Navigating folders on windows desktop
June 12, 2009 1:59 PM   Subscribe

Is there a way to navigate folders on the Windows XP desktop? That is, I want to be able to click folder A on the desktop and have the desktop switch to displaying folder A's contents.
posted by long to Computers & Internet (16 answers total)
Maybe this? right click on folder A -> click "Explore" ?
posted by escher at 2:01 PM on June 12, 2009

In Windows Explorer, drag the icon next to A: to the desktop. This will create an icon titled "Shortcut to 3.5 Floppy" which you can open. This works for any drive or folder.
posted by davcoo at 2:03 PM on June 12, 2009

No, I think the user wants the files inside of folder X to be displayed on their desktop and to be able to actively navigate using that... visual paradigm.

Sorry for the 'p' word.

This is doubtful, but novel.
posted by unixrat at 2:10 PM on June 12, 2009 [1 favorite]

i think from reading the question that he wants his desktop to display the items in a folder without opening explorer, as in, he wants the icons on his desktop to be replaced with the ones in the folder when he'd like it to.

i don't believe that's possible. a shortcut to the folder and viewing it through explorer is the closest you can get.
posted by nadawi at 2:10 PM on June 12, 2009

Response by poster: Yes, unixrat and nadawi are accurately describing the behavior I'd like.
posted by long at 2:15 PM on June 12, 2009

I'm not sure the other posters so far really get what you're trying to do. You're trying to, essentially, use the desktop itself as Windows Explorer, right?

So if you had a folder, say "Pictures", on the desktop and double-clicked it, what would be displayed on the desktop would no longer be what's in C:\Documents and Settings\[insert username]\Desktop, but rather what's in C:\Documents and Settings\[insert username]\Desktop\Pictures, correct?

Seems interesting, but I'm not sure it's possible. Trying to find out if it is though, because that would be neat.
posted by malthas at 2:16 PM on June 12, 2009

Oops, should've previewed.
posted by malthas at 2:16 PM on June 12, 2009

I have not tested this, nor have I done all that much research, but perhaps symbolic links would be of some use?
posted by dinx2582 at 2:17 PM on June 12, 2009

My mistake, this wouldn't be the complete solution. Sounds like you want the Desktop folder to use dynamic symbolic links, which may or may not even exist. Not sure.
posted by dinx2582 at 2:18 PM on June 12, 2009

I haven't done this personally but...

Could a script be written in VB Script or some such and COPY the files from one folder to another, and use a registry setting of the folder last put on the desktop?

My logic would be:

User has a series of shortcuts to scripts on his desktop (the icon for each script would be perhaps a green folder or something to indicate a "sort of folder")

User double clicks "folder/script A" and script does the following:
1) Moves all items that AREN'T scripts from the desktop to a folder of the same name in My Documents (which it pulls from the registry, see step 3). (Say Folder B was on Desktop, it moves all files from C:\Documents and Settings\HisUserName\Desktop to C:\Documents and Settings\HisUserName\HisUserName's Documents\B)

2) Moves all items from the requested folder TO the desktop (in this case, since he wants folder A, moves from C:\Documents and Settings\HisUserName\HisUserName's Documents\A to C:\Documents and Settings\HisUserName\Desktop)

3) Stores in the registry (or a text file in the root of C or something) the last folder put on the desktop was A so it can put the files back later.


Better thought....shortcuts! That way you don't have to worry about files being open already and problems with permissions on moving.

So....scripts on desktop that:

1) Deletes all shortcuts on desktop except for these scripts
2) Goes to desired folder and makes shortcuts for all items in folder on Desktop

I haven't coded it but that's the logic I'd apply at least
posted by arniec at 2:19 PM on June 12, 2009

Yes, this is how I understood the question as well.

Can you get close to what you want with Active Desktop, basically a window which is part of your desktop that contains the contents of a folder on your desktop. This would be permanently there however rather than only being open when you click on a folder.

Right-click the Desktop>Properties>Desktop Tab - click Customize Desktop...>Web Tab. Click New web page and enter the folder name in the location field (e.g. C:\documents and settings\yourname\desktop\folder
posted by clarkie666 at 2:23 PM on June 12, 2009

Ok on preview I see that this might be an advanced question from an advanced user, so disregard my answer if this is more of hypothetical scenario regarding Windows UI behaviour...
posted by clarkie666 at 2:26 PM on June 12, 2009

Was just coming back so say exactly what clarkie666 just said. You can use the "Active Desktop" function built into XP to essentially accomplish this. The problem seems to be that, at least by default, you can't actually change the directory once you've got it set up -- it seems like it just opens up a new explorer window. But it seems to be on the right track at least.
posted by malthas at 2:27 PM on June 12, 2009

No, this cannot currently be done natively. It also cannot be done with any 3rd part program I know of.

arniec's answer would obviously be ridiculously slow with the shortcuts and comically slow with copying all of the files each time.

This definitely COULD be done though. It would just be a matter of simply pinning an explorer window to the desktop.

Plenty of other programs can pin themselves to the desktop such as VLC media player.
posted by zephyr_words at 3:18 PM on June 12, 2009

What about the Folder-as-Toolbar trick?

Put a folder on your desktop. Click and drag it all the way to the top or sides of your monitor, so that it's a little bit offscreen. Let go.

This makes a grey strip wherever you let go of it, and the contents of the folder are displayed as clickable icons on that strip. To close it, right-click and choose Close Toolbar.

It's not the whole desktop, but you could concievably have several of these toolbars open at once, showing the contents of several folders. Would that work for your purpose?
posted by bartleby at 6:08 PM on June 12, 2009

Response by poster: The toolbar trick would not suffice for my purpose. I basically want Windows Explorer embedded on my desktop. The Active Desktop approach suggested by clarkie666 gets me closer, but still not close enough, to what I'd like. I've found some software currently being developed that has what I want as a feature (Cairo shell replacement), but it's a ways off from being released.
posted by long at 1:05 PM on June 13, 2009

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