The folders of Windows Vista can be customized in ways that never were possible before. You can easily change the icon of the folder as well as the way the folder behaves after you open it. These next few sections show you how you can take advantage of the great new folder features of Vista.
Changing the icon that is displayed for a folder is one of the easiest ways to customize the way a folder looks and make it stand out from the rest. This section shows you how to change the way your files and folders look as you browse through them by taking advantage of the high-resolution icons.
You change the folder icon and the folder picture within the folder properties window. To see what you can do with these settings, create a new folder named Downloads on one of your hard drives. You can save all of your downloads to this folder so that they do not clutter up your desktop. Follow these steps to change the way this folder looks:
Right-click the new folder that you just created, or right-click on any folder that you want to customize, and select Properties.
Click the Customize tab to reveal all your customizing options.
First, customize the icon, because that is the most popular way to customize the look of the folder. To do that, click the Change Icon button on the bottom of the window.
Now you will be able to browse through the list of available system icons or you can specify your own by clicking the Browse button.
After you have selected the icon that you want to use, just click OK to return to the Customize screen. Then click Apply to see your changes.
Instead of changing the icon, you can show an image if you are using one of the larger icon views. This will display your image as if it were inside the folder-a cool-looking effect. To do that, just click the Choose Picture button on the Customize screen and specify an image to be displayed on the file.
After selecting the image, click OK to save your change. Then click Apply on the Customize screen to see your changes. Remember that you will see your new image only if you are using medium icons or larger. You can change to Thumbnail view by clicking the Views menu item.
When you are finished changing the way your folder looks, just click OK to save your changes and exit the folder properties window.
Windows Vista uses a few different pre-made templates, depending on the type of content inside a folder. For example, it has separate templates for documents, pictures, and videos, and two for music. Each template will automatically customize the folder view so that it looks best for the type of content that is in it.
You can customize the template that any folder uses so that you can take advantage of the cool new features in Windows Vista's Explorer. This can be done by using the Customize tab in folder properties. Follow these steps to specify the template that should be used for a folder:
Navigate to the folder that you want to modify, right-click it, and select Properties.
Click the Customize tab.
Select the template that you want to use by expanding the drop-down box, as shown in Figure 5-6.
Figure 5-6: Changing the template of a folder
If you have a lot of folders within this folder with the same type of content, click the Also apply this template to all subfolders box so that your changes will be propagated to all subfolders as well.
You have now customized the template of the folder and are ready to customize the view.
Now that you have a specific template selected for your folder, you will have a more advanced feature list to work with so that you can display a lot of useful information about the files in your folder. First, you need to be aware of the views you can use in Windows Vista:
Details view is the default view of Windows Vista. This view shows all folders or files on a vertical list with the most file details shown compared to any other view.
List view is similar to the Details view size but without the extra file information. List view also scrolls horizontally, whereas Details view scrolls vertically.
Small Icons view is just like List view but scrolls vertically.
Tiles view is similar to the other icon views but icon text is placed to the right of the icon, as shown in Figure 5-7.
Figure 5-7: Displaying folders with Tiles view
Medium Icons view is similar to Tiles view but with icon text on the bottom.
Large Icons view is, well, larger.
Extra Large Icons view is ridiculously large, as shown in Figure 5-8.
Figure 5-8: Extra Large Icons view for people that really can't see anything
The Details view can be customized like no other view can be. All the columns that are displayed can be resized, removed, or rearranged, and more can be added. This can all be accomplished by using some of the lesser-known tricks of the interface. To start off, customize a folder that contains a bunch of MP3 files. By now, you should have already changed the template for this folder to one of the music templates so that you can use the advanced, music-specific features. If you have not already done that, go back to the last section to find out how. When you are ready, follow these steps to customize all the different parts of the Details view:
Start off by resizing the columns. To do so, just place the mouse on the vertical line that is displayed between the columns and click and hold the left mouse button while you drag the mouse back and forth.
Add some of the new columns that display song information from the ID3 metadata tag embedded in the MP3 files. Just right-click the column heading and select one of the many new options, such as Bitrate. You can even select More from the bottom of the pop-up menu to see a list of even more items that you can add, as shown in Figure 5-9. Repeat this step until you have added all the new columns that you want.
Figure 5-9: Adding new columns to the Details view
Most likely there will be some columns that you just don't need. To remove these columns from the Details view, just right-click the column heading and select the item once again to uncheck it. This will instantly remove the column from the view.
The last part of customizing the view is to set the order of the columns in a way that you like the best. To change the order of a column, just grab the column header and drag it around by holding down the left mouse button and moving the mouse.
If you want to customize the Details view of a folder that contains other multimedia files such as videos or photos, just repeat the previous steps and you will see additional column features with which you will be able to customize your Details view.
When you first use Windows Vista, all the folders are configured the way Microsoft wanted them. Personally, I don't always like their decisions and prefer to customize them so they are the way I want and then apply that new default folder setting for all the folders on my computer.
To do this, you could change the settings of every folder, but there is a much easier way. Instead, just customize one folder on your computer as described in the previous sections so that you can get it looking great, and then follow these steps to apply the same configuration to all the other folders on your computer.
While the folder that you customized is still open, click the Organize button and select Folder & Search Options.
Click the View tab.
Click the Apply to Folders button and click Yes on the confirmation screen.
Click OK to close the Folder Options window and you are finished.
If for some reason you don't like what you did and want to restore all the folders to the original look, simply click the Reset All Folders button next to the Apply to Folders button to revert back to the Microsoft defaults.