Explaining the Views Available in Windows Explorer

Windows ExplorerEven though I like the new version of Windows Explorer, it seems that not too many people are enjoying it as much. Many users who are migrating from Windows XP are having trouble finding their way around. One of the reasons for this is the lack of information about the new features & changes introduced by the new version. That's why we will create a small series about Windows Explorer in Windows 7 and show the basics for a good user experience.

In this article I will show how to browse Windows Explorer using all the available views (content, tiles, details, list, icons) and explain the differences between them.

How to Access the Views

There are a couple of ways you can access the Views menu and select the one you desire. The easiest way is to click on the third icon from the upper-right corner of the Windows Explorer window. When you click on it, the menu with all available views will pop-up like in the screenshot below.

Windows Explorer

The second way is to move your mouse cursor anywhere on the right side of the Windows Explorer window, where you can see the contents of the folders. Right click on that space and, from the right-click menu, select View.

Windows Explorer

Another way to access the View option is to open Windows Explorer and press the ALT key on your keyboard. This will make the Windows Explorer menu show up on the top of the window. In the menu bar that appeared, go to View and you will access all available views.

Windows Explorer

The views that you can select are the following: Content, Tiles, Details, List, Small icons, Medium icons, Large icons, Extra large icons. In the following sections I will explain each of them in detail.

The Content View Explained

In the Content view, each file and folder is placed on a separate row. In that row you will see detailed information about each file and folder: date when it was last modified, size, author of the file, length (for audio and video files) etc.

Windows Explorer

Also, for pictures and video you will see a small preview of the content instead of the file icon.

This view is useful when you need to browse through documents and you need to see quickly information about the author of each item.

The Tiles View Explained

The Tiles view will show medium-sized icons of each file & folder plus information about its type and size.

Windows Explorer

This view is useful when you need to see a combination between the preview of the file contents and basic information such as type and size.

The Details View Explained

When selecting the Details view, the Windows Explorer will be automatically split into columns, each with its own name and type of information shown.

In this view you will not be able to preview the contents of the files. Instead you can see detailed information about each of them.

Windows Explorer

This view is highly recommended when you need to filter, sort or group files based on different criteria. In the coming days we will publish a complete tutorial about this subject and share some examples.

The List View Explained

This view is very simple. All it does is to show the contents of a folder in a list which contains only the names of each file and its appropriate icon.

Windows Explorer

No other details are shown. This view can be useful when browsing folders which contain a small number of files and sub-folders.

The Small, Medium, Large & Extra Large Icons Views Explained

These four icons views are extremely similar. They show the icons of each file and its name. The difference between them is in the size of the icons shown.

The Small Icons view shows only a small icon for each file, without a preview of its contents.

Windows Explorer

The Medium Icons view can give you a better idea of the file contents. However, when working with lots of files, it might be more productive to select a larger view.

Windows Explorer

The Large & Extra Large Icons views show even bigger icons which give you a better preview of the contents of each file.

Windows Explorer

These two can be very useful when working with images and video files.

Conclusion & Things to Remember

As you can see from the examples above, the Windows Explorer Views gives you enough options to browse easily through your files and folders. One thing that you should keep in mind is that the selected view changes dynamically based on the type of content you are viewing. For example, if you browse a folder with documents, you might select the Details view. If you open a folder with pictures, the view will change to Large Icons or something similar. When you go back to the folder with documents, it will remember the last view you used. This is because Windows Explorer tries to automatically apply the view more suited to the contents of the folder you are currently browsing. Even though this can be frustrating sometimes, keep in mind that this is the default behavior.

If you have any interesting tips on how to work with the Views in Windows Explorer, or if you just have some issues and you need some help, don't hesitate to leave a comment.