How can I set Windows Explorer to show only the folders I want?
Working with Windows Explorer as an organizational tool can be tricky. People believe that the only way to change how folders are presented to the user is to change how they're actually organized on disk -- for instance, by moving all folders with relevant documents into the Documents folder. But this hasn't been true for some time now. With a little work, it's possible to organize how Windows Explorer presents folders without changing their physical locations.
The obvious way to do that is via shortcuts -- placing links to another folder within a commonly trafficked one. But Libraries may be more useful for Windows Vista, Windows 7 and Windows 8. When you add a folder to a library by right-clicking on the top-level folder in the library and selecting Properties, the added folder doesn't actually get moved anywhere. It just behaves in Explorer as if it were physically part of the library. It can be traversed via Explorer's tree view, and contents of the folder and its subfolders will appear when you run a search on the contents of the library.
Many experts don't realize another important fact: You don't have to use the existing libraries. You can make new ones, name them as you please and populate them with whatever folders you want -- just right-click on the top-level Libraries icon and select New. The optimizations for given libraries are limited to documents, music, pictures and video and can't be changed, so if you're in doubt, pick "Documents."
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This was first published in September 2012