See Hidden Information about Files and Folders in Windows 8 - dummies

See Hidden Information about Files and Folders in Windows 8

By Andy Rathbone

Whenever you create a file or folder, Windows 8 scrawls a bunch of secret hidden information on it: the date you created it, its size, and even more trivial stuff. Sometimes it even lets you add your own secret information: reviews for your music files, or thumbnail pictures for any of your folders.

You can safely ignore most of the information. Other times, tweaking that information is the only way to solve a problem.

To see what Windows 8 is calling your files and folders behind your back, right-click the item and choose Properties from the pop-up menu. Choosing Properties on a Jimi Hendrix song, for example, brings up bunches of details.


Here’s what each tab means:

  • General: This first tab (far left) shows the file’s type (an MP3 file of the song “Hey Joe”), its size (3.27MB), the program that opens it (in this case, the Start screen’s Music app), and the file’s location.

    Want a different program to open your file? Right-click the file, choose Properties, and click the Change button on the General tab. A list of music players appears, letting you choose your preferred program.

  • Security: On this tab, you control permissions: who can access the file and what they can do with it — details that become a chore only when Windows 8 won’t let your friend (or even you) open the file. If this problem develops, copy the folder to your Public folder. That folder provides a haven where every account holder on your computer can access the file.

  • Details: True to its name, this tab reveals arcane details about a file. On digital photos, for example, this tab lists EXIF (Exchangeable Image File Format) data: the camera model, F-stop, aperture, focal length, and other items loved by photographers. On songs, this tab displays the song’s ID3 tag (IDentify MP3): the artist, album title, year, track number, genre, length, and similar information.

Normally, all these details remain hidden unless you right-click a file or folder and choose Properties. But what if you want to see details about all the files in a folder, perhaps to find pictures taken on a certain day? For that, switch your folder’s view to Details:

  1. Click the View tab on the Ribbon (shown in the margin.)

    A menu appears, listing the umpteen ways a folder can display your files.

  2. In the Layout group, select Details.

    The screen changes to show your file’s names, with details about them stretching to the right in orderly columns.


Try all the views to see which view you prefer. (Windows 8 remembers which views you prefer for different folders.)

  • If you can’t remember what a folder’s toolbar buttons do, rest your mouse pointer over a button. Windows 8 displays a helpful box summing up the button’s mission.

  • Although some of the additional file information is handy, it can consume a lot of space, limiting the number of files you can see in the window. Displaying only the filename is often a better idea. Then, if you want to see more information about a file or folder, try the following tip.

  • Folders usually display files sorted alphabetically. To sort them differently, right-click a blank spot inside the folder and choose Sort By. A pop-up menu lets you choose to sort items by size, name, type, and other details.

  • When the excitement of the Sort By menu wears off, try clicking the words at the top of each sorted column. Click Size, for example, to reverse the order, placing the largest files at the list’s top.

For more information about Windows 8 and its features, explore Windows 8 For Dummies, available online.