Windows Vista/Windows Explorer

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My initial reaction to booting Vista, and then launching Windows Explorer was - 'This is all new'. The menus looked interesting, even enticing and beneath the clear, glowing buttons there was an aura of hidden depth. At first I got the feeling of being hemmed in by new icons, they seemed bigger and more powerful than the equivalent interface in XP. My second reaction was that the icons were loaded with extra pictorial information; an image of a musical note, or a picture of a person. They gave me valuable, almost subliminal, clues as to the purpose of these folders (Music and Contacts).

While the 'wow' factor from the flashy new Aero graphics wore off in about half an hour, the new Explorer interface intrigued me for days. When I opened Vista's Explorer on day two, my eyes began to absorb the new layout. Meanwhile, my brain received the message - I can work smarter with this interface. Unfortunately, mind reading has not yet arrived. Therefore, to get the most from this Explorer, we each need to invest time configuring the columns, views and properties to our liking.

In true salesman style, I am going to start with Explorer's best feature - 'Searches', or Virtual Folders. As ever, a quick review of history is instructive. The concept behind 'Searches', is to take the results of a Windows 'find', and then permanently store the filenames in an XML Virtual Folder. If you have ever used Active Directory's 'Find' feature, then you will have an idea of how Vista's Explorer could issue a database query. In addition to being Virtual, the folders are dynamic. Thus, as new documents match the criteria, so Vista refreshes the XML contents. The result is that you always see an up-to-date listing.

Vista creates a few Virtual Folders automatically. For example, XP's 'My Documents' folder has been transformed into Vista's Documents virtual folder. Naturally, the most fun is creating your own Virtual, or 'Searches' Folders

Vista Explorer Layout[edit]

The way Vista displays folders and files is slightly different from XP. Underneath the Organize menu is Layout. There you will find the settings to control the Menu Bar, the Details Pane, Navigation Pane, and if you need it, the Preview Pane.

Tip: A new installation of Vista is a good time to get into good habits of saving files in the best folders; for example, making use of the built-in Pictures and Music folders. In addition to the organizational benefits, Vista actually optimizes the Documents, Pictures and Music folders for, respectively, text, graphics, and music formats.