Files & Folder Organization

objects/filesindrawer80.jpgDon't spend time looking for the Word file you created last week. Let's get an organizational plan for our computer. Whether dealing with a closet full of clothes, an office full of papers, or a computer full of files, organization is the key. Keeping your computer folders and documents in order can play a big part in making your computing life easy. 

On the computer, there are two basic types of items that need to be organized. The first, a folder, is an object that can hold multiple files or documents. (Folders are sometimes referred to as directories.) On the computer screen, a folder most often looks like a yellow or blue paper file folder. The second type of object is a file, which may be a picture, a document, a video clip, or other piece of data. A file often has a small icon or picture associated with it. 

Naming Files and Folders   

In the old DOS days of computing, file names followed a strict naming structure -- eight characters, a period, and three more characters; spaces could not be used. Now the newer Windows operating systems have finally caught up to their Mac brethren by allowing longer file names. Windows file and/or folder names can contain up to 215 characters, including spaces. But don't get carried away. Try to keep your file names to 20-30 characters, if you can. Short file names are still easier to use, and some programs may have trouble interpreting extremely long file names. 

File names are generally followed by a period and three letters, called an extension. In most cases, the program that you are using will automatically add the extension. You may or may not see the extension depending on the way your computer is set up. One important thing to know when naming files and/or folders: names cannot contain the following characters: / : * ? " < > | 

Filing System  

The metaphor of a file drawer works well here. If your file cabinet is stuffed with files and they are not in any given order, you will have a hard time finding things.  If your computer file cabinet becomes stuffed and disorderly, it will not only cause you to lose things, but it also can sometimes cause computer problems and glitches.  

First, you will want to set up an organization system by creating folders to hold your files and documents. The idea here is for you to have a plan and to follow it.  You can choose any type of scheme that fits the way that you work. You may want to create folders for the various types of work that you do, such as home, office, financial, etc. Or you might want to separate your folders by the type, contact, or company giving them titles such as Utilities, Inventory, Clients, Prudential, Dean Witter, etc.  

The Tree   

Most computer file configurations use a tree structure, which is sometimes referred to as a nested arrangement. The tree has one trunk with many branches. The branches have many smaller branches, and the smaller branches have many leaves. Consider your hard disk like the trunk of a tree.  Most computers only have one hard disk. Just as some trees have two or three trunks, a computer may also have two or three hard disks or one hard disk that is broken up in several parts. Right now, however, we will only talk about the main hard disk.  In Windows computers, it is usually labeled C: 

To get to the hard disk in Windows, just double-click on My Computer, then click on the C: Drive (It may have a similar name, such as Local Drive C:). Once you have opened the hard disk folder, you will see that it already has other folders inside of it. To create a new folder, click on the word File in the menu at the top of the screen. Then choose New and then Folder. A new folder will appear with the name "New Folder" highlighted. Just type in the name that you would like to give the folder, and the words "New Folder" will disappear. The title that you typed will appear under the folder. If, for some reason, the folder still reads "New Folder," simply right-click on the folder, choose Rename, and retype the name again. 

A folder may contain other folders. If you have created a new folder called Finances, you may want to have several folders in that folder called Bank, Stocks, Bonds, etc. A folder labeled Home may have folders inside labeled Record Inventory, Household, Utilities, etc. To create a folder within a folder, simply open (double-click) a folder before you choose the File-New Folder option. 

You can also move folders by dragging them from one place to another. For instance, if you create a folder in your Home folder and then decide that it should have been in your Investment folder, you can simply highlight the folder by clicking on it and then drag it onto the Investment folder. Remove your finger from the mouse when the folder is over the Investment folder and it will be added to the Investment folder. 

Default Folders   

Every time you write a letter or create a spreadsheet or a presentation, you are creating a file. When you save that file, unless you stipulate otherwise, the program you are using puts the file into a certain folder. That folder is the default folder for the application that you are using.  Many Windows programs, especially Microsoft programs like Word, Works, and Excel use a folder called My Documents as the default folder. It is often a good idea to keep your files in the My Documents folder and simply create sub-folders in My Documents to suit your needs. Newer versions of Windows also use folders labeled My Downloads and My Music as the default folders for various applications. 

You can change the default folder by looking through the menus at the top of the screen. The location of the default folder is most often found in the Tools menu. For instance, in Microsoft Word, the default folder is found in the Tools menu under Options on the File Location tab. 

Mac Specific Instructions   

In Windows computers, the hard disk is usually labeled C:  In Macs, it is titled Macintosh HD. To get to the hard disk, Mac users will double-click on the Macintosh HD icon. Once you have opened the hard disk folder, you will see that it already has other folders inside of it. To create a new folder, click on the word File in the menu at the top of the screen. Then choose New Folder. A new folder will appear with the name "untitled folder" highlighted. Just type in the name that you would like to give the folder and the words "untitled folder" will disappear. The title that you typed will appear under the folder. If for some reason the folder still reads "New Folder," simply click on the folder, wait a second, and click again. You will then be able to retype the name. 

Don't get yourself in the situation where you are spending a great deal of time looking for files you created earlier. Keeping your computer files and folders in order can play a big part in making your computing life easier. Get yourself a plan and follow it. The time that you spend organizing your files will be well spent. Don't forget, organization is the key.