Here are answers to some common questions about using folders in Windows 7.

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What is a folder and how is it different from a library?

A folder is a container for your files. Every file is stored in a folder or a subfolder (a folder within a folder). You can access all your folders by clicking Computer in the navigation pane (the left pane) of any open folder.

In some ways, a library is similar to a folder. For example, when you open a library, you'll see one or more files. However, you can't store files or folders in a library. This is a subtle, but important, difference. In libraries, you can include folders from different locations so that you can see the files in one place. This is a good way to keep your files organized so you don't have to search multiple locations to find what you're looking for.

Picture of the navigation pane, showing the Pictures library with three included folders
The navigation pane, showing the Pictures library with three included folders

For more information about including folders, see Include folders in a library.

Should I save my files to a folder or a library?

It doesn't matter. If you save a file to a folder, it appears in any library that includes that folder. If you save a file to a library, the file is actually stored in the default save location for that library. For example, if you save your text files to the Documents library, they will be stored in the My Documents folder, not the library.

To find out which folder is the default save location for a library, see Customize a library.

Can I change the icon for a folder?

Yes, you can change a folder's icon from the default image.

  1. Right-click the folder that you want to change, and then click Properties.

  2. In the Properties dialog box, click the Customize tab.

  3. Under Folder icons, click Change Icon, and then do one of the following:

    • Click an icon from the default list, click OK, and then click OK again.

    • Click Browse, navigate to an icon file, click Open, click OK, and then click OK again.

    • Click Browse. In the Icon files list, click All files, navigate to a compatible file (such as a Bitmap file), click Open, click OK, and then click OK again.

    • To change the folder icon back to its default image, click Restore Defaults, click OK, and then click OK again.

Note

  • Some options, including the ability to change a folder’s icon, are not available when you access a folder through a library.

Where are the menus that used to appear at the top of open folders in previous versions of Windows?

Menus are hidden by default because the most common menu commands can now be accessed on the toolbar. To display menus, press ALT; or click Organize, point to Layout, and then click Menu bar.

Where did the folder list go?

The folder list (also called the folder tree) can be found in the navigation pane (the left pane) of any open folder, under Computer.

Picture of the folder list in the navigation pane
The folder list in the navigation pane

If you don't see the navigation pane, click Organize, point to Layout, and then click Navigation pane. For more information, see Working with the navigation pane.

Why doesn't Windows remember a folder window's size and location on the desktop?

In Windows Vista, a folder window opens at the same size and location on the desktop that it did the last time you closed it, based on the location where the folder is stored. For example, if you resize the Music folder window and then close it, it'll be the same size the next time you open it.

Windows 7 remembers one size and location setting for all your folders and libraries. So each time you open Windows Explorer, it'll open at the same size and location on the desktop that it did the last time you closed it, regardless of which folder or library you open.

What is the address bar and what kind of information does it display?

The address bar is next to the search box at the top of every open window and displays your current location. Click a location in the address bar to navigate directly to it.

Picture of the address bar
The address bar

For more information, see Navigate using the address bar.