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How to Navigate Windows and Folders in Windows 7

In this chapter from Windows 7 Step by Step, you’ll first learn how to size, arrange, hide, and otherwise manage windows on your desktop. You’ll learn about the standard file storage structure Windows 7 uses, and about the types of files you’ll find on your Windows 7 computer. Then you’ll explore the Windows 7 file storage structure. You’ll also experiment with searching for files by using the different search methods that are available.

Chapter at a Glance

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To simplify the way you work with files on your computer, Windows uses a hierarchical storage system to organize information on your computer in a way similar to the way you would organize information in an office. Instead of organizing pieces of paper in cardboard folders in filing cabinets, you organize electronic files in electronic folders on the storage disks accessible to your computer.

You use Windows Explorer to look at the folders and files stored on your computer. With earlier versions of Windows, the Windows Explorer window could display the contents of only one folder at a time. With Windows 7, you can look at the contents of multiple folders in one window, by adding the folders to a library. This new feature allows you to easily access files while still maintaining an organizational system.

No matter how organized you are and how skillful you become at working with libraries, sometimes you might not remember where you stored a particular file. No problem! Windows 7 includes powerful search features that can help you almost instantly locate files and other information on your computer.

In this chapter, you’ll first learn how to size, arrange, hide, and otherwise manage windows on your desktop. You’ll learn about the standard file storage structure Windows 7 uses, and about the types of files you’ll find on your Windows 7 computer. Then you’ll explore the Windows 7 file storage structure. You’ll also experiment with searching for files by using the different search methods that are available.

Working with Windows

As the name of the Windows operating system indicates, most of the information you view on your computer is displayed in a window. Files open in program windows (windows that host the program controls), and folders open in Windows Explorer windows (windows that display the folder contents). Regardless of the content they display, all windows share certain common characteristics and can be manipulated in the same ways. You can change the appearance of windows by using controls built into their frames, as well as controls available from the desktop and from the Windows Taskbar. Windows 7 provides many new window-management controls that are very cool as well as useful.

Sizing, Moving, and Arranging Windows

You can minimize, maximize, restore, or close a window by clicking the buttons at the right end of the title bar. Additionally, you can use the following techniques to change the size or position of an individual window:

  • To change the location of a window, but not its size, drag it.

  • To change only the height of a window, drag the top or bottom border of its frame.

  • To maximize the height of a window without changing its width, drag the top border of its frame to the top edge of the screen or the bottom border of its frame to the bottom edge of the screen.

  • To change the width of a window, drag the left or right border of its frame.

  • To simultaneously change the height and width of a window, drag any corner of its frame.

  • To maximize the height and width of a window so that the window fills the screen, drag it until the mouse pointer touches the top edge of the screen, or click the Maximize button.

  • To resize a window to the maximum height and half the screen width, drag it until the mouse pointer touches the left or right edge of the screen. When you release the mouse button, the window expands to fill half the available horizontal space.

  • To restore a maximized or half-width window to its original size, drag its title bar away from the edge of the screen, or click the Restore Down button.

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You can automatically resize windows by dragging them to an edge of the screen.

You can use the keyboard shortcuts shown in the following table to work with the open window.

Press this

To do this

Windows logo key+Up Arrow

Maximize the window

Windows logo key+Down Arrow

Resize the window from maximized to its original size or from its original size to minimized

Windows logo key+Home

Minimize or restore all other windows

Windows logo key+Left Arrow or Windows logo key+Right Arrow screen

Snap the window to the left or right edge of the screen

Alt+Tab

Switch between open windows

Right-clicking the taskbar (not a taskbar button) displays a shortcut menu of commands you can use to manage all the open windows as a group.

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The taskbar shortcut menu includes four commands for manipulating open windows.

You can arrange all currently open windows by clicking the following commands:

  • Cascade windows This command displays the windows on top of each other, with the title bar of each window visible and the contents of only the top window visible.

  • Show windows stacked This command displays the content of all the windows arranged in a grid, with more windows stacked vertically than horizontally. For example, eight windows are arranged in two columns of four.

  • Show windows side by side This command displays the content of all the windows arranged in a grid, with more windows stacked horizontally than vertically. For example, eight windows are arranged in four columns of two.

  • Show the desktop This command minimizes all the windows.

In every arrangement, the open windows are sized similarly, regardless of their size before you arranged them.

Hiding and Displaying Windows

In addition to the Show The Desktop command on the taskbar shortcut menu, you can use the following techniques to control the display of multiple open windows:

  • httpatomoreillycomsourcemspimages1412954.jpg Pointing to the Show Desktop button at the right end of the Windows Taskbar makes all the open windows temporarily translucent so that you can see through them to the desktop. The taskbar, desktop shortcuts, and gadgets remain visible. This new feature is called Aero Peek, and is one of the features that works only on hardware that supports Aero functionality.

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    The effect of pointing to the Show Desktop button, located at the right end of the taskbar.

  • Clicking the Show Desktop button minimizes all the open windows. Clicking it again returns the windows to their previous sizes and locations.

  • Shaking the active window minimizes all other open windows. To shake a window, point to its title bar, press the mouse button, and wiggle the mouse. To shake a window when you’re working on a portable computer that has a touch pad, point to its title bar, and then wiggle your finger on the touch pad.

In this exercise, you’ll experiment with the Windows 7 window-management techniques.

  1. httpatomoreillycomsourcemspimages1412786.jpg Click the Start button. At the top of the right pane of the Start menu, point to Pictures.

    The icon at the top of the Start menu changes from your user account picture to a representation of a stack of pictures, and a ScreenTip displays a description of what will happen when you click the button.

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    You can open common windows from the right pane of the Start menu.

  2. On the Start menu, click Pictures.

    The Pictures library opens in Windows Explorer.

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    The Pictures library displays the contents of your personal Pictures folder and the Public Pictures folder.

  3. httpatomoreillycomsourcemspimages1412732.jpg If the Pictures window is maximized when it opens, click the Restore Down button, near the right end of the window title bar, so that the window fills only part of the screen.

  4. Drag the Pictures window by its title bar until the mouse pointer touches the top edge of the screen, but do not release the mouse button.

    An outline of a maximized window appears, indicating the effect of releasing the mouse button in that location.

  5. Release the mouse button.

    The window size maximizes to fill all but the taskbar area of the screen.

  6. Drag the window away from the top edge of the screen.

    The window returns to its previous size.

  7. Drag the window by its title bar until the mouse pointer touches the right side of the screen.

    When you release the mouse button, the window fills the right half of the screen.

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    The effect of dragging a window to the right side of the screen.

  8. httpatomoreillycomsourcemspimages1412924.jpg On the taskbar, right-click the Windows Explorer button.

    The Windows Explorer shortcut menu appears. From the shortcut menu, you can open a new Windows Explorer window, or you can open a folder that you frequently access.

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    The Windows Explorer shortcut menu.

  9. On the shortcut menu, click Windows Explorer.

    Windows Explorer opens a new window.

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    If you don’t specify a folder, Windows Explorer displays the Libraries folder when it starts.

  10. httpatomoreillycomsourcemspimages1412954.jpg At the right end of the taskbar, point to the Show desktop button.

    The open windows become transparent.

  11. Click the Show desktop button.

    The open windows disappear.

  12. Click the Show desktop button again.

    The windows reappear.

  13. Point to the Libraries window title bar, hold down the mouse button, and then wiggle the mouse to shake the window.

    The Pictures window is minimized under the Windows Explorer taskbar button.

  14. On the taskbar, point to the Windows Explorer button.

    Thumbnails of the available Windows Explorer windows appear in a thumbnail pane above the taskbar button.

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    In the thumbnail pane, a blue background indicates the active window.

  15. Point to the Libraries thumbnail, and then click the Close button that appears in its upper-right corner.

    The Libraries window closes.

  16. If the Windows Explorer thumbnail pane has closed, point to the Windows Explorer taskbar button again. Then point to the Pictures thumbnail.

    The Pictures window appears temporarily when you point to its thumbnail.

  17. In the Windows Explorer thumbnail pane, click the Pictures thumbnail.

    The Pictures window opens on the right half of the screen.

  18. httpatomoreillycomsourcemspimages1412736.jpg At the right end of the Pictures window title bar, click the Close button.