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Chapter 5. Organizing Files and Folders > Setting Folder Options

Setting Folder Options

Windows offers a trainload of options that control how folders appear and behave. Some options are trivial, but others have default values that can make Windows harder to use.

To set folder options

In Windows Explorer, choose Tools > Folder Options > View tab (Figure 5.23).

Figure 5.23. In the Advanced Settings list, you may have to double-click the miniature folder icons to show option groups.


Choose Start > Control Panel > Appearance and Themes > Folder Options > View tab.

In the Advanced Settings list, select the desired options (Table 5.2).

Table 5.2. Folder Options
Automatically Search for Network Folders and PrintersTurn off this option if you’re rarely connected to a network and don’t want Windows to scan for network printers, shared folders, and shared disks periodically.
Display File Size Information in Folder TipsShows size information in the folder tip that pops up temporarily when your mouse pointer hovers over a folder icon (Figure 5.24). If you turn off this option, you still get pop-up contents information; to turn off folder tips, see Show Pop-Up Description for Folder and Desktop Items.
Display Simple Folder View in Explorer’s Folders ListWhen this option is turned on, Windows expands the folder that you click and simultaneously collapses the folder previously expanded. (To stop the previous folder from collapsing, click a plus-sign icon, not a name or folder icon.) I turn off this (misnamed) option to restore the navigation method of earlier Windows versions, which shows vertical lines and never collapses folders automatically (Figure 5.25).
Display the Contents of System FoldersBy default, Windows displays a “These Files Are Hidden” message when you try to open critical system folders such as Windows or Program Files (Figure 5.26). Microsoft added this safety feature to prevent potentially disastrous changes. Turn off this option to suppress the warnings.
Display the Full Path in the Address Bar and Display the Full Path in the Title BarWhen these options are turned on, Explorer shows the selected folder’s pathname in the Address bar (if it’s showing) and window title bar. The path lets you know where you are in the folder hierarchy; if only downloads (rather than C:\Documents and Settings\joe\downloads) appears on a bar, you won’t know whose downloads folder you’re in. Turn on at least one of these options, preferably the Address bar so you can copy and paste paths. (For information about paths, see “Exploring Your Computer” earlier in this chapter.) If you display the full path on the title bar, Windows also displays the (usually truncated) full path on taskbar buttons too. Hover the pointer over the button to pop up the full path.
Do Not Cache ThumbnailsBy default Windows stores the images that appear in Thumbnails view in memory so that it can display them quickly when you revisit the folder. Check this box to free some memory, in exchange for a small delay when opening folders in Thumbnails view.
Hidden Files and Folders and Hide Protected Operating System FilesBy default Windows hides critical files that it doesn’t want you to move, delete, or rename. If you show these files, they appear as dimmed icons so you remember to leave them alone. (Technically, a hidden file has its Hidden attribute set, and a system file has its System attribute set.)
Hide Extensions for Known File TypesBy default Windows hides the file extension on standard documents and files (.doc for Word files and .exe for programs, for example). Beginners may be tempted to leave this option on to make Windows appear less intimidating, but everyone should turn it off for the reasons discussed in “Associating Documents with Programs” in Chapter 6.
Launch Folder Windows in a Separate ProcessBy default only one copy of explorer.exe is ever in memory, handling all Explorer windows, the Start menu, the desktop, and much more. Turn this option on to open a new program instance for each Explorer window, so if one crashes, the rest don’t. For technical reasons, if the “wrong” one crashes, you may be left without a Start menu and desktop. Favor leaving this option turned off.
Managing Pairs of Web Pages and FoldersWhen you save a complete web page in Internet Explorer, the page’s text is stored in one HTML file, and its images and scripts are stored in a folder named to match (Figure 5.27). To make Windows Explorer treat this file-and-folder pair as a single entity, select Show and Manage the Pair As a Single File or Show Both Parts but Manage As a Single File. If you move or delete one item, for example, Windows Explorer takes the same action on the other, maintaining the connection between them. To break the file-and-folder link, select Show Both Parts and Manage Them Individually.
Remember Each Folder’s View SettingsTurn on this option to make Explorer remember each folder’s view settings independently. If you turn off this option, each folder inherits the view setting from its parent folder.
Restore Previous Folder Windows at LogonTurn on this option to make Windows Explorer reopen all your previously opened folder windows when you log on. This behavior was automatic in earlier Windows versions but is turned off by default in XP.
Show Control Panel inTurn on this option to make Control Panel appear in Windows Explorer, below My Computer (Figure 5.28).
Show Encrypted or Compressed NTFS Files in ColorTurn on this option to show NTFS-encrypted files and folders in green and NTFS-compressed files and folders in blue. Turn off this option to turn all files black. See “Compressing Files and Folders” and “Encrypting Files and Folders” later in this chapter.
Show Pop-Up Description for Folder and Desktop ItemsTurn on this option to see pop-up information about almost any icon you point to. Turn it off if the little yellow pop-up boxes bug you.
Use Simple File SharingI turn off this option for security purposes. Never mind that Microsoft recommends it be on. See “Sharing Files” in Chapter 17.

Changes affect all Explorer windows.

To restore the options to their factory settings, click Restore Defaults.

Click OK (or Apply).



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