How to turn on "libraries" in Windows 8.1

Photo courtesy Microsoft

(MoneyWatch) If you'veupgraded to Windows 8.1 since the update to Microsoft's platform became available last week, you might have found it a refreshing and user-friendly improvement.

On the other hand, you might be disappointed by a few of the changes, like the half-baked implementation of the start button. More importantly, you might have noticed something is now missing: Libraries. Where did they go?

Microsoft has opted to hide, by default, the libraries for documents, pictures, video and music. Libraries are virtual folders that let you aggregate files from multiple locations on different physical disks and online sources. For example, the documents library can display all the files in the documents folder, a SharePoint location and your Dropbox. It's an incredibly powerful and useful tool -- one of the best features to come out of Windows Vista and be maintained in Windows 7.

Though Microsoft probably opted to hide the feature based on data that suggested many users were confused by or ignored it, there's little doubt that it's a powerful tool, especially for so-called knowledge workers who work with information.

The good news is you can turn libraries back on quite easily. Here's how:

- Open a folder (File Explorer).
- Click the View tab at the top of the window.
- Click Options in the ribbon.
- In the Navigation pane, select Show Libraries.

That's it. Now the libraries will appear in your folder views again.

Photo courtesy of Microsoft

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