As I mentioned in a post yesterday, the Windows 7 Release Candidate is about to release to the public on Tuesday the 5th of May.

This past Thursday members of MSDN, Technet and the technical beta had access to the download of the Windows 7 Release Candidate (Build 7100).

One of the new features of Windows 7 that I really like are the Libraries.  In Windows Vista and Windows XP a user had a folder under their profile that contained My Documents, My Pictures, My Video, etc. This was one single place to store and find the stuff you stored there.  However, its shortfall was that it did not include other places on your PC that similar files might be stored such as program directories, temporary folders, etc.

What the libraries feature in Windows 7 does is give you a means of connecting these varied storage places into one central location.  Think of it like mapping a network drive but within a folder instead of as a drive letter on its own.

Here at my house I run Windows Home Server (WHS) and have centralized all of my music, photos and software downloads onto the server.  Prior to libraries I would have to either go to the desktop and click on the shortcut on my desktop that is placed there by WHS to reach all of the shared folders or browse the network, click on my WHS shortcut and then open up the shared folders.

In Windows 7 Libraries I am able to add my server based storage to the same folder that is set aside for music, photos, etc. and browse them in one location.  The great thing is the files are still located in their original storage location and not moved, copied, etc. Now there is an option to make these files available offline which would make a local copy of them for you to work with and then once the connection was back changes would be synched between the two.

Here is how I went about adding my photos from my WHS to my desktop Windows 7 installation:


Clicking on the Library icon on the Windows 7 Taskbar will bring up this window showing all of your libraries (I have some added ones – yours may look different).


After clicking on the Pictures Library icon you get this window – notice there is nothing here except your photo directory from your user profile.


Here is a close up of the next place you need to click – the 1 location text is a hyperlink and clicking on it will bring you to the dialog box to add a location to your Pictures Library.


Click the Add button in this dialog.


Browse to the location of the folder you want to add to your Pictures Library and click on it (or double click depending on your setup).


You are now returned to this dialog box and your folder is added to the Pictures Library. Click OK to return to your Pictures Library folder.


Here is what your Pictures Library now looks like with your added folder.  You can interact with those files and folders as you see fit including moving, deleting, renaming etc. so be careful what you do.

Now there is also another option for libraries and that is adding a folder on its own to your libraries hierarchy for easy access to files in either a local or remote directory. To do this it is pretty much the same steps as above except you start off in the libraries folder and select New library from the tool bar.


Click on New library to add a new library folder to your Libraries. You will need to name it something that of course makes sense for what will be or is stored there.newlibraryfolder

Here is the new Library folder before it is renamed. Once you have named it then click on the folder to move to the next step.


Of course your new library is empty so you need to choose the folder that will be reflected in this new library so click the Include a folder button to get the browse dialog and go find your folder and then click it to add that location to this new library.

I use this for a couple of other folders on my WHS as well as a shortcut to my Temp directory where I save a lot of files while working on blog posts, etc.  The other thing about these newly added libraries is that they are available in your Windows Explorer window:


Windows Explorer showing list of library folders.

For some more information from the developers check out their Understanding Windows 7 Libraries post at The Windows Team Blog.

So what creative uses have you found for the new Windows 7 Libraries feature?