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Add a Custom Command Button to the Windows 7 Explorer Toolbar

This article describes how to add a user-defined command button to the Windows 7 Explorer toolbar.  In the previous article, we saw how to put the Delete button back there where it belongs.  "Delete" is a predefined action, but today, we're going to add a button that you can program to do whatever you want.
Custom button "MyTool" added to the Win7 toolbarMicrosoft intentionally left out the familiar "Customize..." option for the Explorer toolbar.  They provided a bunch of pre-set toolbars that depend upon the types of files that are in the folder that is being displayed.  In any case, they do not (yet) document how to tweak the registry to modify those preset layouts.  However, there are enough examples in the existing registry entries to make it possible to do some nifty tweaks without resorting to low-level system programming.

As before, we'll be working with the subkey(s) under the registry key:


In there, you'll find a bunch of GUID items that associate with various types of folders.  See part one for more details.  We'll again be working with the item that represents "Generic" folder data.  This basically means all folders that are not "optimized" as being a "Photo" folder or a "Document" folder or any of the special Shell Namespace folders; that is, it appears above folders that are set to display "General Items."

[step="" title=""]Notice: There are certain dangers in using RegEdit to modify the system registry.  Be very careful.
I recommend that you make a backup of your registry before experimenting (I certainly did).[/step]

Add a Custom Command Button to the Explorer Toolbar

Follow steps 1-5 from part one of this series.  In brief:

Start RegEdit and drill down to:


Set the permissions:  Change the Owner to "Administrators" and set Administrators to have "Full Control" over that registry key.

Add keys, TasksItemsSelected\1 to get to this point:
RegEdit, after adding the "1" subkey[step="" title="Note:"]We added the 0 subkey in part one of this article.  
If you did not follow along there, then your subkey should be 0 (not 1).[/step]

Next, we add as a subkey, a brand-new GUID that will identify the MyTool button and command.  You must use a valid GUID, but any unique GUID-format value will do.  I used uuidGen.Exe that comes with Visual Studios to create a GUID, then I tweaked the value a little for fun.  In short, I added the subkey:


The data elements in that new key are:

  InfoTip    REG_SZ Infotip for MyTool
  Title        REG_SZ MyTool

There are other values you can add, but this is all we need for the purposes of adding a text-only button to the Explorer toolbar.  The Title value is the text that will be displayed on the Explorer toolbar.

Below the {BEEFF00D... key, we need to add, in steps,
And for the final one, change the (Default) value to specify the command to execute.  

  (Default) REG_SZ cmd.exe "/c c:\ProgramData\MyScripts\MyTool.bat %*"

Here are the RegEdit screens after entering the data:
RegEdit, after making all of the changesAnd here's the RegEdit reference script.  Important: The script assumes that we are adding tool# 1, and that tool# 0 is already in place (Explorer won't recognize out-of-sequence tool numbers).  AND the permissions must be set before running this script.
[step="" title="PutMyToolOnToolbar.REG"]
Windows Registry Editor Version 5.00
                      "InfoTip"="InfoTip for MyTool"
                      @="cmd.exe \"/c c:\\ProgramData\\MyScripts\\MyTool.bat %*\""

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[/step]The final line sets a command that will be executed.  It can be any program name, such as Notepad.Exe or calc.exe, but in this example, I set it to execute a batch file:

[step="" title="C:\ProgramData\MyScripts\MyTool.BAT"]
@REM -- Used in the "My Tool" custom Explore Tool bar button
                      @ECHO MyTool program name: %0
                      @ECHO Active folder when clicked: %1
                      @ECHO first file: %2
                      @ECHO second file: %3
                      @ECHO third file: %4

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[/step]We have set the options in the registry so that this tool will be available only when there is one or more items selected in the Explorer window (we used the TasksItemsSelected key).  When the tool runs, it will receive at least two parameter values.

  %1 -- The path of the folder that was being displayed
  %2 -- The pathname of the file that was selected.

If you select more than one file before clicking the MyTool button, then the subsequent filenames will be in subsequent parameters.

I have used a simple DOS batch file for illustration, but you'll certainly want to write your own fancy program.  If you use a script file (such as a .JS or .VBS script) then you need to specify the program that runs scripts:  WSCRIPT.EXE.  For instance, setting the command (Default) value to:

   wscript.exe "c:\ProgramData\MyScripts\MyTool.js" %*

...would execute a JScript program.  In it, you can cycle through the parameters with code like:

[step="" title="C:\ProgramData\Myscripts\MyTool.JS"]
// Example JScript file for an Explorer toolbar custom tool.
                      // Argument 0 is the folder that was active.
                      // Arguments 1 - n are full pathnames of selected files
                      var oArgs= WScript.Arguments;
                      //--------- cycle through the filenames in the dropped selection
                      for (var j= 0; j < oArgs.Count(); j++ ) {
                          var sSrcFile= oArgs( j );
                          WScript.Echo( j + ": "+sSrcFile ); 

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Although Microsoft seems to discourage user-customization of the Win7 Explorer toolbar, it is possible to add buttons -- for both predefined and custom commands -- to that toolbar.  

In these articles, we saw how to set the permissions to allow modifications of protected registry settings with RegEdit.  And we saw what registry keys to add in order to add new toolbar button and make it perform any user-programmed command.  We also looked at how to handle the command-line parameters that will be provided to the custom tool when it executes.

There is much more to to learn about this facet of Windows 7 programming.  For instance, I'd like to add a new drop-down menu (instead of just a single button) and I'd like to burn that "Burn" command right off the toolbar.  But we'll have to leave that for a future article.  I hope you have enjoyed this and perhaps learned a thing or two.  Thanks for tuning in!

See Also:
  Add a Delete Button to the Windows 7 Explorer Toolbar

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Comments (7)

Author of the Year 2009


Thanks!  I'm glad you liked it.  Feel free to click [yes] on any of my articles :-)
here's a list:
Hey, yeh that was great! I am trying to use this new button to shortcut to Context>New>Text Document command, so it creates a new text document unopened ready to be titled, just like the New Folder button. Any ideas how this should be done? Apologies if this is not the place for questions, I'll post to forum as well :)

Thanks, Nathan
oh there is no forum. :p
Kevin CrossChief Technology Officer
Most Valuable Expert 2011

Windows Programming Forum (Question and Answer Topic Area)
Author of the Year 2009


I got an email regarding this article from a person who neglected to provide his EE member name...  It suggested that a valuable custom tool would be one that might be called "Add Folder"  

The current mechanism involves: right-click / New... / Folder / type something to rename from "New Folder"  (that is, a multiple-step operation).  The custom tool would pop up a box to input the folder name and it could set folder attributes and even open a new Explorer window on the folder for immediate use.

It's a good idea.  If you have other ideas for useful custom tools, feel free to post them here.

-- Dan

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