Go to TopViewing Files

Frequently, the programs that come bundled with a camera allow different ways to view your photographs. But why fill up your computer with a program that only duplicates what Windows itself already offers...

Go to TopViews in Windows Explorer

Windows Explorer (The program that takes various forms including "My Computer", "My Documents" and "My Pictures") offers three views that are of particular interest to photographers, "Filmstrip", "Thumbnails" and "Details":


The default for "My Pictures". Ignoring the panel to the left of the window, which takes the same form in all views, it shows a scrollable strip of thumbnail images cross the bottom, with a larger version of the selected image above. The controls under the main image allow you to move sequentially through the files and to rotate them through 90°.

My Pictures in Filmstrip View


Dispenses with the larger image and restricts itself to the smaller version of the image.

My Pictures in Thumbnails View

My Pictures in Filmstrip View

My Pictures in Thumbnails View


My Pictures in Details View

Shows no representation of the image but can show a lot of detail taken from the EXIF (Exchangeable Image File Format), IPTC (International Press Telecommunications Council) and JPEG (Joint Photographic Experts Group) comment data stored within the image files. (See the Choose Details dialogue, described below, for a description of these.)

My Pictures in Details View

Go to TopSetting the View

Folder Options Dialogue

Folder Options Dialogue

Work on the basis that you will soon have many photographs to store. Create a folder for them within "My Pictures" or some other location dedicated for the purpose.

Having created the folder right-click on it and on the menu that appears, select "Properties". The folder Properties dialogue opens.

Under the section "What kind of folder do you want?" you will probably want either "Pictures (best for many files)" which sets the folder to Thumbnails view, or "Photo Album (best for fewer files)" which sets Filmstrip mode. You could set this choice from within the folder, but doing it here means you have can also control whether any future sub-folders adopt the same setting or hold to the "My Pictures" default.

In spite of the text under "Folder pictures" the options here also apply to Filmstrip view. The default action is to show the first four pictures from the folder. By chosing a picture you can replace these with a single larger image of your choice. 

The Folder icon option is unlikely to be of interest, but can be changed, if desired. 

Once the options are set, click the OK button and then open the folder and Move or Copy photographs into it.

Go to TopSetting the Sort Order

Selecting a Sort Heading

By default, files are sorted, "arranged" as Windows calls it, by name (Folders and file are always sorted in separate groups). To see other headings on which to sort, open the "View" menu and select "Arrange Icons by" and then the desired heading.

Selecting a Sort Heading

In Thumbnails view a similar menu is also available by right-clicking an empty area of the window.

In Details view there is a quicker way to sort, plus the order can be reversed. One of the column headings will show an arrowhead. This indicates on which column the data is sorted and in which direction. Click the arrowed column head to reverse the existing sort. Click on another column heading to change the column to be sorted.

Go to TopAuto Arrangment and Alignment

If you frequently use the drag between windows method of moving or copying files,  there are two options that may help keep the view tidy. Open the "View" menu, select "Arrange Icons by..." and on the lower half of the sub menu select one or both of the following options:

Auto Arrange:
If checked, this option will force all items to flow within the width of the window.
Align to Grid:
If checked, this option will prevent icons being dragged to overlapping positions.

Go to TopChoose Details Dialogue

The ChooseDEtails Dialogue

The ChooseDEtails Dialogue

To change the headings which appear on the "Arrange Icon by" menu (and the columns in Details view), open the "View" menu select "Choose Details...". The "Choose Details" dialogue opens.

Select items on the list and use the Move Up/Down Show and Hide buttons to arrange the list as you require.  (In Details view the item at the top of the list will appear as the leftmost column.)

Many of the headings in the dialogue are intended for arranging Music folders. Those that apply to photographs come from the basic file information, EXIF, IPTC or JPEG comment data.

EXIF data is produced automatically by digital cameras. It includes make and model of camera, date and time, image format (e.g. jpeg, tiff, etc.), dimensions, colour and exposure modes, shutter speed, aperture setting, sensitivity, focal length of lens, flash on or off, white balance, exposure bias, metering mode and camera orientation when the picture was taken and so forth.

Not all of the EXIF data is accessible to Windows Explorer but the view can be sorted on any of the items that are available.

A JPEG comment  and IPTC data items can be added after a photograph is taken. (IPTC data includes headings such as copyright owner, caption, keywords, category etc.) Unfortunately, Windows only has rudamentary facilities for adding IPTC and JPEG comment data, so it is best to use another program for this, but as with the EXIF data, where the data is accessible to Windows it is easily sorted.

Go to TopFixing Folder Properties

Folder Options Dialogue

Folder Options Dialogue

If the settings described in this section are lost each time you navigate away from a folder or close the window, check the "Remember each folder's view settings" option on the Folder Options dialogue.

Open the "Tools" menu and select "Folder options...".  Select the "View" tab on the Folder Options dialogue. In the "Advanced settings" list ensure the box "Remember each folder's view settings" has a tick. Click the "OK" button.

Go to TopWindows Picture and Fax Viewer

Windows Picture and Fax Viewer

Windows Picture and Fax Viewer

Double-click on a photograph file in Windows Explorer and it will open in the Picture and Fax Viewer (unless you have installed other software that takes control of photograph files).

If there is other software installed, the photograph can still be opened in the Picture and Fax viewer by choosing "Preview" from either the File menu or the Context menu (i.e. the menu that appears when you right-click on a file).

This light-weight program has the big advantages of being easy to learn and very quick to load, display and move through a number of images in the same folder. Use it for checking photographs, particularly if you wish to zoom in on some detail.

To find out how to get the best out of the program use its help facility (Click the "Question Mark" button on the extreme right of the program's control bar).

WARNING: NEVER ROTATE AN IMAGE IN THIS PROGRAM unless the image is loaded from a CD-R disk or is marked READ ONLY. If the program can it will re-save the image over-writing the original with a further preset level of JPEG compression. Always work from a copy unless you know the image is protected from being over-written.

Go to Top Page updated: 8 October 2009