Long-time subscriber Greg H. wrote with a question that has been bugging him with Windows 7:
In switching from XP to Win 7, I now see that whenever I want to open Windows Explorer, all I get is the Libraries page, where I can’t really find anything. I’m running Win 7 Pro and wonder if there is a way to get back to the traditional/classic Windows Explorer view where everything opens as a tree and I can search through my drives and folders that way.
In this case, Greg was almost there…
In Windows 7, Windows Explorer’s display is similar to the old Windows Explorer. However, there are some new features that are always shown at the top of the left window panel.
At the top, we get Favorites. This gives us the following three sub-sets:
- Desktop — clicking on Desktop in the left window pane will use the right window pane to show all the links on the Windows Desktop.
- Downloads — this is a shortcut to the Downloads folder in My Documents
- Recent Places — clicking on Recent Places will use the right window pane of Windows Explorer to show the folders that we’ve recently used.
Next is a link for Desktop. This is the one that takes the most adjustment of our minds.
The first item in Desktop is Libraries. Libraries are a Windows 7 concept. We’re able to use Libraries as easy collections of folders scattered across our hard drive(s). Think of it as a shortcut, with the items in the Library also being shortcuts. By default, Libraries include Documents, Music, Pictures and Videos — and link to the current logged-in user’s My Documents, My Music, My Pictures and My Videos folders.
The next subgroup under Desktop is Homegroup — the Windows 7 version of the networking Workgroup that was introduced long ago. Windows 7 also supports Workgroups, so we can share files, folders and printers between Windows 7 and earlier versions of Windows, as well as with Linux computers via Linux’s Samba file-sharing.
The last item in Desktop is the current logged-in UserID, giving quick access to all the that user’s various folders normally found within C:\Users\[UserID]
Finally, we get the Computer link (as in My Computer). We can click on the plus sign beside Computer in the left pane of the Windows Explorer window, similar to any other version of Windows Explorer, and it will show us the drives we have — hard drive partitions, floppy drives, CDROM/DVD/BluRay drives, removable drives (flash drives, external hard drives, etc.).
We can click on Computer in the left pane of Windows Explorer, which will make it display all those same things in the right window pane.
This is the easiest way to move around in Windows Explorer.
If you’re running a relatively slow computer with Windows 7, you’ll be better off to use the Computer > C: route to get to folders than to use Libraries. The system overhead of Libraries just seems to take too much extra effort.
I’m still using a 6-year old Dell laptop, with a 1.7 GHz Pentium M processor and 2GB memory. Later processors will do much better than mine.