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This chapter is from the book

This chapter is from the book

Navigating the Windows 8.1 Folder Windows

Let’s take a quick tour of the interface features you’ll find in Windows 8.1’s folder windows. Figure 6.4 shows a typical example of the species, the Documents folder.

Figure 6.4

Figure 6.4 The main interface elements in a Windows 8.1 folder window.

Folder Navigation

Windows 8.1 implements drives and folders as hierarchies that you navigate up, down, and even across. As you can see in Figure 6.4, the address bar doesn’t show any drive letters or backslashes. Instead, you get a hierarchical path to the current folder. The path in Figure 6.4 has three items, separated by right-pointing arrows:

  • Current folder icon—This icon represents the current folder. You’ll see a bit later that you can use this icon to navigate to your computer drives, your network, the Control Panel, your user folder, and more.

  • This PC—This represents the second level of the sample hierarchy. In the example, this level represents the contents of your PC, including its disk drives (both internal and external), the Desktop, and your main user folders.
  • Documents—This represents the third level of the sample hierarchy. In the example, this level represents all the subfolders and files that reside in the user’s Documents folder.

This is a sensible and straightforward way to view the hierarchy, which is already a big improvement over earlier versions of Windows. However, the real value here lies in the navigation features of the Address bar, and you can get a hint of these features from the nickname that many people have applied to the Address bar: the breadcrumb bar.

Breadcrumbing refers to a navigation feature that displays a list of the places a person has visited or the route a person has taken. The term comes from the fairy tale of Hansel and Gretel, who threw down bits of bread to help find their way out of the forest. This feature is common on websites where the content is organized as a hierarchy or as a sequence of pages.

Windows 8.1 implements breadcrumb navigation not only by using the address bar to show you the hierarchical path you’ve taken to get to the current folder, but also by adding interactivity to the breadcrumb path:

  • You can navigate back to any part of the hierarchy by clicking the folder name in the address bar. For example, in the path shown in Figure 6.4, you could jump immediately to the top-level hierarchy by clicking This PC in the path.
  • You can navigate “sideways” to any part of any level by clicking the right-pointing arrow to the right of the level you want to work with. In Figure 6.5, for example, you see that clicking the arrow beside the current folder icon displays a list of the other navigable items, such as Homegroup, Network, and Control Panel. Clicking an item in this list opens that folder.

    Figure 6.5

    Figure 6.5 Breadcrumb navigation: In the Address bar, click a folder’s arrow to see a list of the navigable items in that folder.

Instant Search

The next major element in the Windows 8.1 folder window interface is the Instant Search box, which appears to the right of the address bar in all folder windows. Search is everywhere in Windows 8.1, and we go into it in much more detail later in this chapter (see “Desktop Searching”). For folder windows, however, the Instant Search box gives you a quick way to search for files within the current folder. Most of us nowadays have folders that contain hundreds or even thousands of documents. To knock such folders down to size in Windows 8.1, you need only type all or part of a filename, and Windows 8.1 filters the folder contents to show just the matching files, as shown in Figure 6.6. Windows 8.1 also matches those files that have metadata—such as the author or tags—that match your text.

Figure 6.6

Figure 6.6 With Instant Search, Windows 8.1 displays just those files with names or metadata that match your search text.

The Ribbon

Windows 8.1’s version of the venerable File Explorer file management program comes with a new ribbon interface that replaces the menu bar and toolbar in previous versions. As with all ribbons, File Explorer’s is divided into several tabs: File, Home, Share, and View. Also, when you open certain folders or activate certain features, the ribbon sprouts extra contextual tabs that display commands related to the folder or feature. For example, in Figure 6.6 you can see that when you run a search, File Explorer adds the Search Tools contextual tab to the ribbon. Note, too, that because the search was run in the music library, Figure 6.6 also shows a Music Tools contextual tab.

The Navigation Pane

The Navigation pane appears on the left side of each folder window, and it offers quick links to the major sections of your system, including your OneDrive (SkyDrive), Homegroup, This PC, and Network. The Favorites section offers access to a few common folders, including Desktop, Downloads, and Recent Places (folders that you’ve visited recently).

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