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Fred’s Head, offered by the American Printing House for the Blind, contains tips, techniques, tutorials, in-depth articles, and resources for and by blind or visually impaired people. Our blog is named after the legendary Fred Gissoni, renowned for answering a seemingly infinite variety of questions on every aspect of blindness.

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Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Selecting Noncontiguous Files in Windows Explorer

Anyone who has ever needed to use the keyboard to copy multiple files from one large folder to another in Windows Explorer is familiar with the arduous task of arrowing through the list, copying a file, moving to another folder, pasting and repeating. With the help of an earlier Fred's Head post about Windows Vista keyboard shortcuts, I was finally able to figure out how to select noncontiguous items in a list such as files in Windows Explorer. I have read that this was possible without using the mouse, but was never able to get the keyboard combinations right. Now that I see how simple it is, I am a little embarrassed to admit that it took me so long to master. I thought I would share this information in case there are others like me.

The first thing to understand is that it is possible to move through a list of files without highlighting them by holding down the control key as you arrow through the list. When you get to a file you want to select, simply press the space bar without releasing the control key. With the control key still held down, arrow to the next file you want to select and press space again. Continue this procedure until you have selected all of the files you want to copy, cut or delete. At this point, you can use control-C to copy the files you selected to the clipboard, control-X to cut them or delete to move them to the recycle bin. It makes no difference whether you release the control key before pressing control-C or whether you simply keep holding the control key and press C.

Sounds easy, right? Like anything else in Windows, however, there are a few catches. When you first pressenter to open a folder, you are placed on the first file in the folder and the file is unselected. If you listen to the file description, your screen reader should say "unselected" after announcing the file name and attributes. If you want to select this first file, either arrow off and then back onto the file or hold control and press the space bar. Remember, however, that if you arrow after this point without continuing to hold the control key, the file you arrow to will be selected instead of the one you arrowed away from. This is because pressing the arrow key by itself not only moves to the next file, but also selects it. Therefore, if you are inside a folder where you have been moving around with the arrow keys, the last file you read will already be selected. If you want this file to be included in your selection, simply hold control, move to the second file, and press space to select it as well. Pressing control and space on a file which is already selected will unselect it.

These instructions were written using the latest version of Window Eyes, but they should work with any screen reader. I would be interested to know which Window Eyes and JAWS commands will repeat the list of selected files. This would be useful, for example, if you wanted to hear which files you have selected before deleting them.

Contributor: Lisa via Email

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