A Modder’s Windows Explorer
Explorer’s Views and Common Icons
Windows explorer -- the application that opens when you click My Computer, My Documents, etc. -- is used to browse files and folders. It’s designed to work very much like Internet Explorer, and should be familiar to any Windows user.
However, when looking for a specific file among many, as is often the case for FATE modders, some extra knowledge can come in handy.
You may, or may not agree with my conclusions on which views are easiest to use, but even if you decide to keep your current setup, experimenting a bit is always educational.
The Left Pane: ‘Tasks’ view versus ‘Folders’ view
Windows Explorer defaults to “Tasks View” in the left pane, something like the imageto the right, to make common tasks available at a click of a button. Frankly, I have never used a single task on that menu that wasn't available in a more convenient format elsewhere.
So I typically switch to the “Folders View” in the left pane. This is accomplished by clicking the “Folders” button on the standard button bar, simliar to the one shown below. Mine has a custom button or two, so yours is probably a bit different.
So... The “Folders View” pane. It should look something like the image on the right. Yours probably doesn’t have 8 drives, but some of them are partitions so I don't really have 8 either. Anyway... the benefits. Single clicking opens folders and/or expands the path structure foldouts. This makes navigation and being able to see where you are at... folder path-wise... much easier, in my opinion.
Not to mention that you can scroll through the folders and path foldouts, rather than going: click up folder, click up folder, click up folder... and I’m a big fan of scrolling over clicking... I figure it’s a wash as far as my developing carpal tunnel goes, but it’s more comfortable.
Searching is also useful for locating files, but not very good when you have to switch back and forth from a ‘working’ folder to a main game folder. For example, when you are working on mod files copied over from the main game folders, and you need to switch from your ‘working’ folder to your MODS folder fairly frequently. I find the “Folders View” works well for this.
The Right Pane: Changing views from the View Menu
Windows Explorer has no less than 5, sometimes 6, different views to choose from for viewing files and folders in the right pane. These are accessed from the “View” menu on the top menu bar. There’s an example of it in the image on the right.
The list we’re looking at is the section in the middle with Filmstrip, Thumbnails, Tiles, Icon, List and Details as choices, and a bullet next to the current view.
We will skip Filmstrip as it’s only useful for viewing image files, Thumbnails, on the other hand, while mainly for image files, can be useful when modding, so we will look at that view.
In the context of a common modder’s dilemma, finding the ‘items.dat’ file, let’s take a quick look at each of the views in the View Menu.
1. The Thumbnails View.
Characterized by “thumbnail” images of all the image files in the folder. From a modder’s standpoint, very good for finding icon images and textures, but not so good for finding a specific file among all the little pictures. As you can see from the sample below, the file icons are large, 96 x 96 pixels, and quite often longer file names are obscured by thier neighbors.
2. The Tiles View.
This is the default view on most Windows systems. Characterized by the same large icons as the Thumbnails View uses for non-image files and small print, it’s a little more viable than the thumbnail view, but still pretty inefficient for our purposes. It also replaces image thumbnails with the icon for whatever application is the default on your system for opening image files, and loses the 96 pixels squared box around each icon. A small sample of file listings in the Tiles View can be seen below.
3. The Icons View.
The Icons View is characterized by using smaller icons than the Tiles View while keeping the tiled layout. It’s actually a bit of a step back from either the Tiles View or Thumbnails View in ease of use, in my opinion. File names are frequently obscured as the print size remains the same while the icons are smaller. Small sample of file listings can be seen below.
4. The List View.
As one might expect, the List View is characterized by a change from the tiled layout, used in the previous 3 views, to a list layout. Where the file name is more important than the silly icon, now we are starting to get somewhere. A nice alphabetical list. Only one problem, this list scrolls horizontally, not vertically! What dunderhead designed this? One wonders how many mice this joker has seen with a horizontal mouse wheel. Oh well, close... as always a sample file listing follows.
5. The Details View.
Finally, the Details View. This view is characterized by the list layout with columns containing extra information about the files and folders -- the details of Details View. While to the modder, the details are of dubious value... the vertically scolling, alphabetical list of file names is priceless. We have a winner! Sample file listing follows.
However, if one happens to like giant icons... I’m talking big enough to attack Tokyo, in Windows Explorer... one can still get an easily scrollable alphebetical list.
Simply adjust the width of the right pane until only a single column of tiled icons remains. Here's a sample of what I mean below:
Changing Views and Common Icons
With the changing of views, comes the changing of icons. While I find Windows icons to be somewhat less than helpful in finding files. It doesn't hurt to take a look at how they change with the different views, and to get to know some of the more common ones associated with modding. I have prepared a small sample chart.
Note: The Wordpad and Notepad icons appear as they do when assigned as the default application for opening Fate’s *.DAT files. The Unassigned icons are files types that Windows does not recognize, and for which the user has not yet assigned a default application (We’ll look at how to assign a default application in the next section).
Assigning a Default Application to a File Type
1. The Context Menu.
In this example, we will assign ‘items.dat’ to a text editor.
To start, find the file you want to associate with a specific program.
Right click on the file name to open the Context Menu (see image to the right).
Note: Unless you happen to have the same programs installed, your menu will look a bit different than mine.
Scroll down the menu to ‘Open With’, and follow the arrow to the right.
In the sub-menu, choose the ‘Choose program...’ option.
This will open the “Open With” dialog box.
Which should present you with a list of “Recommended” and a list of “Other” programs to choose from. See the image to the right ( note: the image has been altered to be less distracting ).
Simply choose the text editor of your choice. Both Wordpad and Notepad work fine, and are with Windows by default.
Then check the “Always use this program to open this kind of file.” check box.
When you return to Explorer, your icon for ‘items.dat’ should look like the one next to the text editor you choose as the default application.
That's it. Good luck!