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Windows XP Your Way- Configuring Windows Explorer
Windows Explorer can be configured in a variety of settings. Here we discuss a number of ways to make managing information on your computer more efficient with settings in the View menu.

The Windows Explorer interface is something that is constantly being used. Finding the configurations that best suit your personal pattern of usage can make computing easier and more efficient. On another page I have discussed some of the basic features of Explorer. There is also a page giving shortcuts that make using Windows Explorer more efficient. Here I will talk about configuring Explorer "View" settings.

Customizing the View

The contents of an Explorer window can be customized in a number of ways. Many settings are available in the menu “View”. An example of a View menu is shown in the figure below.

One way that the view can customized is by choosing how the list of files and folders will be represented or displayed. The table below describes the various views.

Different ways of displaying files and folders
Type Comments
Thumbnails Useful for graphics files
Tiles The default view. Uses large icons. Also provides some information such as size
Icons Medium-size standard icon types for each file or folder
List A simple list
Details A list that includes various file and folder properties. Useful for sorting
Filmstrip Only present in My Pictures or customized folders. Used for graphics files

Another way to customize is to choose how files and folders will be arranged. The next figure shows the various options. The standard arrangement is by “Name”, i.e. alphabetical, but other methods can be useful. If a large number of files are involved, arranging by “modified” can be handy for finding the most recent files. Arranging by “Type” will put all text files in one group, all Word documents on another, and so on. This can make it easier to find different kinds of file in a large list of files. An additional help is to use “Show in Groups”. This will divide the file list into sections. If you are arranging by Name, there will be a section for each letter of the alphabet. If you are arranging by Type, there will be a separate section for each file type.

Next are two examples of a partial details list with the “Show in Groups” option. The first is arranging by Name and the second is arranging by Type.

Arranging by Name Arranging by Type

Adding Categories to the Details View

Windows XP greatly expanded the amount of information about a file that can be made available in the Details view in Explorer. In addition to the standard properties, Name, Size, Type, and Date Modified., there are 28 others. (If you install Adobe Acrobat Reader, you will have “Keywords” added as well.). .Many of these apply only to certain types of file but, nonetheless, the capabilities of Explorer have been substantially augmented. Collectors of multimedia files will find many of the new properties will help in organizing pictures, video, and music files. Microsoft Office documents also can have a number of properties that help in finding and keeping track of documents. There are several ways to select what appears in a Details view. One way is to select “Choose Details” in the View menu. The dialog box that opens is shown in the figure below.

An example of a View menu with the categories “Artist” and “Comments” added to the Details view is shown next. Note that a collection of properly formatted music files could be sorted into groups arranged by artist. Similarly, a collection of files where the “Comments” property applies could be sorted accordingly.

Using Folder Templates

The entries in the Task Pane section of a folder window may vary somewhat depending on the folder contents. Special formats for folders with graphics or multimedia are available. To convert a folder to one of the special templates, select “Customize This Folder” from the View menu. This will open the dialog box shown next. (This setting is not available for system folders such as My Documents or for drives.)

The Explorer Bar

Another way to configure Explorer is through the settings in the menu entry “View-Explorer Bar”. The options are shown in the figure below.

When selected, an option from the group Search, Favorites, Media, History, Folders will replace the Task Pane on the left side of the folder window. Some of these same functions can be reached by Toolbars, as discussed next.


Still another way to configure Explorer is by selecting “View-Toolbars” and adding entries at the top of the Explorer window. The menu is shown below.

Installed browser helpers such as the Google Bar will be listed as well as some standard ones. Settings can also be customized by selecting “Toolbars-Customize”. The dialog box for customizing is shown next.

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