Elusive 'My Documents' Folder
Wondering what happened to your old ‘My Documents’ folder (from Windows XP) in Windows 7? In a practical sense, My Documents has become ‘Documents’--but that description isn't quite accurate. Actually, Windows 7 introduced a new file hierarchy called Libraries that differs from the file systems in previous versions of Windows. As a result of this change, the My Documents folder rarely appears in the main section of Windows Explorer in Windows 7. Instead, it sits in the side panel on the left under Libraries, Documents, My Documents, but it almost never appears in the main window.
The new arrangement is helpful in that you can see the My Documents subfolders right away; it also reduces the number of clicks needed to get to the folder’s contents. But the new hierarchy provides what appear to be two places to save a document, though in fact you end up in the same location either way you do it.
To illustrate this, save a file to My Documents in Windows 7: Select Libraries, Documents, My Documents; once your document is saved, right-click the file and select Properties. Under ‘Location’ you should see something like 'C:\ Users\USERNAME\Documents'. But didn’t you save that file directly to the ‘My Documents’ folder? So shouldn’t it be 'C:\Users\USERNAME\Documents\MyDocuments'?
If you use the left navigation pane in Windows 7 to get to My Documents, you’ll still see your file listed as part of the My Documents folder, but you’ll also see it standing alone in the Documents view one level up. So Windows 7 appears to the user to maintain two different navigation structures for getting to the same file: Libraries, Documents, My Documents, FILENAME, and Libraries, Documents, FILENAME.
It may be a great way to organize your files, but I find it redundant. Windows 7 should either discard the My Documents folder or embrace it; the OS shouldn't try to do both at the same time.
The Exclusivity of Homegroups
Homegroup in Windows 7 lets you easily share documents, music, pictures, and videos between different computers at home. It’s a great feature, except that it only works with Windows 7 computers. It’s a shame that Microsoft hasn’t brought this functionality to computers running Windows Vista. You can still share files between Vista and Windows 7 PCs through Windows Media Player, or you can set up a home network the old-fashioned way under Network Settings. But I wish that Microsoft had brought Homegroup to Windows Vista--and enabled Homegroup to share with Mac OS X computers, too.
For the most part, Windows 7 is an excellent operating system that includes an array of great new features as well as some basic improvements on its predecessors. I’ve never seen Windows interact so seamlessly with peripheral USB devices, for example; and monitoring your default and startup programs in the new OS is remarkably easy. But if Microsoft tweaked a few more things in Windows 7, the experience would be nearly perfect.
Connect with Ian Paul on Twitter (@ianpaul).