Use 'Date Modified' Sorting to Simplify File Selection

As a relatively recent convert to Vista, I've discovered one tiny but invaluable time-saver: The OS remembers different views for different folders.

Suppose, for example, you configure a folder full of photos to show thumbnails. Vista will remember that setting the next time you open the folder. Meanwhile, a folder containing MP3s might have the regular old Details view, but with the files sorted by artist.

To reiterate: You can configure different views for different folders, and Vista will remember them from one session to the next. Very handy.

The trick, of course, lies in configuring specific folders so they work to your advantage. For instance, when I open documents in Word, I usually prefer to see each folder's contents in alphabetical order (i.e. sorted by name).

But when I'm blogging, I frequently need to pull a newly created screenshot or photo from the folder where I save blog images. In that instance, I've found it's better to sort by "Date modified." That way, the most recent addition(s) to the folder appear right at the top, making it a snap to find the image I need for a particular blog post.

Of course, this approach works for any folder that you access regularly. Getting back to Word, if I'm working on the same document for several days at a time, I'll again sort by "Date modified" so the in-progress document always appears at (or near) the top.

Not sure how all this sorting works? Let's try an example:

1. Click Start, type Paint, and hit Enter.

2. Click File, Open, then navigate to a folder containing some images.

3. In the main pane, you should see columns with headers like Name, Date taken, Tags, and so on. No "Date modified"? Don't worry--by default it's not usually there (weird given how useful it is). To add it, right-click anywhere in that toolbar full o' headers, then click Date modified.

4. Now click the "Date modified" header to sort everything in the pane by the, um, date modified. Note that when that header has a teeny down-arrow along the top, everything will be sorted by newest to oldest. Click the header again to reverse the sort order (i.e. oldest to newest), as reflected by the teeny up-arrow.

You can do this in just about any program with a File, Open menu, or any folder you open manually in Windows Explorer.

My advice: Experiment with the sorting options, then see what works best for you. For years I'd scroll through alphabetical file listings until I found what I wanted (assuming I could still remember the file name by then), but sorting by "Date modified" eliminates the need (and the memory issues).

By the way, if you want to go in the opposite direction in make sure every folder you open has the same exact view, I wrote about that a while back.

Subscribe to the Best of PCWorld Newsletter