NWA-PCUG Newsletter Article, April 2009
File Management – Part One
by Ron Hirsch, Contributing Editor, Boca Raton Computer Society, Florida
ronhirsch1439 (at) comcast.com (click to email author)

This article has been obtained from APCUG with the author’s permission for publication by APCUG member groups; all other uses require the permission of the author (see e-mail address above).

What exactly do I mean when I say file management? And, I can hear you saying “Who needs to fool around with that stuff. I have too many real things to concern myself with. My computer takes care of all those things anyway, doesn't it?” Well, the answer is yes and no. If you went into a restaurant to dine, would you rather select your own choices from the menu, or just have the waiter bring you what he feels like bringing? Very few of you will answer with the latter. But, most people don't bother to establish/customize their file preferences on the computer. It's easier to just take what the computer has been set to do. And, they don't have to learn anything (they think) if they just accept all the defaults.

Please note that I’m making the assumption that you know how to use a mouse, and right or left click on things. And, when I say “scroll down” or drag, you know what to do. If you haven’t reached this point yet, I think it’s time to take a very basic beginner’s course before proceeding.

The simplest way to understand the way your computer stores things is to consider the following. Suppose you saw a line of text as follows -

USA\Florida\Boca Raton\123 Broadway\2nd floor\room 24\gray file cabinet\top drawer\3rd folder\2nd document.

I’m sure that everyone would understand exactly where to look for the document in question. The line above is actually a descriptive path to get you there. Well, computer hard drives store things in a very similar way. A path to get to a document in your computer might be -

c:\My Documents\Letters\Personal\Aunt Emma’s Birthday.doc

This path states that the filename is “Aunt Emma’s Birthday.doc”, and it is in a folder named “Personal”. That folder is a subfolder of “Letters”, which is a subfolder of “My Documents”, which is a folder on the hard drive C. To define paths in computer language a “\” is used to separate the various elements of the path. Note that this information is not case sensitive. That is, upper or lower case makes no difference. Just having learned this already puts you well on the road to understanding file management.

File management includes things such as establishing certain folders which will be the storage areas for your documents, and other files. You direct where files will be stored in various of your programs by saving your files in folders you establish or define. This makes things easier when you want to do backups also. Many programs allow you to specify what those folders are. So, when you go to save a file, that folder comes up as the default. A common cry from beginners is “I saved the file, but I don’t know where it is.”

Within a folder you can have sub-folders. For example, if you had a folder c:\letters, you could put in subfolders for business, personal, club, etc.. This way, you have an organized filing system. If you have a file drawer that you use for filing things, most people will have separate folders or hangers for different categories. Throwing everything in the same area make it much more difficult to find things, just as putting all your different socks into the same drawer, unpaired, and mixed up, makes life tougher also.

Most people are intimidated by their computers. Remember, it’s only a machine, and you should be the boss, not the computer. The more you understand, the more in control you will feel. But, that doesn’t just happen. Like all things in this world, you must make it happen.

Reading these articles, and doing the practice can help you along the road to that end.

Once you become reasonably proficient in the subjects to be presented, you will be prepared to move files around, copy them to a floppy or ZIP disk to back them up, or delete them. The exercise below should help you in this area.

Please note that the protocols used here are applicable not only to PC’s, but also to Mac’s. These protocols are very logical once you understand them. The term “Windows” will be used throughout the article. This means that all versions of Windows, 95, 98, ME, or Windows 2000 will follow the same procedures


1. Open up Notepad - if you don't know where it is, click on the START BUTTON on the bottom left of your screen START>PROGRAMS>ACCESSORIES. Double click on Notepad, and the standard Windows text editor will open. Notepad is simply a small program in which you can generate and edit text documents. It offers almost nothing in the way of formatting, but is a bare bones text editor, as opposed to WordPerfect or Word which are capable of elaborate activities.

2. Type “This is a test.” in the Notepad window.

3. Save the document by clicking on FILE>SAVE. A window will open. At the top of the window is an area with the notation “Save in”. It will probably show your C: drive. If not, use the scroll arrow to select the c: drive. Once you have done this and double-clicked on it, there should be a listing below of all the folders on the C: drive. Scroll to the one named “My Documents”, and double click on it. (My Documents folder is a standard folder that Windows installs.) The focus is now on that folder. Next, go down to the bottom of that window and in the field at the bottom, select “all files(*.*)” just to see what else is in that folder. There is a field with “File name” alongside of it. In that field, type testfile.txt. Then click on the save button. You have now saved that file in the “My Documents” directory. Now, exit Notepad.

4. Open Windows Explorer. If you don't know how to do this, it's time you learned. Click on START>PROGRAMS>EXPLORER. Or, click on the Windows key and the “e” key on your keyboard at the same time. Navigate around to display the list of folders on the C: drive. If that's not what showing, find C: on the left and double click on it. This should bring up the list of all the folders on the C: drive. Find the My Documents folder, and double click on it. There should be at least one file there, the one we just saved called “testfile.txt”.

5. Before continuing, I suggest that you configure Explorer to show all file extensions. This makes working with Explorer easier. At the top of the Explorer Window, click on VIEW>OPTIONS, and then uncheck the line which reads “Hide file extensions for the types that are registered.”

This is the end of part 1 of Learning Basic Windows skills. Next month, the second part of this will cover moving and copying files, along with setting up new folders. If you find this material useful, you may want to download this article in PDF format, from our web site http://www.brcs.org. This allows readers to keep the material either as a PDF file, and/or print it out, and place it in a looseleaf notebook for future reference.

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