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Windows 7 tips and tweaks

Secret features in Open and Save dialogs

We tend to use Open, Save and Save As dialogs in straightforward ways and when we want to save or open a file, we navigate to the folder to save it in, enter a filename, and click the Open or Save button. There are, however, a number of features that you can access in the dialog, such as hiding or showing the navigation pane, expanding or shrinking the contents of the navigation pane, adding items to the navigation pane, renaming files and folders, and much more. Let's take a look at some of these secret features that you may not be too familiar with.

Start WordPad and select File, Open or File, Save As. The left-hand pane is the navigation pane. Click Organise in the menu bar above and you can select Layout, Navigation Pane to show or hide it. The navigation pane provides quick access to common folders and libraries (collections of folders). At the top is the Favorites, which are your favourite locations like Downloads, Public, Recent Places and so on. You can drag files or folders from the Open/Save dialog and drop them into the Favorites section to customise it. You'll then have fast access to that item the next time you use Open/Save. Right click one of the Favorite items and you can choose Remove to remove it from the navigation pane if you no longer want it. The order of the items under Favorites can be changed by dragging and dropping them. Right click Favorites at the top and you can choose Restore Favorite links to put things back the way they were if you get into a mess.

Windows File dialogBelow the Favorites list are the Libraries, such as Documents, Music, Pictures and Videos. Right click in the empty space below the last Favorite item and the Libraries link. Select Show all folders. You'll see the contents of the navigation pane expand and there are now many more entries in the lower half. Items that are normally hidden are made visible, such as the Control Panel, Recycle Bin, items on the desktop and so on. Right click the empty space in the navigation pane and select Show all folders again to deselect the option and return to the original view.

Right click the empty space and select Expand to current folder. This also expands the lower section of the navigation pane, but in a different way. You'll find that all folders to the current location are expanded. Is it useful? Not always, but on occasions it might be.

The Open dialog looks the same as the Save As dialog, but it's different. Select File, Open in WordPad. Click Organise in the menu bar, then Layout and tick Details pane and Preview pane. The preview pane appears on the right and when you select a file, the contents are displayed in the pane. The details pane is displayed at the bottom and you'll see details of the selected file in it. Of course, it makes no sense to display file previews or details when saving, so there's no option to enable these extra panes. They are really useful when opening files though.

The file display in Open/Save dialogs is just like an Explorer window, as can be seen from the navigation, preview and details panes. Right clicking an empty space in the file display enables you to choose view and sorting and grouping options. Right clicking a file or folder gives you the same options as in an Explorer window, so you can delete it, rename it, print it, send it to items on the Send to menu, and so on.

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