We 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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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