I thought I'd kick things off with a series of articles describing the Vista User Files Folders. (I happen to have a lot of info about this already so I won't need to do tons of additional research for these articles.)
What was referred to as Personal Folders in XP is now referred to ,
In XP the folder was listed in Windows Explorer as My Documents. In
11 Folders!: Look at them. You now have folders for Videos, Saved Games and Downloads. I guess Microsoft noticed XP applications creating a myriad of folders under My documents for various purposes and decided to pre-create some of the more popular ones. You should note that you are stuck with these 11. You cannot eliminate these folders - and in many ways, you cannot add to them. (I'm sure this was done so that applications would know that the Downloads folder would always be a valid folder if it was designed to save things there.)
The Documents folder is just a peer!: Take a look at where the Documents folder is. It is buried down with the rest of the User Files Folders. It is no longer the parent that possesses the others. This is a HUGE change that impacts things in some surprising ways. In the XP days, applications created folders such as "My Videos" under the "My Documents" folder and you would have found them along side all of the other folders. Now with Vista, if you use an old XP application, it will keep putting the folder under Documents - only now that is buried one level deeper and won't be found along side these 11 default folders. As you replace your applications with ones designed for Vista, I am sure they will begin to use the default folders provided. You might think that an application will want to create a folder along side the default 11 folders, but I think you will find this not to be the case - this is because of folder redirection.
Changes to Folder Redirection!: This topic deserves an entire article or two - so watch for them. In the mean time, let me whet your appetite... Most self-respecting LAN admins like to redirect the My Documents folder to a network drive. This coaxes data off of local PC hard drives and greatly improves the odds of data being backed up. In XP you would redirect the My Documents folder to a network share and your work was pretty much done since all data folders basically fell under it (it is the parent after all). This is no longer the case in Vista. Vista does not allow you to redirect the parent folder any longer ("FR, Test" in the example above). Instead, you must redirect each of the 11 folders individually (+2 other folders if you want to redirect the whole user profile). Here's a cute bit... If a user or application puts a file or folder in the root User Files Folder (i.e. "FR, Test\Financial"), there is no way to redirect that folder. The folder would stay local and would not be backed up. Does this sound dangerous to you yet? (It pissed us off.) Now luckily Microsoft has provided an optional GPO that prevents users from being allowed to write to the root of this folder; however, it only blocks them in the GUI - it does nothing if they access the folder's C: path directly or if they use a CMD window. User retraining will be required so that they understand what to do when they can no longer save files to the usual root location.
This new structure has also presented me with all sorts of challenges having to do with user migration, folder redirection and network storage - but I don't think it adds anything beneficial. There is some implied flexibility, but my experiments revealed that only the default approach was even remotely valid. And this new structure does nothing to help most applications. Take Microsoft's own Visio product as an example. It likes to create a "My Shapes" folder under the Documents folder. This behavior will continue since it can't create a folder along side the other 11- the documents folder will remain polluted by all sorts of mysterious folders that will often have little to do with a user's actual documents.
Welcome to the User Files Folder. I've got a ton of related articles planned for this subject so please keep an eye out!