Controlling 'type' of Windows Explorer



The MS document at
talks about different 'types' of Window Explorer, eg., Music Explorer, Photo
Explorer, Document Explorer. In essence, Windows Explorer shows different
columns, etc depending (apparently) on the contents of ('type' of) a folder.

How do I control what 'type' of explorer gets used on a particular folder?

In specific, I have a tree of folders containing JPG and AVI file types.
When any of those folders is opened, one of the columns is "Date Taken", ie.,
it appears Photo Explorer is operating -- that's great, that's what I want.
However, a saved-search that draws from that same tree (and thus has only JPG
and AVI files) does not display the results using 'Photo Explorer' -- it
gives me "Date modified" instead (perhaps that's the Document Explorer view).
How can I get the saved-search to display its folder with the same columns
as the source folders?

More generally, how can I force a 'type' upon a folder? (I can imagine
wanting to do this in particular with saved-searches, which might return a
mix of file types.)

(Is there a way to find the 'type' of a folder? I looked under Properties,
etc but didn't find anything. What determines which 'type' of Explorer will
be used? Another place where I'd expect 'type' to be displayed to me is in
the dialog under Organize->Folder and Views, View, Folder Views, where it
says "... to all folders of this type" -- what type? It'd be helpful if it
said "... of the ______ type".)

I'm using Home Premium in Classic view.

(I'd provide screenshots but unfortunately this forum apparently doesn't
support images.)


brink said:
This will explain it and show you how to do it.

I don't think that works for saved-search folders -- when I
rightClick->Properties on a saved-search folder, I don't see a 'Customize'
tab. Do you?


A saved search called Saved, for example, is actually a file named
"", which has a super-hidden file extension, much like a
Shortcut has a *.lnk extension that you don't see. It's not a File Folder
file type (also called a directory), therefore Windows Explorer can't treat
it as one. Any functionality of "", would fall under the
capabilities and purview of the file type. This can be confusing, given
it's Explorer folder-type view when opening one, which, in this respect, is
like the folder-type view seen when opening a *.zip file. But these
Explorer shell extensions have different context menu items and other
things, like different toolbar buttons in Explorer. All this stuff depends
on the extension type Explorer is associated with, and the way Explorer
is programmed to handle it.

So, in short, while a saved search may look like an opened folder, it's
really not. It shows objects that meet certain criteria, but the list is
not an html-type list, or anything like that, either. For example,
deleting a file in the list will delete the actual file, this being one
functionality of a *.search-ms file type.

Ronnie Vernon MVP


In addition to the excellent information posted by Shawn and Dean-Dean.

Although the Search folders are not standard Vista folders, there are some
things that you can do to customize them.

For instance, you can customize the Columns to display the information you
want to see in the folder. These settings appear to stick between sessions
and reboots. You can also enable the Preview Pane ( Organize/Layout/Preview
Pane ) to make the folder act more like it has the Pictures and Video type

See the bottom of the article that Shawn posted on how to customize the

Tip: If you find a frequent need to post screenshots, you can set up a free
account at one the image hosting websites where you can upload images. I use and it works a treat. This way you can simply post
the URL for the image that everyone can view.



Thanks for the information, dean-dean and Ronnie.

Based on what you explained, I downloaded Visual Basic Express 2005 to write
a visual basic program to display the contents of a search-ms file (which I
arbitrarily called 'saved') -- turned out to be a one-line program:


which displayed the text file below, containing information in XML format.
We can see how column information is stored persistently in the XML to
implement the column features described by dean-dean and Ronnie.

I would have thought Explorer would display a folder (or search-ms result)
using one a of set of 'templates' that would include the usual 'Music',
'Photos', etc and in addition have a 'User-defined', in which case Explorer
would use specific column selections/settings defined for that folder/search.
If a folder/search had no defined template (eg., at first access), Explorer
would guess, based on file type. If the guess was wrong, the user would
override the guess (forcing a particular template, eg ., Photos) or pick
'user-defined' which would allow picking of specific columns for that
particular folder/search. (And/or Explorer could try to 'inherit' as an
initial guess the template of the searched folders, which would be classy.)
It's reasonable for a user to expect the results of a search on Music, for
example, to be displayed by Explorer just as it would display the real
folders that were the subject of the search.

But apparently at this point Explorer can only display search-ms results as
'user-defined' on a column basis and ignores content type or templates.

Interestingly, the VB object OpenFileDialog sees saved searches as folders
(excellent!) and allows selection of a file from within a saved search
(excellent!), but the FolderBrowserDialog doesn't see saved searches as
folders (disappointing). Maybe there is a VB switch or property to get
FolderBrowerDialog to see saved searches as folders?

If FolderBrowerDialog would recognize saved searches as folders (ie.,
'virtual folders'), a lot of power would have been delivered to the user for
'free' -- for example, the Random Photos screen saver provided by MS, which
can now select from a folder tree specified by the user, would have been able
to work immediately upon a set of photos defined by a user-provided saved
search (presuming the Photos screensaver uses FolderBrowserDialog). I wonder
why FolderBrowserDialog wasn't made to work with search-ms, especially since
OpenFileDialog seems to. Not doing it makes saved searches much less

Aside: Is there an easy way to display and edit *.search-ms files as XLM
from Explorer? (especially since Explorer's search interface doesn't display
searches with more than one phrase, for example, the one below, which was
defined using Explorer's search pane but cannot be fully displayed or thus
edited with that same pane -- a shocking deficiency!)

Aside: I'm surprised MS decided to give so much emphasis to folder type,
when so many people may prefer to have type on a file basis (with folders
containing mixed types, ie., files organized by criteria other than type,
eg., project or time).

Ronnie, thanks for the photobucket tip -- I'd prefer if MS would implement
something that supports cut-and-paste of screen capture images (surely
something basic for a communities discussing UI), as recently implemented in
Windows Live Mail, but I'll keep your method in mind until then for future

FYI, here's the contents of a search-ms file:

<?xml version="1.0"?>
<persistedQuery version="1.0"><viewInfo viewMode="details" iconSize="16"
stackIconSize="0" displayName="Search Results in Photos"
viewField="System.DateModified"/><column viewField="System.ItemType"/><column
type="andCondition"><attributes/><condition type="leafCondition"
property="System.ItemFolderPathDisplay" propertyType="string"
operator="contains" value="\baffin\photos"
type="leafCondition" property="System.Kind" propertyType="string"
operator="word eq" value="picture"
type="notCondition"><attributes/><condition type="leafCondition"
property="System.ItemFolderNameDisplay" propertyType="string"
operator="wordmatch" value="panoramas"


"XdN Tweaker" has an option to force Vista to better remember views. This
can make it NOT use the Documents/Images/Music folder views, but instead
whatever view YOU chose.

There is a button to have it switch back to default if you ever want to do

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