Understanding Libraries

by Barry Dysert
(last updated September 29, 2014)

3

Libraries are a feature of Windows Explorer that helps you navigate the Windows file system quickly and easily. A library is essentially a container that points to files and folders that exist anywhere on your system. Since the files pointed to from the library remain in their original locations, updating them means that you'll see the updated version in the library just as if you were looking at the actual file itself.

Windows comes with four default libraries: Documents, Music, Pictures, and Videos. You can add your own libraries as well as delete libraries. (Adding and deleting libraries are covered under other tips.)

You can have any number of libraries defined on your system, and each library can point to any number of folders. For example, when I expand my Documents library, I see that it actually is pointing to the "My Documents" folder as well as the "Meeting notes" folder. (See Figure 1.)

Figure 1. Windows Explorer, showing the expanded Documents library.

When you open a library in Windows Explorer, the right pane shows the actual folders and files in the library. The left pane shows the hierarchy for the library, so that you can see what folders are contained within the library. Clicking on the "2 locations" link (just under the "Documents library" wording at the top of the dialog box) pops up the Library Locations dialog box, which shows each location in the library so that you don't have to scroll the Windows Explorer window to get to the next location. (See Figure 2.)

Figure 2. The Documents Library Locations dialog box.

The thing to remember about libraries is that they contain pointers to your files and folders, which remain in their original locations. If you have a lot of files scattered among a lot of folders, using libraries is a great way to quickly find what you need. Libraries do not contain shortcuts, which is an important distinction. (When you delete a shortcut to a file the original file remains undisturbed on Windows—all you've done is to delete the shortcut to that file. If you delete a file within a library, the actual file itself is deleted.)

 This tip (11989) applies to Windows 7 and 8.

Author Bio

Barry Dysert

Barry has been a computer professional for over 30 years, working in different positions such as technical team leader, project manager, and software developer.  He is currently a senior software engineer with an emphasis on developing custom applications under Microsoft Windows. ...

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What is 8 + 8?

2016-02-29 11:29:22

Janice

I can add a tag to a file, but how do I add a Comment. You had mentioned to someone else about using Karen's Directory Printer. I downloaded it, great, however, it doesn't pick up "tags", so thought I'd enter data in "Comments", but how do I do that???

Thanks


2014-09-30 14:32:08

Barry

Assuming I understand your question, then yes. You can have the physical files located on any drive, and yet the libraries can point to them.


2014-09-30 14:26:33

Peter Super

Does this mean that if I have My Documents directed to a secondary drive, the files and folders located in the secondary drive also show in the Library Documents folder on the C drive?


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