Microsoft Monday

Vista is more known for all of its visual appeal than it is for the “under the hood” types of features. One such feature is the new file management options in Windows Vista that allow you to sort, group, filter, and stack your files. It’s simply a new approach to organizing all of your files in Windows Explorer, and something I think you’ll find convenient. Of course there’s still the option to sort files just as you always have in XP, but there’s so much more to file management in Vista than just sorting. Today we’ll go through how to group, filter, and stack your files in Windows Explorer.

Step 1:

Open up Windows Explorer (Windows Key + E), and open a folder that you’d like to view.  Notice at the top that there are column headings, and drop-down menus will appear when you hover over one of those headings. The four column headings you’ll probably see see are name, date modified, type, and size.  These are always there, no matter which view you’re in (list, icon view, etc.).

column headings 2 

Step 2 – Grouping and Filtering

I like to think of the grouping feature like a file cabinet.  When you have a file cabinet, all of the papers aren’t just thrown in the drawer. Instead, they’re nicely organized into folders and then placed in the drawer either in alphabetical order, or some other form or organization.  Grouping allows us to place files and folders into groups whether it be a group based upon the name in which case it would be in alphabetical order, or the type of file in which case they would be grouped by whether it’s a PDF, a word document, or any other type. The screenshot below shows what I clicked to group my files by files type. First I clicked the drop-down menu besides “Type”, then I clicked “Group.”

file type grouping

Once I clicked “Group,” my files were then grouped by type. Instead of a list of files sorted by name, I had a list of files grouped by the type of file it was. The first screenshot on the left shows what it looks like before grouping, and the second shows what it looks like after grouping. You’ll notice that I have 5 different groups – one for my GIF Image, another for my JPEG Image, one for Microsoft Excel Files, etc. 

grouping files  grouping files 2
click to enlarge

Isn’t it nice how everything is grouped? You can also collapse groups by clicking the arrow at the end of every dividing line for each group. If you were to select group under the column heading “Name,” files would be placed in alphabetical order. If you were to select group under Date Modified, it would divide files into groups based upon the various dates they were modified.  I think you get the idea of how this works.

So where does the filtering come into play? Well, under each column header will be a list of different filtering options. The image below shows me my options for the “Name” column. By checking the A-H option, it will show only the A-H files.

filtering options 

Step 3 – Stacks

Another new feature in Windows Vista is the option to Stack. If I were to stack files by name, they would appear almost like they would with a group, except none of the file names are actually shown.  Instead you’d double click on the stack that you want and it will open up all of the corresponding files.  The more files that correspond with a particular stack, the larger the “stack icon” will be. This is essentially just using Vista’s built-in search engine to find matching files, so this means that it’s able to dive into sub-folders to grab additional matching files as well.

The image below shows what happened when I stacked files based upon file type.

stacked files

Wrapping it up

The new file management options in Windows Vista moves away from the hierarchical folder structure that we were previously used to and can help you find what you’re looking for faster. Gone are the days when your only options were to sort the files in a window in chronological or alphabetical order, and in are the days when you have tons of options to keep all of your files neatly organized.

Thanks for the tip OldManDeath!