Make the most of Windows 7’s Libraries

Fred langa
By Fred Langa

Libraries — special-purpose virtual folders — can be confusing at first. But they are extremely handy, once you get the hang of them.

How to use Libraries is hard to describe but easier to understand when you see them in action — and that’s what this article will show you.

The Windows 7 Help file defines libraries this way:

“… [A] library is similar to a folder. For example, when you open a library, you’ll see one or more files. However, unlike a folder, a library gathers files that are stored in several locations. This is a subtle, but important, difference. Libraries don’t actually store your items. They monitor folders that contain your items, and let you access and arrange the items in different ways.”
OK, but that doesn’t answer the question: what can you actually do with libraries? What’s the real point of them?

Maybe I’m a slow learner, but it took several “Aha!” moments before I finally caught on.

The first moment was when I assembled a library of all my music files, which were scattered across several networked PCs. Without copying or moving any files at all, my new music library gave me centralized access to all the music on all the PCs. I could sort the library’s aggregated contents by album, artist, song, rating, date, bitrate, and more. When I sorted the music by name, I could see instantly that I had multiple copies of the same song in different places. When I sorted by the ratings I had assigned, I could select all the five-star songs, from across all the distributed locations, for local playback. And so on, all without moving or copying the original files. Aha!

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Fred Langa

About Fred Langa

Fred Langa is senior editor. His LangaList Newsletter merged with Windows Secrets on Nov. 16, 2006. Prior to that, Fred was editor of Byte Magazine (1987 to 1991) and editorial director of CMP Media (1991 to 1996), overseeing Windows Magazine and others.