How To Configure The Default Viewing Templates In Windows Explorer/File Explorer

In our quest to help improve your experience with Windows Explorer in Windows 7 and File Explorer in Windows 8.1, we created this tutorial which should help end all your frustrations about how this application displays the contents of folders on your computer. We are going to show you how to change the default viewing templates so that they include only the details you need. Read on to learn how.

NOTE: This tutorial applies to both Windows 7 and Windows 8.1.

Available Types Of Folder View Templates

Windows Explorer and File Explorer have five types of folder views among which you can switch:

  • General Items - this view template, shows the following data columns: , Name, Date modified, Type and Size. The default view is Details. This view is used by Windows Explorer/File Explorer for most folders on your system, because they have mixed files contained in them.
  • Documents - it shows, by default, the following data columns: Name, Date modified, Type and Size. Like the General Items, this viewing template uses the Details view.
  • Pictures - this viewing template shows pictures using the Large icons view. When you select the Details view, it shows the following data columns: Name, Date, Tags, Size and Rating.
  • Music - it includes the following data columns: Name, Contributing artists, Album, # (stands for track number) and Title. The default view is Details.
  • Videos - the default view is Large icons. When you select the Details view, it shows the following data columns: Name, Date, Tags, Size and Rating.

In each of these folder view templates, you can switch between the standard list of views: Extra Large Icons, Large Icons, Medium Icons, Small Icons, List, Details, Tiles, Content. Also, you can customize these views to add or remove detail, and then apply them as the standard for the selected folder view template. To learn more about the differences between these views and how to work with them, check out this tutorial: Explaining the Windows Explorer Views.

Select A Folder's Viewing Template For Customization

First, you need to open a folder which you want to customize. We used the My Documents folder for this tutorial. Then, access its properties by right clicking inside the window and in the newly opened menu choose Properties. In Document Properties window, click the Customize tab and change its viewing template to the one you want to use. Don't forget to check the box which says "Also apply this template to all subfolders".

For complete instructions on how to change the viewing template for a folder, check out this tutorial: Set a Default View Template in Windows Explorer for Any Folder.

How To Configure The Folder's Viewing Template and Add Additional Data Columns

Now that you have assigned the viewing template you want to use, it is time to configure it. First, choose the Details view. This is the only configurable view. The others cannot be configured as they only show icons of different sizes, tiles or a small content preview.

In Windows 7, look at the top right corner of the window. There you will see a drop down menu with a small icon next to it. Click on the downward arrow.

Click the Details view.

In Windows 8.1, you have to click the View tab on ribbon and choose the Details view in the section called Layout.

To learn all there is to know about views, the differences between the available types of views and how to switch between them, read this tutorial: Explaining the Windows Explorer Views.

To configure the Details view, right click on the column heading. Then, in the right-click menu, check the additional columns you want from the list or uncheck those you don't want.

In Windows 7, for detailed configuration and a wider list of options, click on More in the right-click menu, as shown below.

In Windows 8.1, you can also use the right-click menu to get to the configuration of the Details view. Still, the ribbon in Windows 8.1 provides an easier way to access these additional columns in the above mentioned View tab. In the section called Current View, click on Add Columns and then click on Choose Columns for the extended list of options.

This opens the Choose Details window. Here you can check all the columns with information you want to enable. To change the order in which they are displayed, use the Move Up and Move Down buttons. After you are done configuring, click OK.

As an example, we chose a folder with Microsoft Word documents to which we had assigned the Documents viewing template. Besides the default columns, we added one which displays information on the Authors of the documents that are included in the folder.

How To Apply Your Customization To All The Folders That Are Using The Same Viewing Template

To apply the changes you made to all the folders with the same viewing template, you have to open the Folder Options window, while the folder you just customized is still selected. The easiest way to do this, in both Windows 7 and 8.1, is by opening Control Panel, then choose Appearance and Personalization and finally click on Folder Options.
In the Folder Options window, go to the View tab and click on the Apply to Folders button.
Complete information about the Folder Options window, how to open it and what you can configure with it, can be found in this tutorial: How to Improve Windows Explorer Using Folder Options.

If the Apply to Folders button is grayed out in Windows 8.1, go to the ribbon, choose the View tab and click the Options button. In the newly opened menu, click Change folder and search options. This will finally open the Folder Options window where you will be able to press the Apply to folder button. This seems to be a very common issue in Windows 8.1 and I hope this shortcut will help you escape it.

In Windows 7, there is a simpler way to apply the changes to all folders with the same viewing template. After you are done customizing the default viewing template go at the top left corner of window and there click on the Organize tab. In the newly opened menu click on Folder and search options which will open the Folder Options window.
In the Folder Options window, go to the View tab and click on the Apply to Folders button.

Finally you will be asked to confirm your settings. Click Yes.

Now all the folders using the viewing template you just customized will have the same viewing settings. To confirm our change, we took a folder using the Pictures viewing template and assigned the Documents template we just customized. Below you can see the difference.

Here's a screenshot before the change:

Here's a screenshot after the change:


Repeat this procedure to customize all the viewing templates which don't show the information you want, the way you want it to. Then, assign the appropriate viewing templates to the folders where you store the information your work with on a regular basis. This way, all your frustrations with how Windows Explorer and/or File Explorer display information will be gone.