Windows 7 Catch-up: Libraries

Windows 7 LibrariesLibraries: one of the trumpeted features in Windows 7, sold as a benefit by Microsoft but which confused the heck out of consumers. Not a room full of books for literary types, or a stack of program code for developers, Windows 7 Libraries are virtual folders…

A Library is not a single, physical folder. A Library is a collection of short-cuts. It represents an aggregation of things stored on your computer, a way to create a collection of folders that have their contents pooled under a common header. They allow better sorting and finding your files, regardless of their actual location on the hard drive. This is new method of accessing your data that is unlike anything found in Windows before.

A Library may look a lot like a folder, since when you open a Library you will be able to see all of the folders and documents in the Library. You can add files and folders directly to the Library as well. However, the structure of the Library may have nothing to do with the structure of the files and folders on your hard drive. Or more likely, across several hard drives.

For example, say that your home network has several computers on it. You want to share some photos with other computers on your network, so you place them in your Public Documents folder. There are other photos you don’t want to share, so you place those in the My Documents folder. This is not helpful as you now have photos split across two physical locations, making it more difficult to search and organize them. However, by adding both folders Pictures Library (as they are by default in Windows 7), you will be able to view all of the pictures from both folders through the one Library acting as one location. Other users on your network have no idea what’s in your Library.

You can also view folders in a Library in ways that you can’t ordinarily view them. The top right corner of an open Library features an Arrange By drop-down menu, which enables you to sort the contents of the Library by Folder, Month, Day, Rating, or Tag. You can’t do this in a normal folder.

Creating Libraries
Windows 7 Libraries propertiesWindows 7 comes with four default libraries called Documents, Music, Pictures and Videos which will cater for the needs of most users.

To access the libraries, open the Start menu and click on your name. In the left pane, click Library, to open a Windows Explorer file manager window. You can also click directly on the Explorer icon in the Taskbar.

To create a new Library, navigate to the Library folder in Windows Explorer. Right-click on an empty space in the folder window, then hover over the New option, which opens up the Library option; select this to create a new Library.

Managing Libraries
Windows 7 Libraries Including filesYou can regulate what folders will be included in a Library. Right-click on a Library and then click on Properties to displays the folders included in the Library. Select Include a Folder in order to browse for and add a new folder. To remove a folder from the Library, click on it and then select the Remove option.

Like the standard four Libraries, user-created Libraries are displayed at the top of the Windows Explorer hierarchy. Sub-folders can be created in the ‘included’ folders in the Library, which are then physically created in the real folder. If the Library is deleted, only the collection of short-cuts are deleted; the folders, sub-folders and the data remain with the real folder.

Set Save Location option
Libraries are not folders, so when you drag or create folders to a Library, you are not saving files or folders to that Library, you are only creating a pointer from the Library to a real folder. You can set the default real folder by clicking on one of the Library member folders selecting the Set Save Location option. You can also optimise the library for different file types.

Custom searches via Libraries
Windows 7 Libraries SearchingWhen exploring libraries, the search box is already focused on the active library. Using the Search box within a library searches that library’s full contents, even though the files exist in a number of different folders and even on different PC’s on your network. You can use a library to search across separate folders, drives, or network PC’s as easily as if everything were local. AJS

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