An Explanation Of The Windows 10 Folder/File System

Different Types Of Folder View Explained

In this section I will show you how to change a folder's Contents View (sub-folders and files view) so that you can manage/view that contents better. With picture files (photos) for example you may want them displayed/viewed as Thumbnails (preview icons) whereas for Copy & Paste purposes you may want them displayed/viewed as a List of files. It depends on the occasion/purpose.

In this first example I will show you how to change the display area of the PICTURES folder. So begin by opening the PICTURES folder - Click on the START Menu button and then on the PICTURES shortcut link.

Fig 1.0  Click on the PICTURES shortcut link to open the PICTURES folder

Fig 1.1  The MEDIUM ICONS Contents View of the PICTURES folder

The above MEDIUM ICONS Contents View shows 4 sub-folders and 4 photograph files (pictures) within the PICTURES folder. Ignore the contents for now though, it is the view that matters. To change the current contents view (MEDIUM ICONS) for another contents view (i.e. LARGE ICONS) simply click on the folder's VIEW Tab, to bring up the VIEW ribbon (Fig 1.2 below), and then hover the mouse pointer over the various contents views (options). Doing so will give you a preview of what each contents view will make the folder's view (window as a whole) look like. When you are happy with a particular contents view click on its option (i.e. LARGE ICONS) to apply that contents view to the folder view (window).

Fig 1.2  Select the contents view (option) you wish to use for the PICTURES folder

As you can see from Fig 1.2 above, the VIEW Tab has many contents views to choose from. In this example I am currently using the MEDIUM ICONS contents view but am just about to click on the LARGE ICONS contents view (option) to change the folder's view (display area and window's overall appearance) into large icons. Here is a sample of the other content views.

Fig 1.3  The LARGE ICONS contents view

Fig 1.4  The SMALL ICONS contents view

Fig 1.5  The EXTRA LARGE ICONS contents view

Fig 1.6  The LIST contents view

Fig 1.7  The TILES contents view

Fig 1.8  The DETAILS contents view

Fig 1.9  The CONTENT contents view

Use The Preview Pane For A LARGER VIEW

If you do not want to switch between views but at the same time want to see a preview of a photo file as large as possible, you can be in MEDIUM ICONS contents view and then switch on the Preview Pane for example which allows you to preview a photos file as a LARGE ICON. To do this simply click on the PREVIEW PANE button located towards the top-left side of the folder (window) and then click on a photo file (Fig 1.11 below).

Fig 1.10  Click on the PREVIEW PANE button to display the Preview Pane.....

Fig 1.11  .....and then select a photo file to preview, as a large preview.

As well as the preview pane, which works very well with previewing documents too, you can also sort your files in order of DATE TAKEN, NAME, FILE SIZE, RATING and so on by first clicking on the CURRENT VIEW drop-down menu and then on the GROUP BY drop-down menu before picking an option (selecting a menu-item) such as DATE TAKEN. So if, like me, you have various photo files gathered into one folder from various folders (albums) you could have them arranged into NAME order for example.

Fig 1.12  Click on the GROUP BY drop-down menu for more display/arrangement options

Note: There is also a SORT BY drop-down menu with the same options, but it only affects (sorts the contents of) the current folder (i.e. the PICTURES folder) and not its sub-folders. So use the GROUP BY drop-down menu if you want to sort the current folder's sub-folders too.


When using the DETAILS contents view (Fig 1.8 above) with the PICTURES folder, or any other folder that has media content inside it (i.e. the MUSIC folder and VIDEOS folder), that folder is given another toolbar; with column headings on it such as Name, Date, Tags and so on. This is partly due to the way Folder Options is set up (explained in the next sub-section). Although all contents views give information about a folder or file, when you hover over that folder or file with the mouse pointer for example, the column headings used on the DETAILS contents view toolbar add richness to what you can see at a glance (i.e. file Name and Date the file was created). This is because of the way you can change the column headings, and more specifically because of the way you can choose which column headings to use.

Folder Options allows you to apply certain settings and a contents view from one folder to all other folders of the same folder type. However, this is not always a good idea, especially if you normally view photo files as MEDIUM ICONS for example but this time apply the LARGE ICONS contents view to all folders of the same type. This would make the photo files in those other folders look too big or out of character. For example: The photo files inside the PICTURES folder might look great with LARGE ICONS but the various files inside the DOCUMENTS folder might look too big with LARGE ICONS.

To change the columns headings for the current folder, in this case the PICTURES folder with a DETAILS contents view, right click over any column heading (i.e. right click over the heading called DATE) to bring up the context menu. From there, left click on the MORE menu-item to bring up the CHOOSE DETAILS window.

Fig 1.13  Right click over the DATE column heading and then left click on the MORE menu-item

The context (Options) menu itself provides you with a quick way of removing the default column headings, except for Name which must remain, by simply unticking those default column headings you do not want to use (i.e. DATE, TAGS, SIZE and/or RATINGS). However, in this example I will remove all but the NAME column heading and then add the DATE MODIFIED column heading using the CHOOSE DETAILS window which is accessed through the MORE menu-item. One reason for using the CHOOSE DETAILS window is because it has plenty more column headings on it - If you have music files in your folder or use the MUSIC folder you can use the BIT RATE, LENGTH and ALBUM ARTIST column headings for example.

Fig 1.14  Untick the column heading(s) you do not want to use

Fig 1.15  Tick the column heading(s) you want to use

Fig 1.16  The column headings have been modified

To arrange information in a certain order, either ascending or descending order, simply click on the appropriate column heading to do so. For example: In the example below I wanted the information arranged in Date Modified order, as opposed to Name order, so I clicked on the DATE MODIFIED column heading. If I then wanted the information back in Name order I would need to click on the NAME column heading. Clicking on a column heading toggles (rotates) its data list (i.e. Names) into ascending order and descending order (i.e. A-Z order and then Z-A order). More information and examples on customizing column headings can be found in the Customize Windows Mail Columns section.

Fig 1.17  Click on a column heading to arrange its data list (i.e. Names or Dates) in ascending or descending order

After using the PICTURES folder (window) and other types of window such as e-mail program windows you should begin to realise that certain windows have common elements on them, such as window panes and column headings, that can be manipulated in the same way as above. Many third party software titles for example use the common List View - A view like the DETAILS contents view but it can have Grid Lines on it to separate its information (data list). Microsoft Excel 2016 is one example.


Folder Options, as described above, allows you to apply certain settings and a contents view from one folder to all other folders of the same folder type. So in the case of the PICTURES folder you could have it and all of its sub-folders using a LIST contents view. And with the MUSIC folder you could have it and all of its sub-folders using a DETAILS contents view. But what happens if you put a music file into the PICTURES folder for example?. Is the PICTURES folder still classed as a picture folder type? Yes it is! Remember: It is the folder itself that inherits the folder options (certain settings and a contents view) and not the files themselves. Hence its name Folder Options, not File Options.

To use Folder Options click on the OPTIONS drop-down menu from within the VIEW Tab and then click on the menu-item called CHANGE FOLDER AND SEARCH OPTIONS (Fig 1.18 below) to bring up (open) the Folder Options window (Fig 1.19 below).

Fig 1.18  Click on the CHANGE FOLDER AND SEARCH OPTIONS menu-item to continue

When the Folder Options window appears (below) it will open on the GENERAL Tab (window), but you need to click on the VIEW Tab in order to change the folder options and/or apply the current folder options. In Fig 1.19 for example I have just unticked the HIDE EXTENSION FOR KNOWN FILE TYPES option and am about to click on the APPLY button to apply that setting change for the PICTURES folder only whereas in Fig 1.20 I am going to apply that setting to all other folders on the computer of the same type by clicking on the APPLY TO FOLDERS button.

Fig 1.19  Click on the APPLY button to apply changes to the current folder only

The HIDE EXTENSIONS FOR KNOWN FILE TYPES option, when ticked, allows you to see file extension names belonging to common file types, such as .jpg, .png, .mp3, .wmv and so on. This means instead of seeing picture file names as 000_IMG and 002_IMG for example you would then see them as 001_IMG.jpg and 002_IMG.jpg for example.

By default Windows 10 hides common file name extensions (i.e. .doc, .mp3, .jpg and so on) but the trouble with this default behaviour is that sometimes, when looking at a picture file for example, you have to guess "Is that picture file a .jpg file or a .png file?" because the file name extension can not be seen.

Fig 1.20  Click on the APPLY TO FOLDERS button to apply changes to all folders of the same type

After clicking on the APPLY TO FOLDERS button the following message requester will appear. Simply click on its YES button to confirm your actions and apply the current folder options and current contents view to all other folders of the same type.

Fig 1.21  Click on the YES button to confirm your actions

One important thing to be aware of with Windows 10 and Folder Options, and more precisely with Libraries, is that Libraries folder options can not be applied to all folders (of the same type). They can only be applied to the current/local folder (i.e. LIBRARIES >> PICTURES). If you want to apply your Libraries >> Pictures folder options globally, to other folders of the same type, using the APPLY TO FOLDER button you must do this from inside your account folder (i.e. from within the JOHN >> PICTURES folder or THIS PC >> PICTURES) and not from the LIBRARIES >> PICTURES folder simply because the APPLY TO FOLDERS button is not available from Libraries. This is because Libraries is classed as a shortcut link to the PICTURES folder only whereas using your User Name folder or the THIS PC folder is using the direct path (path name).

Although the above examples have concentrated on the PICTURES folder they apply equally to the MUSIC folder, VIDEOS folder and so on. Experiment with the folder settings and views in general, and globally apply them, to see what is best for you. In my case I do not use Folder Options all the time because once I have certain options applied (such as the HIDE EXTENSIONS FOR KNOWN FILE TYPES option) I do not really care about the contents view (i.e. I just switch between contents views using the VIEW Tab options). I suspect you will probably do the same once you have experimented.