Windows windows look just fine as they come from the factory; all the edges are straight, and the text is perfectly legible. Still, if you're going to stare at this computer screen for half of your waking hours, you may as well investigate some of the ways these windows can be enhanced for better looks and greater efficiency. As it turns out, there's no end to the tweaks Microsoft lets you perform.
You can view the files and folders in a desktop window in any of several ways: as small icons, as jumbo icons, as a tidy list, and so on. Each window remembers its view settings independently.
To change this view setting for a particular open window, choose one of these commands from its View menu: Large Icons, Small Icons, List, Details, or Thumbnails. (Figure 4-5 illustrates each of these options.)
Figure 4-5. The five ways you can view the contents of a folder window. In Large Icons view (top), a large icon, with its label beneath, represents each file or folder. This is the default view. In Small Icons view (middle left, shown without its left-side panel), a small icon (label to the right) represents each file or folder; the icons are arranged in rows. (The alphabetical progression goes from left to right, rather than top to bottom.) The List view is similar, except the contents are arranged in columns (middle right). Details view (lower left) is the same as List view, except that you get additional columns of information that reveal the size, icon type, and the date and time the object was last modified. (This view, a familiar one to Macintosh fans, is growing in popularity.) Finally, in Thumbnails view (lower right), each icon is enclosed in a tiny picture frame. Graphics files are actually shown in the frame, so this view is really only useful for windows that contain graphics files. (Thumbnails view is not available in the My Computer window).
Windows starts out arranging the icons alphabetically, with folders in one A-to-Z group and the list of loose files in a second group. To change the sorting criterion, choose View→Arrange Icons, and then select one of these options:
By Name arranges the icons alphabetically by name.
By Type arranges the files in the window alphabetically by file type, such as Word documents, applications, JPEG files, and so on.
The file type is determined by the file's filename extension (see Section 7.6), but selecting this option sorts the files by the name assigned to the type. For example, the extension .psd denotes Adobe Photoshop documents, but Windows sorts these files under A (for Adobe), not P (for PSD).
By Size arranges the files in the window by size, starting with the smallest file. (Folders are unaffected; Windows never shows you the sizes of folders.)
By Date sorts the files in the window by creation date (not modified date), starting with the oldest file.
Auto Arrange, which is available only in icon views, isn't actually a sorting method; it's a straightening-up method. It rearranges the icons so they're equally spaced and neat. (You can use this command on the desktop, too, which is one way toavoid Cluttered Windows Desktop Syndrome.)
The Details view provides some unique characteristics that make it more powerful than the other views. First, there's the obvious advantage of being able to see the size and date of the objects in neat columns, as shown in Figure 4-5. Second, you can sort the contents by file size, type, or date simply by clicking the appropriate column heading.
If you click the same column heading again, the sorting order is reversed. For instance, clicking the Modified column once places your files into oldest-files-first sequence; a second click arranges the files with the newest file first. A small arrow appears on the column heading that points up or down to indicate the order of the sort.
Finally, you can add more columns to the window—up to 28 columns of information about each icon. Start by choosing View→Choose Columns to open the Column Settings dialog box shown in Figure 4-6. Click the checkboxes to turn the columns on or off. To rearrange the sequence of columns, click the name of a checked column and use the Move Up and Move Down buttons. The top-to-bottom list in the dialog box becomes the left-to-right display in the window.
Figure 4-6. The range of information you can display about objects in the window is robust enough to satisfy even the terminally curious. Some of the characteristics listed here are for specific types of files; you won't need a column for Audio Format, for example, in a folder that holds word-processing documents.
You can change the width of a column by editing the number at the bottom of the Column Settings window (Figure 4-6). But that's much too unnatural. Instead, position your cursor on the vertical line between column headings in a Details-view window. When the pointer turns into a double-headed arrow, drag the vertical line horizontally.
When you first run Windows, desktop windows show up with many visual attributes of a Web page, as shown in Figure 4-7.
Figure 4-7. Opening My Documents reveals a graphical display of contents and a Web-like layout, including underlined links, an address bar, and Back/Forward buttons on the toolbar. There's even a background graphic like the ones that sometimes lurk as the backdrops of Web pages. This background adds nothing to the features of the window, but it may satisfy some artistic yearning in you.
The classic view, on the other hand, simply displays the contents of the folder, omitting the graphics on the left side of the Web-type window and packing a lot more info into your window. (Figure 4-8 shows this view.) Switching to the classic view is a system-wide alteration, affecting all desktop windows. To accomplish this change, open any folder window, and then:
Choose Tools → Folder Options.
The Folder Options dialog box appears.
Turn on "Use Windows classic folders," and then click OK.
Figure 4-8. Microsoft dubs this the "classic" view, meaning the way folders looked before the Web-type display was built into desktop windows. That should mean that folder windows look like "out-of-the box" Windows 95 or Windows NT 4 windows. However, a "classic" window is actually a melding of the classic Windows design and the newer Web style; it can still incorporate an address bar and Back/Forward buttons.
After you've tweaked your system windows into a perfectly beautiful and efficient configuration, you don't have to go through all of that work for each folder. Windows can make all your changes the new default for all your desktop windows.
Choose Tools→Folder Options→View tab. Click the Like Current Folder button. Windows asks if you're sure you know what you're doing. Click Yes.
On the day it's born, a desktop window has two toolbars across the top (see Figure 4-9). (That doesn't include the strip that says File, Edit, View, and so on. That's not a toolbar; it's the menu bar.)
Figure 4-9. Top: The four basic toolbars that you can summon independently for any desktop window. Bottom: By dragging the vertical left-side handle of a toolbar, you can make the displays more compact by placing two or more bars on the same row. You can even drag one directly up into the menu bar, as shown here, saving even more vertical space.
But by choosing View→Toolbars, or right-clicking a blank spot on a toolbar and choosing toolbar names from the shortcut menu, you can add or hide whichever toolbars you like, on a window-by-window basis. There are four toolbars from which to choose, called the Standard Buttons, Address Bar, Links, and Radio toolbars. (Only the first two appear when you first open a window in Windows.)
If you think the Standard Buttons toolbar looks suspiciously like a toolbar from a Web browser, you're right. Microsoft redesigned this toolbar to reflect the growing emphasis in Windows toward erasing the differences between your desktop and the Internet. It starts out with these buttons:
Back, Forward. These buttons resemble those in a Web browser that let you return to Web pages you've just seen. This time, however, they show you the contents of a disk or folder you've just seen. If you're using one-window-at-a-time mode (see "Uni-window vs. Multi-Window" in the next section), these buttons are your sole means of getting around as you burrow through your folders.
Up. Click this button to move up one level in the folder hierarchy. For example, if you're viewing your My Pictures folder, clicking this button opens the My Documents folder that contains it.
Search. Opens the Search panel described on Section 3.6.
Folders. Hides or shows the master map of disks and folders at the left side of the window, simulating the two-panel Windows Explorer navigational display described in the next chapter.
History. Opens a new panel at the left side of the window that shows every Web site and network computer you've visited recently.
Move To, Copy To. These buttons are available only when you've highlighted an icon or icons in a folder or disk window. Clicking the Move To or Copy To button summons a "Browse for Folder" window that lets you choose a different folder or disk on your computer. If you then click OK, you move or copy the highlighted icon or icons to the specified location.
Delete. Gives the highlighted icon or icons a fast trip into the Recycle Bin. (The icon may not disappear until you close and reopen the window you were looking at.)
Undo. Takes back the last thing you did, such as clicking the Move To, Copy To, or Delete button.
Views. Opens a short menu listing the five basic ways a window can display its icon contents—as large icons, small icons, and so on. (You can also use the View menu on the menu bar for the same purpose.) For details on these views, see Section 4.2.
These are just the buttons that Microsoft proposes; you're free to add any of several other buttons to the toolbar, or get rid of ones you never use. To begin the customizing process, choose View→Toolbars→Customize to open the dialog box shown in Figure 4-10.
Figure 4-10. Select a button from the list at left; click Add to add it to the toolbar. Click Delete to remove a button from the list at right. To reorganize the toolbar, select a button and use the Move Up and Move Down buttons. You can also add separators to creates groups of buttons in the same toolbar. Any changes you make to this toolbar affect all windows.
Setting all folders to the same view or resetting all folders to their default views doesn't reset the Standard Buttons toolbar. To return a modified toolbar to its original state, you must open the dialog box shown in Figure 4-10 and click the Reset button.
The Address Bar toolbar (Figure 4-9) may look like the white strip at the top of your Web browser, where you type the URL (Web address) of a Web site you want to visit. But the Address Bar accepts more than Web addresses. After all, Web addresses are just locations of particular files on particular computers, so it's not much of a stretch to see how it lets you open any file on your machine or any files on your network (that you have permission to see) by typing its address here.
You can type any of the following information into the Address Bar text box:
A Web address. Skip the http:// part. Just type the body of the Web address, such as http://www.microsoft.com, in this box. When you click Go or press Enter, the actual web page you selected will appear in the window.
A search phrase. If you type some text into this strip that isn't obviously a Web address, Windows assumes that you're telling it, "Go onto the Internet and search for this phrase." From here, it works exactly as though you've used the Internet search feature described in Chapter 3.
A folder name. You can also type one of several important folder names into this strip, such as My Computer, My Documents, My Network Places, My Pictures, and so on. When you click Go or press Enter, you open that folder window.
A program or path name. Type in the path to a folder or file on your own computer or on your network. For a file or folder on your own machine, you specify the drive letter and folder name. On the network, you'll need the UNC name (page 32 Section ), which looks something like \\server_name\foldername\subfolder.
In each case, as soon as you begin to type, a pop-up list of recently visited Web sites, files, or folders appears below the Address bar. Windows is trying to save you some typing. If you see what you're looking for, click it with the mouse, or press the down arrow key to highlight the one you want and then press Enter.
This toolbar offers buttons representing your favorite Web sites—the ones you the added to your Favorites→Links folder in Internet Explorer (see Section 11.3.2).
The Radio toolbar came into existence with Internet Explorer 5. It's an odd tool, but great fun, because it lets you use your Internet connection to listen to radio stations locally or internationally. (For starters, try Radio Pogoda, an oldies station in Warsaw. Radio Bleue from Tahiti has its weird charms, as well. To program the Radio toolbar, see Section 18.104.22.168. )
When you double-click a folder, Windows can react in one of two ways:
It can open a new window. Now you've got two windows on the screen, one overlapping the other. Moving or copying an icon from one into the other is a piece of cake, as shown in Figure 4-2. Trouble is, if your double-clicking craze continues much longer, your screen will eventually be overrun with windows, which you must now painstakingly close again.
It can replace the original window with a new one. This only-one-window-at-all-times behavior (the default) keeps your desktop from becoming crowded with windows. If you need to return to the previous window, the Back button takes you there. Of course, you'll have to use a different method to move or copy icons from one folder to another using this method, because you can't drag and drop.
Which system you adopt is a matter of preference and experience. Whatever you decide, here's how you tell Windows which behavior you'd like:
Choose Tools → Folder Options in any desktop window.
It doesn't matter what window you start in; the change you're about to make affects every window. The Folder Options dialog box appears.
On the General tab, click "Open each folder in the same window" or "Open each folder in its own window," as suits your fancy, and then click OK.
If you choose Tools→Folder Options from any folder window, and then click the View tab (see Figure 4-11), you see an array of options that affect all of the folder windows on your PC. When assessing the impact of these controls, earth-shattering isn't the adjective that springs to mind; still, you may find one or two of them useful:
Display compressed files and folders with alternate color. As described on Section 19.3.2, Windows 2000 lets you compress certain files and folders to conserve disk space. This option makes their icons change color, so you'll know at a glance which have been compressed.
Display the full path in the address bar. When this option is on, Windows shows the exact location of the current window in the Address bar (if it's showing)—for example, C:\Documents and Settings\Sharon\My Documents\Outlines. Seeing the path can be useful when you're not sure which disk a folder is on, for example.
Display the full path in the title bar. Same idea, but this time the path of the open folder or file shows up in the title bar of the window.
Hidden files and folders; Hide protected operating system files. Windows hides certain files and information that, if deleted or changed by mistake, could damage the operating system and cause you hours of troubleshooting grief. Yes, Big Brother is watching you, but he means well. (See Section 10.1.3 for details on this feature.) You'll have the smoothest computing career if you leave these options untouched.
Hide file extensions for known file types. Windows normally hides the three-letter filename extension on standard kinds of files and documents (Word files, Excel files, and so on), in an effort to make Windows seem less technical and intimidating. If you prefer, however, you can make these extensions reappear by turning this option off; see Section 10.1.3 for more on this topic.
Launch folder windows in a separate process. Use this last-resort feature only if you have programs that refuse to play nicely with one another. That is, whenever they're open, your system locks up, slows down, or displays other peculiar behavior. Using this option keeps each program in its own memory space, eliminating conflicts.
Remember each folder's view settings. This checkbox makes every folder window open using whatever view it showed last (Details, Large Icons, or whatever).
You might assume, then, that removing the checkmark would make every folder open with some standard default view, regardless of the last view you used. But for some reason known only to its diabolic creators, clearing this checkbox produces a much more complicated scheme:
The first folder you open (in the My Computer or Windows Explorer window) appears in the view it used most recently—the saved view. Any additional folders you open also appear using this view.
If you change the view of the first window—from Large Icons to Details, for example—you've just changed the saved view. Subsequent folders you open also inherit Details view, and when you reopen Windows Explorer or My Computer, Details view will prevail.
But if you switch the second folder you open (or a later one) to Details view, you affect the default window view only during this folder-opening session. When you next reopen Windows Explorer or My Computer, you'll be back in Large Icons view. In other words, when you change views determines whether the View setting "sticks" for future openings of Windows Explorer or My Computer.
Show My Documents on the Desktop. You're not allowed to throw away the My Documents desktop icon, but you can make it disappear by turning off this checkbox.
Show pop-up description for folder and desktop items. If you point to (but don't click) an icon, a Taskbar button, and so on, you get a tooltip: a floating yellow label that helps identify what you're pointing to. If you find these Tooltips distracting, turn off this checkbox.
Figure 4-11. Use the list in this dialog box to choose what you want to see and how you want to see it. Don't make important system files visible unless you're confident that you'd never accidentally delete them during a cleaning frenzy.