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Vista's Explorer Navigation pane makes finding and organizing your files easy

Navigation pane

Navigation pane

In my previous gallery, Navigating with the Address Bar in Windows Vista's Windows Explorer, I described how the unique features embedded in Windows Explorer's Address Bar are designed to make everyday file system navigation operations much easier. In addition to the Address Bar, Windows Vista's Windows Explorer provides the Navigation pane. In this gallery, I'm going to take a closer look at the features in the new Navigation pane.

This gallery is also available as Greg Shultz's article, The Navigation pane makes finding and organizing your files easy.

Vista's Explorer Navigation pane makes finding and organizing your files easy

Favorite Links

Favorite Links

As you can see, the Navigation pane is actually separated into two sections, Called Favorite Links and Folders. However, if you click the arrow control in the Folders section, the Favorite Links section takes over entire Navigation pane.

By default, the Favorite Links section of the Navigation pane contains five links, but you can customize the Navigation pane by adding other links, as we'll see in a moment. To begin with, the first three links, Documents, Pictures, and Music, are simply shortcuts to these common folders. Since these are the folders that contain the files that you most likely need to access on a regular basis, having these links at the top of the Navigation pane will allow you to quickly find what you need without having to drill down through a standard folder tree.

The next link is titled Recently Changed and is designed to show you files from your Documents, Pictures, and Music folders that you have created or modified in the past 30 days. As you might imagine, the Recently Changed link is actually a Search Folder.

Vista's Explorer Navigation pane makes finding and organizing your files easy

Searches is the main container for all the Search Folders.

Searches is the main container for all the Search Folders.

The next link is titled Searches and is the main container for all the Search Folders. Search Folders are essentially searches that you save and they are designed to make it easy for you to quickly to find your files, regardless of where they actually exist on your hard disk. When you open a Search Folder, the operating system instantly runs that saved search and immediately displays up-to-date results.

As you can see, there are six saved searches in the Searches folder--four for various file types, the main Recently Changed catch-all, and a special saved search that show all files and folders that you have shared.

Vista's Explorer Navigation pane makes finding and organizing your files easy

You can add your own links to the Favorite Links section of the Navigation pane.

You can add your own links to the Favorite Links section of the Navigation pane.

As I mentioned earlier, you can customize the Navigation pane by adding other links. For example, as I write each week's Windows Vista Report for the month of September, I access the C:UsersGregDocumentsTechRepublic1) Articles20069) September 06 folder. So rather than having to drill down through the folder tree, I can create a shortcut, via drag-and-drop, and add it to the Favorite Links section of the Navigation pane.

Vista's Explorer Navigation pane makes finding and organizing your files easy

You can add custom saved searches to the Favorite Links section of the Navigation pane.

You can add custom saved searches to the Favorite Links section of the Navigation pane.

You can also add custom saved searches to the Favorite Links section of the Navigation pane. For example, I have written lots of articles about scripts in VBScript and often need to reference them, so I created a saved search and created a shortcut on the Favorite Links section of the Navigation pane.

Vista's Explorer Navigation pane makes finding and organizing your files easy

Folders

Folders

If you prefer the traditional folder tree view in the Navigation Pane, you can click the arrow control in the Folders section to bring the folder tree back into view. You can even resize the Folders section so that it takes over the entire Navigation pane.

Conclusion
Microsoft has really done a nice job of improving the navigational features in Windows Vista's Windows Explorer. With the filtering, grouping, and stacking features, the Address Bar, and the Navigation pane finding and organizing your files is actually easy. If you have comments or information to share about the Navigation pane Windows Vista's Windows Explorer, please take a moment to drop by the Discussion area and let us hear.
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