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Supercharging Windows 7 Libraries

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Windows 7’s new Libraries feature makes file management easier and more powerful than in any previous Windows version. In this article, Windows expert Mark Edward Soper shows you how to customize Windows 7 libraries to make them even more powerful and useful for you.
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Before Windows 7, Windows included folders such as My Documents, My Pictures, My Videos, and My Music to help you organize different types of files. These folders also included shortcuts to Shared or Public files, such as sample music, pictures, or videos. However, you could view the contents of only one folder at a time.

Windows 7’s new Libraries feature enables you to combine multiple file locations into a single view. With one click from the Start menu, you can view documents, pictures, music, or videos that might be stored in different folders, different drives, or even different network locations.

To take full advantage of library file and folder management, you need to supercharge your library knowledge. In this article, you learn how to add additional locations, how to create new libraries, how to pin frequently-used folders to the Taskbar, how to use viewing and grouping options appropriate to each library, how to sort library contents, and how to quickly manage library settings from the right-click (context) menu.

Superpowering Libraries with Additional Locations

Windows 7 includes four libraries for each user: Documents, Pictures, Music, and Videos. By default, each library contains two locations: the user’s folder for the file type and the public folder for the file type. Thus, when you click Start, Documents, you see the contents of your own Documents folder and the Documents folder in the Public folder.

However, what if you store files on external hard disks or network locations or work with programs that store files in locations other than your library? You can add these locations to a library to make accessing those files one-click simple. For example, by adding folders on an external drive that contain pictures, I can view them in my Pictures library (see Figure 1).

Figure 1

Figure 1 By adding photo folders on an external drive to your Pictures library, you can view your photos with a single click.

Here’s how to customize your libraries with additional folders:

  1. From the Start menu, click the library you want to work with. In this example, let’s choose the Pictures library.
  2. Hover the mouse over the Includes x locations link to see the folders currently included in the library (see Figure 2).
  3. Figure 2

    Figure 2 Displaying the folders in a library.

  4. Click the link. This opens the Pictures Library Locations dialog.
  5. Click Add (refer to Figure 3).
  6. Navigate to the location you want to add to the library. In this example, I’m adding a folder on an external hard disk. You can also add other folders on your Windows drive, other hard disks in your computer or network locations. However, you cannot add locations on removable-media drives to a library.
  7. Click Include Folder (see Figure 4).
  8. Figure 3

    Figure 3 Including a folder on an external hard disk in the Pictures library.

  9. Click OK (see Figure 4).
  10. Figure 4

    Figure 4 The Pictures Library Locations menu now lists three locations.

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