Optimise folders for their contents in Windows

Customise the view and the icon used for folders in Windows Explorer

Organising files and folders correctly on the disk drive helps you to find them and to browse the contents more easily. Windows has features for optimising folder contents that you should be using.

Folders on the disk drive are taken for granted and most people do not think about them. Most people create folders, put files in them and beyond thinking if a descriptive name, that is about it.

There is more to folders than you might realise and it is possible to optimise them for their contents. This preselects the best way to display the files within a folder.

Displaying a list of filenames is not always the best view and if there are photos or other images then the best way for them to be displayed is using thumbnails. Music and video files are different again and there are ways of displaying them that help when you are browsing the disk drive.

Customise the folder

Open an Explorer window, find a folder that you want to optimise, right click it and select Properties on the menu that appears. Folders on the desktop can be optimised in the same way – right click them and select Properties.

Select the Customise tab in the properties window and near the top is Optimise this folder for:

 Windows folder properties

Select one of the options depending on what type of files you will be storing in the folder.

General items

Select this option if you intend to store a mixture of file types. No special view is selected and you can see the filename, date modified, type and size.

 Windows Explorer


Use this for storing files like word processor documents, spreadsheet files, text files, Word, Excel, and PowerPoint documents and so on. It shows the name, date the file was modified, and the type.

Windows Explorer


When Pictures is selected in the list, it automatically sets the thumbnail view. This works best for digital camera and phone photos, and artwork like bmp or png images. Other files sometimes have useful thumbnail images that enable you to distinguish between one file type and another.

 Windows Explorer


Select Music for the folder contents and the contents are displayed in a details view, but one that is specifically optimised for music files. The top two files here are MP3 files and you can see the track title, contributing artist and the album the tracks came from.

It is very different to the thumbnail view of Pictures and it is easy to see the advantage of setting the right file type for a folder.

 Windows Explorer


Set the folder contents to Videos and it is different again. This details view has the name, date, type, size and length. The length is the duration of the video clip in hours, minutes and seconds. Obviously the length is not application to a photo or document, and again you can see that useful information is displayed about files when the folder is optimised for the contents.

 Windows Explorer

Change the icon

Let’s suppose that you have optimised a folder for Pictures and you intend to store your digital camera photos in it. In the Properties window (right click any folder and select Properties), click the Change Icon button.

 Folder properties in Windows

A collection of icons is displayed and you can choose the most appropriate one. In this case, a camera icon can be selected and it is perfect for this folder. Other icons can be found on the web by searching for them if none here is suitable. Click the Browse button to select a different icon on the disk.

 Windows folder icons

We have now set a descriptive and interesting icon for the folder and also optimised the view for the files the folder contains. That’s much better!

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