Windows Tips: Six Quick Tips Help Tame Oversize Files and Folders

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I have ripped 15,015 karaoke song files (37.7 gigabytes' worth) into one folder. But Windows XP won't let me add any more than that even though my 160GB hard drive (formatted with FAT32) has plenty of free space. How can I add more files to my karaoke folder? I don't want to create more folders; that's too easy.

Ron Denka, Syracuse, New York

As much as I hate to tell someone how to organize their files, it just might be time for you to rethink your strategy. It's true that any single folder on a FAT32 hard disk can, theoretically, hold 65,534 files or subfolders, but this is true only if the file names use the shorter DOS-style 8.3-character format. The total number of files per folder drops dramatically when the files use longer names (which nearly all now do). Windows won't find all of your song files until you divide them into a few different folders, or rename them all with short DOS-format names.

Okay, I admit it: If you insist on cramming as many files as possible into a single megafolder, Windows XP does have some features to help impose order. First, launch Explorer, select the folder you want to organize, and click View, Choose Details. Scroll through the attributes list and check the boxes that you think you might want to use as a basis for organizing your files. For example, if you have a folder full of music files, you may want to check Album Title to be able to sort and arrange files by the album they belong to. Check as many attributes as you would like to see in Explorer's Details view, and when you're done, click OK.

Bonus tip: With Explorer's folder view set to Details (choose View, Details), you can quickly add or remove the attributes displayed: Right-click the column headings above the file list and select an item to display or hide. Note that this menu shows only a partial list of available attributes; selecting More at the bottom of the list opens the Choose Details dialog box, which shows the complete list.

With your attribute choices in place, click any column heading to sort the folder's items by that attribute. To sort by attributes hidden from view, choose View, Arrange Icons by and select an attribute from the submenu. To continue the previous example, you would click View, Arrange Icons by, Album Title to sort files by the album they appear in.

Now the fun part: To break up this huge list of files into smaller chunks based on your desired attribute, simply choose View, Arrange Icons by, Show in Groups. This divides the folder into sections with headings that represent the category you selected earlier. So, continuing our previous example, the folder would now show groups of albums with album titles as their headings (see Figure 3

Figure 3: Instantly organize your files by the attribute of your choice when you use Windows XP's "Show in Groups" feature.

Some attributes group their own special way. For example, if you sort by Name, the groups will represent letters of the alphabet. Sort by Size to create groups such as Tiny, Small, Medium, and Large.

Organizing by groups lets you change a grouping instantly just by choosing a different attribute from the 'View, Arrange Icons by' submenu. If your folder is already showing file details, for example, you can change the groupings by clicking the desired attribute heading that appears at the top of the file list. Reorganizing hierarchical folders that haven't been grouped could require hours of tedious reshuffling of files into levels of folders.

Grouping is available for most folder views, including Thumbnails, Tiles, Icons, and Details (the exception being Explorer's List view).

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