Customizing Windows 7’s Desktop - Navigating common folders and customizing the listed features

The Start menu’s right pane provides access to commonly used folders and features. Though at first glance it may seem that this part of the Start menu is similar to the Start menu in Windows XP, this is deceiving, because there are major changes in the locations accessed by these buttons.

In Windows XP, your documents are stored by default in personal folders under %SystemDrive%\Documents and Settings\%UserName%. Your personal folder contains a My Documents folder, which in turn contains other folders, such as My Pictures and My Music. Windows XP also has additional folders, such as Cookies, Local Settings, NetHood, and Printhood.

In Windows 7, some of these familiar folders don’t exist. They are implemented as symbolic links that act as reparse points to another directory on the computer. Essentially, these symbolic links redirect programs from locations where these folders were stored in Windows XP and earlier versions of Windows to where the folders are stored currently. If you’re ever curious about exactly how they work, open a command prompt and type dir /al. As the default directory for the command prompt is your user profile directory, you’ll then see a list of the hidden symbolic links in your user profile directory. With the dir command, the /A option displays files and folders with specified attributes and the l specifies that you want to display symbolic links. Other names for symbolic links are reparse points and junctions.

Windows 7 has many environment variables, which are used to refer to user-specific and system-specific values. %SystemDrive% and %User-Name% refer to the SystemDrive and UserName environment variables, respectively. Often, I’ll refer to environment variables using this syntax: %VariableName%. If you’d like to view the current value of any of these variables, click the Start menu, choose All Programs -> Accessories -> Command Prompt. Then type echo %VariableName%, such as echo %SystemDrive%, and then press Enter to see the value.

In Windows 7, your documents are stored by default in personal folders under %HomeDrive%\%HomePath%. Your personal folder contains the following folders:
AppData
A hidden system folder for storing your application data

Contacts
Contains your contacts for use in your mail programs

Desktop
Contains your desktop configuration settings

Downloads
Contains programs and data you’ve downloaded from the Internet

Favorites
Contains your Internet favorites

Links
Contains your Internet links

My Documents
Contains your word processing documents

My Music
Contains your music files

My Pictures
Contains your pictures and digital images

My Videos
Contains your video files

Saved Games
Contains saved game data

Searches
Contains your saved searches

If you examine some of these folders from the Command Prompt, you’ll see that they appear without the “My” prefix. For example, you’re my Documents folder is %HomeDrive%\%HomePath%\Documents.


In Windows 7, shared public documents are stored by default in public folders under %Public%. The public folder contains the following folders:

Desktop
Contains the shared desktop configuration. Any public desktop items show up on all user desktops.

Downloads
Contains shared, public programs and data downloaded from the Internet

Favorites
Contains shared, public Internet favorites

Libraries
Contains shared, public libraries

Public Documents
Contains shared, public word processing documents

Public Music
Contains shared, public music files

Public Pictures
Contains shared, public pictures

Public Recorded TV
Contains shared, public recorded television files

Public Videos
Contains shared, public video files


In addition to personal and public folders, Windows 7 uses libraries. A library is a combination of personal and public data grouped together and presented through a common view. The standard libraries include:

Documents
Collects a user’s My Documents data as well as Public Documents data

Music
Collects a user’s My Music data as well as Public Music data

Pictures
Collects a user’s My Pictures data as well as Public Pictures data

Videos
Collects a user’s My Videos data as well as Public Videos data


Knowing this, you can put the Start menu’s common folder options into perspective. From top to bottom, the option buttons are as follows:

Current User
Displayed as your logon name. Clicking this option opens your personal folder.

Documents
Opens the Documents library, which contains the My Documents folder from your personal folder and the Public Documents folder.

Pictures
Opens the Pictures library, which contains the My Pictures folder from your personal folder and the Public Pictures folder.

Music
Opens the Music library, which contains the My Music folder from your personal folder and the Public Music folder.

Games
Opens the Microsoft Games folder in Windows Explorer.

Computer
Opens the Computer view in Windows Explorer. This allows you to access hard disk drives and devices with removable storage.

Control Panel
Opens the Control Panel, which provides access to system configuration and management tools.

Devices and Printers
Opens the Devices and Printers page in Control Panel, which provides access to devices, printers, and faxes you’ve configured for use.

Default Programs
Displays the Default Programs page in the Control Panel. This lets you choose the programs that Windows 7 uses by default for documents, pictures, and more.

Help and Support
Displays the Help and Support console. This lets you browse or search help topics.

You can add features to the Start menu’s right pane using the Customize Start Menu dialog box. Right-click the Start button and then select Properties. In the Taskbar and Start Menu Properties dialog box, click the Customize button on the Start Menu tab. In the Customize Start Menu dialog box, select or clear options as appropriate and then click OK twice.


Features you can add include:
Administrative Tools
Displays the Administrative Tools menu or window. This lets you access your
computer’s administrative tools.

Connect To
Opens the Network and Sharing Center notification window. You also can open
this window by clicking one of your network icons in the notification area.

Downloads
Opens the Downloads folder in Windows Explorer.

Favorites
Displays your favorite links as a menu. This lets you quickly access favorite
locations.

Homegroup
Opens the Homegroup folder in Windows Explorer so you can view files from other
people on the network (as long as they’ve joined the homegroup).

Network
Opens the Network Explorer. This allows you to browse the computers and devices
on your network.

Recent Items
Provides a menu view that lists recently opened files.

Run
Displays the Run dialog box. This lets you run commands.


Although you may have used the Run options previously, you’ll find the Search box to be much easier to work with. Not only can you use the Search box to open and run commands quicker, but you can also run commands with fewer clicks.

Source of Information : OReilly Windows 7 The Definitive Guide

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