Windows 7 Feature Focus: Libraries

Libraries are one of the most useful, yet least known, features in Windows 7

Every new release of an OS like Windows has it's nuggets and one of Windows 7's is the new Library feature. If you don't know about Libraries, and I'm guessing you haven't had a chance to try it, you'll want to check it out. One of the most frequent tasks users perform is navigating to all of the content we regularly use on our computer and on shared and file server drives. Even if you only use folders local to your computer, you likely navigate to the Documents, Pictures and Downloads folders and to folders two, three or more levels within them. But getting to those folders is only the half of it. If you're like me you have folders within folder within folders, etc., etc. For example, I'm constantly navigating to Documents, then scroll to and drill down into my Converging Network folder, then scroll and drill down to the CN Clients folder, then into a specific client's work related files. That's only one scenario. I also do that for Pictures (used in blog posts, presentations, web apps, etc.), music files. podcast files, software, and more. That's a lot of navigating through top level folders just to drill all the way down to the folders I consistently use.

Windows 7 Libraries lets you create a library or a "mega folder" and then place surrogate folders in that Library for one or multiple folders on a local drive, external hard drive, networked home computer or a network drive. Within that Library you can place any number of folders you frequently access during your computer use. Now every time you open Windows Explorer, those Libraries are right there in the left hand column, the same place other common items are, like Desktop, Downloads, Documents, Computer, and attached drives. Now with one or two clicks you've dug right into the folder you commonly access without all the repetative folder navigation.

Getting there may be half the fun, but that's not the only benefit of Libraries. When you click on a Library, every folder it contains is expanded showing all of their contents in the right hand column of the Windows Explorer window. Files at the folder top level are right there too, and you can of course navigate into its subfolders. And there's no delay displaying all of the files and folders within a Library because that information is pre-indexed, making its display very, very fast.

Another benefit of Libraries is that when a library is selected, the Windows Explorer search field will search across all of the folders included within the library, so one search could scan multiple folders, local drives and attached folders all in one easy step. That can greatly improve your search results and save you time by taking advantage of putting like content into the same library.

Windows 7 Libraries do have some limitations. Only indexed folders can be added to a library. That probably will only be an issue with some network drives. Libraries also don't support removable media, like CDs, and DVDs. Removable drives like USB and flash drives are supported though they won't show up in the library when disconnected.

One last point about Libraries. Libraries are virtual containers, their contents aren't actually contained in the Library. Contents remain in their native folders, and are gathered and shown through the Library. If you delete a Library, its contents still remain intact.

I hope you enjoy Windows 7's Library features. It saves a lot of clicks, time navigating and finding folders and files you commonly use. Check it out.

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