2 Tools and Ways to Manage Your Windows Libraries

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default windows 7 libraries   2 Tools and Ways to Manage Your Windows LibrariesWe have previously¬†covered all the ways you can use and customize Windows libraries out of the box. However, Microsoft has made some things rather difficult — what if you want to add removable drives or network shares to a library? What if you want to choose a custom icon for your libraries? To do these things and more, you’ll need to use a third-party tool for managing your Windows libraries.

These tools are useful on Windows 7, but they can be even more useful on Windows 8, as Modern apps don’t have access to the file system and can only see files in the appropriate library. For example, if you want to view images in the Photos Modern app, they’ll need to be in the Pictures library.

The below tools support Windows 8 as well as Windows 7. They also don’t need any installation, so you can add them to your portable applications toolkit and run them from a USB drive or Dropbox folder.

Win Library Tool – More Features, Worse Interface

Win Library Tool — formerly known as Win7 Library Tool, but that Windows software is now renamed because it also supports Windows 8 — is particularly useful, although its interface is a bit awkward. Launch it and click the magic wand button to load your current library configuration. You can then do a variety of things you can’t normally do in Windows.

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Click the Save button to save your windows library configuration to disk. Then copy the file to a new computer and use the Open button in Win Library Tool to load your library configuration from the saved file. This will save you time if you have a complicated library setup you’d like to back up and transfer between computers.

win library tool   2 Tools and Ways to Manage Your Windows Libraries

Select a library and click the Edit button to edit its properties. From here, you can quickly give the library a custom icon and add a variety of folders. Note that Windows 8 allows you to set custom icons for Windows libraries without requiring any third-party tools.

Unlike the standard Windows library interface, this tool will allow you to add network shares and removable drives to your libraries.

win library tool edit library   2 Tools and Ways to Manage Your Windows Libraries

Apply your changes with the Apply button. From here, you can also create a mirror of libraries by creating symbolic links at C:\libraries — assuming C: is your system drive. This gives you a quicker way to find your files in Open/Save dialogs.

win library tool apply   2 Tools and Ways to Manage Your Windows Libraries

You can also perform all the standard library management functions from this dialog, like creating libraries, deleting them, renaming libraries, and managing their folders.

Librarian – Less Features, Better Interface

Librarian is another tool to mange your libraries. In comparison to Win Library Tool, Librarian has a much nicer, less-clunky interface. On the downside, it doesn’t incorporate Win Library Tool’s more advanced features.

librarian library tool   2 Tools and Ways to Manage Your Windows Libraries

With Librarian, you can set custom icons for libraries and add removable drives and network folders to your libraries. Other features, such as backing up and restoring Windows libraries and creating a symbolic link structure, are not included.

librarian library editing features   2 Tools and Ways to Manage Your Windows Libraries

That said, setting custom icons and adding normally unavailable folders to libraries are the most useful options in these programs. If you don’t need to back up or restore folders and you don’t care about symbolic links — and you probably don’t need either of these features — then Librarian is the tool for you. It automatically loads your library configuration from disk and immediately applies your changes every time you change something, which makes it much less clunky to use than Win Library tool.

Which Tool is Right For You?

So you want to use libraries — which is the tool you should use?

  • You Like Libraries, But Don’t Care About Custom Icons, Removable Drives, or Network Shares: Stick with the library features included with Windows. If you’re using Windows 8, you’ll even be able to set custom icons for libraries without installing any of these tools.
  • You Just Want Custom Icons, Removable Drives, and Network Shares: Go with Librarian. It’s the most user-friendly tool and it offers the most important options that Microsoft should have included with their operating system.
  • You Want Library Backup, Restore, and Symbolic Links: If you’re a power user obsessed with backing up and restoring your libraries, download Win Library Tool.

Librarian is probably the right tool for most people looking for the most important features — it’s the one you should add to your portable apps toolkit if you want these features.

Do you use either of these tools, or do you not use libraries at all? Let us know what you think in the comments!

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3 Comments -

likefunbutnot

The Windows interface for dealing with network libraries is inconsistent even under perfect conditions. Users have to hunt down and install a patch to enable ANY support for network libraries, but in my experience even on a completely clean and fully updated Windows 7 or 8 system, the interface component for selecting network paths is not made visible in the Windows Search screen (something that needs to happen before a disk location can be added to a library) on about half the systems where I have tried to do it.
There are many, many complaints from end users on this matter and no resolution is offered by Microsoft, so the Win Library Tool mentioned above is INCREDIBLY useful for anyone who wants to extend their home folders to a destination that is not local to their machine.

Chiranthaka Jayakody

A good article about ‘stop annoying the windows libraries’.

Henk van Setten

That Win8 apps cannot see files unless they are in an “appropriate” library is new to me! One more reason to never upgrade to Win8, I guess…
I’ve got three Win7 PCs and on each of them, one of the things I completely disabled after install was this dumb libraries thing. I’ve never understood why you would want to put an extra layer of imaginary folders between the user and the actual folder system. It complicates and convolutes things instead of making them easier, at least if you as user want to control where and how you archive your files. Simple directly accessing a well-organized folder hierarchy of your own offers by far the most practicality, clarity, efficiency and versatility.
Time and again, in many respects – this is just one example – I get the impression that Microsoft keeps doggedly trying to force end users into its own rigid vision of what is best, instead of allowing users the freedom to decide for themselves how they want to use their PC. Apparently Microsoft thinks most users are just dumb, mindless consumers.
Frankly, I think this patronizing attitude (as reflected in not allowing “modern” apps to see the actual folder structure) is an insult to us all.