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Stupid Geek Tricks: Open an Explorer Window from the Command Prompt’s Current Directory

Have you ever done something on your computer without really thinking about it, but the person next to you has a surprised and confused look on their face? If so, then you might have performed a Stupid Geek Trick. Today we’ll show how to open an Explorer window from the current command prompt directory.

Let’s begin… just open up a command prompt and then type in the following (the . passes the current directory to Explorer)

explorer .

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You’ll immediately see an Explorer window show up with the contents of the directory your command prompt is in.

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If you want to type less characters, you can use the following instead:

start .

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You can even use the full path to a folder…

explorer c:\some\folder\path

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Or one of the built-in shell variables…

start %APPDATA%

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Or the newer shell: operator style:

start shell:startup

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And you’ll see that directory instantly show up:

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And finally, don’t forget that you can also use most of these techniques from the File Open/Save Dialog.

Lowell Heddings, better known online as the How-To Geek, spends all his free time bringing you fresh geekery on a daily basis. You can follow him on if you'd like.

  • Published 06/24/08

Comments (17)

  1. Daniel Spiewak

    I’m not sure this counts as a stupid geek trick; I do this *all* the time. It’s particularly useful when I’ve been futzing around with some CL-only utility (like Ant) in a certain directory and want to get the results. I also use it a lot from the jEdit console pane to open up a more powerful file manager than its built-in support.

    It’s worth noting that `explorer .` probably doesn’t behave the way you would want it to, it just happens to work because the Windows shell cheats in its kernel integration. The more general form appends an ampersand: `explorer . &` This is required in shells like jEdit to ensure that the shell itself doesn’t block forever, it just launches the appropriate window.

  2. The Geek

    But you do all the time precisely because you Are a geek :-)

    I’ve found that a surprising number of people don’t know about it, which is why I wrote it up… it’s definitely not anything extraordinary, most of my stupid geek tricks aren’t.

  3. Chabis

    That’s really a geek trick! Love it! As I not often use the Explorer (found a better alternative) I never saw that trick. Keep geeking :-)

  4. The Geek

    @Chabis:

    You could use the same thing to launch an alternate explorer like xplorer2.

  5. Barron

    Great tip. Is there a way to do this on OS X? The obvious ‘finder .’ doesn’t work.

  6. Isaac

    Actually this is something that I’ve been curious about how to do for a long time and never invested the time it took to find a solution. You just delivered that solution to me without me having to do the work.

    Thank you – and keep the tricks coming!

  7. Scott Wegner

    There are a few undocumented switches to the explorer command as well. For example, to open a folders view, use the /e switch:

    explorer /e

    to use this along with a path, separate them with a comma. For example, to see a folders view of the current directory:

    explorer /e,.

  8. Michael Higham

    Great tip! Thanks!

  9. Mark

    Another thing you can do is use a switch like ‘/e’ which tells explorer to open up using its “full” mode (I forget the correct term), eg explorer /e,C:\Windows

  10. Spacegold

    I tried this from the desktop, and it did not work as you say; it only showed five of thirteen desktop items (four shortcuts and an executable) using “explorer .” However, all 13 and three more showed up when “start .” was used. This is a cute navigation trick. Thanks for sharing. Keep on geekin’.

  11. jaw69

    To this blessed Web site–with the real “truth” of how to actually make “good” things happen in Windows,without submitting a “major credit” card, or signing away your 1st born…
    I have tried several times to install Internet Explorer 8(final version):but, each time I start the install process, it says I need a prior file to continue. When I download that file from Microsofts’ download site..upon running that file, I am told that I have a “newer” file installed,and that this one isn’t necessary(not needed.)
    Then, I’m back to square one again. MY question is–Is it even worth the time and trouble to get this frigg’in supposed “upgraded” program???
    From what I’ve read on your Web site forum for this program(I.E. 8/ final verison…)–The answer would be “no”.
    Please reply, if you can give some insight,
    and guidance as –how to get it actually “installed”.
    And trust me..I always do a “restore point’ especially when I do a major upgrade from Microsoft.

  12. justin

    Why not just hit the windows button + e?

  13. Kevin C

    Even easier: “start .”

  14. archie

    Want a really good geek trick?

    Press: Win-key + E

    and it opens just like that,
    all versions
    not OTT typing in command windows
    no bother
    no effort

    Trust me, I’m an expert

  15. Roi

    @jaw69
    If you are scared of Microsoft so much, then why do you use its horribly awful Internet Explorer???
    Use Google Chrome if you like fastness and stability. Use Firefox if you would like to sacrifice fast for extensions :D

  16. Darren

    Great tip! Any way of making the Explorer window pop and only show files you’re interested in… like explorer *.doc

  17. CitrusRain

    I really never need the command line, but when I do, it’s actually the Linux terminal… which takes me a good 20 minutes to re-learn how to navigate it. :(

    I wish this trick was in linux. (or at least known to me)

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