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How to List the Contents of a Folder in Windows

15 May 2014, Mike Williams

If you’re troubleshooting a PC problem, maybe trying to help someone else, then it can sometimes be useful to list the files in a folder.

Explorer still can’t do this. But, no problem – you’ve plenty of other options.

File Lister is perhaps as basic a solution as you’ll see. Specify a folder, check “Preserve file structure”, click “List Files”, and the program displays your folders and files in an indented list.

You’re then able to save this output as a file, or copy it to the clipboard (click in the text box, press Ctrl+A, Ctrl+C).

File Lister’s output is poorly formatted, but it does have one advantage: the folder structure is drawn with regular printable characters, so should be preserved no matter how it’s sent to anyone else.

Snap2HTML makes it easy to share the contents of your folder tree with anyone

Snap2HTML looks sort-of similar – you choose a starting folder, click a button and wait as your system is scanned – but the results are far more sophisticated.

This time, instead of a static list, you get an interactive HTML page which looks and feels much like Explorer: browse your folders on the left, the files they contain appear on the right, along with their size and “Last Modified” date.

Amazingly, there’s even a search page where you can enter part of a file or folder name, and see any matches. Yet this is all held in a self-contained HTML file, and you can just email it to whoever needs the information.

If you’re happier with a simple list, then an old DOS favourite, the TREE command, can help. Open a command line and enter this (replace “public” with your own user name if it’s more interesting).

tree /f “c:\users\public\documents” | clip

This runs the tree command, which displays a mock graphic view of your path’s subfolders. The /f switch adds the file names as well, and the “| clip” sends its output to the clipboard. Paste it into Notepad and take a look.

If you don’t need to see the folder structure, but want a lot of detail on the files themselves, then the DIR command makes a better choice.

dir /s “c:\users\public\documents” | clip

This lists the contents of the specified folder. The /s switch tells it to list subfolders, and once again we’re using CLIP.EXE to send our output to the clipboard.

Using the command prompt is a little inconvenient, of course, but you can always launch it as a part of the same command. Press Win+R to open the run box, and enter cmd /c followed by your command:

cmd /c tree /f “c:\users\public\documents” | clip

Better still, if you regularly need to list the contents of a specific folder then you can run this form of command from a shortcut, too.

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