In the last edition on the Windows Vista and Windows 7 report, "How Do I Create and Configure a Network with Windows 7 HomeGroup?" I showed you how to create, configure, and take advantage of a HomeGroup. As I did so, I explained that after you have two or more Windows 7 systems joined to a HomeGroup, you can launch Computer and expand the HomeGroup section in the Navigation pane in order to see other systems in the HomeGroup. When you do, you can access the shared Libraries on any system in the HomeGroup.
In this edition of the Windows Vista and Windows 7 Report, I'll explain how Libraries are used to share folders and files and also describe other built-in features that you can use to extend folder-sharing capabilities in a Windows 7 HomeGroup.
This blog post is also available in PDF format in a free TechRepublic download.
LibrariesAs you'll discover, the new Libraries feature in Windows 7 really comes into its own with HomeGroup. As you'll remember, when you set up a HomeGroup, you are given the choice of what Libraries you want to share with the HomeGroup, as shown in Figure A. Once you do this, all files in those libraries are accessible to other users in the HomeGroup. However, there are some restrictions.
When you create or join a HomeGroup, you'll be prompted to choose what you want to share with other computers.
When you share a Library to the HomeGroup, files in your personal folders (such as My Documents or My Pictures) are shared with read-only access, which will allow anyone in the HomeGroup only to be able to open and read a document file or view a picture. Keep in mind that once the file is open, the user can indeed make changes to the file, but they will not be able to save those changes to the shared library; however, they can save the file and the changes to their own hard disk, thus making an edited copy of the file.
Files in the public folder on your computer (Public Documents or Public Pictures) are shared with read/write rights, which will allow anyone in the HomeGroup full access to those files. In other words, in addition to being able to open and view documents or other file types, HomeGroups users are also able to edit or delete files that exist in the public folders.
Adding to the LibraryIf you want to share files that aren't currently in the Library, you can add the folder containing those files to the Library. Just right-click the folder, access the Include in Library submenu, and select an existing Library to which you want to add that folder or create a new Library in which to share the folder, as shown in Figure B.
To share files that aren't currently in the Library, you can add the folder containing those files to a Library.Once the Folder is a part of the Library, the files in that folder are accessible on the HomeGroup, as shown in Figure C. When you add a folder to the Library, it is automatically shared with read-only access.
Any folder that you add to the Library will be shared to the HomeGroup with read-only access.
While Libraries are the main way to share and access files in a HomeGroup, they aren't the only way -- especially if you want to provide full access to those files. Fortunately, you can directly share folders with the HomeGroup without adding them to the Library.
Sharing a folder directly gives you much more control over who you share files with. It lets you select certain people as well as customize the level of sharing permissions for each person.Right-click the folder that you want to share, access the Share With submenu, and select one of the available options, as shown in Figure D. While there are four options on the Share With submenu, only three of them apply to a HomeGroup. (When you select the Specific People option, you can choose to share the folder with users who have an account on your computer.)
The Share With feature is available as a right-click submenu and as an option on the toolbar.
You can select HomeGroup (Read) to share the files in the folder with read-only access. This will allow anyone in the HomeGroup to be able to read a document file or play a multimedia file.
You can select HomeGroup (Read/Write) to share the files in the folder with full access. This will allow anyone in the HomeGroup to edit or delete files.
The HomeGroup (Read/Write) option can also be used inside a Library. For example, suppose that inside the My Documents folder, you have a file or another folder that you want everyone in the HomeGroup to have full access to. If so, just right-click on the file or folder and select Share With | HomeGroup (Read/Write). When you do, everyone in the HomeGroup will have full access to the file or folder.
If after you share a folder, you decide that you no longer wish to share it, you can select the Nobody option. When you do, the folder is marked as private and is available only to you.
The Nobody option can also be used inside a Library. For example, suppose that inside the My Documents folder, you have a file or another folder that contains files you don't want to share but want to keep in the My Documents folder for convenience. If so, just right-click on the file or folder and select Share With | Nobody. The file or folder will no longer appear or be available to the HomeGroup.
What's your take?
Are you using Windows 7's HomeGroup feature? What do you think about using a HomeGroup for a small to medium-sized business network? As always, if you have comments or information to share about this topic, please take a moment to drop by the TechRepublic Community Forums and let us hear from you.
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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.