Windows 7 Libraries Explained – And Why You Want Them

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w7logo thumb   Windows 7 Libraries Explained   And Why You Want ThemI mentioned in an earlier post that there was a new feature in Windows 7 called libraries, but I was mean enough not to provide any details.

Here’s my attempt to make up for it.

First off, this isn’t difficult or complicated, and it is very cool. Windows XP and Vista used something called Known Folders as a standard set of places for you to store your files. In XP, the primary folder was My Documents, and there were some additional known folders inside that for My Pictures and My Music.

In Vista, some other folders were added to the picture, but the structure was much the same. There was one major change though. Microsoft removed the ‘My’ part of the names, so we ended up with Documents and Pictures. Windows 7 takes that base and does something stunning with it. Let me explain, and then I’ll show you an example.

Windows 7 contains a set of libraries. Each one works that same way, and they all take the place of the standard folders in XP and Vista.

A Library can be treated like a folder with a group of subfolders inside it, and can also pull some nifty tricks all of its own. The important thing to remember is this: the subfolders are not actually stored in the library. They are just made to seem as though they are. Each library has some default contents, but you can change these, and also create new libraries if you wish.

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If you’re feeling a little confused, this example should clear it right up. You won’t need to see your doctor. Relax.

I’m a photographer, so the most interesting library to me is Pictures, but all of this applies to any library you choose. They all sit inside the Libraries, which is available as soon as you start Windows Explorer, so let’s start there.

libnormal   Windows 7 Libraries Explained   And Why You Want Them

As you can see, the four default libraries are here. Double-click the Pictures library to have a look inside it.

piclib1   Windows 7 Libraries Explained   And Why You Want Them

Inside Pictures is a single folder, called Sample Pictures. Now, come for a ride. It’s 2007, and you’re seriously early to the Windows 7 world. You’ve taken a whole lot of photographs, and you want somewhere to put them. Easy. Create a folder in the library, just the way you do anywhere else. Right-click in the open space, choose new ““ folder, and give it a name. Like 2007 for instance.

lib2007create   Windows 7 Libraries Explained   And Why You Want Them

Now double-click that folder to open it, and put all your images in it. Let’s hope you managed to save more images than this, though.

lib 2007pics   Windows 7 Libraries Explained   And Why You Want Them

Okay, now so far this is all just the way a folder would work, right? You could also create more subfolders in here if you needed to. No problem. But in this case, you didn’t need to.

Now, a year or so goes by, and you’ve been busy using up disk space with whatever you usually use to fill it. None of my business. in any case, You bought yourself a new-fangled USB hard drive, and plugged it in. It popped up as your E: drive, and you stored some more images there.

lib pic2008   Windows 7 Libraries Explained   And Why You Want Them

All good so far, except that now you have two places to look for images, unless you can remember which year you took them. Library to the rescue.

If we go back to the Picture Library, you can see there’s a link under title. It currently says 2 Locations. Click the link.

libaddlocation   Windows 7 Libraries Explained   And Why You Want Them

By default, the library includes files from your own Pictures folder and also the Windows 7 Public Pictures folder. We want to add another location. The place we stored the 2008 images. Click the Add”¦ button, and browse to the folder that contains the folder you put the images in. So, don’t choose E:\pictures\2008, just E:\pictures.

libaddpics   Windows 7 Libraries Explained   And Why You Want Them

Click the Include folder button, and then OK.

liblocation3   Windows 7 Libraries Explained   And Why You Want Them

It might take a while to save the changes”¦

libchanges   Windows 7 Libraries Explained   And Why You Want Them

“¦ but then, you’ll see that a new location has been added, and the photos are now all available in the library, just as though they had been moved there.

So why is this so cool?

  • The pictures have not been moved
  • The link is live. That is, if you add more folders inside E:\Pictures, then they will also appear in the library
  • You can, with the right network setup, add folders from other computers to the libraries
  • You can create whole new libraries if you wish

Most importantly, you can view things in the library in ways that you just can’t do with a folder.

Let me just add another folder to keep it interesting. Now that you know how it works, I’ll show you a short-cut as well.

Browse to the location that you have your 2009 pictures stored in”¦

lib20081   Windows 7 Libraries Explained   And Why You Want Them

Now click the Include in library button.

lib20082   Windows 7 Libraries Explained   And Why You Want Them

Choose the Pictures library. You’ll get that same delay as the files are added”¦

Browse back to the library, and you’ll see you have yet another year’s images.

lib20093   Windows 7 Libraries Explained   And Why You Want Them

Now, for some “Library-only” tricks.

See the Arrange by option, which is currently set to Folder? Change it to Day.

libday   Windows 7 Libraries Explained   And Why You Want Them

Now the pictures are sorted by the date on which they were taken. All of this is completely independent of the folders in which the files are stored. Try Month.

lib month   Windows 7 Libraries Explained   And Why You Want Them

I hope you’re impressed.

One more. Try Tag.

lib tag   Windows 7 Libraries Explained   And Why You Want Them

I’ve written about image meta-data before. I’ve used some other software to add tags to these images, and now Windows recognises them. So, if I wanted to find all the images taken at Waihi Beach, I just need to do this. Double-clicking on one of the tags opens a folder with all the matching images inside, in date order. Very nice.

Try this with your music files and you’ll have a whole different set of options.

And that’s it. Libraries are great, especially for anyone who has been creating files for some time. But I’d like to know what you think. Will you use them? What for? Let me know in the comments.

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88 Comments - Write a Comment

Reply

jollyrogue

I love the Libraries feature of Win7, It’s good for my videos and pictures when i have them located in many places on my laptop and external HDD.

Jim Henderson

Pleased to hear it. Enjoy.

confused

I still don’t get it. It’s just a new starting point for your file tree. Also, my “picture library” opens up all kinds of files such as pdf and doc files. It’s really annoying.

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Aaron

Libraries are the thing I hate most about Win7. I’m about to install the RC1 (had Beta before) to see if I can get used to it, but I really hated it the first time. I prefer to organize stuff on my own, and just use shortcuts when I need them.

Jim Henderson

Great to get some contrast in the comments. :-)

I hope it goes better this time around!

Asgaro

Or you can simply forget about the concept of Libraries and use it like in the old days, together with the great performance of Win7 ;)

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Scott

Whilst I like the new explorer, Why have they removed the facility of adding a delete button to mouse click with, that is dammed annoying to have to select, and then right click and then click again, and why, oh why is the delete next to rename in the context menu. The amount of times I’ve deleted things when trying to just rename, or renamed things I wanted to delete. Another serious definitely is a duel pane explorer. I wish I could afford Opus. Libraries are a step forward though, but other deficiencies are three steps backwards and pandering to the lowest audience. Shame Windows doesn’t have a super user environ.

Jim Henderson

I’m not sure what this comment has to to with Libraries, Scott, but I don’t find the new Explorer any sort of an issue. You know how it is with Windows – they have fourteen ways to do everything. Unfortunately they’ve removed the specific way you do things from this release. I’d wait for the release version and see if things improve for you.

Cheers

Jim

Casey

Rename is the F2 key, and delete is the delete key.

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Chris

Nicely written article, Jim!

Thanks for teaching me how to use it, I’ll remember that for the future.

Jim Henderson

Thanks. :-)

Reply

Derek

So it is a saved Smart Folder but more complex?

Jim Henderson

You talking about Smart Folders on a Mac, Derek? If so, I don’t have the first clue. Let me know, though, and I’ll go find out for you.

Cheers

Jim

Reply

Snehal

Hmmm, Looks another copy/paste example from mac os X.
There is a smart folder concept, in MAC os X, since time immemorial. Congratulations Microsoft, for another successful copy operation. Cool.

Jim Henderson

Oh, please. OS X isn’t old enough to be described as ‘time immemorial’. :-)

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Puranjay

Nice!

Maybe Windows 7 will stop my migration to Mac

Graham

Haha. Mac started my migration to Linux. In terms of ease of use, Ubuntu 9.10 is far easier to my way of thinking. IMHO most programs (outside of photoshop) run faster on Win/Lin. I know flash does.

Libraries (while potentially useful) certainly muddy the water on a 1.5TB hard disk. If you think you will run into hard disk problems, buy a bigger hard disk in the first place. File systems were invented to keep your files exactly where you put them. If you loose them, excellent search functions were written. These ‘ghost’ folders are not a good idea. It’s not hard code to write, and the idea isn’t that new. The more I learn about computers, the more I realize the first few programmers were brilliant. They had no use for voodoo file systems, and to this day we are still using their basic layouts. This is because it’s so standardized and simple. Libraries break every file system rule I can think of.

1. Is the file where you put it? no.
2. Is the file where it says it is? no.
3. Is the file easier to find? not really.

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Henk

This entire library thing is a nonessential and even silly fad (if you use a good file manager instead of Windows Explorer, you will know why you don’t need it). Cloaking and hiding actual file locations is generally an extremely bad idea. It will make this library concept very confusing to many “average users”: for example, it will lure them into thinking files have been saved on their harddisk, while actually they’re not.

Jim Henderson

As I say, a subject sure to polarise. :-) Thanks for your comments.

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Bob

I dislike llibraries – I do not want a bunch of short cuts to my real files I want to be dealing with the real file and the real directory/subdirectory when I click on it. I can’t figure out where the real documents are actually stored.
Vista had a way to create favorite places in the Explorer and I kept getting confused which directory I was actually in – the links won’t let you create new folders and customize the folder It appears the libraries work the same way – just nonsense.
Is there a way to turns these off or not use them?

Jim Henderson

Well, you don’t have to use them any more than you need to use any other folder… but they sure are convenient, and most newish apps are going to default to the ‘known folders’, which translates directly to these libraries in Win 7.

One thing. If you just leave the libraries as they are, and don’t add any additional folders to any of them, they are almost identical to the folders in XP. Each library has a single default folder, and it behaves just like you just used that folder.

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Nathan Andrews

I don’t understand why Microsoft has to change something that isn’t broken. “My Documents” was a concept that worked well enough, people were comfortable with it, and the concept was around for a decade or so.

Now Microsoft, in their attempt to be more Mac-like (either through fear or losing users to Apple, or their desire to be more user-friendly like Apple) are adopting this change to Libraries. Why? Does Microsoft really think that millions of users will be using external hard drives as their main storage medium? Most documents and media (at least, user favorites and regularly used media…) will be stored within Windows in designate folders. In their attempt to create live-updating SHORTCUTS (because that’s all it really is, an over hyped shortcut) and to pull multiple folders into even more links, they’ve lost the main point of making an enjoying experience. Personally, I would have all the pictures or “memories” as MSFT calls them, already in my Photos folder, erm, Library. Why then, would I (a regular user- like most other Windows users) want to use this “feature”.

Considering that Microsoft should be focusing on Live, they need to create some kind of amazing tie-in to online services to easily, and quickly tag and store photos online. Instead of having a Library contain “multiple locations”, it could include something infinitely better, think Mac OS iDisk like interface inside each individual Library. Now THAT makes sense for nearly all users, instead of photo-nuts that cant keep track of their folders.

This company cant seem to make things better for their users. They need to focus on online integration and better experiences. The average Windows user that doesn’t subscribe to Windows Blogs, the average Joe-six pack, won’t understand the true “power” of libraries, and will think this feature is cumbersome and annoying. Goodwill is something Microsoft cannot afford to lose with its base of users, and changing something like this is sure to erode an already stale experience.

Bob

All I can say about Nathan’s comment is “AMEN”.
IMHO if somebody has to explain why I want something like this and then train me to use it -it is really not all that great for the average user – and for pictures Picasa is still the “best”.
We just really need the same thing for documents – index and show by file suffix.

Nathan Andrews

Exactly!! Picasa is great because–

a)It delivers a stellar experience and amazing interface. The experience is amazing, while giving powerful tools to the end-users

b)Picasa delivers all photos (and video) from multiple locations without actually moving the media (much like Libraries) but this function/feature is only through Picasa, not through Explorer (which people use daily). Instead of having to navigate to Libraries>Pictures>Photos of “X” event, you simply power on Picasa and check out your masterpiece in the manner it deserves- a photo being viewed in a photo app, not some bland window. Instant access to what you want, when you want it- where you want it, and not in your way when you dont want it.

The concept of tagging isn’t new either. Vista’s photo managing software, while offering limited editing tools, did a decent job of organizing and managing photos through tags and dates. Just because they “can”, doesn’t mean Microsoft should take tags and management and shove it into Explorer. The end result is an abomination of usability. (Think trying to download a song through an explorer pane instead of using WMP..)

I love your comment Bob, Thanks!

Reply

hasan

Hi, Thats a great review of Libraries feature. Really Cool.

I have developed a software called LabelTop some time ago which lets you apply labels to your files (data and executable programs) and folders. Letting you view your data and programs (wherever it exists) in one location. It is available as a free download. Hope you enjoy using it :)

Regards

Reply

braddo

Don’t most professional photo tools (Lightroom and others) already have a database/library concept of their own? I don’t like it there either, now with two competing library concepts it’s going to get super confusing. Love Windows 7, don’t like libraries.

BTW, does Win7 support generic tagging (for other files types not just photos and music)?

Jim Henderson

Hi there.

I’m not sure they compete exactly, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see some packages begin to take advantage of the Windows Libraries next time they have a major release… but only time will tell.

As for generic tagging… sadly no. There’s no capability for adding tags as such. The Libraries just take advantage of whatever tagging is there, and then only do that where standards for the tags exist within the files themselves.

hasan

Sorry to chime in again, LabelTop is made for generic tagging of any file (including executable programs) or directory.

Reply

Patrick Stirling

Very interesting reading. At first I too didn’t get Libaries but after reading up on them, I really like the idea. All of the negative comments about them seem to stem from wanting to keep things as they were: “if it’s not broken, why fix it?”, or “it worked fine before, why change it?”. This is perfectly understandable, but life is a series of painful paradigm shifts. When I first used a bit-mapped monitor with a Window manager I wanted to stay with my old TTY, then when I switched to Windows from Linux I missed my old command line windows. In both cases I would never go back now! I think Win7 Libaries are another step along the road away from a direct representation of the underlying file system structure. With XP Folders & Files you’re stuck with a single view. With Libraries we’re a little closer to an abstract view of the stored data. Think of it like tagging photos. I want that holiday photo of my wife to show up in my “wife” folder, my “holidays” folder, my “Tuscany” folder, my “castles” folder, etc, etc. Libaries isn’t quite there yet, but it will be soon. I like the sink analogy above, which also holds with cars. I don’t want to know what’s going on inside, I just want it to work! Computers still have a long way to go in the ease of use and learning curve departments.

Reply

namroN

This feature is avialible in Directory Opus (a replacement for windows explorer) for over one year, also for 2000, Xp and Vista.

Reply

letsrock

Thank you! I didn’t have a clear picture of how Windows 7 Libraries work but you’ve shown me the way!

Reply

greg

i really like the new libraries feature,but you forgot to mention adding a library for folders on another computer.this works way better than mapping a drive.if you add a library from say for your laptop on your pc the files always stay in sync.you can add files from the pc and when you turn the laptop on they are there.this also gives you drag and drop capabilities when using remote desktop connections ie.drop a file into the laptop folder and it’s in the library on the pc.it’s fast it’s easy

Reply

Joe98

I keep my photos in folders.

Each folder is named such as “Rio Dec 09″ “Paris July 05″ and other such names.

I like the “tag” feature of WIN7. In the example given by the author above, utilising the tag feature allows me to easilt find photos of my wife, whether the phot be in Rio or in Paris.

This is a feature that professionals will love.

However, most photos takes by the average person are quite bad. They cannot even be bothered to remove the bad photos from any album.

It means they cannot be bothered to tag phots in WIN 7.

Its a great feature but most people will not use it.
-

Reply

Peter

Hi Jim,

nice explanation, thanks for review of the new Windows 7 feature.

I have additional question to you – which software do you use to tags your photos?

Thanks,
Peter

Jim Henderson

Sorry for the delay. I’ve been out of town and somewhat busy. I have used various things. I’d suggest the best free option with any structure to it would be Picasa, but I handed over real cash to use ACDSee Pro for the job.

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Atif

Nice article Jim, but one things confuses me. I recently installed Windows 7 and used the libraries to add my movie collection which I hold on a NAS. The help section told me that in order to add them to the library I needed to sync them to allow them to be used offline. I did that and after leaving it overnight I saw that the C drive usage has increased from 20/30Gb to 500Gb. I thought the files aren’t physically moved? When I look at the library it does show the location as my NAS but the increase in disc usage has confused me. Thanks.

Jim Henderson

Hi Atif. How this works depends a whole lot on the type of device/network/setup you’re dealing with, but in this case it’s not the library function that’s causing the double up. It’s the syncing.

Looks like, for your NAS, the library’s not the best plan, unless you can spare the sync space.

Josef B.

I got the same issue. Well, its not an issue really. To make this work, the “View” has to have fast access, so the need for indexes. Thus, unusable for NAS storage. I wonder how other systems do this, like Mac or Linux.

From the Windows help dialog:
Why did I get a message saying that a location can’t be included because it’s not indexed?
It means that the folder is stored on a network location that hasn’t been indexed. A network folder can only be included in a library if the content of the folder has been added to the search index. If the folder is already indexed on the device where it’s stored, you should be able to include it directly in the library.

If the network folder is not indexed, an easy way to index it is to make the folder available offline. This will create offline versions of the files in the folder and add these files to the search index on your computer. After you make a folder available offline, you can include it in a library.

When you make a network folder available offline, copies of all the files in that folder will be stored on your computer’s hard disk. Take this into consideration if the network folder contains a large number of files.

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Jason

I like the idea of creating categories for my files, because there are multiple ways to organize my files besides the directory structure I have set up on the hard drive. However, I can’t see this being useful unless I can change the actual file locations later and not lose the libraries. Is it possible to move files around without losing them in the libraries they were put in?

Jim Henderson

Nope. But it sounds as though you could achieve everything you want by tagging the images, and then using a search tool that respects the tags so that you can find them again. I mentioned ACDSee Pro in a previous response, and that would make it all fairly seamless so long as you used ACDSee to do the moving.

I’m not aware of a good free option, unfortunately. Anyone have any ideas?

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JT

Will W7 scan my drives for picture/document folders, or will they have to be manualy added. I can imagine that most people have folders of pics they dont want everyone seeing.

Jim Henderson

Hi JT.

Your default folders are used. You’ll need to add any others you’re after.

Jim

Reply

Bill

On my work network in XP everyone has a folder on the server. Their My Documents folder is mapped to this folder so that every document they use is in that one folder on the server. How can I set it so that no matter which library or folder a user puts something in, it really resides in that 1 folder on the server?

Jim Henderson

If I’m understanding you correctly, you can’t. However, if you’re running a proper Windows domain, then you could set policies such that your people could only save things in certain places. Out of scope of this article though, and definitely not my area, sorry.

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Fush

Wow! This is so cool….. I have taken tons of pictures, this could help me get started to where those pictures are. By the way, since you are a photographer, do you have write any articles on it?

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Jim Henderson

Articles on…? Photography? Not in here, no. This is a tech blog. I’ve written articles on various photography-related pieces of software, though. List here.

Reply

e

I’m sort of amused by all the negative comments. After all, this feature only adds functionality IF you choose to use it. As mentioned, you can remain blissfully unaware of it, if you want to.

This was a much needed update, imho. I stopped using My Documents years ago because it stopped being useful, for reasons which MS seems to have finally addressed.

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prob_best_anon

With libraries, is it possible to hide away all of me and the missuses *ahem* special photos whilst being able to show our holiday snaps to the folks? We’d like to be able to view slideshows of our pics but don’t want any of them to pop up in WMC at an inconvinient moment!

Jim Henderson

Nope. You might like to take a look at TrueCrypt. Oh, and I have no idea why you wouldn’t want your folks to see your goldfish photos. :-)

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Bob

Thanks for your explanation of the libraries. I can now see how they could be useful. In my case, I deleted the libraries. Why, because they took up too much space in explorer. Even with them deleted, the expanded view of the left pane pushes my folders too far down so I have to scroll too far to get to the things I want.

If explorer were set up so that there was a tab or item in the toolbar (which is woefully lacking since vista but that is another topic) that would allow you to switch to that view, I might be able to take advantage of them. The way explorer is now set up, I will have to do without.

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Lilly

Hi Jim,
Sorry if this a dumb question – with Wondows Vista you were able to TAG photos within the My pictures folder – as well as search for them. Is this feature available in Windows 7?

I have tried Picasa for tagging but after performing a search for a set of photos using a keyword or name I can’t then drag the photos I want to use into Photoshop elements. I have to then go into My Pictures folder and drag it from there defeating the purpose of the tagging and searching.

If Windows 7 has the same feature as Vista – I will buy it for that alone – though I think the libraries sound cool too.

If it doesnt would ACDSee allow me to drag the photo into elements? Or do you know any tagging software that would?
Thanks heaps!

Jim Henderson

If I understand the question correctly, then Windows 7 will cope just the same way as Vista does.

I’m not at all sure about the dragging. I never drag anything. :-)

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Bob

I never used the “my” anything in xp or vista. Starting back with 98, I created a folder called “data”. it was easier to get to and I set up all my applications to save the files there.

With xp and vista, I had to redirect everything to that folder. I think Vista was a step backward and I am thinking that 7 is one more step back.

I did like one feature in Vista but can’t seem to get it to work in 7. In vista, you could create a folder on the desktop and drag it to the left isde of the screen. You could then put icons to your favorite programs and access them with one click. Is ther a way to do that in 7 or did they do away with the only ggod thing in Vista?

Jim Henderson

I’ve never seen that working in Vista, so I’m afraid I’m not able to have much of an opinion.

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Bill

use something called stacks. Can add an icon to the taskbar that you can stack programs/files into, I think its what you are looking for: http://www.alastria.com/index.php?p=software-7s

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Jim S

Can the photos shown in the various library folders be rearranged and/or deleted within the Library or dragged across library folders? Can the Library feature be used to view and monitor/delete duplicates that you may have floating around in different folders on the hard drive? Can you back up your files directly by copy-paste or backup software through the Library?

Jim Henderson

Yes. You could monitor duplicates to some degree, but only on the basis of the file name. You can treat the library like an ordinary folder in most cases, but it depends on the way the application looks at it. I know I had issues with ACDSee Pro and library locations until version 3.0

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Wallace

I just discovered that the “Documents” Library is including all the documents from all the subfolders of my Documents folder. This is a problem because I store copies of all my documents in subfolders of the document folder by date, e.g. “11-30-09 docs”. Now, when I use ‘file open’ in Word, or access “Documents” by searching for a filename, I get all these duplicate document names with “Documents Library” as their location so I can’t tell which are the current files and which are archived copies. This means that I can never be quite sure (without checking the properties each time I open a file) which file I am opening. It seems to me that this is going to lead to a lot of confusion and mistakes as users edit old versions of files thinking they are editing the newest versions. I went into managing locations for libraries and cannot figure out how to turn off “subfolders” in the Documents folder. If I could do that, then the library system be OK. Any suggestions?

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Bill

Wallace,
Why on earth would you make copies and store them on the same drive? My suggestion is if you want to back things up, do it to a separate drive. Windows7 makes backing up very easy to do, but its pointless if its on the same drive.

Wallace

Bill,

The subdirectories are not my main ‘backup’ which is kept on a USB external drive as you suggest. I have so many documents that every so often I ‘archive’ them into a subdirectory of my Documents directory. I don’t want to have to access an external backup hard drive to access these files but neither do I want them appearing as duplicate files in Documents library.

Bill

So you are making 2 backups? Why? I don’t get why you’d do that, but just create a folder on the root of your C: drive for the backup and don’t add it to the libraries. It will work for what you want to do I think, but still don’t get why you’d want to do it. You aren’t really backing up anything that way. Lose the drive, lose both files.

Patrick

Bill, I don’t think you’re reading Wallace’s comments! Nowhere does he say he’s making backups, only that he likes to keep local copies of some of his files. This seems very reasonable to me. E.g. if I’m working on a doc it’s useful to keep multiple versions so it’s easy to revert if needed. This is not a backup strategy. It would be useful if Win7 libraries allowed you to to specify whether and which subfolders to include in the library.

Vince

G’day Jim, Thanks for that useful explanation. I will now try and make better use of the feature now that I see what is intended. However, the reason i found this thread was to figure out if the default behaviour for saving / opening files could be changed from Library to “Last used”, specified folder, “ask me”, etc.

This request is not a trite as it seems as it is basically a legacy of Windows versions over the years and now we have been lead into a quite silly spot as an accident of Microsoft’s changed thinmiking. In the early days many of us figured out we needed to organise files as this could obviously become a problem in time. For me (and many) we made a Working Files directory (of whatever name we fancied, mine was “files”. This was then subdivided into whatever we liked, I did it by software type then typically work / home and subdivided as such. As time went on this organisation was extremely helpful, otherwise the default was typically to store the working files in a folder in the programmes’ directory.

So some of us had working files fairly organised when My Documents came along. After stubbornly refusing to put all our files into one place various haphazard means then occurred to deal with what were really documents, and what were other stuff. Of course we had the ratcheting of control to a user level and some of the ridiculous places that caused files to be put (and still does).

Obviously Microsoft is now slowly unjumbling the mess they have accidentally created, but there is enormous reluctance to make it easy for users to see how to gain control over this again in a way that a basically organised person can be happy with, which is the essence of the complaints earlier in this thread!

The other thing I am trying to fix is this deliberate jumping to the bottom of the screen that occurs when opening a folder in the left explorer pane. It might be a designed in feature but I fail to see how it is helpful. Jumping to the top of the screen I could understand. Any clues there, or is it too far off topic?

Jim Henderson

Great questions, but I’m afraid my answer have to be much simpler. To your first question… no, sorry. To the jumping question, I have NO idea why it works that way, but it’s never been an issue to me, I’m afraid.

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Bill

In that case, Volume Shadow Copies is what he wants. Read this: http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2342534,00.asp

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intrebulon

As far as images go, Picasa does everything Libraries do with little to no user input whatsoever.

This seems like a lot of work to organize photos manually when digital photo’s have all sorts of information embedded in them, such as the time, date, subjects in the photos (facial recognition, tag a face once and it recognizes that face in other pictures) that Picasa will automatically organize by.

This feature, like many other “new” features in Apple and Microsoft’s OS’es, is underwhelming and technologically inferior to free offering’s like Picasa.

That’s the major difference between commercial and open source software: Commercial software developers design software based on what they think will sell. Open source developers design software based on their needs and the needs of users and peers in their community, which makes them actually useful instead of focusing on what’s easily marketable to the largest demographic.

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Bill

I’m sorry, I’ve never used Picasa. You can tell Picasa to look at different Hard Drives, External HD’s and Network drives to search for files and sort them? That is pretty cool. Didn’t know Picasa could do that.

Patrick

I’ve been using Picasa for over a year now and like it. You download the app from Google, and when first run it searches for photos – annoying actually. I’d rather it let me specify folders first. But after it’s done you can edit which drives and folders it should search. I then organizes them by date and folder, and lets you create albums of selected photos. It also links to picasaweb for easy upload and sharing of photos. Overall, the best bang for the buck ($0!) that I’ve seen! It also has rudimentary image editing.

patrick

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Dustin

Great post, I love the idea of libraries. I do not like to keep all of my files in one location, but also dont like to have duplicates. This will allow me to do that!

Do you know what would happen if using libraries, and playing a song from a remote computer, a user on the other computer tries to play the same song? This may be more networking than libraries.

Jim Henderson

That depends on a few things… But the primary one is whether either computer tries to lock the file, and that depends on the application, the type of networking etc. etc. Nothing to do with libraries, though. :-)

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Jamila

okay, I get the aggregating concept if you’ve got multiple repositories across a network. And the sorting feature of libraries sounds nice. But for a single machine user, the idea of aggregating stuff is nonsense. Just put it in under the Documents folder or the Pictures folder in the first place. Just because a user is sloppy in the first place doesn’t mean we should implement a new “feature” to “fix” her sloppiness; believe me, she’ll find a new way. Mostly this is a solution in search of a problem.

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Bill

Jamila, It doesn’t just give you the ability to pull from different disks. It gives you the ability to sort 1 disk completely ignoring the folder structure. So for example, I got 3 kids, with a folder for each for each month. If I just want to view all pictures taken in february, I can tell the libraries to sort by date and it won’t matter what folder they actually reside in, its gonna ignore the folder structure for the sort and show me the files by date. Then I can resort by folder to get it back to normal. Its really pretty cool.

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Justin Marcus

There is one thing that the library feature doesn’t do, that was so good in “virtual folders” (the only good thing about Vista IMHO).
Being able to have individual files appear in various virtual folders at one time, while only being stored on disk in one location. I first saw this feature in Foxmail, and thought it was sheer genius.
But as far as I can see, libraries only work down to folder level…but perhaps I am wrong?

Without that level of control, picassa or similar ends up being a lot more useful.

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Mike

In My P{ictures you could manually sort. How do you do this in the library? Did they just lose the drag and place feature? How can you arrange a slide show in the order you want without renaming the files?

Jim Henderson

If I understand correctly, this works just the way it does in a folder…

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Bryan

I like the libraries. I realize this is a little old, but I just learned them thanks to you. I just installed an additional internal hard drive, and now I have my files split across the 2 HDs. The libraries makes it easy to not have to choose which HD I need to access, and instead allows me to keep it all organized in one area.

I greatly appreciate your article!

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Alan

Thanks for a great article. Although the author seems to have stopped responding to comments.

Does anyone have answers to these questions? (Thanks in advance.)

1. Does the library track a folder though name changes? I.e., if a folder named “ABC” goes into a library and later renamed “XYZ” will that library continue to contain that folder? (I don’t see how that could happen if the name change happens while the storage medium is not connected to the OS, e.g. if it is an external device and the change occurs while connected to another computer.)

2. Does the library track a folder through location changes. I.e. if I move a component folder to another location of the folder hierarachy, will the library follow it to the new location? (Ditto on disconnected media.)

3. Does the library survive switching a hard drive, i.e. where you copy the entire contents of disk A to B, remove A, and install B?

Unless the library can do 1 and 2, I think it would be not only useless but quite dangerous. I may have a folder called 123 within folder A, which I move into folder B. Then I create a new folder called 123 within A. I now access “123” through the library with the intention of accessing the old 123, but did the library track the location change? Particularly if the new and the old 123 contained similar files, I may not notice where I’ve ended up.

Jim Henderson

Hi Alan.

Great questions. I haven’t stopped responding. Just busy. :-(

1. Certainly with an internal drive that works just fine. With a USB key it tells me I cannot add it to the library in the first place. With an external hard drive… that fails. It insists that the original folder is simply unavailable.

2. Same deal as 1 above. internal is fine. External has issues.

3. I’m not going to try, but I wouldn’t expect that to work.

I can understand why you might be concerned, but I’m not convinced these are big issues to most users.

Hope that helps.

Jim

Alan

Hi Jim,

Thanks so much.

It’s great to know that what I called tracking works at least internally. (If “internal” includes networked hard disks, so much the better.)

Where it doesn’t work, I think I should change my comment from “not only useless but quite dangerous” to “useful but dangerous.” If one experiments thoroughly and understand the dangers, nothing to keep one from taking advantage of the feature within its current limits.

Thanks again.

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Jake

Thanks for your article, I just installed Windows 7 and so I just searched for an explanation of the Libraries feature today. It’s really funny to me, because I had a similar idea around 5 years ago when I was spending a ton of time organizing my music in different folders for different artists, albums, etc., but still wanted to be able to look at all the song files from different years, for example, without the use of a music player. I guess Windows 7 really was MY idea …

But, I have a (somewhat) related question for you – do you know if it is possible to do the similar organizational things with open documents? For example, I am now a PhD student, and often I will be working on writing a paper – which involves having several pdfs, word processors, spreadsheets, and internet browser windows open at once, all relevant to that specific project. But then I may get tired of working on that project, and I decide to work on a different project also requiring multiple documents and browser windows open. It is really a pain to open all of those documents and sites each time I need them – and I had 2 ideas of ways to improve productivity:

My initial idea was to have 2 separate desktops, or workspaces, that I could switch between, so that when Windows stacks all of the Adobe Reader windows on top of each other, I don’t have to sort out manually which belong to project A or project B.

The second idea was to be able to simultaneously save several documents of different file types at once, and to be able to link them somehow so that they all open together. For instance, some referencing software can be made to open simultaneously whenever you open your word processor – so it would be similar to that but specific to those files, web sites, etc.

If this doesn’t sound crazy, and actually exists, could you point me in the direction of finding out how to do that? Alternatively … is there actually a way to tell Microsoft what they should be incorporating into the next version of Windows?? :-D

Jim Henderson

Hi Jake.

I’m really pleased that Bill responded before me, because while I think I understand what you want, I have NO idea where you might be able to get it. I’d be interested to hear what you think of fences.

Cheers

Jim

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Bill

This doesn’t exactly do what you want, but may help you stay organized a bit. I know I love it for grouping things together. Use fences. Its a free program that lets you group things together on your desktop so you could put all your files for a project in 1 fence or shortcuts to the files if you don’t want the actual files on the desktop. Its one of the first things I install on a new computer, can’t live without it now. http://www.stardock.com/products/fences/

Jim Henderson

Thanks for the help, Bill.

Jake

Thanks, Bill. I installed fences shortly after you posted, and while I haven’t used it much yet except to play around a little bit, I can see how it will be useful for me, because I do have a habit of saving files to my desktop first and then waiting until it gets really cluttered to do something about it. With this, at least I can group the files as they are related, and then save the important files when I am finished with that particular project. It’s not as good as what I’d hoped for, but it definitely will help. If there was a way to open/minimize/maximize all of the files/shortcuts to files in a certain fence at once, that would be cool. Anyway, thanks again!
Jake

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dougtheslug

This is bullshit. Big deal. Who cares. ACDSee has had this feature for years — it’s called Favourites. You can create any number of ‘virtual folders’ with images (shortcuts to them, actually) from any folder on your hard drive. All totally organized.

This stupid Windows 7 can’t even stamp the correct date and time on a photo when I save it from Photoshop. And it’s because of this phucking piece of shet called “Libraries”. How the phuck do I turn this koksukker off???

Take your column and shove it up your erse, a$$hole

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Bill Jones

Libraries seem to be pointers to folders, a concept at least 30 years old. It is great it is integrated into the OS. I like to keep pictures taken with different cameras in their respective directories. I also like to keep all data on the D: drive leaving C: with free space so the OS works faster. Libraries makes viewing all pictures in a single folder much easier. GREAT FEATURE!!!

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Carole

if you hate libraries like I do go to http://www.askvg.com/how-to-disable-libraries-feature-in-windows-7/ and run the script. Libraries go away and you are left with a clean folder only explorer.

Carole

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