Are you’re particular about the way Windows Explorer presents each folder’s contents? Here we show you how to take advantage of Explorer’s built-in templates, which cuts down the time it takes to do customizations.
Note: The techniques in this article apply to Windows XP, Vista, and Windows 7.
When opening a folder for the first time in Windows Explorer, we are presented with a standard default view of the files and folders in that folder.
It may be that the items are presented are perfectly fine, but on the other hand, we may want to customize the view. The aspects of it that we can customize are the following:
- The display type (list view, details, tiles, thumbnails, etc)
- Which columns are displayed, and in which order
- The widths of the visible columns
- The order in which the files and folders are sorted
- Any file groupings
Thankfully, Windows offers us a shortcut. A particular folder’s settings can be used as a “template” for other, similar folders. In fact, we can store up to five separate sets of folder presentation configurations. Once we save the settings for a particular template, that template can then be applied to other folders.
Customize Your First Folder
We’ll start by setting up the first of our templates – the default one. Once we create this template and apply it, the vast majority of the folders in our file system will change to match it, so it’s important that we set it up very carefully. The first step in creating and applying the template is to customize one folder with the settings that all the rest will have.
Choose a folder that is typical of the folders that you wish to have this default template. Select it in Windows Explorer. To ensure that it is a suitable candidate, right-click the folder name and select Properties, then go to the Customize tab. Ensure that this folder is marked as General Items. If it is not, either choose a different folder or select General Items from the list.
Click OK. Now we’re ready to customize our first folder.
Changing the way one single folder is presented is straightforward. We start with the folder’s display type. Click the Change your view button in the top-right corner of every Explorer window.
Each time you click the button, the folder’s view cycles to the next view type. Alternatively you can click the little down-arrow next to the button to see all the display types at once, and select the one you want.
Click the view you want, or drag the slider next to the one you want.
If you have chosen Details, then the next thing you may wish to change is which columns are displayed, and the order of these. To choose which columns are displayed, simply right-click on any column heading. A list of the columns currently being display appears.
Simply uncheck a column if you don’t want it displayed, and check the columns that you want displayed. If you want some information displayed about your files that is not listed here, then click the More… button for a full list of file attributes.
There’s a lot of them!
To change the order of the columns that are currently being displayed, simply click on a column heading and drag it to where you think it should be. To change the width of a column, click the line that represents the right-hand edge of the column and drag it left or right.
To sort by a column, click once on that column. To reverse the sort-order, click that same column again.
To change the groupings of the files in the folder, right-click in a blank area of the folder, select Group by, and select the appropriate column.
Apply This Default Template to All Similar Folders
Once you have the folder exactly the way you want it, we now use this folder as our default template for most of the folders in our file system. To do this, ensure that you are still in the folder you just customized, and then, from the Organize menu in Explorer, click on Folder and search options.
Then select the View tab and click the Apply to Folders button.
After you’ve clicked OK, visit some of the other folders in your file system. You should see that most have taken on these new settings.
What we’ve just done, in effect, is we have customized the General Items template. This is one of five templates that Windows Explorer uses to display folder contents. The five templates are called (in Windows 7):
- General Items
When a folder is opened, Windows Explorer examines the contents to see if it can automatically determine which folder template to use to display the folder contents. If it is not obvious that the folder contents falls into any of the last four templates, then Windows Explorer chooses the General Items template. That’s why most of the folders in your file system are shown using the General Items template.
Changing the Other Four Templates
If you want to adjust the other four templates, the process is very similar to what we’ve just done. If you wanted to change the “Music” template, for example, the steps would be as follows:
- Select a folder that contains music items
- Apply the existing Music template to the folder (even if it doesn’t look like you want it to)
- Customize the folder to your personal preferences
- Apply the new template to all “Music” folders
A fifth step would be: When you open a folder that contains music items but is not automatically displayed using the Music template, you manually select the Music template for that folder.
First, select a folder that contains music items. It will probably be displayed using the existing Music template:
Next, ensure that it is using the Music template. If it’s not, then manually select the Music template.
Next, customize the folder to suit your personal preferences (here we’ve added a couple of columns, and sorted by Artist).
Now we can set this view to be our Music template. Choose Organize, then the View tab, and click the Apply to Folders button.
Note: The only folders that will inherit these settings are the ones that are currently (or will soon be) using the Music template.
Now, if you have any folder that contains music items, and you want it to inherit all of these settings, then right-click the folder name, choose Properties, and select that this folder should use the Music template. You can also cehck the box entitled Also apply this template to all subfolders if you want to save yourself even more time with all the sub-folders.
It’s neat to be able to set up templates for your folder views like this. It’s a shame that Microsoft didn’t take the concept just a little further and allow you to create as many templates as you want.
Web2.0 programmer by day, singer by night, Aussie geek Mark Virtue keeps the How-To Geek flag flying Down Under.
- Published 05/6/10