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Free utility brings new views to Windows Explorer

Direct Folders enhances folder windows, Open, and Save dialog boxes showing more information about the selected item and giving you more ways to sort and display your files and folders.

With every new version of Windows, Microsoft tries yet again to give us a fast, simple, and customizable way to open, save, and view the files stored on our PCs. From what I've seen of Windows 7, we can't expect any revolutionary changes to Windows Explorer and the standard folder windows and dialog boxes.

I guess I've gotten so used to the same-old Explorer views that it's a genuine eye-opener when a free program such as Code Sector's Direct Folders gives file and folder management a whole new perspective. The program adds an icon to the taskbar's notification area that lets you jump quickly to your recently opened documents, favorite folders, and just about any other location on your PC.

Direct Folders taskbar-icon options
The Direct Folders utility lets you access files, folders, and other locations by clicking an icon in the taskbar notification area. Code Sector

The program also enlarges folder windows and standard Open, Save, and other dialog boxes to let you view more items without scrolling. Above the window, Direct Folders places an information box that shows the complete folder path of the selected item along with the amount of free space on the disk. Select any part of the folder path to jump to that location. Double-click an empty area of folder windows and dialog boxes to open the Direct Folders menu.

Direct Folders information box in folder windows and dialog boxes
See the complete folder path of the item selected in folder windows and common dialog boxes in the Direct Folders window above the standard dialog. Code Sector

You can customize your Direct Folders shortcuts by clicking the program's taskbar icon and selecting Configure. The Organize Favorites tab lets you change the destination of your shortcuts, the icon they use, and even give the shortcut an alternative destination that you reach by Shift-clicking it.

Direct Folders Configure dialog box
Customize your Direct Folders shortcuts via the program's Configure dialog box. Code Sector

Other configuration options let you change the number of shortcuts the program displays on its menu, assign keyboard shortcuts for the items, change the number of recent items, resize file dialogs, and set the default view and sort option for specific folders. You can also add applications you want to track via the program and customize their recent-items lists.

The Pro version of the utility costs 14.95 euros and adds the ability to check the amount of free space on each of your PC's drives from the Save dialog, change each application's default Save folder, and automatically select the last file opened in that folder. You can also create subfolders for folders on the main Direct Folders menu.

There's nothing particularly earth-shattering in Direct Folders--just a lot of nice file and folder touches that make working in Windows a little quicker and easier. Makes you wonder why Microsoft couldn't have built some of these time-savers directly into Windows' common dialogs.