Customize File Open and Save Dialog Boxes

Today's Best Tech Deals

Picked by PCWorld's Editors

Top Deals On Great Products

Picked by Techconnect's Editors

Ralph Redan asked the Windows forum how to provide easy access to his favorite folders in File Open and Save As dialog boxes.

All File Open and Save As dialog boxes have a list of favorite locations, sometimes called the Places Bar, in their left pane. But there are two problems with these otherwise convenient lists:

First, unless you customize them, they remain someone else's favorite locations (usually Microsoft's), not yours.

Second, there's no single, universal way to customize these. Windows standard dialog boxes changed from XP to Vista, and not all applications use Windows standard dialog boxes. So you can customize the dialog boxes, then open another program and those dialog boxes aren't customized.

Here's how you customize a few of the more common dialog boxes:

Standard Vista and Windows 7 Dialog Boxes: The right pane in these dialog boxes are identical to the one in Windows Explorer. Change Explorer, and you change the dialog boxes. To add a folder to the Favorites section at the top of this pane, simply drag that folder from Explorer's main pane to the Favorites section.

Standard XP Dialog Boxes: The easiest way to manage this is with Tweak UI, part of Microsoft's free PowerToys for Windows XP collection. Once you have Tweak UI installed and launched, expand the Common Dialogs section in the left pane, then select Places Bar below that. Select Custom places bar. You can then select something from each of the five pull-down menus, or type or paste a path if the folder you want isn't listed.

Microsoft Office 2003: These dialog boxes look almost exactly like the standard XP ones, but you have to customize them separately. Luckily, they're easier to customize than XP's. Open a File Open or Save As dialog box in any Office application, and navigate to the folder containing the folder you want on the Places bar. For instance, go to My Documents if you want easy access to My Documents\Time Wasters. Then select (but don't enter) the desired folder, and click Tools, then select Add to "My Places". Your folder will appear at the bottom of the Places Bar. If it's not visible, right-click the bar and select Small Icons.

Microsoft Office 2007: If you're running Vista or Windows 7, Office 2007 offers no challenges; it uses the standard dialog boxes. But if you're running it in XP, you have to configure the Places bar separately. It's pretty easy, though. Open a dialog box and navigate to the desired folder. Right-click the Places bar and select Add. Once again, you can use the Small Icons option to see more.

Read the original forum discussion.

Add your comments to this article below. If you have other tech questions, email them to me at, or post them to a community of helpful folks on the PCW Answer Line forum.

Note: When you purchase something after clicking links in our articles, we may earn a small commission. Read our affiliate link policy for more details.
Shop Tech Products at Amazon