Is there a Windows 7 Explorer keyboard shortcut to set focus to files/folders/content area (depicted below)?

This has bothered me for so long... I want to set my explorer window's focus to the files pane (shown below). What's the most efficient way to do that with a keyboard?

enter image description here

Here's what I've been doing:
- Tab / Shift+Tab to move focus through interactive window elements until it looks like a selection rectangle appears over one of the files in my window.
- Alt+V, Alt+D to change appearance setting of a folder contents' icons. Doesn't always work, depending on what's selected at the time.

  • 6
    The Easiest way is to open an explorer window and press SPACE bar on keyboard. Works fine on Windows7. So Win+E --> SPACE
    – mnmnc
    Mar 17, 2016 at 13:23
  • Now tell me how you really feel...
    – Leo
    May 29, 2016 at 20:51
  • 3
    +1 for the artwork :))
    – sunny moon
    Aug 24, 2019 at 9:37

10 Answers 10


You can use AutoHotkey to move the keyboard focus to the file pane. In this example, I use the hotkey Win+Space:

#IfWinActive ahk_class CabinetWClass ; Windows Explorer
        ControlFocus, DirectUIHWND3, A
        SendInput, {Space}

See Also:

  • 1
    Perfect. Now I am wondering why I was tolerating tabs all these days. I should have googled earlier
    – user398328
    Aug 10, 2016 at 20:28
  • 1
    In Windows10, Win + Space is now used for switching input languages.
    – Kyung Lee
    Feb 13, 2019 at 9:17

Try Ctrl+Tab, that should do it.

For the record the terminology you are referring to is called "Property Tab Navigation" ...

Properties control

CTRL+TAB/CTRL+SHIFT+TAB: Move through the property tabs
  • wow. this worked. never would have thought. but the (usless) search webpages box kills it.
    – n611x007
    Jul 19, 2013 at 13:06
  • Does not work in Windows 10.
    – RashaMatt
    Nov 24, 2018 at 18:04
  • @RashaMatt ~ This is for Windows 7 ... long before Windows 10 mate. Nov 26, 2018 at 17:30
  • 2
    @RashaMatt ~ I can confirm this does work in Windows 10. Oct 8, 2019 at 13:39
  • 😮 amazing, didn't know that and I'm using Windows for ~30 years. Feb 25, 2022 at 12:16

Ctrl+E (or Ctrl+F) followed by Esc

Works in Windows 7, 8.1, 10

  • The question was asking for a Windows 7 solution, does this also work for Windows 7? May 29, 2015 at 3:46
  • Yes it also works in Windows 7.
    – RashaMatt
    May 29, 2015 at 9:24
  • CTRL + E navigates to the search input not the content pane. May 31, 2015 at 15:31
  • 1
    And esc navigates from the search input back to the content pane. It works, if you takes the time to actually read and understand all six words in the post.
    – RashaMatt
    May 31, 2015 at 19:52
  • Does not work for me. Although works if instead of Esc you use SPACE
    – mnmnc
    Mar 17, 2016 at 13:26

I came here because I'm looking for a solution too.

The fastest way I found to do that was to go back and forth: use Alt+UP and then ENTER. Almost always works.

  • That's nice trick. Never thought about it
    – user398328
    Aug 10, 2016 at 20:24
  • Alt-UP navigates upward in the file hierarchy, which is not what the poster asked for.
    – RashaMatt
    Nov 24, 2018 at 18:05

Two solutions I use: -

The first is from this Microsoft support thread where they recommend a third party app which focuses on the window under the mouse if you use the scroll wheel - which is rather handy now considering the segmented approach to Explorer.

And the other, keyboard only, is the Alt+D hotkey to focus the address bar, then press Shift+Tab twice to bring the focus to the file list (the first Shift+Tab focuses on the sorting headings). A third Shift+Tab sends focus to the folder pane.

  • A proposed edit to this answer was made, using Ctrl+Tab instead of Shift+Tab. I just tested it and Ctrl+Tab is more reliable, so use that - failing that then try Shift+Tab.
    – Jon
    Oct 5, 2021 at 12:31

A compromise...
Hide the menu along the top of the Explorer window. Go to:
Tools -> "Folder Options..." -> "View" tab -> Deselect "Always show menus"

Now focus can be moved from the left and right panes (shown below) using Tab & Shift+Tab.

enter image description here


If you have just opened the Explorer window you can press Space (thanks to a @mnmnc's comment).

Otherwise Ctrl+Tab seems to always work.


Thanks to iglvzx for the AutoHotkey solution. Unfortunately, it didn't always work for me, because sometimes the focus would be on the first column header in detail view. Pressing the space there causes the contents to be resorted. To fix that problem, I wound up changing the code to use a mouse click instead. Here is the new code:

#IfWinActive ahk_class CabinetWClass ; Windows Explorer


  ; Get coordinates of content control within explorer window
  ControlGetPos, x, y, w, h, DirectUIHWND3, ahk_class CabinetWClass

  ; Offset to get past column headers in Details View
  x += 100
  y += 30

  ; Send a mouse click to change focus to content window
  SendInput, {Click %x%, %y%}



Type: Ctrl+FTABTAB if the navigation pane is present.

Type: Ctrl+FTAB otherwise.


You could just do Ctrl+F then TAB twice. Just as fast as any keyboard shortcut and you don't have to install anything.


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