Customising the My Docs folder in Windows XP

One aspect where Windows XP Home excels is its enhanced multimedia features. Installing cameras and scanners is a breeze, Windows Media Player is superb, and the customisable My Documents folder allows you to organise and view all your multimedia files with ease. This column we will look at a variety of options that allow you to customise your My Documents, My Music and My Pictures folders.

It is important to remember that the My Documents folder is basically a shortcut to a folder which is found under C:\Documents and Settings. Each user has their own personalised folder, so if you save a file in the My Documents folder when logged in under one name don’t expect to be able to find the file in the same location if you log in as someone else.

You can access other users’ document folders by browsing My Computer. If you would prefer to keep your My Documents folder private (which means other users who log in will be denied access to your files), then right-click the folder, select Properties and click on the Sharing tab. Under ‘Local sharing and security’, tick the ‘Make this folder private’ checkbox. After securing your folder, any files that you wish to share with other users can be made public by dragging them to the Shared Documents folder.

Folders that store multimedia files can take on special appearances depending on the kind of files they contain. A folder containing an entire music album can display the cover art of the album if Windows Media Player has downloaded the image. Folders containing images can have tiny thumbnails displayed on the actual folder icon to remind you what the folder contains; when you open the folder, the images can be displayed as thumbnails, in a filmstrip or as traditional icons. To change how folder and file icons are displayed, open the View menu at the top of the screen and select the desired format.

File details can also be customised to match the type of content stored in a folder. For example, the My Music folder can display columns for artist, album title and duration, and the My Pictures folder can display columns for image dimensions and photo date. To set the details you want displayed for a specific folder, open the View menu and select Choose Details… You can then select your desired details as well as change the order in which they appear from left to right (FIGURE 1). When you have customised the look of a folder, right-click the folder and select Properties. From here, you can save your customised changes as a template and apply the changes to all sub-folders.

The My Music folder is the default location for all your Windows Media Audio (WMA) and MP3 files. The My Music task pane provides options to play all the selected files, copy your music files to an audio CD, or to shop for music online. Play­ing or copying the selected files will simply open a session in Windows Media Player with your selection. The online shopping link lets you buy CDs online, but you would be better off shopping locally at sites such as or

Most users, especially those who dabble with digital photography, will find the My Pictures folder very useful. Viewing images as thumbnails or as a slideshow is very convenient; to view as slideshow, select View as a slide show from the My Pictures task pane (FIGURE 2).

The Photo Printing Wizard provides a step-by-step process to turn your digital photos into something more traditional that can be stuck into a photo album. You can open this wizard by selecting Print pictures from the My Pictures task pane. With this wizard, your images appear in a thumbnail view with a check box in the upper-right-hand corner of each image. Simply check the photos you wish to print, select the printer to send them to, and then select which kind of layout you want. Layouts include full page, contact sheet, 8x10in, 5x7in, 4x6in, 3.5x5in and wallet prints.

The Online Print Ordering Wizard is also available from the My Pictures task pane. As good an idea as it is, unfortunately, it never seems to work.

Many features associated with the My Documents folder are built into the Explorer task pane. This task pane will be hidden if you have any Explorer Bars enabled, so be sure to remove all the Explorer Bars via the View menu.

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