How to Use Windows 7 Libraries

Windows 7 has brought about a number of new upgrades and changes that many, while subtle, bring about a whole new user experience and a new level of ease of use that many users may not even be aware of.

Once example of these new features is Libraries.


What Are Windows 7 Libraries?

Windows 7 Libraries, much like folders, help to organize and search for your music, documents, videos, and photos.

If you’re like me, your media might not be all in one place — or in it’s designated location, i.e. music in the Music folder and photos in the Pictures folder. While older generations of Windows hoped you would simply use the default “My Pictures” or “My Music” folders, in real world use, that is rarely the case.

Perhaps you have your most listened to music in a folder on your desktop, or some oversized HD home videos on a secondary hard drive. In any case, not all of your media will be in your “My Documents” folder.

And that’s where Libraries are different from folders; Libraries don’t actually store your media like folders do, but rather store the locations of your media.

See, older generations of Windows would set priority to index the “My Documents” folder for search, while Windows 7 indexes your Libraries for search — so once you set the folder locations in your Libraries, searching for your media in Windows 7 will be much faster, and much easier.

Windows 7 Photo Library


Organizing Libraries to Index Your Media

Organizing your media into libraries is very straightforward and is actually built right into explorer in more ways than one. Also, the default libraries already contain two folder locations, your user folder (for example, “Pictures”) and the public version of that folder.

If you would like to add more locations, you’ll first want to find your media folders. Let’s say, I have some photos on my secondary drive (D:) in the “Photos” folder. All I would have to do is navigate to my “D:” drive, and right click on the folder and choose “Include in Library” and choose a library — that’s it!

Windows will automatically index the files and include them in your selected library. No need to move your folder or change the file structure, simply visit your library and you will see your media show up, mixed in with any other folders you decide to include.

You can even include folders on external drives and on other computers within your network. Simply use the same method outlined above — find your folder on the external drive, or in my next example, a network folder.

Let’s say I want to add files on my fiancé’s computer, onto mine. First, I’ll navigate to her shared folders using windows explorer, in this case, “MariasLaptop.” Let’s say we just went on a vacation to a concert and got some great photos; I want to be able to view those from within my own “Pictures” library.

Rather than take up space on both systems, I can simply navigate to that folder on the network, \MariasLaptop, right click on the folder TheBigConcert, and choose Add to Library and then finally, Pictures. Now, as long as her laptop is accessible, the photos from the big concert will be viewable and searchable within my Pictures library!

It’s as easy as that to add media to your libraries, all while saving space, keeping your own folder structures, and including/excluding anything you decide to.


Searching Your Windows 7 Libraries

While searching in Libraries seems fairly straightforward, as it should be, there are some things that many people, even those familiar with libraries, might not know about.

When searching for files, most people simply write in the name of the file, however, what if your files are all named by your digital camera? Nobody can remember their photos by numbers.

Windows 7 features some new ways to search — for example, search filters/keywords. When you click the search box, you will see three search filter examples, Date Taken, Tags, and Type. While these are definitely useful, Windows search offers up a few more special search functions that work with Windows 7 Libraries.

One example of a search filter would be a file extension. Did you know that Windows searches for more than just the file name, but also the extension and internal file data?

By simply typing in a file extension such as JPG, you can filter out to only see media of that file type. If you don’t know the extension, you can also type picture, document, music, or videos to search for those specifically. You can also search by date modified by typing in Modified:12/15/09 or Modified:2010 and find files changed during said time period.

You can also combine search filters, for example, let’s say I want to find some of my garden photos from back when I first started in 2008 to compare to what they look like now. I could use datetaken:2008 tags:garden. By simply adding a space between filter keywords, you can refine your library searches to find exactly what you need in record time.

For an exhaustive list of search filters and advanced query syntax, visit Microsoft’s Advanced Syntax page.


Using Boolean Logic to Search Windows 7

Boolean filters also work; if you are unfamiliar with Boolean filters, they are basically easy to understand keywords to help alternate what content you want, and what content you don’t want.

Boolean Filters include:

  • AND — example: blue AND bird
  • NOT — example: blue NOT bird
  • OR — example: blue OR bird
  • Quotes — example: “blue bird”
  • Parentheses — example: (blue bird)
  • > — example: date: > 03/03/09
  • < — example: size: < 2 MB

By using these filters, you can change up your results to find just what you’re looking for in your libraries.

Blue AND bird — will bring results that contain both words, even if these words are in different places within the file.

Blue NOT bird — will only show results that contain the word “blue,” but not the word “bird.”

OR — will find results with either one or the other word

Quotes — are to find the exact phrase.

Parentheses — are used to find words in any order.

The greater and less than symbols are used for things like dates and file size.

Give Your Windows 7 Libraries a Try

Windows 7 Libraries can provide a great way to organize your media and generally make your life and work easier.

Libraries are definitely a step up from older generation operating system media folders, and I feel that they truly give the user control over their files. Hope this article helped spread some light on Windows 7 libraries and Windows Search, making organizing your life, just a bit easier.


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