When I use a file manager to navigate through a file system (or, actually, the subset of it whose root is my Documents directory), I do it in an orderly fashion:

  1. When I need to navigate down the directory hierarchy, I never open a directory that is not a direct descendant of the current one. Thus, if I need to navigate to a "grandchild" directory, I first open its "parent", which must necessarily be a "child" of the current directory.

  2. When I need to navigate up the directory hierarchy, I always use the back button.

  3. When, after having navigated up the directory hierarchy, I need to navigate down to the same descendant directories I was previously in, I always use the forward button.

At least that is how I do it on my main home machine (OS X 10.6).

On my work machine (Windows 7 x86 Ultimate), sometimes navigating back is interpreted by Windows Explorer as "navigating forward to the directory I was previously in", which completely defeats the purpose of my directory navigation scheme, because it has the effect of creating a loop in the navigation history:

Original state:

... --> A --> B(current)

After navigating back:

        |              |
        V              |
... --> A(current) --> B

NOTE: In the preceding diagrams, the arrows represent precedence, not orientation.

Is there any way to get around this problem?

  • I can't reproduce this problem. The back and forward buttons always work as expected for me? – Ƭᴇcʜιᴇ007 May 26 '11 at 23:29

As, in the comments for another answer, you say that you would like the old XP-style Explorer interface back, you might want to try Explorer++ (free).


  • That screenshot looks nice. I am going to try it. – pyon May 29 '11 at 8:31

In Windows XP the Windows explorer did have an "Up" button. Microsoft decided to drop this button in favor to Internet-Explorer-Like Back-and-Forward buttons. The buttons also work exactly like the browser buttons in Internet Explorer (and most other browsers). So the back button will alway navigate to the previous directory before entering the current one.

There is no "up" button available in Windows Explorer on Windows 7 any more.

However this "up" button is not needed any more as you can now click the path components in the address bar. For example if you're in c:\windows\system you can navigate your mouse to the address bar and simply click the "Windows" path component in order to enter the upper "Windows" folder. It's also possible to directly jump into an adjacent folder by clicking the little right arrow on the right of every path component.

This allows quick navigation within paths, upwards and downwards.

I agree that this does not fully replace the "up" button which was supposed to sit at the same place in the toolbar all the time but as far as I know there is no way to get it back.

You might also use the "backspace" button on your keyboard to achieve the same. If you're on the navigation tree (left side of explorer view) or in the address bar (just clicked a path component) then the "backspace" button will do exactly what the "up" button was supposed to do. It will jump one directory level up. If used on the right view pane it will just execute the "back" command as well.

  • The backspace has the inconvenient of navigating forward to the parent directory, which completely breaks my navigation scheme, which requires all successive elements of the navigation history to be direct descendants of the previous ones. // On XP, I wasn't that anal/soup-Nazi about navigating directories, but then, XP came with a file manager that didn't suck. OTOH, Windows 7's Windows Explorer sucks as much as OS X's Finder. – pyon May 27 '11 at 6:33
  • 1
    If you hate Windows explorer that much you could probably think about using one of the many replacements like TotalCommander, FreeCommander, Q-Dir or anything else. Maybe something fits your requirements better. – SkyBeam May 27 '11 at 7:04
  • I have just looked at some screenshots of those file managers, and I think I would hate them even worse. What I actually miss is the single-rooted tree view that Windows Explorer had from (IIRC) Windows 95 to Windows XP. – pyon May 27 '11 at 17:47

As well as the breadcrumb navigation in the address bar, you can use:

ALT + - to go Back

ALT + - to go Forward

ALT + - to go Up one level


In addition to the other answers, you might want to try Classic Shell (free, open source). I use it for the 'Up' button and it works great. It has many features but you can configure it to use only the ones you want.

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