Windows 7: How to manage photos, videos & media

Get more from Windows' new multimedia features

One of the most-talked about changes in Microsoft's Windows 7 is how it handles media files.

The methods for photo and video importing, editing, and exporting have been all updated. You have new options for sharing and streaming files between computers.

And media libraries become more-versatile vessels for finding and managing media files. I'll explain how to get started with these and other entertainment features of Windows 7.

Check out the Libraries

Windows 7 manages media files differently than previous Windows OSes did. It retains the familiar Pictures, Videos, Music, and Documents folders, but you can assign additional library locations in order to collect your media files more dynamically.

The libraries in Windows 7 organise file types to help applications find media more easily. By default, programs look to the Pictures, Videos, Music, and Documents folders instead of having to scrutinise your whole disk.

Windows XP and Vista tied media libraries to those specific folder locations. For example, Windows Media Player watched vigilantly over C:\Users\[username]\Music.

Then, anytime you added new audio files to that folder, Media Player showed them in your music library.

If you wanted Media Player to look for media in other areas - say, in the iTunes music folder or in another user's music library - you had to add the new locations manually within the program.

In Windows 7, the Pictures, Videos, Music, and Documents folders are not the only doors into those libraries; you can add any other disk location you like, and library-savvy applications will automatically pool media wherever it's stored.

Add Libraries

Instead of manually curating media in the traditional user folders, you can turn any folder into a library. Applications will know where to find media, and you can keep your computer organised in whatever way you want.

For example, you can turn a networked folder into an auxiliary library, or even pool music files from a different user on the same PC. Or transform your Downloads folder into a library, instantly putting MP3 and video downloads into media applications.

Here's how (the process is the same for any of these situations).

Open the Start Menu, and click your username. Open the Downloads folder, and pick Include in library, Music. Then select Include in library, Movies. Henceforth, without your having to open them immediately after downloading them, your PC will automatically slurp music and movie files into Windows Media Player.

To remove the library status of a folder, open a window in the desktop and then navigate to that library folder in the left pane.

In our case, the menu path is Libraries, Music, Downloads. Right-click the library-enabled folder Downloads, and choose Remove location from library.

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Zack Stern

PC Advisor (UK)

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