Sometimes the file's name is not all you want to know. A thumbnail image might let you pick out the right image or document, but Windows cannot produce a thumbnail for all types of documents or images. Other properties of a file might help.
A Word document has properties like file type, date created, last date modified, file size, authors, category, subject, title, and pages. Image files have properties for dimensions, camera maker and model, date taken, rating. Other types of files have their own properties.
You can use a property to sort and group the files in the Contents pane of a Computer or File Explorer window.
In this lesson you will learn how to see a file's properties using a ScreenTip, the Details pane, Details view, the Properties dialog, and (WinXP, Win8) the Status bar.
WinXP: Details section
Properties show in:
Vista, Win7: Details Pane
The Details pane is at the bottom of the window. The height can be changed by dragging the top edge of the pane up.
Properties show in:
Win8, Win8.1: Details Pane
The Details pane is at the right of the File Explorer window. It's width can be changed by dragging the left edge of the pane.
Properties show in:
Step-by-Step: Manage Details
|What you will learn:
|to view properties with ScreenTip
to view properties with Status Bar (WinXP, Win8, Win8.1)
to show or hide the Details pane
to use properties in Details view to sort and group
to customize Details view
to use the Properties dialog
to use the Folder Options dialog
Start with , Computer or File Explorer window open to a pictures folder
|C:\Documents and Settings\All Users\Documents\My Pictures\Sample Pictures
| C:\Users\Public\Pictures\Sample Pictures
Vista and Win7 do not show a Status bar for a Computer window. But WinXP and Win8 show some helpful properties on the Status bar.
Properties like File type, File Size, Author, Title, Date created, File Size, Dimensions (for images)
The Details pane is shown by default in Vista and Win7 but not in Win8 and Win8.1.
WinXP shows a Details section at the bottom of the Common Tasks pane.
Scroll, if necessary, to see the bottom section of the Common Tasks pane. Click the double chevron on the Details bar.
Vista, Win7: Organize button
Organize button > Layout > Details pane
Win8, Win8.1: Ribbon
On the View ribbon tab at the left in the Panes tab group, click the Details pane button.
Experiment: Details pane or section
Every object within Windows has properties. The Properties dialog shows all of the properties.
Right click on a file in the Contents pane.
In the context menu at the bottom, click on Properties.
(Your dialog will likely be for a different file than the one used for the illustrations.)
The General tab is open by default and shows properties that all files have, like the file's location and size.
Click on the Summary (WinXP) or Details tab.
This tab shows the other properties of the file. Some of these might be blank.
Experiment: Properties Dialog
Find a file where the Details tab includes a section named Descriptions.
This section has properties like Title, Subject, Tags, Categories, Subject. You can edit these right in the dialog.
To sort means to display items in a particular order, such as alphabetically or numerically.
The Details view is the easiest folder view style to use for sorting the Contents pane. The column headings are actually buttons that can be used to sort the files, in order or in reverse order.
There is no such thing as 'unsorted' or 'remove all sorts'. The default sort is alphabetical on the file's Name property.
There is also a command 'Arrange Icons by' (WinXP) or 'Sort by' on the context menu as well as on the Menu bar or ribbon.
How the default columns sort:
Name: alphabetically by name, with folders first.
Size: numerically by file size, but leaves folders in alphabetical order.
Modified date: calendar order using the date the file or folder was last changed.
Type: alphabetically by file type. However...
Some file extensions are treated as the same file type, so the display is not exactly alphabetical for extensions. For example, the extensions txt and log are grouped together because they are both plain text files.
Only one sort at a time can be applied using the column heading buttons.
Scroll the Contents pane to see the files and their details.
There are a number of different types of files.
Sort with each of the properties.
To group means to display items in groups based on a particular property, such as names that start with the same letter or by file sizes or by the date modified.
Click the green links below to change the illustration from Win8 at the right.
The illustration uses screen shots from Windows 8. Other versions of Windows are quite similar, but there are some differences. For example WinXP groups by name with a group for each letter. You cannot modify the way Windows groups.
Hover overto expand the menu.
A list of the properties that have columns in Detail view appears.
Click on Name.
The window rearranges the files and folders into three alphabetical groups, A - H, I - P, Q - Z.
Open the context menu again and click on
This removes the grouping.
Undo won't work for groups. Unexpected!
The item (None) does not appear unless the view is grouped already.
In Details View, you can resize the column widths, change the order of the columns, and add or remove columns. There is a long list of properties to choose from, but some properties only apply to certain types of files. For example, an image will have a Dimensions property (width X height) and a video has a Length property (how long the video lasts). Those properties would be blank for a document like a letter.
In Details view, you may need to resize a column to show more of the data in that column.
You can pick any of a long list of properties to show in the Computer or File Explorer window. Of course, some properties only apply to certain file types. Your choices will apply ONLY to the current folder.
Right click on the heading of one of the columns in Details view.
A context menu appears, with a check mark by the properties that are currently showing as columns in Details view. You can easily have more columns than will fit inside the current window. A horizontal scroll bar will automatically appear in that case.
Clicking a property in the context menu toggles the column to show or hide. The list closes immediately. To make several changes at once, you can use the Choose Details dialog.
Scroll the window to look for any items that have an entry in the new Company column.
The dialog Folder Options lets you customize the way the folders and files are displayed in a large number of ways. Most of the defaults are good to use, but not quite all. If the display of your folders and files is behaving in an odd manner, check first to see if the folder is sorted or grouped. Then check the Folder Options dialog for changes.
Windows remembers folder choices: The arrangement that you choose for the icons applies to the open folder only. Windows can remember your choices for several recently viewed folders. There seems to be no way to make your choices stick permanently. Once the maximum number of remembered arrangements is reached, making more changes will replace the oldest choices. The maximum for Vista is supposed to be 5000 and for Win7 it is 20,000. How many can be remembered by other versions of Windows is not documented anywhere that I could find.
Apply folder choices to other folders: You can apply your choices for the current folder to all folders of the current type (Documents, Music, Pictures, Video) in the Folder
Options dialog with the Apply to Folders button.