Computer Performance, Microsoft Windows 7

Microsoft Windows 7 Library

Microsoft Windows 7 LibraryWindows 7 Library

Libraries are cool, in fact the word 'cool' could have been invented to describe these new super folders.  A Windows 7 Library is a solution to the problem caused by users, and their applications, spraying files such as pictures and music all over the disk(s), and then not being able to find them.

My Documents, Pictures, Music Become Libraries

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Seven Definitions of Windows 7 Libraries

  1. Folders with a sixth sense.  Gain control over which underlying folders contribute to 'My Music, Pictures, Videos and Documents'.
  2. A prison cell for the world's most organized geek.
  3. Search that is fast and intelligent.
  4. Graphical Pivot tables.
  5. Your own personal Windows Explorer navigation robot.
  6. A file organizational method that's intuitive and even tunes itself.
  7. User-defined collections of content, sorted by relevance.

How to Organize Your Windows 7 Library

While you can access the Windows 7 libraries via the explorer, and also there is a handy shortcut on the taskbar.

Windows 7 Libraries

Users can organize their data by adding collections of files, that may even span multiple computers, to one central Library. Actually, the files don't move the Library acts as a portal, front-end or index page.  XP and Vista users may already be familiar with a more primitive concept of redirecting the My Documents folder, here in Windows 7 they can extend this capability to include multiple locations, both on local and remote computers.

Windows 7 Libraries

The result is that Windows 7 displays all your pictures no matter where the underlying files are stored.  Furthermore, what you learn with the (My) Documents and Picture folders, they can extend to the other two default libraries, Music and Videos.  Also, it's typical of Microsoft that you can create your own library, just right-click in the libraries folder, and find the 'New' link.

The Principles Behind Windows 7 Libraries

In Windows 7 there is an intelligent link between Applications and the Library folders.  For example, graphics packages can now find, link, and interact with the 'My Pictures' folder / library.  The benefit is that it's easier to open and save pictures from multiple locations.  On XP or Vista the same graphics application would install itself, possibly create its own custom folder and save picture files to this path.  The result was confusion caused by pictures stored in at least two file locations.

How could Search possibly be more intelligent?  Well the answer lies in ranking the result so that the most relevant heads the list.  Search is smart because it first checks for filenames that match the query, next it uses the closeness of words in the search phrase to rank the results.  Another neat feature is the way the Library technology displays a snippet of the relevant text with the keywords highlighted.

The Windows Explorer navigation pane has been cleaned up to make it more stable and consistent.  At last the term 'Improved Usability' walks the walk.  Even the File Preview has been improved, not only is the layout well designed, but also the dynamic updates are lighting quick.

A Windows 7 Library in Action

Menu options are always a double-edged sword.  Experienced operators, sometimes called power users, love the choices, but for novices zillions of buttons can bewilder and may even threaten their competence.  Windows 7 in general, and the Libraries in particular the balance between features and confusion is just right.  This is because the toolbars are relatively uncluttered, but somehow encourage even the most timid to explore.

To give a practical example if you are searching for pictures that were added in April, then instead of having to type the date in a box, (and in the UK, worrying about the day/month/year format), all you do is click on calendar.  The results appear instantly, but suppose the preview doesn't show what you want?  No problem, just use the mouse to extend the search so that it includes the months of Feb / Mar / Apr.  The Windows Explorer pane instantly and automatically updates with the extra pictures.

You can even include files on other computers in your library, however it does not make sense to include the DVD drive or other removable medium.

Arranging Files Your Windows 7 Library

Arrange items by  Items in a library can be arranged by sorting on folder, date, and other properties.  The secret is to find the 'Arrange by' menu, above the file list but below the Organize pane.  The screenshot below shows the library documents arranged by folder, but you could choose, date or rating.

Windows 7 Libraries

Searching the Library

Once you start adding to the library content they can become a victim of their own success, and it's more difficult to find what you are looking for.  Just remember that Windows 7 indexes libraries, thus all you have to do is enter your criteria in the Search dialog box.  It's probably best to start in the library, but if you prefer, just click on the Start orb, and then type in the dialog box.

Windows 7 Library and HomeGroup

In Windows 7, it helps if you reconsider that the special folders called My Documents, My Pictures and My Music could be also be called 'Libraries', furthermore, you could then share your Library with other people in your HomeGroup.  If you like this Library concept then you can develop it by creating new Libraries with virtual folders, and then tick on the box which makes them available to other users in your HomeGroup.

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Windows 7 Library Registry Settings

If you need to check the registry settings then head for the HKEY_CURRENT_USER\
HKCU\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Explorer\Shell Folders

Underneath this registry sub-folder you will see the aliases for the old Vista My Music

Disable Windows 7 Libraries

While I an not a great fan of disabling the Windows 7 Libraries, I like to apply an old trick to a new situation.  That old trick, which will disable the Windows 7 Libraries, involves re-programming the Target of the Windows Explorer, or Libraries shortcut.

Windows Explorer OptionsDisable Windows 7 Libraries

Since Windows 3.1 it has been possible to customize what happens when you launch Windows Explorer.

Firstly there are numerous places from which to launch the (Windows) Explorer, for our example let us focus on the Library icon in the taskbar.

Windows 7 Libraries

An alternative way to disable the Windows 7 Libraries is to click on the Start Orb, and type Windows Explorer. Once you find the shortcut the trick is to edit the Target: dialog box.  While you want to retain explorer.exe, the key is to append /n or /e.

Finally add a location such as {450D8FBA-AD25-11D0-98A8-0800361B1103} or {20D04FE0-3AEA-1069-A2D8-08002B30309D}.  Here are two examples:

Example 1: To set the starting position to Documents try this:

%windir%\explorer.exe /n,::{450D8FBA-AD25-11D0-98A8-0800361B1103}

Example 2: To set 'Computer' as the Default Folder edit Target to:

%Windir%\explorer.exe /e,::{20D04FE0-3AEA-1069-A2D8-08002B30309D}

Note: If %windir% does not work you could substitute the %systemroot% variable

Let us Recap on the Windows Explorer Switches:

Which ever icon you use to launch Windows Explorer, the secret to disable the Windows 7 Libraries is to add switches to explorer.exe in the Target: dialog box.

/n: Opens a new window in single pane

/e: Switches to the Windows Explorer view.

/root,<object>: Specifies the root level of the specified view. The default is to use the desktop.

/select,<sub object>: This is a refinement which specifies which folder is in focus or selected. 

Windows 7 Library - Set Save LocationWindows 7 Libraries Set Save Location

Whenever you take advantage of multiple locations for a library, it's a good idea to review the tick or check next to 'Set save location'.  It can be annoying when you download a file and tries to save to the wrong location.

As you can see from the screenshot, the Library Properties sheet is also where you add or 'Include a folder'.

Hiding in Navigation Pane

It is also possible to control which libraries display in the navigation pane.  Open up the Libraries folder, and right-click on the Library you wish to hide, for example Videos, and select 'Don't show in navigation pane'.  If you make a mistake, no worries, just right-click and select 'Show in navigation pane.'

Summary of Windows 7 Library

A Windows 7 Library is like a folder with a 6th sense and hidden depths.  Build on how you can change the one Location of My Music or My Pictures in Vista, to creating multiple Locations for your Windows 7 Music or Pictures folders. 

The result will be a fine collection of Windows 7 Libraries.

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Article by: Guy Thomas Copyright © 1999-2017 Computer Performance LTD All rights reserved.

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