Software Report [Windows Tips: Tame Oversize Files and Folders - 05/04/2005]



May 4th, 2005

Windows Tips: Tame Oversize Files and Folders

Contributing Editor Scott Dunn

Your files aren't getting any smaller or less plentiful. Whether
they're Word documents, JPEGs, MP3s, or AVI movies, the files on your
hard drive keep getting bigger and bigger, and the folders holding
them more numerous than loopholes in political fund-raising laws. To
prevent Windows from choking, you need techniques and tools to
streamline file management and folder navigation.

Every time you want to make a new folder, you either select a folder
in an Explorer window and choose File, New, Folder, or right-click in
a folder window and select New, Folder. John Swan of Bakersfield,
California, wants to know if there is a faster way. I know of at least

Get Keyboard Creative: With an Explorer window open, press Alt-F, and
then N and F (in Windows 98); or Alt-F, and then W and F (in later
versions). This shortcut works whether the active selection is in
Explorer's tree pane on the left or in the folder pane on the right.
My favorite approach is to press Alt-F Enter-Enter, although this
strategy works only if nothing is selected in the folder window's
right pane. If a single item is selected in the right pane, deselect
it by pressing Ctrl-Space, and then press Alt-F Enter-Enter to create
the new folder.

Do the Dialog Dance: Explorer's toolbar still lacks a New Folder
button (a feature I first asked for in this column about seven years
ago), but many Open and Save dialog boxes in Windows applications have
just what the columnist ordered. If you're working in a program,
choose File, Save As or File, Open, and click Create New Folder (a
folder icon with a starburst in the top right) just above the file

Make a Menu: Another approach is to add a Make New Folder command to
your right-click, or context, menu. This saves you the trouble of
navigating to the File menu's often slow New submenu. To create a new
context menu item, open an Explorer window (pressing Windows-E is one
way) and choose Tools, Folder Options. Click the File Types tab, and
in the "Registered file types" list, select File Folder and click Edit
(in Windows 98) or Advanced (in later versions) to open the Edit File
Type dialog box. Now click the New button. For "Action," type the
words that you want to appear on your context menu (such as New
Folder). For "Application used to perform action," type /c
md "%1\New Folder" (in Windows 98 and Me) or cmd.exe /c md "%1\New
Folder" (in Windows 2000 and XP).

Click OK and then close the remaining dialog boxes. Now when you
right-click a folder icon, your New Folder command will be available
without your having to navigate through the New submenu. Windows won't
permit you to create two folders named "New Folder" in the same place,
so you have to rename any folder you create before you can choose the
command again.

If you make a mistake in Windows 98, return to the Edit File Type
dialog box, select your new command, and click Edit to change it or
Remove to delete it. However, if you make a mistake in Windows 2000,
Me, or XP, you'll have to alter the command via the Registry Editor,
or delete it and start over. For details on removing such commands
from your context menus, see the section "Resort to Regedit" in last
December's "Windows Tips" column:

For more tips on getting the OS to work the way you want it to, read
"Windows Rejuvenated!":

Spectacular Folder Views

I have ripped 15,015 karaoke song files (37.7 gigabytes' worth) into
one folder. But Windows XP won't let me add any more than that even
though my 160GB hard drive (formatted with FAT32) has plenty of free
space. How can I add more files to my karaoke folder? I don't want to
create more folders; that's too easy.

--Ron Denka, Syracuse, New York

As much as I hate to tell someone how to organize their files, it just
might be time for you to rethink your strategy. It's true that any
single folder on a FAT32 hard disk can, theoretically, hold 65,534
files or subfolders, but this is true only if the file names use the
shorter DOS-style 8.3-character format. The total number of files per
folder drops dramatically when the files use longer names (which
nearly all now do). Windows won't find all of your song files until
you divide them into a few different folders, or rename them all with
short DOS-format names.

Okay, I admit it: If you insist on cramming as many files as possible
into a single megafolder, Windows XP does have some features to help
impose order. First, launch Explorer, select the folder you want to
organize, and click View, Choose Details. Scroll through the
attributes list and check the boxes that you think you might want to
use as a basis for organizing your files. For example, if you have a
folder full of music files, you may want to check Album Title to be
able to sort and arrange files by the album they belong to. Check as
many attributes as you would like to see in Explorer's Details view,
and when you're done, click OK.

Bonus Tip: With Explorer's folder view set to Details (choose View,
Details), you can quickly add or remove the attributes displayed:
Right-click the column headings above the file list and select an item
to display or hide. Note that this menu shows only a partial list of
available attributes; selecting More at the bottom of the list opens
the Choose Details dialog box, which shows the complete list.

With your attribute choices in place, click any column heading to sort
the folder's items by that attribute. To sort by attributes hidden
from view, choose View, Arrange Icons by and select an attribute from
the submenu. To continue the previous example, you would click View,
Arrange Icons by, Album Title to sort files by the album they appear

Now the fun part: To break up this huge list of files into smaller
chunks based on your desired attribute, simply choose View, Arrange
Icons by, Show in Groups. This divides the folder into sections with
headings that represent the category you selected earlier. So,
continuing our previous example, the folder would now show groups of
albums with album titles as their headings.

Some attributes group their own special way. For example, if you sort
by Name, the groups will represent letters of the alphabet. Sort by
Size to create groups such as Tiny, Small, Medium, and Large.

Organizing by groups lets you change a grouping instantly just by
choosing a different attribute from the "View, Arrange Icons by"
submenu. If your folder is already showing file details, for example,
you can change the groupings by clicking the desired attribute heading
that appears at the top of the file list. Reorganizing hierarchical
folders that haven't been grouped could require hours of tedious
reshuffling of files into levels of folders.

Grouping is available for most folder views, including Thumbnails,
Tiles, Icons, and Details (the exception being Explorer's List view).

Easier Folder ID

You may find it easier to spot the folder you need by giving its icon
a distinctive appearance. Windows XP lets you assign a custom icon or
(if you view your files as thumbnails) even a custom picture to a
folder. Right-click the folder and choose Properties, Customize. (Note
that this option isn't available for all folders in Windows XP.) To
add a custom icon, click the Change Icon button under "Folder icons."
Select one of the icons that appear, or click the Browse button to
locate an icon (.ico) file in an application (.exe), library (.dll),
or any other file that may contain icons. Once you've found the icon
you want to use for the file, select it, click Open (if necessary),
and then click OK as required to close all the dialog boxes.

If one or more folders use the Thumbnails view (choose View,
Thumbnails), they may already have a custom appearance, providing the
folders' files are in common Web formats such as .htm for text, or
..jpg, .gif, .bmp, and .tif for pictures (this prefab icon
customization also applies to shortcuts to files in these formats).
Windows automatically creates tiny images of the first four items in
the folder to appear on the folder thumbnail. Naturally, it creates
fewer than four images if the folder contains fewer than four
Web-compatible files or shortcuts. If the folder contains shortcuts to
a Web site, Windows can create images for them only when your
connection to the Internet is active.

Identifying four little pictures on one folder thumbnail requires an
eagle eye. To make your folders stand out, select a single picture for
the thumbnail: Right-click the folder, choose Properties, Customize,
and click Choose Picture in the "Folder pictures" section. Locate and
select an image file as described above, click Open, and then click

Of course, following these steps for every folder you want to
customize can take a little time. To speed things up, locate the image
you want to use for your folder thumbnail, rename it folder (or
folder.jpg, folder.gif, or whatever's appropriate, if file extensions
are visible), and drag it into the desired folder. Windows will
automatically use a file with this name as the thumbnail for that

Bonus Tip: If you can't find a picture to describe the contents of
your folder, visit Google Images and type in a keyword:

When you find a copyright-free picture you like, right-click it,
choose Save Picture As (in Internet Explorer) or Save Image As (in
Firefox), navigate to your folder, and name it folder.jpg. Click Save.
Now the folder's thumbnail will show the image you selected.

Finally, if you find the images in Thumbnails view too big and clunky,
download and install Tweak UI, the free customizing tool from

After you install it, open Tweak UI, double-click Explorer, select
Thumbnails in the left pane, and change the Size number in the
Thumbnail box to something smaller, like 64. Then click OK. You may
need to close and reopen the folder to see its thumbnails regenerated
in the new size.

Windows Toolbox: Put Your Folders a Click Away

Why yet another toolbar for Windows Explorer? Because Folder View
gives you buttons representing the subfolders (or shortcuts to
folders) in its Main Folder (which you choose). Right-click a button
to see an "Open in New Window" option. If the folders have subfolders,
each button has a companion that shows those folders in a menu. Even
though Folder View recommends that you make My Documents your Main
Folder, I find it's more flexible to set the program's Main Folder to
one that I create and fill with my favorite shortcuts. Folder View
provides a pop-up menu of recently used folders, and you can add a
menu version to the taskbar, as well as to the Open and Save dialog
boxes in most programs. Last but not least, Folder View is free--and
you can download a copy from us:

Send Windows-related questions and tips to Scott Dunn at:
scott_dunn at

Read Scott Dunn's regularly published "Windows Tips" columns:

"Until last October, Christ had a very limited involvement in my life. I believed in God; I just never had to prove I believed. Belief is an absence of proof."
-- Boston Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling

My Name

To create a new
context menu item, open an Explorer window (pressing
Windows-E is one way) and choose Tools, Folder Options.
Click the File Types tab, and in the "Registered file
types" list, select File Folder and click Edit (in Windows
98) or Advanced (in later versions) to open the Edit File
Type dialog box. Now click the New button. For "Action,"
type the words that you want to appear on your context menu
(such as New Folder). For "Application used to perform
action," type /c md "%1\New Folder" (in Windows
98 and Me) or cmd.exe /c md "%1\New Folder" (in Windows
2000 and XP).

Nice tip. Fixed error. The above should be: /c md "%1\New Folder

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