How to Browse and Open Folders and Files with Google Chrome

Everyone knows that you can use Google Chrome to browse websites. But like any browser, you can also use it to browse folders and files on your local device, just like Windows Explorer in Windows and Finder in macOS. Chrome has a full-featured navigation system that lets you explore all the storage devices connected to your computer, tablet, or smartphone—it will even open simple text and image files directly from the browser without any extensions. Here are three ways to use a browser to explore your files.

How to Browse and Open Folders and Files with Google Chrome

Method #1: Drag and Drop

To open a file, drag and drop it from its folder into Chrome. Wait until you see a plus sign before releasing the file.

Method #2: Use the “Open” Function

While in the browser, press Ctrl+O in Windows (Cmd+O on Mac) as in “Open” and double-click the appropriate file.

Method #3: Use the Address Bar

Type “file:///c:/” without quotes in the address bar and press Enter. Replace “c:” with the letter of the drive you want to explore. This step will open a window called ‘Index of C:\,’ which is an index of all computer files found on your C drive. From there, you can browse through the folders, much like using File Explorer in Windows or Finder in macOS.

Using Chrome’s file browser above, you can open simple text files, PDFs, and images. Click a file in one of the compatible formats to open it, and it will appear in a new tab. If you click a file that Chrome doesn’t know how to open, it will save it to your designated Downloads directory instead.

Method 4: Use a Third-Party Chrome Add-On

Chrome can open simple files, but that doesn’t include videos or music, to name just a couple. Local Explorer is a Chrome extension that enables you to open any file you want on your computer using its default software package.

How to Install Local Explorer Add-On for Chrome

Adding Local Explorer to Chrome is a two-part process. You need the add-on in Chrome, and you need an integration module to run the default programs for the files.

Step 1: Install Local Explorer Extension

  1. Open the Local Explorer extension page in the Chrome Web Store, click Add to Chrome in the upper-right corner.
  2. In the popup window, select Add extension.

Step 2: Install Local Explorer Integration Module

  1. Select Add to Windows Explorer found on the post-install page as shown below or by right-clicking the Local Explorer button on your extensions toolbar and selecting Options.
  2. Double-click the downloaded executable to install the integration module.
  3. Next, type chrome://extensions without quotes into the address bar and hit Enter. Scroll down to the Local Explorer – File Manager, and click Details. Then, toggle the Allow access to file URLs button.
  4. When you click to open a file in the tab labeled Index of, the External Protocol Request window shown below will open. Press the Launch Application button to open the file in its default software package.

Take note that this extension does not work on Chromebooks or Linux operating systems. Also, the reason this feature never gets built into Chrome is due to security policies. Be careful when opening files if you are not sure of their origination, and proceed at your own risk.

In closing, Chrome includes many features that users often don’t know exist, such as changing Chrome’s perceived location. In any case, the two options in this article (built-in and external Chrome file browsers) are handy when you’re already using the browser and don’t want to open another window on your PC or if your system’s file explorer is in a funk.

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