Productivity

Using Wildcards in Windows ‘Open’ Dialogue Boxes

About a month ago I blogged about a new trick that I had learned for Tiling Selected Windows. Even though I’ve been a Windows Power User for years, I didn’t know about that little trick and many other Long Time Windows Power Users commented that they were unaware of it as well. Well, I just discovered another neat little Windows trick that has probably been around for ages too.

When you are in an “Open” Dialogue box, you can use wildcards to filter the filenames that you see in the window. This can be especially helpful if you have several directories that have hundreds of files in them like I do in some cases. I’ve included a few screenshots to illustrate this.

Here is an unfiltered Open Dialogue box:
Windows Open Dialogue Box - Unfiltered

If I type in “*.mp3” in the “File Name” box and then hit enter, I see only the MP3 files in the selected folder:
Windows Open Dialogue Box - MP3s

If I type in “*.???” in the “File Name” box and then hit enter, I see only the files with three letter file extensions (.html files are hidden because they have four letters in their extension):
Windows Open Dialogue Box - 3-Letter Extensions

If I type in “i*” in the “File Name” box and then hit enter, I see only the files that begin with the letter “I”:
Windows Open Dialogue Box - Begins With the Letter I

If I type in “*2005-12” in the “File Name” box and then hit enter, I see only the files that have “2005-12” somewhere in their title (this is very useful if you frequently incorporate dates into your file names):
Windows Open Dialogue Box - Files with 2005-12 In Them

I can also mix my filters as well by separating them with a semicolon. If I type in “t*;s*” in the “File Name” box and then hit enter, I see only the files that begin with either the letters “T” or “S”:
Windows Open Dialogue Box - With Mixed Filters

Once again, I’m curious—have the other long-time Windows Power Users that read this known about this trick all along?

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4 Comments

  • Reply
    Michael Randall
    1/12/2006 at 6:33 pm

    I knew this one, all apart from splitting multiple filters with the semicolon.

    You can also enter the name of a folder in the box, and when you hit enter, it will go into that folder, just as if you’d double-clicked it in the window above – utterly useless, *unless* the folder is hidden.

    I keep display of hidden files and folders turned off, and hide some folders under My Documents that I just don’t need to see often – using this trick, it’s still fairly easy to save something into a hidden folder, as long as you remember what it’s called.

    Oh, and “..” followed by Enter (two full stops) will go up a level, same as the ‘up a folder’ button. Keep hitting Enter then to keep going up.

    Tab and Shift-Tab will move you between parts of the box too, so you can use Tab to go from the file list window to the File name box, or Shift-Tab to go from the file list window to the shortcuts on the left – then up/down and Enter to jump to one of the locations.

  • Reply
    rickyspears
    1/12/2006 at 8:59 pm

    Michael – Thanks for expanding on this! I was aware of the other shortcuts you mentioned, but rarely seem to need them. When I first sign onto a new system, one of the first things I usually do is set it to show hidden files and to show know file extensions. I just like being able to see everything and I get really frustrated when the OS starts making decisions for me at that level.

  • Reply
    Terry Porter
    1/15/2006 at 8:08 am

    I didn’t know about the semicolon, very helpful. Just yesterday I was looking for a file about a cross reference. Some have the obvious file name, and some have x-ref. This hint would have made it faster for me to find what I needed. Thanks!

  • Reply
    Ben
    6/16/2006 at 9:40 pm

    I have known about this for a while but not some of the specific ways of searching… I use it in Notepad all the time!

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