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

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Easier Folder ID

You may find it easier to spot the folder you need by giving its icon a distinctive appearance. Windows XP lets you assign a custom icon or (if you view your files as thumbnails) even a custom picture to a folder. Right-click the folder and choose Properties, Customize. (Note that this option isn't available for all folders in Windows XP.) To add a custom icon, click the Change Icon button under 'Folder icons'. Select one of the icons that appear, or click the Browse button to locate an icon (.ico) file in an application (.exe), library (.dll), or any other file that may contain icons. Once you've found the icon you want to use for the file, select it, click Open (if necessary), and then click OK as required to close all the dialog boxes.

If one or more folders use the Thumbnails view (choose View, Thumbnails), they may already have a custom appearance, providing the folders' files are in common Web formats such as .htm for text, or .jpg, .gif, .bmp, and .tif for pictures (this prefab icon customization also applies to shortcuts to files in these formats). Windows automatically creates tiny images of the first four items in the folder to appear on the folder thumbnail. Naturally, it creates fewer than four images if the folder contains fewer than four Web-compatible files or shortcuts. If the folder contains shortcuts to a Web site, Windows can create images for them only when your connection to the Internet is active.

Identifying four little pictures on one folder thumbnail requires an eagle eye. To make your folders stand out, select a single picture for the thumbnail: Right-click the folder, choose Properties, Customize, and click Choose Picture in the 'Folder pictures' section. Locate and select an image file as described above, click Open, and then click OK.

Of course, following these steps for every folder you want to customize can take a little time. To speed things up, locate the image you want to use for your folder thumbnail, rename it folder (or folder.jpg, folder.gif, or whatever's appropriate, if file extensions are visible), and drag it into the desired folder. Windows will automatically use a file with this name as the thumbnail for that folder.

Bonus tip: If you can't find a picture to describe the contents of your folder, visit Google Images and type in a keyword. When you find a copyright-free picture you like, right-click it, choose Save Picture As (in Internet Explorer) or Save Image As (in Firefox), navigate to your folder, and name it folder.jpg. Click Save. Now the folder's thumbnail will show the image you selected.

Finally, if you find the images in Thumbnails view too big and clunky, download and install Tweak UI, the free customizing tool from Microsoft. After you install it, open Tweak UI, double-click Explorer, select Thumbnails in the left pane, and change the Size number in the Thumbnail box to something smaller, like 64. Then click OK. You may need to close and reopen the folder to see its thumbnails regenerated in the new size.

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