:exe name:setup date:last week".

The possible combinations are numerous and only limited by your imagination.

How To Use Boolean Operators When Making Searches

You can further filter search results by using boolean operators. The boolean operators that can be used are the following:

  • OR (e.g. MyPictures OR OurPictures) - shares the results that meet any of the search criteria that you are using.
  • AND (e.g. MyPictures AND OurPictures) - shares the results that meet all of the search criteria that you are using.
  • Parentheses (e.g. author:(Ciprian Rusen OR Emilian Blaga OR Marte Brengle) date: yesterday) - shows results that meet the criteria from your list.
  • NOT (e.g. MyPictures NOT OurPictures) - it is used to exclude a given set of search results that meets a specific condition.
  • Minus sign "-" (e.g. MyPictures - OurPictures) - it is used to exclude a subset of results from a larger set of search results.
  • Quotes (e.g. "Summer image02") - returns the results that meet the exact criteria written between quotes.
  • > or 50MB) - returns the results that have a bigger/smaller value than what you specify for a given criteria (size, date, etc).
  • .. (e.g. size:50MB..200MB) - returns the results for which the given criteria is in the interval that you provided.


As you can see, Windows/File Explorer provides some powerful tools for grouping, filtering and finding files and folders. After a bit of experimentation you will get used to all the options that available and find what you are looking for much faster than in the past.

If you are looking for more tips and tricks about using Windows/File Explorer read the articles recommended below.