I’ve been looking forward to the libraries feature in Windows 7. For example, on my desktop PC I keep some downloads in my personal download folder – under c:\users\[username]\Documents\Downloads – while others are in a download folder on drive E. It makes sense to treat this as one location, rather than two. Libraries let you view these two folders together, without physically merging them.
That said, Windows 7 tripped me up. I created a new library, called Downloads. I added the two folders. I was annoyed though to see that I had two separate lists of folders in the new library, not one. I wanted a single, merged list.
I clicked around to see if there was a way of merging the lists. I tried the Arrange by menu. If you arrange by Name, you get a single merged list but without folders at all – in my case, thousands of files. Arranging by folder got me back to the separate listings. I tried the Organize menu, but that didn’t help. I tried right-clicking, with promising options like Expand group and Expand all groups, but these were simply different ways of viewing the location groups.
Then I noticed that the default Documents library had exactly the view I wanted, merging the personal and public Documents folders. Had Microsoft included some magic for the built-in libraries, or was I missing something?
I was missing something. I found out what when I clicked Organize – Layout – Menu bar. Of course this is off by default, because someone at Microsoft has a religious aversion to menus; they have been removed entirely from most of Office. But once I had the menu bar, I found the View – Group by option. If I select View – Group by – None, then I get the merged folder list that I want.
In fact, all the Group by options seem to work on a merged list, which leads to strange fact number two: once I had the merged list, it was not obvious how to get back to the non-merged list. It is as if there is a Group by Location which is not on the menu. I did eventually work it out. To get back to the non-merged list, choose View – Arrange by – Clear changes. Obvious, eh?
Incidentally, there is a way of using Group by without displaying the menu bar. You have to right-click in the left margin of the right-hand pane of the library listing. Easy when you know how.