I've done my fair share of Windows Vista-bashing over the years, but the OS has a lot of hidden talents. One of them is stacking, a handy way to organise the files contained in any given folder.

Suppose you have a folder packed with Word, Excel, and PowerPoint documents. Wouldn't it be nice if you could divide them into 'stacks', with one stack for each file type? Alternately, if you have a folder that contains a large quantity of files, it might be helpful to organise them into alphabetical stacks: A-H, I-P and Q-Z.

Windows Vista SP2 review

Before you get started with stacking, keep in mind that Vista makes no changes to the physical location of your files. Rather, stacks are really just virtual folders, and they're temporary to boot. Thus, you can feel free to fiddle and experiment without worrying that you'll mess anything up.

1. Open a folder containing some documents, photos, MP3s or whatever.

2. Right-click any open area within that folder and mouse over Stack By.

3. Choose the kind of stack you want: Name, date modified, file type, size and so on. Note that the available options will differ depending on the kinds of files in the folder.

Stacking in Windows Vista

Presto: Vista creates your stacks, which appear under the banner of 'search results'. That's what I mean when I say they're temporary: stacks are really just a filtered, folder-specific form of searching.

If you want to save a stack for future use, click the Save Search button up on the toolbar.

Neat, huh?

Rick Broida writes for PC World