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Personalizing and Configuring Windows 7 : The Windows 7 User Interface (part 2) - Configuring Folder Options

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12/22/2014 8:39:51 PM

2. Configuring Folder Options

Although the version of Windows Explorer found in Windows 7 is quite a bit different from that found in Windows XP and Windows Vista, some things haven't changed much at all. One of these things is Explorer's Folder Options functionality, which is typically accessed via the (hidden, in Windows 7) Tools menu. (You can also access Folder Options directly via Start Menu Search; just type folder options.) The Folder Options dialog, shown in Figure 5, presents three tabs that are chock-full of configurable goodness.

Figure 5. Folder Options hasn't changed much since Windows Vista, which is fine, as it's still very useful.

On the default General tab, you'll see options that broadly affect all Explorer windows. For example, you can switch between opening each folder in its own window or a single window and choose whether or not to automatically show all folders in the Navigation pane.

Things really get interesting on the View tab. As shown in Figure 6, this tab provides a massive number of settings, so it's easy to get lost.

Some of the key settings you can configure here include the following:

  • Always show menus: By default, menus are hidden (made visible by pressing the Alt key).

  • Hidden files and folders: By default, hidden files and folders are ... hidden.

  • Hide extensions for known file types and Show drive letters: In a long-standing bid for simplicity, Microsoft is working to at least hide things that confuse people, such as drive letters and file extensions. You can re-enable the display of file extensions, however, and you can hide the display of drive letters.

  • Hide protected operating system files (Recommended): There are hidden files, and then there are hidden files. Protected operating systems are the latter, and they are replaced automatically by Windows 7 if you try to modify or delete them, so Microsoft just hides them to avoid any confusion.

  • Use check boxes to select items: it's enabled by default on Tablet PCs (and Ultra-Mobile PCs) but disabled by default on all other systems (including touch-based PCs, where this functionality would also be quite useful).

  • Use Sharing Wizard: When you right-click a folder and click Share with, then click Specific people, Windows 7 utilizes an easy-to-use File Sharing Wizard. If you disable this option, you will be left with the old XP-style Sharing dialogs and tab. While normally we would prefer the latter, Windows 7's File Sharing Wizard is refreshingly simple and easy to use. You should leave it enabled, really. (Remember, too, that Windows 7's HomeGroup feature makes it easier to share digital media content, documents, and printers without resorting to these legacy sharing technologies.)

Figure 6. Virtually anything you'd like to configure about Explorer windows happens right here.

3. Replacing Windows 7's Compressed Folders with Something More Useful

Microsoft has included ZIP compression compatibility in Windows for a while now courtesy of an incurably lame feature called Compressed Folders. This feature is still present in Windows 7, but it's pretty basic, so we recommend replacing it with a worthier alternative—WinRAR (www.rarlabs.com), which works with the more efficient RAR compression format as well as older formats such as CAB, ARJ, and TAR. WinRAR is shown in Figure 7.

WinRAR isn't the only compression game in town. If you're looking for maximum squeeze capabilities, look into WinRK (www.msoftware.co.nz). Other more popular alternatives to consider include PKZIP for Windows (www.pkware.com), WinZIP (www.winzip.com/), SecureZIP (www.securezip.com), and 7-Zip (www.7-zip.org).

Figure 7. WinRAR is an awesome compression utility and far superior to Compressed Folders.
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