Understanding how to use files and folders in Windows
Posted October 6, 2009
Join me for a moment in the office of yesteryear. Notice all the metal filing cabinets and manila file folders holding paper rather than the sleek computer workstations and wireless Internet connections we use today.
Fast forward: You still organize the work you do every day in files and folders, but today, the metal and cardboard have been dropped in favor of electronic bits and bytes. Files are the individual documents that you save from within applications, such as Word and Excel, and you use folders and subfolders to organize several files into groups or categories, such as by project or by customer.
When you work in a software program, such as a word processor, you save your document as a file. Files can be saved to your computer hard drive; to removable storage media such as USB flash drives (which are about the size of a package of gum and you insert them into a USB port on your computer); or to recordable DVDs (small flat discs you insert into a disc drive on your computer).
You can organize files by placing them in folders. The Windows operating system helps you to organize files and folders in the following ways:
• Take advantage of predefined folders: Windows sets up some folders for you. For example, the first time you start Windows, you find folders for Documents, Pictures, Videos, and Music already set up on your computer. You can see them listed in Windows Explorer (right-click the Start menu in Windows and choose Explore to open Windows Explorer).
The Documents folder is a good place to store letters, presentations for your community group, household budgets, and so on. The Pictures folder is where you store picture files, which you may transfer from a digital camera or scanner, receive in an e-mail message from a friend or family member, or download from the Internet. Similarly, the Videos folder is a good place to put files from your camcorder, and the Music folder is where you place tunes you download or transfer from a music player.
• Create your own folders: You can create any number of folders and give them a name that identifies the types of files you’ll store there. For example, you might create a folder called Digital Scrapbook if you use your computer to create scrapbooks, or a folder called Taxes where you save e-mailed receipts for purchases and electronic tax filing information. The task “Create a New Folder” later in this chapter explains how to create a new folder.
• Place folders within folders to further organize files: A folder you place within another folder is called a subfolder. For example, in your Documents folder, you might have a subfolder called Holiday Card List that contains your yearly holiday newsletter and address lists. In my Pictures folder, I organize the picture files by creating subfolders that begin with the year and then a description of the event or subject, such as 2005 Home Garden Project, 2007 Christmas, 2009 San Francisco Trip, 2010 Family Reunion, 2009 Pet Photos, and so on.
• Move files and folders from one place to another: Being able to move files and folders helps you if you decide it’s time to reorganize information on your computer. For example, when you start using your computer, you might save all your documents to your Documents folder. That’s okay for a while, but in time, you might have dozens of documents saved in that one folder. To make your files easier to locate, you can create subfolders by topic and move files into them.
Nancy Muir is the VP of Content and Curriculum for Look Both Ways, an Internet safety company (ilookbothways.com) and the author of over 50 books on computers and the Internet. Nancy has taught technical writing and Internet safety at the university level, holds a certificate in Distance Learning Design, and has been a senior manager in both the software and computer publishing industries.