Personalize Windows 7 by creating new user-defined Libraries

In this edition of the Windows Desktop Report, Greg Shultz shows you how to create your own Libraries in Windows 7 and gives you some tips on how you can use this knowledge to personalize your Windows 7 experience.

By default Microsoft Windows 7 provides you with four Libraries: Documents, Music, Pictures, and Videos, as shown in Figure A.

Figure A

Windows 7 provides you with four Libraries.

You can think of the Libraries technology in Windows 7 as collection points for files of a certain type that can exist in any number of locations. By default, Windows 7 configures the Libraries on a system to display files from your local system. For example, the Documents Library displays files from the My Documents and Public Documents folders on your system. However, you can easily add other locations.

For example, you can customize the Documents Library on a Windows 7 system to display all the documents on an external hard disk, on your team members' My Documents folder, as well as on your company's file server. Now, instead of having to manually troll all over the network to track down files, all you have to do is just go to your local Documents library and everything that you could ever need is right there.

In addition to adding folders to one of the existing Libraries, you can create your own Libraries with narrower focus and add specific folders to your libraries.

In this edition of the Windows Desktop Report, I'll show you how to create your own Libraries in Windows 7. As I do, I'll discuss Libraries in more detail.

A slideshow version of this blog post is available in a TechRepublic Photo Gallery.

First things first

Before I get started, I have to point out that I know that many of you dislike the whole concept of Windows 7's Libraries. In fact, in a past blog, I showed you how to get rid of them: "Remove Libraries from Windows Explorer in Windows 7."

However, I said it back then and I'll say it now: I think that Libraries are a valuable feature in Windows 7 and I use them regularly. My hope is that even if you say that you won't ever use Libraries now, you will come around once you see their value and begin to use them.

With that in mind, let's take a quick look at the Library concept.

Looking at Libraries

To begin, when you open a Library, you'll see a header that tells you how many locations that Library is currently configured to monitor. For example, the Pictures Library, shown in Figure B, is by default configured to collect files from two locations.

Figure B

By default, each of Windows 7's Libraries is configured to collect files from two locations.
When you click on that link, you'll see the Pictures Library Locations dialog box, shown in Figure C. As you can see, the two default locations come from the Pictures folders in my user account and the Public account. You'll use the Library Locations dialog box to add and remove locations, as well as keep tabs on which locations are in the Library. (Each of the other three Libraries has a similar Library Locations dialog box.)

Figure C

The two default locations come from the Pictures folders in the current user account and the Public account.

When you click the Add button, you'll see a standard browse dialog box called Include Folder in Pictures where you can add folders from any location to which you have access.

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Creating your own Libraries

Creating your own Libraries is easy: access the Libraries folder and click the New Library button on the Command Bar. You can see that button in Figure A. As soon as the new Library is created, you can assign it a name. Let's suppose that you want to create a new Library to keep track of all the documents related to a new project that you and your team are working on called the Ideas Project.

To continue, just click on the new Library, and you will see that it is empty, as shown in Figure D. You can begin adding folder locations by clicking the Include a Folder button. When you do, you'll see a standard browse folder, and you can select the folder that you want to include.

Figure D

Just click the Include a Folder button to get started.
To add additional folders, click the locations link to access a Library Locations dialog box like the one shown above in Figure C. As you can see in Figure E, I have added three folders from three different locations to the Ideas Project Library on my system. Now, whenever I need to find documents related to the Ideas Project, I will be able to find them easily without having to rummage around multiple locations.

Figure E

You can add specific folders to your Library to make it easy to find related documents.

What's your take?

Now that you know how to create your own Libraries targeted to a specific project or topic, are you likely to create new Libraries? If you have created your own Libraries in the past, what was your experience? 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.

By Greg Shultz

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.