Get more out of the Favorite Links feature

Here's a look at the Favorite Links file management feature in detail.

As you know, Windows Vista is packed with new features designed to make everyday file management tasks easy. As I've been exploring these new features, I’ve discovered lots of little tricks hidden in between the cracks that will allow you to get even more out of these already powerful features.

In this edition of the Windows Vista Report, I’m going to take a look at the Favorite Links file management feature in detail. I’ll then show you how get more out of this handy feature.

The Navigation pane

To begin with, you need to know that the Favorite Links file management feature that I’ll be focusing in on here is a part of the Navigation pane that you’ll find in Windows Explorer, as shown in Figure A, as well as in the Save and Open dialog boxes in all of the native Windows Vista applications, such as Notepad, as shown in Figure B. The same Navigation pane will show up in the Save and Open dialog boxes in applications specifically designed for Windows Vista. Because the Navigation pane and subsequently the Favorite Links file management feature are so prevalent in Windows Vista, knowing how to use it will go a long way in making all of your file management operations more efficient.

Figure A

The Navigation pane is a prominent feature in Windows Explorer.

Figure B

The same Navigation pane shows up in the Save and Open dialog boxes in all of the native and Windows Vista applications.

As you can see in Figure A, the Navigation pane appears on the left side of Windows Explorer’s user interface and is separated into two sections, called Favorite Links and Folders. Of course, the Folders section displays the traditional Windows Explorer folder tree view; however, the Favorite Links section is a new feature.

Because of the default way that the Navigation pane is laid out, both the Favorite Links and the Folders sections are accessible; only the first three links show up in the Favorite Links section and the others are accessible by clicking the More button. However, you can resize the Folders section by dragging the header. You can also click the arrow control at the top of the Folders section header and the Favorite Links section takes over entire Navigation pane.

What is the Favorite Links Section?

With the Folders section collapsed, you can see that the Favorite Links section contains six links, as shown in Figure C. The first three links, Documents, Pictures, and Music, provide you with quick shortcuts to these common folders. The fourth link is Recently Changed and will of course list the files from your Documents, Pictures, and Music folders that you have recently created or modified.

Figure C

When expanded, you can see that the Favorite Links section contains six links.

The fifth link is titled Searches and is the main container for Windows Vista’s new Search Folders feature. Search Folders are essentially searches that you create and save and are designed to make it easy for you to quickly to find your files, regardless of where they actually exist on your hard disk. When you open a Search Folder, the operating system instantly runs that saved search and immediately displays up-to-date results. The sixth folder is titled Public and is designed for sharing documents between several users who each have accounts on the same computer.

Customizing the Favorite Links

You can customize the Favorite Links section by adding your own links. To do so, you can simply locate a folder to which you want to have quick access and then just drag it over to and drop it in the Favorite Links section. Doing so will then create a shortcut to that folder within the Favorite Links section of the Navigation pane.

However, if over time you continue to add links to many of the folders that you frequently access on your hard disk as well as on your network, you’ll soon discover that you’ll have so many links in the Favorite Links section that it will become unwieldy.

The My Frequent Folders trick

I pointed out that in the default layout the Favorite Links section only shows three items: Documents, Pictures, and Music. The reason for this narrow view is that the Favorite Links section is designed to be a streamlined tool that provides you with quick and easy access to only those files that you’re likely to need on a regular basis.

In order to keep the streamlined structure of Favorite Links section intact, create a folder called My Frequent Folders in the Documents folder. You’ll then drag and drop the My Frequent Folders in the Favorite Links section.

Then, instead of adding links directly to the Favorite Links section, you’ll instead add them to the My Frequent Folders, as shown in Figure D.

Figure D

By storing the shortcuts in My Frequent Folders, you’ll be able to keep the Favorite Links section streamlined.

Now, regardless of whether you’re working in Windows Explorer or within an Open or Save dialog box in an application, you’ll be able to get to the folders and files that you frequently use in the blink of an eye.


Greg Shultz is a freelance Technical Writer. Previously, he has worked as Documentation Specialist in the software industry, a Technical Support Specialist in educational industry, and a Technical Journalist in the computer publishing industry.


If you close the Folders view and only open it when needed you'll get more than the first 3 entries displayed in the Favorite Links section. You can also add a link to your Printers which is very handy also.


...but that tip is in the article already.