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 '16 at 13:23
  • Now tell me how you really feel... – Leo May 29 '16 at 20:51
  • 2
    +1 for the artwork :)) – sunny moon Aug 24 '19 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 '16 at 20:28
  • In Windows10, Win + Space is now used for switching input languages. – Wulfric Lee Feb 13 '19 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 '13 at 13:06
  • Does not work in Windows 10. – RashaMatt Nov 24 '18 at 18:04
  • @RashaMatt ~ This is for Windows 7 ... long before Windows 10 mate. – Edward J Beckett Nov 26 '18 at 17:30
  • @RashaMatt ~ I can confirm this does work in Windows 10. – Edward J Beckett Oct 8 '19 at 13:39

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? – Jason Aller May 29 '15 at 3:46
  • Yes it also works in Windows 7. – RashaMatt May 29 '15 at 9:24
  • CTRL + E navigates to the search input not the content pane. – Edward J Beckett May 31 '15 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 '15 at 19:52
  • Does not work for me. Although works if instead of Esc you use SPACE – mnmnc Mar 17 '16 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 '16 at 20:24
  • Alt-UP navigates upward in the file hierarchy, which is not what the poster asked for. – RashaMatt Nov 24 '18 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 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


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%}



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.


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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