Windows 7 : Using the Pictures Library (part 4) - Optimizing Folders for Pictures

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2.5. Optimizing Folders for Pictures (But Not Libraries)

By default, any folder in Windows 7 that contains only image files will be optimized for this purpose. However, you can make sure that this is the case, or manually customize a folder with mixed content to work best with pictures if you'd like. This functionality dates backs to Windows XP, but it's changed a bit over the years.

In Windows XP, you could customize folders for pictures in a variety of ways. You could customize a folder for pictures in two ways in XP: Pictures (best for many files), which would present the folder in Thumbnail view, and Photo Album (best for fewer files), which would present the folder in Filmstrip view.

This functionality was detuned somewhat in Windows Vista because Microsoft moved the picture organizational features into Windows Photo Gallery. The popular Filmstrip view was removed, and there was only one picture-related folder customization option, called Pictures and Videos.

In Windows 7, it has changed yet again. First, you can't even use the Customize this folder option on a Library, so it's a nonstarter for many uses; but if you do navigate to a physical folder—such as My Pictures—accessing this option is the same as it was in Windows XP and Vista: right-click a blank area of an open folder (or right-click a folder icon) and choose Customize this folder. This causes the folder's Properties dialog to appear with the Customize pane displayed, as shown in Figure 10.

Now, instead of a single Pictures and Videos option, as you had in Vista, you will see a separate folder optimization for Pictures.

Figure 10. In Windows 7, folder customization options have been scaled back yet again.


If you really miss Filmstrip view, as I do, you can check out a similar if more unwieldy folder view in Windows 7 to see if it will meet your needs. It's called the Preview pane and you enable it by clicking the new Show the Preview pane toolbar button in the current window, as shown in Figure 11. The Preview pane occupies the right side of the window and shows an automatic preview of the currently selected file, much like the old Filmstrip view.

The problem with the Preview pane is that it's global. That is, once you enable this view, it will be applied to all subsequently opened Explorer windows.

Figure 11. Enabling the Preview pane in folders that contain images gives you an effect similar to that of the old Filmstrip view.
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