Windows 7 and the Joy of Docs

Some astute readers of the blogs have pointed out, after my post of yesterday, that it has of course been possible to change the location of the My Documents folder under Windows since roughly the time of the Crimean war. I did know that – honest.

In my Windows 7 fervour I probably didn’t express too well how the new documents-library system works, and how much better it is than anything before.

Aside from just moving the Documents location, it allows you to add folders that already exist into the mix, and also to change the default save location without moving existing documents.

That allows some really funky things that you can probably do in XP or Vista if you want to spend all afternoon tinkering, but which are now a couple of clicks away and have that reassuring feel about them that Windows *wants* you to do it, so you won’t suddenly find all your documents have disappeared or somesuch nonsense.

So, for example, the My Documents folder on my current work PC is something in the region of 50GB in size. If I move that folder, all the paths will change and my Carbonite online backup regime will spend the next couple of weeks re-uploading the whole lot when, in fact, it didn’t need to.

I’ve been playing more with the system today and it really is very flexible but remarkably – for Microsoft – very straightforward. Add a folder to the documents-library view and the contents of that folder show up in the default documents window. It makes My Documents a metafolder and real folder in one. You can add as many folders as you like, wherever they may be. That includes network locations, which is quite possibly the best thing ever to happen to my everyday working life.

Another random benefit that’s just occurred to me: if the drive containing my documents fills up, I can just change the default save location and add that new location into the documents view. No time-consuming file copies required: just designate a new folder on a spare drive and away you go. I recently had to spend a couple of hours transferring 100GB+ of photos from one drive to another and updating all my backup settings because of that exact problem – the drive ran out of space. With Windows 7 I wouldn’t have had to.

There’s also a new concept of ‘search connectors’. Add an email search connector into the documents view and, when you type a search term in the box at the top-right it will search your email too. I’m pretty excited about the idea of having just one portal on to the documents and data that I specify. It looks proper good.

All this eulogising about Microsoft is making me feel a bit peculiar. And I haven’t even started talking about the genius that is Live Mesh yet…

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