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How to use Libraries in Windows 10

Remember the old saying "A place for everything and everything in its place"? Same holds true for your files inside of Windows 10. And managing your files in Windows 10 can be a breeze when you use Libraries.

One of my favorite Windows file / folder organization features has to be Libraries. Libraries are really nothing more than a collection of shortcuts to the original file / folder locations. But the locations can be either on your local computer or on a network drive. Once you add a location to a library, it's just one-click away inside of File Explorer.

Now let's not confuse user file folders with Libraries. User file folders are actual folders; Libraries are collections of short-cuts to user file folders. In fact, your user files are already included in the Libraries by default. User file folders have to be located on your computer, but Libraries can be short-cuts to both local and network file folders.

How to enable the Library view in Windows 10

It's kind ironic that one of the coolest features that I can think of inside of Windows 10 is hidden by default. But you can un-hide Libraries in just seconds. Here's how:

  1. Open File Explorer by either
    • Left-clicking on the File Explorer icon on the Taskbar.
    • Left-clicking the Start button and left-clicking on File Explorer.
    • Right-click on the Start button and left-click on File Explorer from the Power User menu.
    • Press the Windows logo key Windows logo key + E.
  2. Left-click on the View tab on the top of the Ribbon.
    How to enable the Library view in Windows 10
  3. Left-click on Navigation pane button and left-click on Show libraries.

How to modify Library properties in Windows 10

We are all familiar with files and folders, but when Windows 7 came out; we got another way to manage them, Libraries. Libraries are where you go to manage your documents, music, pictures, and other files. You can browse your files the same way you would in a folder or you can view your files arranged by properties like date, type, and author.

In some ways, a Library is similar to a folder. For example, when you open a Library, you'll see one or more files. However, unlike a folder, a Library gathers files that are stored in several locations. This is a subtle, but important, difference. Libraries don't actually store your files, just shortcuts to them. Libraries monitor folders that contain your files, and let you access and arrange the files in different ways. For instance, if you have music files in folders on your hard disk and on an external drive you can access all of your music files at once using the Music Library.

Windows 10 has four (4) default libraries (Documents, Music, Pictures and Videos) and includes links to your user files by default. Remember that you can add up to fifty (50) folders to a Library. And if you like, you can also create your own Libraries. Here are some other ways you can modify an existing Library.

  • Include or remove a folder. Libraries gather content from included folders, or Library locations.
  • Change the default save location. The default save location determines where an item is stored when it's copied, moved, or saved to the Library.
  • Change the type of file a library is optimized for. Each Library can be optimized for a certain file type (such as music or pictures). Optimizing a Library for a certain file type changes the available options for arranging your files.

How to add a folder to a Library in Windows 10

  1. Open File Explorer by either
    • Left-clicking on the File Explorer icon on the Taskbar.
    • Left-clicking the Start button and left-clicking on File Explorer.
    • Right-click on the Start button and left-click on File Explorer from the Power User menu.
    • Press the Windows logo key Windows logo key + E.
  2. Left-click on the Library you'd like to change.
  3. On the Ribbon on top, left-click the Manage library button.
  4. In the Library Locations dialog box, click on Add, navigate to and highlight the folder you want to add to the Library and left-click on Include folder.
  5. Left-click OK.

How to change a Library's default save location in Windows 10

A Library's default save location determines where an item will be stored when it's copied, moved, or saved to the Library.

  1. Open File Explorer by either
    • Left-clicking on the File Explorer icon on the Taskbar.
    • Left-clicking the Start button and left-clicking on File Explorer.
    • Right-click on the Start button and left-click on File Explorer from the Power User menu.
    • Press the Windows logo key Windows logo key + E.
  2. Right-click on the Library you'd like to change and left-click Properties.
  3. Select the Library location that you want as default, left-click on Set save location and then left-click Apply.
  4. Left-click OK.

How to change the type of files a Library is optimized for in Windows 10

Each Library can be optimized for a certain file type (such as music or pictures). Optimizing a Library for a certain file type changes the options that are available for arranging the files in that Library.

  1. Open File Explorer by either
    • Left-clicking on the File Explorer icon on the Taskbar.
    • Left-clicking the Start button and left-clicking on File Explorer.
    • Right-click on the Start button and left-click on File Explorer from the Power User menu.
    • Press the Windows logo key Windows logo key + E.
  2. Right-click on the Library you'd like to change, and then left-click Properties.
  3. In the Optimize this library for list, select a file type, and then left-click Apply.
  4. Left-click OK.

How to create a new Library in Windows 10

  1. Open File Explorer by either
    • Left-clicking on the File Explorer icon on the Taskbar.
    • Left-clicking the Start button and left-clicking on File Explorer.
    • Right-click on the Start button and left-click on File Explorer from the Power User menu.
    • Press the Windows logo key Windows logo key + E.
  2. Left-click on Libraries.
  3. Left-click on the Home tab, left-click on New item and then choose Library.
  4. Enter a name for the new Library, and then press Enter.

How to remove a folder from a Library in Windows 10

If you don’t need a folder in a Library anymore, you can remove it. When you remove a folder from a library, the folder and everything in it is still kept in its original location. Remember that when you delete a folder from a Library, the folder and everything in it is deleted in its original location.

  1. Open File Explorer by either
    • Left-clicking on the File Explorer icon on the Taskbar.
    • Left-clicking the Start button and left-clicking on File Explorer.
    • Right-click on the Start button and left-click on File Explorer from the Power User menu.
    • Press the Windows logo key Windows logo key + E.
  2. Left-click on the Library where you want to remove a folder.
  3. On the Ribbon on top, left-click the Manage library button.
  4. In the Library Locations dialog box, left-click on the folder you want to remove, left-click Remove, and then left-click OK.

How to add a network folder that is not indexed to a Library in Windows 10

There will be times when you cannot get a shared network folder added into a Library due to indexing issues. The way I found to get around this problem is by creating a symbolic link.

  1. Open File Explorer by either
    • Left-clicking on the File Explorer icon on the Taskbar.
    • Left-clicking the Start button and left-clicking on File Explorer.
    • Right-click on the Start button and left-click on File Explorer from the Power User menu.
    • Press the Windows logo key Windows logo key + E.
  2. Left-click on This PC and create a folder on your drive for your network folders, for example c:\share.
  3. Create another folder within that folder, for example c:\share\music.
  4. Select the subfolder you just created, left-click the Home tab, left-click Easy access, choose Include in library, and then select the library to which you want to add the folder or create a new Library.
  5. Delete the folder.
  6. Open a Command Prompt with Administrator privileges (click here for complete instructions)
  7. Enter mklink /d, and then enter the path of the folder you just deleted and the path of the network folder. For example, mklink /d c:\share\music \\server\music. If either of the folder names has spaces, encase the path(s) inside of quotes. For example, mklink /d "c:\shared files\music" "\\server\shared music". This creates what is called a symbolic link.

Here's how to create a symbolic link in Windows 8. It's the exact same procedure for Windows 10.

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