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How To Give Orders to Windows Explorer

Windows Explorer is an obedient application. If you say to NaturallySpeaking, “Start Windows Explorer,” it pops up, ready to take your orders. As with Computer, the Windows Explorer menus are available to your voice commands, but the toolbar and Ribbon buttons are not.

Windows Explorer has three main components, which are shown: the Explorer bar, the Contents window, and the Address box. How Windows Explorer responds to your commands depends on what component the cursor is in.

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Moving the cursor from component to component

Windows Explorer opens with the cursor in the Explorer bar. That's the left pane of the main window, the one that displays the overall structure of your file-and-folder system. Press the Tab key (or say, “Press Tab”) to cycle the cursor through the following three components of the Windows Explorer window ( if you are using Windows XP):

  • Contents window, the right pane of the main window, which displays the contents of the folder selected

  • Address box, which displays the address of whatever file or folder is currently selected

  • Explorer bar, the left pane of the main window that can contain a variety of things, depending on your choice in View→Explorer Bar

Depending on how Windows is set up on your system, a fourth component may exist — the Explorer bar’s Close button, that little X in the upper-right corner of the Explorer bar.

When the Explorer bar’s Close button is selected, you can make the Explorer bar go away by saying, “Press Enter.” To get the Explorer bar back, say, “Click View, Explorer Bar, All Folders.”

The Shift+Tab key combination moves the cursor through these components in the opposite order. Say, “Press Shift Tab.”

Selecting and opening files and folders

The Explorer bar and the Contents window are each a list of folders and files. Select an item from the list by saying its name. That sounds great, but a few complications exist: You have to say the complete name, and if the file extension is displayed, you have to say it as well.

Also, if the name of the item is not an English word that’s in the NaturallySpeaking active vocabulary, the name won’t be recognized unless you spell it.

Fortunately, you can also select items by using the Move Up/Down/Left/Right commands. The Explorer bar is treated as if it were one long vertical list. If you want to select the folder that’s three lines below the currently selected folder, say, “Move Down 3.”

The Contents window has both lines and columns. Use Move Left/Right to move from one column to another, and Move Up/Down to move within a column. So, for example, if the file you want is two columns to the right and three lines up from the currently selected item, say, “Move Right 2, Move Up 3.”

After you select an item, open it by saying, “Press Enter.”

Expanding and contracting lists of folders

Those plus (+) and minus (–) signs in little boxes next to the folders on the Explorer bar control whether a folder’s subfolders appear on the list. You may be accustomed to clicking these little boxes with the mouse, but you don’t want to try that technique with the vocal mouse commands. It’s possible, but much too time-consuming.

Instead, select a folder on the Explorer bar, and then use the right- and left-arrow keys to expand and contract the list of subfolders. If the folder is contracted (that is, the + is showing), say, "Press Right Arrow.” The folder expands. If it is already expanded (the – shows), say, “Press Left Arrow.” The folder then contracts.

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