ITsVISTA Tip 15: Vista’s 267 File and Folder Detail Columns

TipsOur previous tip showed how to add a checkbox next to all of your files. Today’s tip allows you to add much, much more. When you view your files by ‘Details’ in Explorer, Vista has default columns of information that it shows, depending on the folder you are looking at. When I open my Documents folder, I see Name, Date modified, Type, Size, and Tags. My Pictures folder has Ratings instead of Type, and Date taken instead of Date modified. You’ll find differences in many of the other folders you open as well, as Vista tries to show you information related to the type of content you have in a folder. But what if Vista isn’t showing you what you want to see?

Windows XP had 38 different column details options that you could select from for any folder you choose. Windows Vista of course allows you to do this as well, displaying the columns of your choice in any folder. They’ve added a few that XP didn’t have though, bringing the total number of Details columns to 267. 267!

Many of these are for pictures, others for music, some for movie files, and a few for captured television shows. There are a number that appear to be related to contact lists, like you might find in Exchange. I’m guessing this ties into the ability not only to search files, but to search e-mail as well, in which case you might want to see the details of your e-mail in the search window.

Seeing and selecting from all of these options is easy:

  1. In any explorer window you’ll see column headings at the top of the window showing your files.
    Column Headings
  2. Right-click anywhere in that column heading area and a menu will open with a few of the options available. If you’re in any window other than the Computer window (for instance open the C: drive) a More… option will be available at the bottom of the menu.
  3. Choose More… and you will get the list of 267 options to choose from by checking the box in front of the option.
    Check the box

You’ll want to be in Details view to be able to see this extra information, so if you’re not already, just click on the Views button towards the top of the window and select Details.
View by Details

Why would you want to show any of this information? One of the most useful reasons for me is so I can sort my files by that column of information just by clicking on the column title I want to sort by (click again to reverse the sort order). You can sort your files by date modified, or by file size, even by rating, bitrate, or picture size.

49 Replies to “ITsVISTA Tip 15: Vista’s 267 File and Folder Detail Columns”

  1. I want any directory that I open in vista to show the same simple columns in details mode:
    Size, date modified, type in that order.

    Also every folder that I open I want it to open in details mode by default. And by default I want these three simple columns. How do I get vista to do that.

    And when I say every folder, I mean every folder: My Documents, My Pictures, My videos, a USB drive that I connect, I mean every folder by default.

    Can you tell me how to do this?

  2. Another question, I would like Vista to show me the size of folders while in Details mode.

    In windows XP I had to buy a program called Treesize in order to get the OS to show me folder sizes in Explorer, I hope Vista built this feature into the OS.

  3. It appears you can show all folders in detail view on a secondary partition or disk, but not on the system disk (lame, I know). To do this, right click on the ‘disk’ in the computer window, and choose properties. Click on the customize tab and make sure ‘all items’, and check the ‘subdirectories’ box. Click ‘OK’ and all folders on that disk should be in detail view.

  4. Their isn’t a built in feature to show folder sizes in the detail view, you’re stuck hovering over each folder and waiting for the tooltip. From a quick look around the internet, none of the tools that did this in XP are yet Vista compatible, and you’re not the only one that wishes this feature was built into Vista…

  5. Is there a way to get the “Customize” button for the properties of the root of c: ? My system has chosen the pictures and videos template for this, and all new folders. I can change the other folders, but not the root of c: (or the program files folder).

  6. Are any updates available that enable Vista to display M4A file metadata within music directories? I’ve had no luck in finding anything, although my MP3 files display just fine.


  7. Like Dsuni, and probably lot’s of people, all I want to see is name, size, date, and type.
    Is there a special design team at Redmond who find ways of making Vista difficult to use or does it just happen naturally?

  8. I’m in the same boat as Don and Dsuni. I really hope they do something to change this behavior. If I view a folder with a single picture in it, all files are displayed with columns that are inappropriate for the file type.

    It would maybe be nice if Vista was smart enough to choose columns that actually have information to show. These media columns only apply to like 3 or 4 directories on my whole system, yet Vista chooses this view for most of my directories in detail view.

  9. I want all my music folders to show exactly the same columns that I chose in Detail view . I don’t want to customize the columns I see in Detail view for each music folder separately. Is there a way to do this?

  10. Don’t forget that Vista still sometimes forgets the templates you choose for folders and the window size (at least in my experience). And for some reason, I haven’t been able to change the template for multiple folders at once (even though there’s the option to, and I’m sure I was able to do so before; hmm . . .).

  11. Oh Yay…
    I am really glad that I’m not the only one here. I spent some time with microsoft via email on this topic (xp) and couldn’t even get them to understand what I was talking about. Maybe they don’t use their OS? For anything practical, anyway…like listening to mp3’s? I have 2,619 folders in “my music” and would like to see the Artist level in icon style and the Album level in detail style WITH my chosen set of detail fields. Anyone smart has a solution for this, help a brother out!

  12. Oh…except, at least in xp, windows managed this by a “cookie” of sorts in each folder…either the desktop.ini file or the thumbs.db file. I forget which.

  13. I’m still waiting for the same answer, Ive been having to manually change permissions for each folder, very annoying…. any fix would be greatly appreciated, and bring more traffic back to this site 😉

  14. Well, I’m not sure if I’m just blind or dumb or both, but I figured out how to manage my folder views and it appears to have always been there:P

    My problem may not have been the same as everyone elses, but basically I was frustrated by the way “detail” views of folders would often be formatted for media just because the folder contained a single media file. I definately prefer the standard “detail” formatting from previous windows versions.

    Anyway, every folder has a “Customize” tab under the “Properties” window. Selecting “All Items” under “What kind of folder do you want?” provides the typical detail formatting. There is also a checkbox for applying the option to all subfolders, so you can manage entire folder trees all at once.

    Hope this helps someone. Its taken me some getting used to how features have been organized in Vista.

  15. Thanks for the post Tom, what we are looking for is how to apply those customized property settings as a default for all windows folders, so you dont have to manually change each one.

  16. What ever happened to the concept of “user-friendly” apps and operating systems. Keep it simple, stupid! (And when I say “stupid”, I’m talking to Microsoft.)

    A number of studies have found that *more* options often make people more frustrated and less happy than they would be with *less* options.

    After years of tinkering with my Windows systems, I kind of know my way around things. But for the common Joe who just buys a computer to stay with the times, they’re more likely to be totally confused when things don’t work the way they intuitively think they should.

    Any product that makes a user feel like an idiot is actually a broken product, not suitable for retail.

    3… 2… 1… Rant over…


  17. MS adds 200 file details columns and TAKES AWAY the one I always used : the file extension! Grrr.
    And “File Type” is not a suitable alternative because (for example) it groups mp3, wav, m4a etc as the same “type”.
    Dumb move, Microsoft!

  18. I’m gonna keep my eye on this forum until someone finds a solution, I’m sure someone will make a windows patch for this as its such an extention option for quickly sorting and browsing files. Microsoft leaving this out shows how far behind they are from AXXXple as much as I am a die hard PC ninja.

  19. Don’t hold your breath, Daniel. I originally posted here Sept, 2007. There are no answers. Bill (Gates) even messed things up more with Vista. I don’t think things will get better. Anyone know of a folder sorting application that works. Speaking of Apple…

  20. This multi-step process worked for me. You will get most of the folders that you work with if you do this to the C:\Users directory but you can do it to others also:

    1. Open Computer and click on your OS drive (usually C:).

    2. Right click on each major directory (one at a time) that you care about folder views, such as ‘Users’, and select “Properties” and then click the “Customize” tab. You can’t do this on your root or OS drive nor on some directories, like Programs and Windows but you can do it in their subdirectories.

    3. For each folder it will ask – What kind of folder do you want? Select “All items”. Check “Also apply this template to all subfolders”. Click OK.

    4. Open Explorer or Documents or anything that gives you a folder view and select a random folder. Set up the columns however you want – I like to show details with name, size, type, date modified, date created, and path – you can pick whatever you want – set it for details, icons, whatever.

    5. Now, from the menu bar, click on Tools, Folder Options, View.

    6. In the “Advanced Settingsâ€? scroll box, check Remember each folder’s view settings.

    NOTE: If unchecked, Vista will ignore custom view settings for every folder and have every folder open using default settings instead. Only uncheck this setting to force all folders to stop using display settings you have specified.

    7. Click Apply.

    8. Click “Apply to Folders” button in the “Folder Viewsâ€? box at top of window.

    9. Reboot your computer and see how that works for you.

    It may not get every folder that you have set up now but it should get most of them and will definitely cover any new folders.

  21. In XP, you could edit some of those details by right clicking the icon, selecting properties, and entering the information under the Summary Tab. In Vista, you can sometimes do this on the details tab, but not for all file types.

    Is there a file editor that one can use to edit these details?
    If a general editor is not available, can it be done for PDF files?

  22. I worked out how to customise the root of C: (Vista had changed it to media layout)

    Right click on the bar that contains the column headings and select More… and bingo!


  23. Vista allows you to choose folder formats (templates) and to add whatever of the 267 detail options you want which display properly; however, it doesn’t allow you to edit these detail fields in the Properties Box. So I’m miffed as to what the purpose is to allow the choice of folder templates and the choice of detail options. Anyone have a clue?

  24. I have chosen what type of details I want for my folders, but I can’t write information for those columns. I have come to the conclusion that it might be due to my folders being read- only folders. Is this true or am I am I doing something wrong? If so, how can I change this?

  25. JP, You aren’t doing anything wrong. If you can’t edit the detail field in the Properties Box then it can’t be edited. At this time the main function of being able to choose detail fields is to delete the ones you don’t want to see in the file/folder template.

  26. Opsman000, thank you so much! But now I do have a stupid question…how do I get to the original File/folder template?
    I appreciate your time:())….JP, thanks

  27. Hey JP, no problem 🙂 Just a couple clicks to change template. Click on Folder, right click, click Properties, click Customize, choose folder type from drop down window, click Apply. That’s it. 🙂

  28. In reading these comments, I noticed that Dsuni Ubachev asked a question almost two years ago and hasn’t received a full answer yet. I would like to suggest an answer that I think will work, but I can’t be sure because I’m a little afraid to try it myself.

    Open My Computer (or just Computer). Put the view in list mode. Click on one of the drive names. Press Control-A. This will highlight all the drives. Unselect any drives whose view you don’t want to change (especially your CD/DVD drive and Bluetooth Information Exchanger, if you have it). The remaining drives will be highlighted. Without losing that highlighting, right-click on any one of the highlighted drives (except the C drive) and choose properties.

    A dialog box will come up with a tab for each of the drives, but there will be an extra tab that says “Customize”. In that tab you can set your folder type to “All Items” and check the box beside “Also apply this template to all subfolders”.

    When you click OK, that will probably change the view for all of your subfolders on all of those drives at once. You might want to do this while logged in as Administrator so you won’t have permission problems with some folders.

    Before you do this, read steps 5 to 9 of Michael’s comment on Feb 15, 2008 at 12:43 pm.

    Hope this works. As I said, I haven’t tried it myself.

  29. Thanks for following up. I appreciate your dedication on a post almost 2 years old. I’m also a little afraid to try it, if i get up the nerve, I’ll try it and let you know. Thanks again.

  30. Hi:Uslam Peace Shalom:
    When u have the columns and then just require only 4 to items, like size, type and date…how do we default this. because once we have the threeor four and then restart even the computer along the top all the column names show up again! frusssstttrrrraaaaaattttttinnnng!

  31. I’d love to be able to change the icon for MULTIPLE folders instead of having to do the measely peasely tedious task of changing it for every single folder one at a time. Specifically I have some color folder icons and I want to apply specific colors to say, all the folders in one drive and apply a different color folder icon to folders that are on another drive. Is there any way to do this?

  32. Microsoft messed things up more with Vista. I don’t think things will get better for the PC platform.

  33. Why did MS change Win Explorer in Vista?
    In XP I could right-click 99.9% of files and add comments.
    Vista has tags, but only 0.1% of files will accept them.

    One other thing. This is my computer. I purchased it, but Microsoft thinks its theirs. UAC might be a blessing for some, but for me its a curse and it is disabled.

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