I've done my fair share of Vista-bashing over the years, but the reality is the OS has a lot of hidden talents that go unheralded. One of them is stacking, a handy way to organize the files contained in any given folder. In fact, I'd go so far as to say it's one of Vista's best-kept secrets.
Suppose you have a folder packed with Word, Excel, and PowerPoint documents. Wouldn't it be nice if you could divide them into "stacks," with one stack for each file type? Alternately, if you have a folder that contains a large quantity of files, it might be helpful to organize them into alphabetical stacks: A-H, I-P, and Q-Z.
Before you get started with stacking, keep in mind that Vista makes no changes to the physical location of your files. Rather, stacks are really just virtual folders, and they're temporary to boot. Thus, you can feel free to fiddle and experiment without worrying that you'll mess anything up.
1. Open a folder containing some documents, photos, MP3s, or whatever.
2. Right-click any open area within that folder and mouse over Stack By.
3. Choose the kind of stack you want: Name, date modified, file type, size, etc. Note that the available options will differ depending on the kinds of files in the folder.
Presto: Vista creates your stacks, which appear under the banner of "search results." That's what I mean when I say they're temporary: Stacks are really just a filtered, folder-specific form of searching.
If you want to save a stack for future use, click the Save Search button up on the toolbar.