No matter how organized you are with your data files,
chances are good that you don’t know where every document is located — especially
on network shares. There are probably data files out there that you don’t even
remember. While I’ve shown you that Windows 8.1’s Search app and File Explorer’s Search filters can help you out when you have an idea of what
you are looking for, they really can’t help you when you’re not sure.

Fortunately, you can use File Explorer’s Group by feature to
gain a different perspective on the data files that you have stored on your
hard disk and network shares. By using the Group by feature, you may find data files that you never knew
you had or that you’d forgotten about. It can also help you to locate and get
rid of junk files that you never meant to keep and that are hogging valuable disk

That’s not all! The Group by feature also works in This
PC/Computer and in Network, allowing you to create some interesting ways to look
at the drives on your computer and the computers on your network.

Let’s take a closer look at how to take advantage of the File
Explorer’s Group by feature as a way to organize and sort through data from a
different perspective.

What is the Group by feature?

The Group by feature is available in both Windows 8 and
Windows 8.1. As you can interpret from its name, the Group by feature allows
you to arrange your data files in groups, based on elements that are
specific to the types of data that you’re looking for. For example, the
Group by feature will allow you to group documents by the authors, video files
by the length of the video, and computers by the IP address, just to point out
a few of the possibilities.

The Group by feature is very easy to access. It appears on
File Explorer’s View tab at the top of the Current view section (Figure A).

Figure A



by appears on the View tab in File Explorer.

Another thing to keep in mind is that different arrangement
types may change the View to best display the arrangement. For example, some
arrangement types will switch the view to Large Icons, while another might
switch the view to Details. However, you can switch the view to any other that
you wish. Once you select an arrangement type and make any other changes to the
view, you can easily undo all the changes that you’ve made and go back to the
default arrangement by selecting (None) from the Group by menu.


Let’s begin by taking a look at how the Group by feature
works in Documents. When you click the Group by drop-down arrow, you’ll see that
the menu contains a list of options that apply to the type of files that you
regularly store in the Documents folder. In my example (Figure B), I’ve
chosen to group the files in the Documents folder by Authors and in Ascending
order. While the Authors Group by option may not be very useful on your local
hard disk, it could be invaluable in a network share full of documents.

Figure B



Group by menu offers a host of options for looking at documents.

I could have also chosen to group the
files by Name, Date modified, Type, Size, Date created, Categories, Tags, or
Title. To return to the default view, just select the (None) option.


When you access the Group by menu options in the Pictures
folder, you‘ll find a list of options that are relevant to picture files. I selected the Date taken option and Descending order (Figure C). The other Group by options that are
specific to picture files include Date modified, Dimensions, and Rating.

Figure C



the Pictures folder, the Group by options include the Date taken option.


The Music folder offers a lot of Group by options. After compiling songs for a mix, I used the Genre Group by
option to take a look at the list for a different perspective (Figure D). I also could have
used the Album artist, Contributing artist, Year, or Title to look at the

Figure D



Group by options in the Music folder can provide you with a different
perspective of you file selections.


Moving over to the Video folder, the Group by feature
provides you with a set of options relevant to video files. For example, in
Figure E, I chose to group my video files by length of the video. Other
relevant Group by options that I could have chosen include Media created or

Figure E



by the length of the video allows you to sort your video files in a meaningful

This PC/Computer

Using the Group by feature in This PC/Computer can be very
useful in a number of situations. When you pull down the Group by menu, you’ll
discover a few options, including Total Size, Free Space, File System, Network Location,
and Percent Full. For example, I had a number of external hard disks attached to
my system, and using the Free Space Group by option allowed me to quickly
analyze which hard disks needed to be weeded out (Figure F).

Figure F



the Free Space
Group by option allowed me to see which hard disks needed to be weeded out.


When you’re looking at PCs in Network, you can use the
Group by feature to see your network differently. For example, I run DHCP
on my lab network, and using the IP Address Group by option gave me a quick analysis of what IP addresses
were in use (Figure G). Other useful Group by options that you can
use in Network include Workgroup, Network location, Discovery Method, or MAC

Figure G



IP Address Group by can be a helpful way to look at a network.

What’s your take?

Have you used the Group by feature to look at
your files, hard disks, and network computers? 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.