Q. What are libraries in Windows 7?

A. In Windows Vista you have particular folders for certain types of data in your profile, such as Documents, Pictures, and Music, as well as the Public folder, which is visible to everyone on the same network. In Windows 7 you still have folders in your profile for documents, pictures, and others, but they aren't the focus of Explorer, searching, or File dialogs. If you open your profile, you'll find your personal folders for major data collections such as Personal Documents and Personal Pictures (instead of Documents and Pictures in Vista or My Documents and My Pictures in Windows XP). There's also a Public profile which contains Public Documents, Public Pictures, and so on.

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Your libraries contain your Personal and shared folders and more, giving you a unified view of both your personal and public data. You can add additional folders to libraries for an easy view and search area for data stored in multiple locations. By default there are four libraries in Windows 7, as shown here: Documents, Music, Pictures, and Videos, each of which links to the relevant personal and public folders. You can add and remove folders from the library, as you can see in the image with the Documents library, which links to custom folders where most of my documents reside.

You can use libraries as a shortcut to the parts of your data collections you access most, but their real power comes in searching and viewing types of data. For example, I can choose to arrange the library by type instead of folder, which will then group all the data into its type, regardless of which folder it actually resides in, as shown here.

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When you select one of the data types, you'll see files of that type from anywhere in the library. You can examine the properties of a library to change its "optimization." This optimization modifies how the folder is displayed. For example, if a library is optimized for documents it will give options to arrange by data type, author, tags, and dates. If a folder is optimized for music, it gives options to arrange album, artist, genre, and ratings.

All of Windows 7 is based around the libraries. Programs like Media Player and Media Center will now use the content in your libraries instead of their own library mechanisms, so you only maintain one library.

Related Reading

Check out hundreds more useful Q&As like this in John Savill's FAQ for Windows. Also, watch instructional videos made by John at ITTV.net.
TAGS: Windows 8
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