How to invert selection in File Explorer of Windows 8.1

File Explorer, formerly known as Windows Explorer, is the default file manager of Windows 8.1. Starting with Windows 8, it features the Ribbon interface, which exposes all the possible commands for quick access to regular file management features. Additionally, it offers you the quick access toolbar, where you can put any of your favorite commands.

Today we will look how we can use the Ribbon UI to manage the selection of items in File Explorer effectively.

Since Windows 95, you were able to select files in Windows Explorer:

  • using CTRL+A hotkeys to select all files
  • using SHIFT+Up/Down Arrow keys to select files from the currently selected file to the next/previous file while you hold the SHIFT key.
  • using CTRL+Up/Down Arrow keys to select multiple files which are not listed consecutively, while you hold CTRL.
  • with the mouse, you can draw a rectangle starting from the outside empty space and drag inwards towards the files to select the files you want.
  • with the mouse, holding down CTRL and clicking every file you want to select.
  • with the mouse, holding down SHIFT and clicking on the first file you want to select, then clicking on the last file you want to select.
  • use checkboxes to select files or click the topmost checkbox in the header to select all files
  • using the 'Select All' command from the Edit menu and the little known 'Invert selection' command, also located inside the Edit menu.

In Windows 8.1 and Windows 8, you have an additional tool. On the Home tab of the File Explorer ribbon, you have some advanced options to control the selection of items:

Notice the section of the Ribbon labelled 'Select'. It has buttons for "Select all", "Select none" and "Invert selection". The Invert Selection button allows you reverse the selection in the File Explorer window. If you have all files selected, inverting the selection will de-select all of them. Let's see what Invert Selection does with an example.

Suppose I want to delete all files from the screenshot above except SkyDrive.png. This is what I have to do:

  • I have to select that file, SkyDrive.png:
  • Next, all I need is a single click on the "Invert Selection" button and then press Delete:

That's it! This is quite simple, right?

Bonus tip: in my screenshots above you can see the customized navigation pane and This PC folder. You can also add or remove any folder in This PC using the following tutorial: How to add custom folders in This PC in Windows 8.1 or remove the defaults.

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2 thoughts on “How to invert selection in File Explorer of Windows 8.1

  1. Samir

    “The Invert Selection button allows you reverse the selection in the File Explorer window.” You missed a “to” at column 40.

    For inverse selection, you can also use mnemonics. Try the key sequence ALT, H, S, I. This works only for Ribbon UI. In older versions this would be ALT, E, I.

    Apparently, the idea to use Ctrl+I as an actual keyboard shortcut for this has not struck a cord with Microsoft yet. Even thou they pretty much revamped the entire interface of Windows Explorer (and the entire system UI) and they went as far as changing its name to File Explorer. Looking at it now, from present day, it probably seems obvious even to Microsoft that “FILE” Explorer makes much more intuitive sense than “Windows” Explorer. It’s a file manager, and you explore files with it. It’s not a window explorer and you don’t explore “windows” with it. That’s totally against all logic; it stands in contrast to what Microsoft described as a program window early on.

    I think that’s at least part of the reason why selection inversion command is not widely known. It’s not that it’s unknown, it’s more that it’s not used a whole lot, and then there’s no keyboard shortcut for it. Also, from a logical standpoint, it is more natural to tell the computer what you WANT, and not bore it with what you DON’T want. People who use keyboards to get around the interface are less likely to reach out for the mouse to inverse a selection (myself included). Why do that, when you can accomplish pretty much the same effect with Ctrl+A and then let go of A key and use Up and Down or Left and Right keys and Space to deselect files and folders you don’t want in the selection.

    Those are my thoughts on the matter anyway. The Ctrl+I doesn’t appear to do a thing in File Explorer. Meaning it’s probably not reserved. So there’s still hope they will add it in Windows 10. That would seem a logical step to me anyway. That would make things a bit easier for me, than all that Ctrl-ing and Space-ing. I know they have added the ability to Shift+Up or Shift+Down in CMD prompt to Ctrol+C more easily. All keyboard tricks are very much appreciated on my part.

  2. Eugene

    Hold down ctrl-key and basically do arrow-down space each file. At the end you have reversed the selection. Hahaha.. No Microsoft is stupid or they have new guys F up the damn interface each time. Perhaps to skimp on salary and cost. Or they accidentally hired Mac spies.


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