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30 Hardware and Windows Tips in 30 Days Tip 6: Customizing Folder Views in Windows Vista

Whether you use Windows XP, Windows Vista or a legacy Windows version, customizing your folder views helps you find the information you want with less effort and helps you can navigate through your system faster. This article discusses folder customizations in Windows Vista. For Windows XP, see Tip 4.

The Power of the Views Button

The Views button in Windows Vista, as in Windows XP, is the easiest way to temporarily change your folders' appearance. Use it to preview different defaults, and to show you the most important information for a particular task.

Windows Explorer Default Views Vary By Folder Type

Windows Vista uses separate file and folder explorers for each major data file type, including Pictures, Music, Videos, Favorites, and others, instead of using subfolders of My Documents as in Windows XP. Each file and folder explorer offers different features and customization options, and, although Windows Vista uses some of the same terms for its views as Windows XP, the details may vary:

  • The Medium Icon, Large Icon, and Extra Large Icon views, despite their names, display thumbnails of any file that supports a thumbnail view, such as TIF or JPG graphics files, Adobe PDF files, and some types of Microsoft Office files.  Other files display an application-specific icon. The Large Icon view is most similar to Windows XP's Thumbnails view when viewing photos.

  • The Small Icon view is similar to Windows XP's List view. It is useful primarily for file management tasks such as drag and drop, selecting files for copying, moving or deletion, or group file renaming.

  • The Tiles view displays a thumbnail the same size as the Medium Icon view for files that support thumbnails, and also lists the file type and size.

  • The Details view is customized in different ways, depending upon the Explorer in use. Pictures Explorer displays filename, date taken (applies only to digital camera photos, not scanned photos), tags, file size, and star rating. Music Explorer displays track name, artists, album name, track number, Genre, and star rating. Documents Explorer and Recently Changed explorers display filename, date modified, file type, size, and tags. To customize the Details view, right-click the title row and select additional columns.

Sorting, Grouping, and Stacking Files and Folders

Windows Vista Explorers not only support sorting, but also stacking and grouping. To select sorting, stacking, or grouping options in any view, click the down arrow in the heading above the file viewing area. For example, to sort, group, or stack by name, click the down arrow next to Name (the down arrow appears when you move the mouse into the heading). Select Sort, Group, or Stack (by Name).

Use Group or Stack to help locate files that match a particular name, date range, or other specifications.

 

Customizing Folder Appearance in Windows Vista

If you don't like the default folder view used for any explorer or its subfolder, you can change the defaults. Right-click a folder, select Properties, and click the Customize tab. Options include:

  • The All Items template uses the Details view, and includes the Organize (file management) and Burn (CD/DVD) tasks/menus.

  • The Documents template uses the Details view, and includes the Organize, Views, and Burn tasks/menus.

  • The Pictures and Videos template uses the Large Icons view, and includes the Organize, Views, Slide show, and Burn tasks/menus.

  • The Music Details template uses the Music Explorer version of the Details view, and includes the Organize, Views, Play All, and Burn tasks/menus.
  • The Music Icon template uses the Large Icons view, and includes the Organize, Views, Play All, and Burn tasks/menus.

As with Windows XP, you can apply a template to subfolders of the current folder. But, unlike Windows XP, Windows Vista permits you to change the root folder of each explorer (Documents, Pictures, etc.):

  • The Pictures setting uses Thumbnail view, displays Picture Tasks and File and Folder Tasks in the left pane. Use it for folders containing many pictures.
  • The Photo Album setting uses Filmstrip view, displays Picture Tasks and File and Folder Tasks in the left pane. Use it for folders that contain fewer pictures.
  • The Documents setting uses Tiles view, displays File and Folder Tasks in the left pane. Use it for folders containing any type of files.
  • The Music setting uses Tiles view and displays Music Tasks and File and Folder Tasks in the left pane. Use it for folders containing audio files and playlists.
  • The Music Artist setting uses Thumbnails view and displays Music Tasks and File and Folder Tasks in the left pane. Use it for folders containing audio files by a single artist.
  • The Music Album setting uses Tiles view and displays Music Tasks and File and Folder Tasks in the left pane. Use it for folders containing audio files from a single album.
  • The Videos setting uses Thumbnails view and displays Video Tasks and File and Folder Tasks. Use it for folders containing video files.

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