Donovan Colbert recounts his difficulty trying to display the Libraries view in the File Explorer navigation pane in Windows RT.
Many early Windows 8 and Windows 8 RT adopters discovered that the amount of storage advertised on their devices wasn't actually available. An additional challenge arrived when they found that, although most Windows tablets support SD or MicroSD memory, most Modern UI apps only look in Library paths. This was complicated by the fact that only an indexed, non-removable drive could be added to a library. This meant that media stored on a SD card wasn't easily accessible through most Modern UI apps.
Multiple complex workaround solutions appeared on the web. This is one of the advantages of Windows 8 and RT — skilled users can get around obstacles and achieve their goals. Still, the solutions weren't perfect, could cause additional problems, and this would defeat the goal of hassle-free tablet computing.
With the release of Windows 8.1 RT, Microsoft has moved to correct the issue. I'm now able to add any path on any mounted drive (including removable memory cards) into any library — and the Modern UI apps that work with those media types will recognize and display my files.
When I upgraded to 8.1 and opened up the Xbox Music tile, a helpful notification appeared that said no music was discovered on my local drive. The message included a link to learn how to add music to Xbox Music on Windows 8.
Unfortunately, the instructions didn't work for my RT device. I spent the day researching the issue, and I discovered that the File Explorer view in the link didn't appear as described. A quick check on my Yoga 13 running Windows 8 Pro showed that the RT device was not displaying Libraries in the navigation pane.Figure A shows the view when I first opened File Explorer on RT. Figure A
File Explorer on Windows RT.
As you can see in the navigation pane above (outlined in red), there isn't a Libraries view.Figure B shows how the navigation view appears on my Yoga 13 running Windows 8 Pro (Libraries are outlined in red). Figure B
The navigation pane includes Libraries on my Yoga 13 running Windows 8 Pro.Also on my Yoga 13, as you can see in Figure C, there's a separate navigation view for Libraries. Click a library, and you'll get a set of two tabs above the ribbon in the File Explorer. Click the Library Tools tab, and the ribbon view will change to display icons for Manage Library, Set save location, and other useful tools. Figure C
There's a separate navigation view for Libraries.
Microsoft's instructions made sense when I saw this view on my Yoga 13. Unfortunately, this didn't match the view in File Explorer on my Surface RT.To resolve the issue, I tried changing the location of the Music library as it appears on RT under the This PC view, pointing the path to the \Music folder on the MicroSD D: drive (Figure D). Figure D
I attempted to change the path of the Music library.This didn't work. The music in the destination folder was not added to the Xbox Music tile, and when I tried to revert the path to C:\users\Donovan\Music by hitting Restore Default, I received the error that's shown in Figure E. Figure E
The error I received when I selected Restore Default.
Things were quickly going from bad to worse.I browsed through the navigation view in File Explorer to the absolute path of the music folder (c:\users\Donovan\Music), shown in Figure F. Figure F
Navigating to the absolute path of the Music folder.I right-clicked the Music folder and discovered an option to Include in library, which opened up a sub-menu that allowed the folder to be placed in Documents, Music, Pictures or Videos (Figure G). Figure G
A sub-menu to Include in library.Selecting the Music library displayed the error message shown in Figure H. Figure H
Another error message appeared.Feeling defeated, I looked at the File Explorer navigation view once more to try and figure out my next step. The navigation pane refreshed and updated to the following view (Figure I). Figure I
The Libraries view appeared after the navigation pane refreshed.As you can see, the Libraries view finally appeared in the navigation pane in File Explorer on Windows RT. Once this view was exposed, I was able to follow Microsoft's instructions, adding the path D:\music on my MicroSD card to the Music library. Once the folder was added to the library, the media stored on the SD card was added and accessible through the Xbox Music modern tile. In Figure J, I outlined the Music library, the Library Tools tab, the Manage library button, and the Library locations pane and Add button in red. Figure J
The Music library and components as they appear in Windows RT.
Clearly, Microsoft has not done enough to address this issue with Windows RT. Adding a path to an app should be enabled through the app by using the touch screen and virtual keyboard, just like it works on Android and iOS today. Using the classic desktop as a crutch is convoluted and confusing. As long as this issue remains unaddressed, RT and Windows 8 tablets will continue to drive users to more mature mobile OS platforms. Despite that, Microsoft is clearly working to address the issues, and while the current solution is far from perfect, it's a far better situation with Windows RT 8.1 than it was with Windows 8.
I had Debra Littlejohn Shinder confirm my experience on her own Surface RT, and she found a superior solution to expose the "hidden" default Libraries view on Surface RT. Always ask a Microsoft VIP first!
- Select View, click the down arrow under Options in the ribbon, and select Change folder and Search Options (Figure K) Figure K
- In the navigation pane, check Show libraries, and then click Apply (Figure L) Figure L
Click through to Change folder and Search Options.
Select Show libraries.
I did search for such an option, but I couldn't find it. The convoluted process of discovery and the lack of good online documentation I described above illustrates how far Microsoft has to go to be truly competitive with mobile computing platforms. Typical tablet consumers simply won't put up with this kind of headache to add media paths to their mobile applications.
Have you attempted a simple task in Windows RT that turned into a lesson in patience? Share your experience, especially any fixes or workarounds that you discovered along the way, in the discussion thread below.