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Windows Vista hints and tips

Customise the view in Vista Explorer

Click Start, Computer and a window opens to show the disks attached to the computer. It's an Explorer window and it's probably the most used program on the PC, so is it set up to work the way you want it to, or could it be better? Here are a few tweaking ideas to help you to get the most out of Explorer in Vista.

Vista's Explorer is radically different to XP's and the most obvious change is the lack of a menu bar. Where have all the menus gone? In fact, they are still there and they are just hidden. Press the Alt key and they will be restored to Explorer. The menu bar will be hidden again once you have accessed a menu, but you can recall it at any time with the Alt key.

The strip at the bottom of Explorer windows is the Details Pane and it shows information about the item - file, folder or disk - that is currently selected. The pane can be resized by letting the mouse hover over its top edge and then clicking and dragging it up the window. Enlarging it enables more information to be displayed in it. Select a disk or a folder and you won't see much information, but it's incredibly detailed with media files like photos, videos and music. Some of the information that is displayed is editable, such as the genre, rating, title, and artist in music files, title, author, comment, rating and so on with photos, similar information with video clips. If you don't want to use it though, you can drag the top edge to shrink it or even turn it off completely by clicking Organize, Layout, Details Pane.

The pane on the left is the Navigation Pane and it is divided into two parts. The top half shows Favorite Links and the bottom half shows Folders in a tree view. You can shrink the Folders section to just the title by clicking the down arrow to the right of the title. This leaves more space for your Favorite Links. You can click and drag any folder in an Explorer window to the Favorite Links and drop it to add it. Add your most used folders to it, it saves time and effort navigating to them when you want to open them. You can remove items in the Favorite Links section by right clicking them and selecting Remove Link. (If you mess things up, right click in the empty space below the last item and select Restore Default Favorite Links.)

The Favorite Links doesn't have an up/down arrow to shrink or grow it like the Folders section does. However, you can hide the Favorite Links section by letting the mouse hover over the divider between Favorite Links and the Folders section, and then clicking and dragging the Folder section up. You can drag it right up to the top of the window so that Favorite Links is completely covered and is now hidden.

Selecting Organise, Layout, Navigation Pane hides or shows the left Favorite Links/Folders pane.

There is one more pane that you may or may not see. It might be visible in some folders, but not others, or maybe not at all in any folders. Select Organise, Layout, Preview Pane to display it on the right. To resize the Preview Pane, let the mouse hover over the left edge of the pane border and then click and drag it left or right. When a file is selected, if possible, Windows will show the contents in the Preview Pane. It's excellent for photos and other artwork and by making the pane larger you can see a large preview of images. If you select a music or video file in the Explorer window, you'll see a mini media player in the Preview Pane and you can play it straight away without loading Windows Media Player. You can view the contents of text files and saved web pages, and so on. It's a superb feature.

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