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Why Did Microsoft Mess with Libraries?

In both Windows 7 and Windows 8, Windows builds powerful default Libraries for you: Your Documents Library, for example, includes the Documents folder as well as the \Public\Documents folder. The Music Library includes Music and Public\Music and so on with Pictures and Videos. That makes it easy to find and share files — if you want to share a file, just stick it in one of the \Public folders, and it's immediately available to other users on your computer, and to other folks on your network. Libraries have been around for a long time — early versions of Windows Media Player built Media Libraries, for example — but Microsoft is killing them, starting with Windows 8.1.

If you log on to Windows 8.1 with a Microsoft account that's already been used on Windows 8, your Libraries come through, no problem. Microsoft's secret sauce that syncs settings between computers also syncs your Libraries between Windows 8 and Windows 8.1. But if you log on to Windows 8.1 with a new Microsoft account, or with a local account, your Libraries turn into a shambles. Assuming you signed up for SkyDrive during the installation of Windows 8.1, your Documents Library includes Documents and \SkyDrive\Documents, with the \SkyDrive\Documents folder set as the default. Thus, if you have a program that saves files to the Documents Library (for example, Word or WordPad), your new files are saved to SkyDrive, not to your \Documents or \Public\Documents folder.

Of course, Microsoft charges you for using SkyDrive. Ka-ching.

In this brave new anti-Libraries world, your default Music Library only includes \Music, similarly for Pictures and Videos. So, for example, if you use Windows Media Player to get at your Music Library, you won't even see music stored in the \Public\Music folder unless you manually add that folder to your Music Library. And the only easy way you have to share those tunes — short of fixing the lousy Libraries — is to put them in SkyDrive. Ka-ching.

Microsoft's dissing of Libraries is all the more amazing when you realize that the Metro Photos app uses the Pictures Library. . . which has been clobbered in Win8.1. Somebody on the Metro Photos development team apparently didn't get the memo.

To show your Libraries in Windows 8.1's File Explorer, click the View tab and, under the Navigation pane icon, select the Show Libraries check box.

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