More than just a pretty interface: File management with Vista Explorer

The default view of Explorer has a slightly busy look

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One of the most significant changes to Vista's interface is the new look of the Windows Explorer file management tool. Explorer has undergone much more than just cosmetic changes. It's now more intuitive and easier to use in many ways--although it may take a little getting used to for those who have become set in the ways of its Windows 2000/XP predecessors. In this article, we'll take a look at the new Explorer and how you can use it to make everyday tasks easier.

Exploring the Explorer interface

The first thing you'll notice when you open the new Explorer is that it's a bit busier than the default XP Explorer window. As shown above, the left pane is now divided into two sections, and another toolbar appears under the Standard Buttons toolbar (Back, Forward, Up, Search, Folders, and View) that's displayed by default in XP. This new toolbar, which offers Organize, Views, Share, and Burn buttons, can't be turned off. (You can opt to not display the Standard Buttons bar in XP.)

Additional buttons appear on this toolbar depending on the type of folder or file that's selected. For instance, when a music file is selected, Play and Play All buttons appear. If a folder containing picture files is selected, Preview, SlideShow, Print, and E-mail buttons appear.

There's also a section at the bottom that displays when the status bar isn't turned on. It shows the number of items in the selected folder--information that was part of the status bar in XP.

Another difference is the way the file path is displayed in the address bar. In XP, if you want to back up to a folder above the one you're in, you can either click the Back button (sometimes repeatedly) or press [Backspace] to erase the part of the folder structure below the one you want to go to. In Vista, you simply click in the address bar on the folder you want to go to, regardless of where it is in the hierarchy. It's a small thing, but it makes navigation a lot quicker.

A subtle but much appreciated enhancement is the behavior of the left tree as you navigate through it. As you expand folders in XP, you have to scroll horizontally to see the deeply nested folders as they are farther to the right. In Vista, the UI automatically scrolls for you as you expand folders. How cool is that?

By Deb Shinder

Debra Littlejohn Shinder, MCSE, MVP is a technology consultant, trainer, and writer who has authored a number of books on computer operating systems, networking, and security. Deb is a tech editor, developmental editor, and contributor to over 20 add...