Windows libraries

Libraries are virtual containers for users' content. A library can contain files and folders stored on the local computer or in a remote storage location. In Windows Explorer, users interact with libraries in ways similar to how they would interact with other folders. Libraries are built upon the legacy known folders (such as My Documents, My Pictures, and My Music) that users are familiar with, and these known folders are automatically included in the default libraries and set as the default save location.

Features for Users

Windows libraries provide full content search and rich metadata. Libraries offer the following advantages to users:

  • Aggregate content from multiple storage locations into a single, unified presentation.
  • Enable users to stack and group library contents based on metadata.
  • Enable fast, full-text searches across multiple storage locations, from Windows Explorer or from the Start menu.
  • Support customized filter search suggestions, based on the types of files contained in the library.
  • Enable users to create new libraries and specify which folders they want to include.

Features for Administrators

Administrators can configure and control Windows libraries in the following methods:

  • Create custom libraries by creating and deploying Library Description (*.library-ms) files.
  • Hide or delete the default libraries. (The Library node itself can't be hidden or deleted from the Windows Explorer navigation pane.)
  • Specify a set of libraries available to Default User, and then deploy those libraries to users that derive from Default User.
  • Specify locations to include in a library.
  • Remove a default location from a library.
  • Remove advanced libraries features, when the environment doesn't support the local caching of files, by using the Turn off Windows Libraries features that rely on indexed file data Group Policy. This method makes all libraries basic (see Indexing Requirements and Basic Libraries), removes libraries from the scope of the Start menu search, and removes other features to avoid confusing users and consuming resources.

More about Libraries

The following information is important in the context of libraries you may need to understand to successfully manage your enterprise.

Library Contents

Including a folder in a library doesn't physically move or change the storage location of the files or folders; the library is a view into those folders. However, users interacting with files in a library are copying, moving, and deleting the files themselves, not copies of these files.

Default Libraries and Known Folders

The default libraries include:

  • Documents
  • Music
  • Pictures
  • Videos

Libraries are built upon the legacy known folders (such as My Documents, My Pictures, and My Music) that users are familiar with. These known folders are automatically included in the default libraries and set as the default save location. That is, when users drag, copy, or save a file to the Documents library, the file is moved, copied, or saved to the My Documents folder. Administrators and users can change the default save-to location.

Hiding Default Libraries

Users or administrators can hide or delete the default libraries, though the libraries node in the Navigation pane can't be hidden or deleted. Hiding a default library is preferable to deleting it, as applications like Windows Media Player rely on the default libraries and re-create them if they don't exist on the computer. See How to Hide Default Libraries for instructions.

Default Save Locations for Libraries

Each library has a default save location. Files are saved or copied to this location if the user chooses to save or copy a file to a library, rather than a specific location within the library. Known folders are the default save locations; however, users can select a different save location. If the user removes the default save location from a library, the next location is automatically selected as the new default save location. If the library is empty of locations or if all included locations can't be saved to, then the save operation fails.

Indexing Requirements and "Basic" Libraries

Certain library features depend on the contents of the libraries being indexed. Library locations must be available for local indexing or be indexed in a manner conforming to the Windows Indexing Protocol. If indexing isn't enabled for one or more locations within a library, the entire library reverts to basic functionality:

  • No support for metadata browsing via Arrange By views.
  • Grep-only searches.
  • Grep-only search suggestions. The only properties available for input suggestions are Date Modified and Size.
  • No support for searching from the Start menu. Start menu searches don't return files from basic libraries.
  • No previews of file snippets for search results returned in Content mode.

To avoid this limited functionality, all locations within the library must be indexable, either locally or remotely. When users add local folders to libraries, Windows adds the location to the indexing scope and indexes the contents. Remote locations that aren't indexed remotely can be added to the local index using Offline File synchronization. This feature gives the user the benefits of local storage even though the location is remote. Making a folder "Always available offline" creates a local copy of the folder's files, adds those files to the index, and keeps the local and remote copies in sync. Users can manually sync locations that aren't indexed remotely and aren't using folder redirection to gain the benefits of being indexed locally.

For instructions on enabling indexing, see How to Enable Indexing of Library Locations.

If your environment doesn't support caching files locally, you should enable the Turn off Windows Libraries features that rely on indexed file data Group Policy. This enablement makes all libraries basic. For more information, see Group Policy for Windows Search, Browse, and Organize.

Folder Redirection

While library files themselves can't be redirected, you can redirect known folders included in libraries by using Folder Redirection. For example, you can redirect the "My Documents" folder, which is included in the default Documents library. When redirecting known folders, you should make sure that the destination is either indexed or always available offline in order to maintain full library functionality. In both cases, the files for the destination folder are indexed and supported in libraries. These settings are configured on the server side.

Supported storage locations

The following table shows which locations are supported in Windows libraries.

Supported Locations Unsupported Locations
Fixed local volumes (NTFS/FAT) Removable drives
Shares that are indexed (departmental servers*, Windows home PCs) Removable media (such as DVDs)

Network shares that are accessible through DFS Namespaces or are part of a failover cluster
Shares that are available offline (redirected folders that use Offline Files) Network shares that aren't available offline or remotely indexed

Network Attached Storage (NAS) devices
Other data sources: SharePoint, Exchange, etc.

* For shares that are indexed on a departmental server, Windows Search works well in a workgroup or on a domain server that has similar characteristics to a workgroup server. For example, Windows Search works well on a single share departmental server with the following characteristics:

  • Expected maximum load is four concurrent query requests.
  • Expected indexing corpus is a maximum of one million documents.
  • Users directly access the server. That is, the server isn't made available through DFS Namespaces.
  • Users aren't redirected to another server if there's a failure. That is, server clusters aren't used.

Library Attributes

The following library attributes can be modified within Windows Explorer, the Library Management dialog, or the Library Description file (*.library-ms):

  • Name
  • Library locations
  • Order of library locations
  • Default save location

The library icon can be modified by the administrator or user by directly editing the Library Description schema file. See Library Description Schema for information on creating Library Description files.

See also


Other resources