How to sort and group files chronologically in Windows 7

Yesterday I had a task to research how to create a timeline inside Windows Explorer, allowing me to sort and group files by date, but not with those awful categories like “today”, “yesterday”, “this week”, “last week” and so on (which I find really confusing), but with the actual date when the file was created/modified. To be able to pull this up, you have to use the Library feature available in Windows 7 Explorer.

¿What is a Library in Windows 7?

Windows 7 Explorer’s Libraries are virtual folders, that allow you to group the contents of one or more normal folders in one place, and this also allows you to organize and display them in different ways, even more than a normal folder. When you copy or move a file towards the library, it is moved or copied to one of the associated folders (which is set as save location), and not to all of the folders associated to the Library. One of the most well known Libraries is Documents, which groups under one lone Virtual Folder, the actual user’s Document folder and the Public user’s Document folder (which is shared in the network). When you move a file to the Documents Library, it gets saved to the Actual user’s Document folder.

How do you do this?

This can be used for anything, not only URLs, which was my focus right now.

First, we have to create a new library. Something pretty simple. Open up a new Windows Explorer window, and click the Library icon on the left bar.

Click on the background and select New > Library. You can write whatever name you want. In my case I used URLs, because that’s the use I’m going to give to it.

Then, right click the new Library, and choose Properties. A dialog box opens up with several options to start linking normal folders to include their contents in this virtual folder. For each folder you want to include, you have to click the “Include folder…” button. To set which folder is going to be the destination to save files (when copying and moving), select a folder on the list and click the “Set save location” button. Before closing the box, we need to set the optimization for this library to Pictures, even if we are not going to store only pictures in this place. Let’s click OK and go on.

Let’s open our new Library now. It should be a mess, but we can customize it as you wish. First and foremost you have to arrange it by day. To do that, in the left upper corner of the Explorer window there’s an option to Arrange By. Let’s click the option on the right and let’s pick Day.

Now, with our well known Explorer folder options, we can customize it for our needs.

Vertical Time View:

Set in Details view. I removed the File Size, Rating and File Type columns. I left the Tags and Date columns. As I’m only storing URL files I don’t need File Type nor Rating. Sorted by Date. It’s my favorite view.

Horizontal Time Line View

Set in List view. It’s pretty convenient to determine exactly which date a file was created/modified, as almost all the timelines you see on Internet are horizontal. Minor gripe: If the files have a long file name, you can’t see more than one column in the screen.

Why did I need that? Recently, I started to use the Session Manager feature in Mozilla Firefox. It’s pretty interesting and allows me to have a great degree of control over the tasks I want to do each time I start the browser. I have a session that has all my normally used tabs, and one that starts blank with few extensions, which allows me to reduce the load times (although I’m aware there are extensions that allow you to solve the load time problem).

However, one of the problems with the Session Manager system, is that it doesn’t allows me to have a centralized store for my bookmarks. This became a huge problem for me, as when I bookmarked something interesting on a session, it wasn’t available in the other. The problem is bigger when I use Google Chrome or Opera to browse and I need some of those bookmarks. And I don’t want to install one more extension to my fast loading session (I just installed AdBlock+ and Flashblock for my convenience).

I then started remembering my experience years ago. I used to have large directories with hundreds of URL files. They’re small, portable, work in several operative systems and although this functionality can be covered with a bookmark specialized software, I rather let Windows handle my situation.

However, having hundred of URL files has a fair share of problems: Each file is less that 1 KB in size, which together with NTFS cluster size, bloats them to 4 KB or more (depending on how the volume was formatted), to properly organize them you just throw folders inside, but after a while, the context of those files is lost, even more the date when you bookmarked the site. You could order them in a Details view, but nevertheless, you can’t properly group your browsing sessions.

That’s why I did this research. Oh, yeah, by the way, the theme I’m using is Static 2.0 by snipes2 in DeviantArt. (http://snipes2.deviantart.com/)

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