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Windows 7: Organising with Windows 7 Libraries

Suppose you want to explore in Windows XP your music collection—which is scattered across different folders on multiple systems. You open each music folder in Windows Explorer, bouncing back and forth between them, drilling down folder after folder, just to see the cover art. This tactic isn’t very efficient, and it’s probably a bit frustrating. Eventually, you give up and focus on just one album folder. The others are lost to you—at least for the moment.


Maybe you and your spouse are working together on a slide show for an upcoming family reunion, but some of the pictures are on your computer and some are on your spouse’s system. You can’t easily find just the right pictures when you can’t see them all at the same time. Forget searching, because you’re only going to find the pictures that are on your system. Frustration leads to anger, and you suddenly find yourself in the market for a new keyboard.


Wouldn’t it be great if Windows would give you an all-in-one view of your entire music collection, regardless of the locations of your individual albums? How about a combined view of your pictures and your spouse’s pictures, even though they’re on separate computers, which you can browse by using metadata like author or date? Windows 7 does just that, through Libraries.


Introducing Libraries in Windows 7

Libraries provide a consolidated view of related files, making them easy to find even when you’ve stored them in different folders or on different systems. When you open a Library, you see the folder locations that it contains. But unlike a plain old folder, a Library can display files from various locations on your computer or across several computers on the same network. Libraries don't actually contain your data; they simply provide a window through which you can see files from many locations—all in one place—and browse them by using metadata.


Windows 7 has four default Libraries: Documents, Music, Pictures, and Videos. (If you ever remove or change these Libraries, you can quickly restore them by right-clicking Libraries in Windows Explorer, and then clicking Restore default libraries.) Each of the default Libraries starts with two folder locations: one from the user’s profile folder and the other from the Public profile folder. You can add other folder locations to the default Libraries.

You might be tempted to say, “Cool,” and simply go about your day, using the default libraries. But to go from “cool” to “super cool,” you can create your own Libraries and add folder locations to them. You can create Libraries for any set of files that you don’t feel are well covered by the existing Libraries. For example, a developer might create a Library for source code. You might also create a new Work Documents Library to keep work-related documents separate from personal documents.


Creating a Library is easy: Right-click Libraries in the Navigation Pane on the left side of an Explorer window, point to New, and then click Library. After creating a Library, it’s time to add your folder locations. Right-click a Library, and then click Properties to edit the folder locations that the Library includes, as well as other properties.


By using the Library Properties dialog box you can include new folder locations or remove existing folder locations. (Removing folder locations from Libraries or deleting entire Libraries doesn’t actually delete the files from where they’re stored; you’re simply removing them from the aggregated view that the Library provides.) You can also set the default save location. The default save location is the folder in which Windows Explorer stores a file when you save it to the root of a Library (for example, when you drop a picture into the Pictures library).



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