How To / Software

Run commands like a Pro from the File Explorer address bar

  • Did you know File Explorer address bar can double as a Command Prompt interface?
  • You can launch programs and run basic CMD commands directly from the File Explorer interface.
  • This is one of the many File Explorer tricks, a utility that’s looks deceivably simple.
file explorer address bar commands

File Explorer is one of the oldest apps included in Windows. That’s not to say it hasn’t evolved quite a lot in the past iterations of Windows. It’s still my go do app for simple file management.

I can launch File Explorer with Win + E, create folders, move files, and be done in a matter of seconds.

For more advanced stuff I will always resort to my beloved Total Commander, but most of the time you don’t need to bring a gun to a knife fight.

Today I’m showing you one other quick trick I’ve learned recently (after the drag-and-drop with the right mouse button).

How to use File Explorer to run simple command line commands

We’ve talked already extensively about the Command Prompt terminal interface and basic commands you can run, so if you don’t know what command line commands are I recommend you just read that article first.

If you do know what command are then you may not know that some of the simple commands can be run directly from the File Explorer window. You don’t need to open CMD, PowerShell, or Windows Terminal.

You only have to do two steps:

  1. Click on the File Explorer address bar to select or press Alt + D.
  2. Type your command and press Enter to execute.

The File Explorer address bar acts exactly like the run command window (accessible with Win + R). But it’s more accessible once you have File Explorer open.

There are a couple more advantages if you’re using this method.

Open CMD in the current folder

If you open the Command Prompt terminal by typing cmd the command line will open in the currently selected folder. This is an advantage if you need to run a specific command in a specific folder and don’t want to use commands to navigate.

file explorer open cmd in the current folder

Edit a file from the current folder with a specific app

You can also open a file from the folder selected in File explorer and edit its contents with notepad. Just type:

notepad filename.extension

This works with other programs as well, as long as they support passing the file name as an argument. I tried with Notepad++ and Excel and it worked well.

file explorer edit file from address bar

Navigate to a specific folder

You can also use the address bar for navigation. You have to start with the letter of the drive/partition, like so C:\ then start typing the folder name.

A list of folders in the typed location that correspond to your partial search will appear just below the cursor, for easy selection. You can use the Tab key to fill in one of the suggestions, then type \ again to go one level down into this folder.

file explorer navigate to destination folder partial match

Launch apps directly skipping the Start menu

Instead of typing the name of an app you want to launch in the Start menu, you can do it from File Explorer.

Just type the program executable name, with or without its extension.

There’s one important caveat: you need to know the program executable name.

Cool, but useless: you can even launch File Explorer from File Explorer if you type explorer or explorer.exe in the address bar.

run commands in the file explorer address bar

Here’s a list of popular Windows apps and utilities and their executable names:

Program nameExecutable
Command Promptcmd
PowerShellpowershell
Windows Terminalwt
Calculatorcalc
Character Mapcharmap
Control Panelcontrol
Disk Cleanupcleanmgr
File Explorerexplorer
Notepadnotepad
On-Screen Keyboardosk
Registry Editorregedit
Task Managertaskmgr
Wordpadwrite

Open the user folders

You can also open the special document folders for the current user. Just type these commands:

  • documents – the parent documents folder.
  • download – the downloads folder
  • pictures – the images folder
  • videos – the videos folder

As a conclusion, I wouldn’t say this is a very important trick to know, but it’s definitely one of the things you can use to impress your less technical friends. And it’s also sufficiently practical enough to make use of it from time to time.

Avatar for Ionuț-Alexandru Popa
I'm a writer and Editor-in-Chief at BinaryFork. I am passionate about technology, science, space exploration, and movies. I started writing about tech more than 20 years ago, after graduating in Computer Science.
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