h1

Windows: Customize file/folder view in Explorer by customizing the template used

July 25, 2021

A recent major Windows update on my PC totally screwed with the settings I had for folder/file views in Windows Explorer (which I’ll call Explorer in this post). This post is not about changing the file attributes displayed for one or two files/folders—there are plenty of other sites that will tell you how to that. No, this post is on how to change the displayed attributes for a file type template and thus ALL files/folders that use that template. Microsoft rarely calls these templates, but that’s what they behave like, so I’ll call them templates here.

What am I talking about? Well, when you create a new folder in Explorer and add files to it, by default the attributes shown for that folder and its files in the Details view use the General Items template (you can see the template used by right-clicking on a folder, selecting Properties, and checking what is set on the Customize tab under Optimize this folder for). If Windows detects that all the files are image files or music files or document files, it might default to the attributes of those templates instead. The template used dictates what attribute columns you see in Details view in Explorer (View > Details).

Below is a folder with Documents set as the template—in Details view you can see that the file name, date modified, file type, and file size attributes are shown.

Explorer properties for Document include Name, Date Modified, file Type, and file Size

This one has Videos set as the template—its Details view has similar attribute columns, with the addition of the length of the videos in hours, minutes, and seconds.

Explorer properties for Videos include Name, Date (created), file Type, file Size, and Length of the video in hours, minutes and seconds

You might ask why this is important. For most people, this is of no consequence and they can live with the default settings, or perhaps change them every so often if they want to see other attributes. Many others have no idea that these attributes shown can be changed, or have no need to change them. But for some people the attributes shown in Explorer are hugely important—for example, photographers or anyone who needs to curate their photos; musicians or those who have an extensive music collection on their computers; movie buffs with thousands of videos etc. These people work with their files every day and need to see at a glance the attributes that interest them. So when Microsoft stuffs up the attributes displayed, this can anger these users because they likely have many thousands of files in many hundreds or thousands of folders that get reset to the default values. Changing the attributes one folder at a time is NOT what you want to do!

But if you change the underlying template’s attributes, you can then apply that template to a high-level folder containing files with that type of content, and the changes you make cascade to all subfolders and to other folders that have the same template applied to them. Unfortunately, this is NOT an intuitive process and requires going into two places—one to set it up how you want, then another to save it to that ‘template’. It took some Google sleuthing and trial and error based on some of the clues I found before I could test and then document these steps. Hopefully they will help others who are equally frustrated by this.

Part 1: Pick the template suitable for the types of files

  1. Open Windows Explorer and go to a folder that contains files of the type you want to amend. In this example, I’ll use a folder containing music subfolders and files.
  2. Right-click on the folder’s name in the left panel, and select Properties.
  3. Select the Customize tab.
  4. Select one of the drop-down options for Optimize folder for. In this example, I’ll select Music.
  5. Check the Also apply this template to all subfolders checkbox.
  6. Click OK.
  7. Go to the next set of steps.

On the Folder Properties window, select the type of files (Music is selected) and check the box for Also Apply this Template to all Subfolders, then click OK

Part 2: Set up the attributes you want to see in Detail view

  1. Change the Explorer view to Details—click the View tab, then click Details in the Layout group.
    View tab in Explorer showing Details in the Layout group selected
  2. At the top of the right panel are column headers, named with file attributes (e.g. Name, Size). Right-click anywhere in this column header area.
  3. The current attributes for the template are checked. You can click on any (except Name) to show or hide them (if already selected, clicking will deselect them; if not selected, clicking will select them). Yours will likely look different to this example, which is set for what I was testing with Music.
    Right-clicking on a column header shows the attributes selected to display in Details view
  4. Click More at the bottom of the list to see the full list of attributes you can choose from, arrange the order shown across the screen (Move Up moves the column closer to the left; Move Down moves it to the right), and adjust the column widths (all optional). Once you’ve made any changes here, click OK to close the Choose Details window.
  5. Adjust the column widths and positions, if required.
  6. Go to the next set of steps.

Part 3: Save those attributes to the template

  1. Once you have your folder set up with the attributes you want to display for the template you selected in Part 1, step 4, you need to ‘save’ it to the template. Go to the View tab in Explorer, if you aren’t already there.
  2. Click Options (far right on the View tab).
  3. On the Folder Options window, go to the View tab.
    Folder Options window where you click the Apply to Folders button
  4. Click Apply to Folders.
  5. You will be asked if ‘you want all folders of this type to match this folder’s view settings’. This message is a little confusing—what it’s really asking you is do you want to apply these settings to the TEMPLATE you selected for this folder. Click Yes if you do. Then click OK to close the Folder Options window.
  6. ALL folders on your PC that use the template you choose when you changed this one should now update their Details view to reflect the attributes you chose.

Details view for a folder using the Music template now shows Bit Rate, Size, Year, and Length (time)

NOTE: This isn’t an exact science! You may find that some folders/subfolders don’t change as you expect, and others you didn’t think would change, do. With luck there shouldn’t be too many of these and you can reapply the correct template to them (e.g. if the attributes for some General Items folders changed to reflect the Music attributes, then change those folders back to General Items.)

Part 4: Optional: Apply those attributes to other folders

If you have, say, music files stored in folders that use another template (e.g. the default General Items), then you can change the attributes shown just by changing the template for those folders. To do this, follow steps 1 to 6 in Part 1 above.

Tip: If you have LOTS of folders/subfolders containing a particular type of file, change a top-level folder and make sure you select the checkbox to apply to all subfolders.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: