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How to Use Windows 7's New Library Feature

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See how Libraries in Windows 7 make it easier to search, view, and your access documents. Plus see how they tie into sharing on networks. Eric Geier, author of 100 Things You Need to Know About Microsoft Vista, shows you exactly how to work with and manage the Libraries.
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One of Microsoft’s new features in Windows 7—coming the second half of 2009—is called Libraries. The point behind this feature is to provide an easier and faster way to search, view, and your access documents, photos, music, videos, and other data. Plus the Libraries come into play when sharing on your network. In addition to being able to share individual folders as you did in previous Windows releases, you will now be able to share an entire Library.

Understanding the Windows 7 Libraries

You could say Libraries are virtual folders. You add folders to Libraries, where you can view and access the contents of each added folder from the single Library window. A Library itself can’t contain any files as they aren’t real folders, but they offer one-stop access to a collection of folders. See Figure 1 for example of the default Documents Library.

Figure 1 The default Documents Library.

Here are several ways you can make use of Libraries:

  • Add folders that are scattered throughout your hard drive(s) to Libraries. For example, if you have a hard drive dedicated to music, you can add it to the Music Library. Another example: If you have folders on the desktop, you can add them to the appropriate Libraries.
  • Create custom Libraries. For example, when I start a new writing assignment, I can create a new Library. I could add related folders such as the one that contains the publication’s guidelines, folders on previous work that I think I’ll want to reference, and folders containing any downloaded research. Then instead of hunting for those folders each time I need something, I just open the custom Library. Then when I’m done with the assignment, I can delete the Library.
  • Add network locations (shared folders from other computers) to Libraries. This is useful if you work on multiple computers. For example, instead of browsing through all the shared folders of a particular computer (or multiple computers) to find your Word documents, you could add the Documents folder from every PC in the home to the Documents Library. Then when you want to find a document, you’d just open the Library, giving you access to local and shared files, from one window.
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