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Getting Organized
in Windows



It seems that most computer users do not organize well.  Some have a number of folders whose names do not seem to relate to anything in particular (as in the old server at my office).  Others stuff everything into My Documents (C:\My Documents), and all of their Internet Explorer favorites into Favorites (C:\Windows\Favorites).  (Many leave all of their "keeper" e-mail in the received mail folder of their e-mail program.  This is messy and is an accidental deletion waiting to happen.)  The stuff it method works at first, but youíll soon be unable to find anything amongst the mess unless you have been very clever about naming your documents.  At first it was easy for me to find a desired Internet Favorite because I was clever about naming them.  Before long I had so many that I had to wait for the list to load.  The My Documents files were another story. Some I had cleverly named, but others I had not. Finding a particular file required looking through the entire folder and sometimes opening a wrong document or two.  (Aaarrgghh!)



Categorize with folders and sub-folders.  Think of your computerís hard drive (C:) as a file room.  Each folder is a filing cabinet in said room (C:).   Each sub-folder is a drawer in a cabinet. Inside each drawer are hanging files Ė another level of sub-folder.  Inside each hanging file are some of those manila document folders Ė yet another level of sub-folder.  Nothing to it.   Hereís a (kind of fuzzy) picture of Windows Explorer.  (To see yours, click Start, slide up to Programs, slide over into the list and click Windows Explorer.   The list may not be in alphabetical order, so keep looking.  If yours does not have two panes as shown below, click View, click Explorer Bar on the list that opens, click Folders on the list that opens.  The My Documents folder is shown expanded in the left pane to display itís contents.  (Click the box with the + to the left of a folder to expand it.)  As has been done here with Pictures, click a sub-folder in the left pane to show itís sub-folders in the right pane.


CExplorer594x669.gif (100639 bytes)


In my My Documents folder I have folders such as Cars, Computers (which has sub-folders such as Games, Hardware, Software, Tips, etc.), Consumer Info, Letters to the Editor (with the sub-folders Published and Not Published), Misc. (for those things that just cannot be categorized), Pictures (with sub- folders such as Animals, Humor, People, etc.).  My Internet Favorites folder has over two dozen sub-folders such as Billiards, Computers (which has sub-folders such as Games, Information, Resellers, Software, etc.), Internet, Humor, etc.  If you use sub-folders itís usually easy to get to what you want quickly.  An added advantage is that if you want to back up some related files to a floppy disc you donít have to individually select the desired files out of a big long list, you can just copy the folder.  (If your Favorites folder is too big to fit on a floppy disc, there is another way to back it up that will fit.  If you need to know, just ask me how.)

I can only think of two disadvantages to this method of organization:

It takes a little longer to save something, as you have to navigate (click) your way through the main and sub-folders.  But at least you know where it is.

If you accidentally delete the My Documents folder you take all of the sub-folders with it.  But since you are prompted before anything is deleted, and since deletions go to the Recycle Bin and can be recovered, and since you regularly make back-up copies of your files (you do, right?) this is not a problem.

"Why sub-folders?  Why not just make every one a main folder in (C:) ?"   Because you will end up with another big messy list to look through.  You want to keep it smallish so that you can see as much of the file directory as possible without having to scroll.  This saves a lot of time over the years, much more than you will spend making the extra click required to view a folderís sub-folders


Naming Your Files

When you name files, consider starting the fileís name with the name of the folder and sub-folder in which it belongs (such as Computers-Software-My Writings-W95-Organizing Folders and Files.doc).  This is rather long-winded, but has several advantages:

If during a Ďdrag & dropí file copy or move your mouse decides to drop the file into the wrong place, it will be easier to find, especially if you donít remember the exact name you gave it.  (I have had several mice with this tendency. I now always do right-click copies and moves, as this gives you a chance to cancel the operation.)  In the above example, you would do a Find File search for Computers-Software-My Writings* (the * tells the computer to look for any and all characters).  Any file found by the search that is not located in the C:\Computers-Software-My Writings folder is the one you are looking for.  This especially useful when several people use the computer.  If you are in a folder and there is a file with the wrong folder name as its prefix, you know that someone has been messing about in your stuff!

If you decide that having sub-folders is a nuisance and you stuff all of the files into one huge folder, the files will already be named in such a way as to still be organized by subject.


How to Do it

To make folders ahead of time:

Click Start.

Slide up to Programs.

Slide over to the list.  Find Windows Explorer, and click it.

Find the My Documents folder and click it once.

At the top of the window, click File, click New, click Folder.  A new folder will be created.  Type a name for it and then press Ņ (the enter key).  (Should you want to change the name, click the folder once, press the F2 key, type the name, and press Ņ .)  To make a sub-folder within any folder, click the folder then follow the same steps.  Please note that sub-folders are really the same thing as folders, we just call them sub-folders so you know that they are not directly in (C:) but are inside another folder.

When you download or save something, you have the option of putting it any place on your hard drive.  When you click on Save, a window opens with a list of all of your folders and files (see the picture below).  Find the folder into which you want to save your file.  If you do not see it, click the button that is a folder with an up arrow (sort of thing) on it.  This will move you upward on the list.  (This is called Navigating to the folder.) When you find the folder, double-click it to open it, then click Save to put the file into it.  (If you want to create a new folder for the file, click the button that is a folder with a * on the upper right hand corner.  Name the folder that is created, double-click it, then click save.)  In the following picture I have navigated to the My Documents folder, but have not yet navigated to the Computers folder.


Saving594x322.gif (57796 bytes)


AOL users: In AOL, the AOL Download folder is the default folder into which things are saved.  To make saving into My Documents easier, go up to the AOL toolbar:

Click My AOL.

Click Preferences.

Click Download.

Click the Browse button.  This will open a window that looks like Windows Explorer.  Find the My Documents folder (if you do not see it, click the button that is a folder with an up arrow (sort of thing) on it, which will move you upward on the list).  Double-click My Documents, click Save, click OK, and close the Preferences window.

AOL 4.0 and 5.0 support pictures within the mail as opposed to having them attached.   This allows you to see the picture without having to download it.  To save such a picture, right-click it and click Save, then navigate to the folder into which you wish to save it.  (Note that when you send pictures in AOL mail this way, they cannot be seen by folks who are using AOL 3.0 or are not using AOL.  For them, the file must be sent as an attachment.)


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