In a recent edition of the Windows Vista Report, "Examine the filtering, grouping, and stacking features in Windows Vista's Windows Explorer," I described how the filtering, grouping, and stacking features in Windows Vista's Windows Explorer can be a real boon to your everyday file system navigation operations. However, Windows Vista's new information visualization, organization, and search features include other navigation features that are designed to make quick work of file system operations. Now that I'm using the RC1 version of Windows Vista, I've been paying more attention to these navigation features and must report that I've been impressed so far. In this edition, I'm going to take a closer look at the navigation features embedded in Windows Explorer's Address Bar, shown in Figure A.
|Windows Explorer's Address Bar provides you a whole new set of navigation features.|
The Address Bar
In Windows XP's version of Windows Explorer, the Address Bar is more of a path display tool than an actual navigation tool. True, it does contain a drop-down arrow that when clicked displays and allows you to access any folders or drives at the top level of the hierarchical file system structure. However, it pales in comparison to the navigational features built into Address Bar in Windows Vista's version of Windows Explorer.
Of course, the new Address Bar still functions as a path display tool. However, instead of whacks between each folder in the path, you'll find drop-down menus that when clicked allow you to easily navigate backward of forward along the current navigation path.
For example, in Figure A, you can see that the current navigation path is Greg\Documents\TechRepublic. When I clicked the drop-down menu at Documents, I saw the folders that are at that level and can easily navigate backwards to any of the folders at that level, as shown in Figure B. Notice that the currently selected folder, in this case TechRepublic, is highlighted in bold to indicate my current position.
|The drop-down menu at the Documents level shows the folders that are at that same level.|
When I clicked the drop-down menu at Greg, I saw the folders that are at that level and can easily navigate backwards to any of the folders at that level simply by selecting one from the menu. Rather than clicking the drop-down, I could have navigated directly to the Greg folder by clicking the Greg button in the Address Bar, as shown in Figure C.
|In addition to using the drop-down menus, you can navigate to any of the folder listed in the Address Bar by clicking its button.|
The drop-down arrow at the right end of the Address bar is called Previous Locations and will display what is essentially a history list of all the locations to which you're recently navigated, as shown in Figure D. Once you select a path, it will appear in the Address Bar complete with drop-down menus and you can easily navigate back and forth in that path.
|Previous Locations is essentially a history list that allows you to return to previously visited locations.|
At the very right of the Address Bar is the Refresh button, which, of course, will refresh, or update, the list of files and folders currently displayed in Windows Explorer.
Just to the left of the Address bar is another drop-down arrow called Recent Pages, which also functions as a history list. However, rather than displaying the full path, as the Previous Locations feature does, the Recent Pages feature simply displays the destination folder, as shown in Figure E.
|Recent Pages simply displays the destination folder.|
Of course, the standard Back and Forward buttons are still present and function just like they do in Windows XP. However, you'll notice that the Up button is no longer present. While this is a bit alarming at first, once you begin using the other navigation features, you'll forget that the Up button ever existed.
Microsoft has really done a nice job of goal of improving the navigational features in the Windows Vista operating system. So far, I've looked at the filtering, grouping, and stacking features as well as the Address Bar. I'll continue my investigation in the near future with a more in-depth look at the actual Navigation pane. In the meantime, if you have comments or information to share about the Windows Vista's Address Bar, please take a moment to drop by the Discussion area and let us hear.
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.