I’m learning to love libraries

libraries screenshot

This article is in response to James O’Neill’s article about someone flaming the new Windows 7 Library feature. Please read that first to understand the argument a bit better – http://blogs.technet.com/jamesone/archive/2009/11/06/the-point-of-windows-7-libraries-and-search.aspx

libraries screenshot

The key thing to remember is this – The easier computers are to use, the more helpful they become.

It did take me a while to understand the point of Libraries but I similarly come from a habit of using the directory structure. It almost sounds absurd to not save a file under a carefully planned structure (e.g. c:\users\documents\employment\2009_CV_newjob.docx) but it is becoming less and less important thanks to Windows indexing keywords and content. We don’t search emails by filenames, we use the senders name or a keyword we remember from the subject. Why isn’t the same logic applied to the files on our Hard Disk

Non-techie PC users don’t use a PC to replace a filing cabinet with a digital replica. They use them to do homework, fill out a spreadsheet, make a poster, watch online videos, socialise  etc. We got used to the My Documents\My Pictures system but it was far from perfect. I used to spend ages setting up shortcuts in the My Docs folder to point to all the real places I save stuff in. Now I can use the magic (or more technically, science)  of Libraries.

Top Tips

Roll your own

Libraries are more customisable than they seem. Create your own so they make sense for you. E.g. I have a “Website” library. This contains locations where various bits are saved to do with a site I do for a local running club. It doesn’t contain a particular file type like only documents or only pictures. Instead it has a link to

  • an archive copy of the site
  • the current site files
  • a folder I save relevant content people have emailed me
  • a knowledge-base of documents on web design.

This is a really great way to find or search for the right content, across a variety of locations, quickly and easily.

Change the folder order

On my work laptop the Documents folder is redirected to a location on our server. This is the default save location for the Documents library. However, I actually save most of my documents outside that folder, either into another network folder or a “home” folder on the laptop itself. This meant that I had to always scroll down the default Folder arrangement to get past the generic Documents network folder. To change this you need to go to the Library properties.

For some reason this has two different interfaces.

#1 is accessed by clicking the “Includes: Locations” link at the top of the library. This gives a place to add or remove a location. However, by right-clicking an existing location you can move it’s position or set it as the default folder.

#2 is from right-clicking the library icon (or some whitespace inside the library) and choosing properties. This is a slightlymore advanced window but looks a lot more Windows 2000 than Windows 7.  However, you can drag and drop folder positions in here as well as set the default save location. In addition you can choose optimal features based on the library content and see the combined size of  the library

Add Network Shares

A few people mentioned to me that they are unable to include a network folder into their Documents library. This is because Windows doesn’t let you add non-indexed locations. The workaraound is quite simple and all it costs you is some hard-disk space.

  1. Browse to the network folder using the full UNC path (not a mapped drive) e.g. \\servername\share\documents
  2. Right-click the folder and select Always available offline. This will cache a copy of the folder on your hard-disk, with any changes on the network version being replicated to your offline cache (you can keep your eye on this in the Control Panel > Sync Center)
  3. You will now be able to add this folder to any library you want!


I haven’t gone into all of the features of Libraries. there is loads out there on the web including this one form the Windows Team blog you could even try using the built in help!

I think this is just the beginning for Libraries. As people get used to them their potential will become more realised. Maybe a cool future feature will be to have a search connector query (e.g. Flickr: running) as a browsable location within a library?

What do you think of libraries, are they the future, confused backwards leap, or just a small step on the path to perfection?

Please comment and let me know.

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One thought on “I’m learning to love libraries

  1. Our company is just about to begin rolling out Windows 7 to customer AD environments. I would love to be able to set up users for libraries via login script, and ditch mapped drives altogether. Anyone have a way?

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