What's New in Vista File Management: Sort, Group, Stack and Filter

The following article is excerpted from Windows Vista: The Missing Manual with permission of O'Reilly Media Inc.

Until Vista came along, you could sort the files in a window into an alphabetical or chronological list. But that is so 2005.

In Windows Vista, sorting is only one way to impose order on your teeming icons. Now there's grouping, stacking, and filtering — new approaches to organizing the stuff in a window.

All of this may get confusing, because every new feature means new controls and new window clutter. But in the end, mastering the stacking-and-grouping bit can pay off in time savings.

As Figure 2-12 shows, the key to sorting, grouping, stacking, and filtering is the pop-up menus hiding within the column headings.

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Figure 2-12: This menu looks simple, but is actually complicated. Or maybe the other way around. In any case, this is the menu that sprouts out of each column heading (Name, Size, and so on). (Click image to see larger view.)

Sorting Files

See the column headings at the top of every Explorer window (Name, Date modified, and so on)?

In Details view, they make perfect sense; they're labels for the columns of information. But what the heck are they doing there in Icon view and List view? Your files and folders aren't even lined up beneath those headings!

It turns out that these headings are far more important in Windows Vista than they were before. They're now your controls for sorting the icons — even in icon view. These headings aren't just signposts; they're also buttons. Click Name for alphabetical order, "Date modified" for chronological order, Size to view largest files at the top, and so on (Figure 2-13).

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Figure 2-13: Top: You control the sorting order of a list view by clicking the column headings. Bottom: Click a second time to reverse the sorting order. The tiny triangle is a reminder. It shows you which way you've sorted the window: in ascending order (for example, A to Z) or descending order (Z to A). (Click image to see larger view.)

It's especially important to note the tiny, dark triangle in the heading you've most recently clicked. It shows you which way the list is being sorted. When the triangle points upward, oldest files, smallest files, or files whose names begin with numbers (or the letter A) appear at the top of the list, depending on which sorting criterion you have selected.

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