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This chapter is from the book

Navigating the File System

Microsoft has refined file system navigation even further in Windows Vista. The biggest navigation change is the removal of the menu bar that was a staple in Windows XP and earlier versions of Windows. In Windows Vista, you now have a toolbar that changes every time you click on an object in the Computer window or Windows Explorer. These changes reflect what you can do with the file or folder. The menu bar still exists, however, and you can enable the menu bar as described in "Turning Panes On and Off" later in this chapter.

Figures 5.17 and 5.18 show two different examples of menu toolbar options available for two different objects. In Figure 5.17, the Windows Explorer window shows the Music folder with the four menu toolbar buttons showing what you can do with the files including Play All to play all the music files in the folder and Burn to burn a CD.

Figure 5.17

Figure 5.17 The Music folder menu toolbar options

Figure 5.18

Figure 5.18 The Computer menu toolbar options

Figure 5.18 shows the Computer window with the computer's media listed. The menu toolbar buttons are different from those available for the Music folder. You can access system properties, uninstall or change a program, or map a network drive. So many toolbar buttons are available that they can't all fit on the toolbar. If you click on the double-arrow (>>) to the right of Map Network Drive you'll see a pop-up menu for opening the Control Panel.

You probably noticed that one part of the toolbar never changes: the Organize and Views buttons. These buttons let you determine how to organize and view the files, folders, and other objects. When you click the Organize button, a menu appears with many of the same options that were available in the File menu in previous versions of My Computer/Windows Explorer, as shown in Figure 5.19.

Figure 5.19

Figure 5.19 The Organize menu

When you click the Views button, the Views menu appears as shown in Figure 5.20. The Views menu shows you the different ways of presenting information in the right pane of the window. You can select from seven different options using the slider bar, and the slider appears to the left of the selected view type. You will learn more about views in the "Customizing File and Folder Views" section later in this chapter.

Figure 5.20

Figure 5.20 The Views menu


Windows makes good use of the right mouse button to access information in Windows Explorer and Computer. Indeed, use of the right mouse button has become so prevalent that even the latest versions of the Mac OS incorporate the right-click to open and manipulate objects on the screen.

In Windows Explorer, right-clicking on a file or folder opens a pop-up menu so that you can work with it in various ways, depending on the file type. You can open a document or folder, send it to an email recipient, run a program, install or set up a utility such as a screen saver, play a sound file, and so forth. Figure 5.21 shows a pop-up menu for a music file.

Figure 5.21

Figure 5.21 The pop-up menu for a music file

When you right-click on a file or folder, a new button may appear on the menu bar to give you more options. In Figure 5.21, the pop-up menu provides a number of choices starting with Play at the top of the menu. The Play button also appears in the menu toolbar so that you can click on the Play button or click on the down arrow button to the right of the Play button to choose the media player you want to use.

In the Computer window, right-clicking on a computer media icon brings up different options for working with the C: drive as shown in Figure 5.22. You'll also notice that the Properties button appears in the menu so that you can open up the Properties window for the C: drive.

Figure 5.22

Figure 5.22 The pop-up menu for a hard drive

Selecting Several Items

On most lists, especially within Computer and Windows Explorer, not to mention the file and browser dialog boxes, you can select multiple items at once to save time. The normal rules of selection apply:

  • Draw a box around them by clicking and holding over empty space near the first item amd then drag across and over the desired selections until all are highlighted and/or contained within the selection box; then release the mouse button.
  • Select the first of the items, hold down the Ctrl key, and click to select each additional object you want to work with. Use this technique to select a number of noncontiguous items.
  • Select the first of the items, hold down the Shift key, and click the last item. This selects the entire range of objects between the starting and ending points.

After several items are selected (they will be highlighted), right-clicking any one of the objects brings up the Cut, Copy, Paste menu. The option you choose applies to all the selected items. Also, clicking anywhere outside the selected items deselects them all, and Ctrl-clicking (or pointing) to one selected object deselects that object.

Drag-and-drop support is implemented uniformly across the Windows Vista interface. In general, if you want something placed somewhere else, you can drag it from the source to the destination. For example, you can drag items from the Search box into a folder or onto the desktop, or you can add a picture attachment to an email you're composing by dragging the picture file into the new email's window. Also, the destination folder does not have to be open in a window. Items dropped onto a closed folder icon are added to that folder. You can also drag and drop items via the taskbar by dragging an item over an application button and waiting a second for that application to be brought to the forefront. You can also drop items into the Start menu to add them to the listings, or drop items over desktop icons to open them with the application onto which you drop the item (assuming the application supports the object's file type).

Arranging your screen so you can see source and destination is graphically and intuitively reassuring because you can see the results of the process. However, it's not always the easiest. After you become familiar with the interface, you'll want to try the Cut, Copy, and Paste methods of moving files and folders.

Viewing Meta-Information

A feature in Computer and Windows Explorer that is new to Windows Vista is the Details pane, which appears at the bottom of the Computer or Windows Explorer window as shown in Figure 5.23.

Figure 5.23

Figure 5.23 The Details pane

In Windows XP and older versions of Windows, Windows Explorer and My Computer only showed basic information about the selected object in the Status bar. This information is called meta-information, or information about the information contained in the file. For example, when you clicked on a Microsoft Word file you would see information about the type of file, the date and time the file was saved, and the size of the file all in small text that was squeezed onto one line in the Status bar.

As you can see in Figure 5.23, the Details pane provides more room for information about a selected object in a format that's much easier to read. Information in the details pane varies with the type of object you're viewing. In Figure 5.23, you see a music file that includes the following information:

  • The icon associated with the file. In this case, it's a Beethoven album cover.
  • The name of the file.
  • The program the file is associated with, which is a Windows Media audio file.
  • The name of the artist(s).
  • The album name.
  • The genre, which is classical.
  • The length of the recording.
  • The rating, which you can add in the music file properties. The rating can be from zero stars (which are all gray stars) to five gold stars.

The Details pane is different when you open the Computer window and click on the Local Disk (C:) icon. As shown in Figure 5.24, the Details pane shows a bar that denotes the amount of space used on the hard drive, the file system used, the amount of space free on the drive, and the total size of the drive.

Figure 5.24

Figure 5.24 The Details pane showing meta-information for Local Disk (C:)

Turning Panes On and Off

The Computer and Windows Explorer windows have a total of four panes, and you can turn each one on and off to suit your needs. If you prefer to have a menu bar in the window, you can also display and use the menu bar.

View the panes and menu bar you have open by clicking the Organize button in the toolbar and then choosing Layout. The five options appear in the flyout menu as shown in Figure 5.25.

Figure 5.25

Figure 5.25 The Layout flyout menu.

By default, the Computer and Windows Explorer windows display the Details and Navigation panes. To the left of the pane name is an icon that represents each pane, and a blue box around the icon signifies that the pane is currently active.

You can open two other panes. The preview pane appears at the right side of the window and shows a thumbnail preview of the file when you click on the filename, as shown in Figure 5.26. If the file is a multimedia file, you can play the file in the small window and see whether the file is something you want to play in Windows Media Player or your multimedia player of choice. If there is no file to preview, a message appears in the preview pane: "Select a file to preview."

Figure 5.26

Figure 5.26 The Preview pane

The other pane you can open is the Search pane, which you will learn about as part of a larger discussion about searching in the "Searching" section later in the chapter.

When you click on the Menu Bar in the Layout flyout menu, the menu bar you may be familiar with from earlier versions of Windows appears above the menu toolbar. This menu bar contains the well-known File, Edit, View, Tools, and Help menu options. Many features in these menus were brought over from Windows XP, and you can't get to these features without enabling the menu.

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