Difference Between Sorting & Filtering Files


Your computer can get as cluttered as your junk drawer. Even with multiple folders and a complex file management strategy, finding a single file among your personal collection can take time. By sorting your files for maximum efficiency -- whatever form that takes for you -- you can find files easier. When that fails, you can filter the files within a folder using the search functions built into Windows Explorer.

Sorting Files

  • When you sort files, you change the order in which they appear in Explorer. Windows offers a lot of options for sorting your files. You can sort files by name, file type, date modified, date created, size, authors, tags or title. You can choose to sort those by either ascending or descending order (such as A to Z or Z to A). These sorting settings are maintained in the folder even after you've closed Explorer. Different folders can have different sorting options enabled.

Filtering Files

  • When you do a search in a single folder, the folder filters your files to those that fit the search criteria. The folder will only show you files that fit within the criteria of the search. For instance, say you're looking for all files that contain the word "Heavy" in your Music folder. When you type the word "Heavy" in the search bar, Explorer automatically returns those files and folders. Filters disappear once you've closed the folder.

Sorting Options in Explorer

  • Windows Explorer offers some in-depth options for sorting. The "Sort By" menu also offers the option to change which columns you see in Explorer; you can also sort a folder by clicking the head of a column. Additionally, you can also group files together. Grouping is a different sort of organization tool. In addition to how you've sorted your files, grouping creates blocks of files and folders instead of a single sea of icons. Grouping offers the same options as sorting: name, type, size, date, authors, tags and title. You can use different methods for sorting and grouping: you can have files grouped by name, and sorted by size within those groups. You can change your sorting and grouping settings from the "View" tab on the Explorer ribbon or by right-clicking anywhere in the folder. The same options for sorting and grouping are available from the context menu.

Advanced Search Filters in Explorer

  • Explorer also provides some advanced filters for searching. You can filter by multiple keywords with "AND;" to find files with one or another keyword, you could search with "one OR another." You can use NOT to find files that have one keyword, but not another, by using "one NOT another." Explorer allows you to filter by the date using "datetaken:". Windows also offers the option to filter using a system called natural language search, which uses search parameters in normal language. This option, available in the "Folder Options" section of the Control Panel, allows you to search in terms like "documents today" to find documents created that day.

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