Folders: It's All in the Details View

SAN FRANCISCO (06/23/2000) - Even the most descriptive file or folder name does not tell you much about what's behind the icon. How do you determine how large a file is, when a folder was created, or what that cryptic three-letter file extension means? Well, you could give your mouse a workout, or you could find out at a glance by using Details view in Windows Explorer or in an open folder window. These days, Windows Explorer and open folder windows are functionally equivalent, so we'll use the terms Explorer and folder interchangeably.

Explorer's View menu has always provided a number of ways to represent the files, folders, and drives it shows in its file pane--the window on the right.

Options include large icons running horizontally by default ( View*Large Icons ), small icons running horizontally ( View*Small Icons ), small icons running vertically ( View*List ), or a tablelike format with columns of information about each file ( View*Details ). The Large Icons view is fine when you are initially getting used to Windows, but most users soon come to prefer the extra information that Details view provides.

Here are some tips to ensure you get the view you want when you open a folder.

Start by trying these suggestions on only one folder. If you want to apply the settings to all your folder views, the last tip in this section ("Customize one, customize all") tells you how. All of them will work if you have installed the Desktop Update portion of Internet Explorer 4 or if you're running Windows 98 or later.

Get the columns of your choice: By default, Explorer displays Details view information in nice neat columns. If you don't need a particular detail, you can eliminate its column to save space. Simply position your mouse pointer over the divider to the right of the column name until the pointer turns into a double arrow; then drag left, shrinking the column until it completely disappears. If you ever want the column back, position the mouse pointer just to the right of the same divider (you'll see that this double-arrow pointer's vertical line is hollow) and drag to the right until you see the column heading again. For the Attributes column in Windows 9 x, you can use the same method; or you can choose View*Folder Options or View*Options , click the View tab, uncheck Show file attributes in Detail View , and click OK . The Attributes column will not disappear until you change the selected folder. (To customize Details and columns in Windows 2000, see the next section, "Get Detailed With Windows 2000 Explorer.")Get more details: You can obtain even more information without using Details view at all. In Explorer, -double-click a file, or select a file or folder and press - to see its Properties sheet. This dialog box lists the usual data you'd find in Details view. It also reports the amount of disk space allocated for the file or folder, identifies a path you can drag over to highlight and then copy and paste the contents into other locations, and specifies the times and dates the file was created and last accessed. (The access date is not available for folders.)Sort it out: Want to see your files arranged by date last modified? Or maybe the oldest ones first? Or grouped by file type? No problem. Just click the column heading to sort by that attribute. Click a second time to reverse the sort order. Windows 2000 gives you more visual feedback for this feature: An upward-pointing arrow on the sorted column heading shows the files in ascending numeric or alphabetical order, while a downward-pointing arrow shows the files in the opposite order.

Order columns around: Don't like the order of columns in Details view? Drag and drop the column heading onto the dividing line between any two columns. When you release the mouse button, the entire column will move.

For your size only: I've described how to change column width by dragging the dividing lines between column headings. You can also force an individual column to snap to the width of its widest element by double-clicking the right edge of the column heading. To resize all columns at once, each to the width of its longest element, hold down and press the plus key ( + ) on the numerical keypad.

View a wider angle: If your file names tend to be long, or if you use a large system font, you may have difficulty fitting all the information into a single window without scrolling horizontally. When you don't need the file preview area on the left side of the Web view in Windows 9 x, you can gain a little more horizontal room by unchecking View*as Web Page . In Windows 2000, choose Tools*Folder Options . In the General tab under Web View, select Use Windows classic folders and click OK .

Customize one, customize all: The most efficient way to get the desired look for the largest number of folders is to apply some basic attributes to all folders and customize individual folders. To do that, close all Explorer and folder windows except one. Give that one the view characteristics you want for all your folder windows. Choose View*Folder Options or View*Options (Windows 9 x ) or Tools*Folder Options (Win 2000). Click the View tab and examine the options listed under Advanced settings. Make sure that Remember each folder's view settings is checked. Check or select any other options you want to include.

When you like the way everything looks, click Apply . Then click the Like Current Folder button in this dialog box. Click Yes to confirm your decision.

This saves the customized view state for all folders, but remember that any subsequent changes you make to specific folders will be saved only with those individual folders, not globally.

Note that this option doesn't save every aspect of your folder. For example, if you set a background picture for a folder by choosing View*Customize this Folder , do not expect to see that picture in all folders--you'll have to make that change to individual folders. Similarly, you will have to adjust the sorting of files (by size, name, date, or any other attribute) for each folder individually because the sort order is not saved globally.

Get Detailed With Windows 2000 Explorer

Details view in Windows 2000 gives you more information than you dreamed possible. But you need to know how to get the information without being overwhelmed.

First, the basics: To get some extra information in Explorer (or a folder window), choose View*Choose Columns . (If you don't see this command, choose View*Details to make sure that this folder is present in Details view.) In the Columns Settings dialog box, check the columns that you want to see in Details view, and uncheck the ones you want to eliminate. (Selecting the Show or Hide button is equivalent to checking or unchecking an item.) You can set the column order by selecting a column name in the dialog box and clicking Move Up or Move Down a desired number of times. Then click OK .

After the dialog box is closed, you can still make changes by dragging and dropping, as explained in the tip "Order columns around" in the previous section, For the most common options, right-click a Details view column heading; then, from the menu that appears, select the checked items to uncheck them and vice versa (see FIGURE 3 ). If you need to use the dialog box, open it from that menu by choosing More . Note, however, that this command and some other menu options are unavailable in System folders such as My Computer and Control Panel.

When might you want to use one of these sometimes confusing options? Check www.Pcworld.Com/aug00/wintips for more information on the new Details options in Windows 2000. Among these is the Accessed column, which lets you sort a folder's contents based on the date each file was last opened, even if the contents didn't change.

Still Another Infotip Tip

In the last issue, I described how to customize and create your own InfoTips and ToolTips--the pop-up text that appears when you hold your pointer over certain objects for a few seconds (see www.Pcworld.Com/jul00/wintips). If you have Windows 2000, you can easily create a tip for yet another type of file--the ubiquitous shortcut file. Right-click any shortcut (identified as such by an arrow in the lower left corner of its icon), choose Properties, and click the Shortcut tab. In the Comment box, type the text you want to appear when your pointer hovers over the icon. This could include a description of the contents of a folder or file shortcut, or a reminder on a program's keyboard shortcuts. The box is small, but the text that you type scrolls, so you can enter up to six sentences. When you finish, click OK and then move your pointer over the shortcut to review the text that you entered.

Better Automatic System Backups

When I run into a Registry problem and try to reboot several times, I can easily overwrite the good Registry backups, since Windows 98 keeps only the last five. Is there a way to modify the Registry so that it keeps more than five backups?

Tim Chu, Knoxville, Tennessee

Simply rebooting several times in a single day shouldn't overwrite any of your good Registry backups--the Registry Checker Tool (scanregw.Exe, ScanReg for short) that creates these backups does so only once a day, not every time you reboot. Rebooting merely causes ScanReg to analyze the Registry and, if it finds a problem, replace it with the most recent backup. The bad Registry is backed up to a special file, Rbbad.Cab (for "Registry backup bad"), where it won't be used for future restoration. If both the Registry and the most recent Registry backup file are corrupt, Windows merely attempts to replace the existing Registry with this recent corrupted version.

It's a frustrating situation to be sure, but at least none of the earlier (and presumably good) backups ScanReg created get damaged or overwritten. Only Rbbad.Cab would get replaced each time. Even so, you might feel safer with more than five Registry backups. You can tell ScanReg to increase the number of backups, and you don't have to modify the Registry: All the settings you need to change reside in a file called scanreg.Ini, which you can modify in any text editor.

Choose Start*Run and type c:\windows\scanreg.Ini (your path may differ); then press . Scanreg.Ini should open in your assigned text editor (Notepad is the default). Look for a line that reads MaxBackupCopies=5. Change the number in this line to any amount from 0 to 99. For example, if you want Windows to keep 25 copies of the Registry, edit the line so that it reads MaxBackupCopies=25 .

You'll find more tips at www.Pcworld.Com/heres_how. Send your questions and tips to scott_dunn@pcworld.Com. We pay $50 for published items. Scott Dunn is a contributing editor for PC World and a principal author of The PC Bible, 2nd Edition (Peachpit Press, 1995).

Windows Toolbox

More Oomph for Your Properties Sheet

Sometimes, the software you want most isn't another program you have to launch, but something that improves the way Windows works. Such a product is PropertiesPlus from Kish Designs. Once you've installed PropertiesPlus, just right-click any file and choose PropertiesPlus, an enhanced version of the normal Windows Properties dialog box. With it, you can change a file's extension without first setting the option to display extensions in Explorer, and you can modify a file's attributes and its Created, Modified, and Accessed time stamps. You can use a single dialog box to make all these changes for a single file, for multiple files, or for all of the files in a folder. Don't worry about the price, either--PropertiesPlus is free. You can download it from FileWorld or from the creator's home page at www.Ne.Jp/asahi/cool/kish.

Find a powerful free alternative to commercial antivirus utilities at www.Pcworld.Com/heres_how/freeware/antivirus.

You just upgraded (or might upgrade) to a DSL or cable connection? See how to beat the broadband blues at www.Pcworld.Com/heres_how/broadband.

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