Or you might need to work with files that are stored in different physical locations, such as your computer's primary hard drive, an external USB drive and a network file server. Keeping track of all the files you need can be a pain -- you usually end up navigating to different locations through Explorer or maintaining redundant copies of the same files, which often don't get synced properly.
Windows 7 offers a huge step forward for file management by introducing virtual libraries. At first glance, the Library system looks pretty much the same as the old folder system -- there are default libraries for documents, music, pictures and videos -- but it's much more versatile because libraries aren't limited by the physical location of folders and files.
For example, if you have some documents stored locally in your Documents folder and others stored in a folder on a network file server, you can add both folders to the Documents library so you can view and access them in a single place. The files stay in their original locations; you just get to them through a single library if you choose.
To add a folder to a library, open the library, then click the link next to the word "Includes" at the top of the display. In the console that appears, you can add or remove folders from the library.
You can also create entirely new custom libraries. Working on a big project? Create a Projects library with a subfolder for that project, then add the various folders and files you need. Working on project tasks is much more efficient when you can get to everything you need in a single library.
To create a new library, right-click Libraries in the left pane of Windows Explorer and select New --> Library. Give your library a name, open it up, and click the "Include a folder" button to add content.
Note: In order for a folder to be added to a library, the files within it must be indexed by Windows 7. This happens automatically for most files and folders on your machine. If a network folder has been indexed on the device where it is stored, you should be able to add it to your library. If it is not indexed, you can index it by right-clicking it and selecting "Always available offline." Once it is indexed for offline access, you can add it to your library.
6. Take advantage of keyboard shortcuts
Navigating Windows 7's graphical interface with a mouse is fine much of the time, but if you are busy typing away, it can be an inconvenience to move a hand away from the keyboard to the mouse and back. Thankfully, Windows has long included key combinations and shortcuts to help you get around and perform an array of tasks without taking your hands off the keyboard.
We're all familiar with basic shortcuts such as Ctrl+C for copying a selection and Ctrl+V for pasting it, but there are hundreds available, as shown in Microsoft's comprehensive list of keyboard shortcuts, grouped by type. Here are some of the most useful I've found for working in Windows 7: