Windows File Management

Author: Vic Laurie, Ewing SeniorNet Computer Learning Center, August, 2004
Revised: Joel May, Ewing SeniorNet Computer Literacy Center,

Table of Contents
  1. Introduction
  2. Where is the Information?
  3. How is the Information Organized?
  4. Naming Files
  5. Saving Files
  6. Creating a New Folder for a Saved File
  7. Viewing Files and Folders
  8. Left vs. Right Click
  9. The Power of Right-Click
  1. File and Folder Operations
  2. Copying Files or Folders
  3. Moving Files or Folders
  4. Renaming Files or Folders
  5. Deleting Files or Folders
  6. How Windows Manages Files
  7. File Extensions
  8. File Associations
  9. Finding Lost or Misplaced Files
  10. Install Demo Viewer
  1. Introduction

    1. Computers are all about the processing of information
    2. The Information has to be organized in a systematic way or else
      • You can't find it when you need it
      • The computer can't find it when it needs it

    3. There are two principal types of files
      1. Text files
        1. These use a limited well-defined set of common characters and can be read on any computer regardless of the software programs available.
        2. They are sometimes call ASCII (askey) files. This stands for American Standard Code for Information Interchange
        3. They typically contain just plain text
      2. Binary files
        1. All program files, word processor files, spreadsheet files, digital image files, etc.
        2. Formats vary and accessing these files require specific software.
        3. Each application program creates binary files in a particular format. They each contain a set of instructions telling the computer how to create and display text, data, or visual images
        4. Different programs typically cannot read each mother's files.
        5. Much more about this later in the course

    4. Where is the information?

      1. Computers have several types of storage places where information is held
      2. The main permanent storage place is the hard drive (or drives)
        1. This is located inside the computer and is typically designated as the C: drive.
        2. Hard drives may be as small of 40 Gigabytes (40 billion bytes) or as large as 300 Gigabytes.
        3. The hard drive is where you'll keep most of your information
          1. The computer’s operating system (Windows 95/98/Me/2000/XP
          2. Programs or application software (Works, Quicken, Internet Explorer, games, etc.
          3. Data in files you have created (Letters, lists, photos, documents, spreadsheets, databases, etc.
      3. Most computers also have storage places that can be moved from one computer to another. These are useful for transferring or sharing data and for archiving and long-term storage of files
        1. A floppy disk drive, typically designated as the A: drive.
          1. Floppy disks that can be inserted into and removed from the floppy disk drive hold 1.44 Megabytes (1.44 million bytes) of data.
          2. New computers are frequently shipped without a floppy disk drive - the technology is being phased out.
        2. A CD and/or DVD drive, typically designated as the D: drive. There are several types of these:
          1. CD drives which accept a disk capable of holding between 645 and 800 Megabytes of data
            1. CD-R - a read-only drive, useless for saving data
            2. CD-RW - a read/write drive capable of both reading data from a disk and also writing data to it.
          2. DVD drives which accept a disk capable of holding between 4.7 Gigabytes (single density) and 8.5 Gigabytes (double density)
            1. DVD-R and DVD+R - read only drives, useless for saving information (the + and - represent two competing formats
            2. DVD-RW and DVD+RW - read/write drives capable of both reading data from a disk and also writing data to it.
            3. DVD-RAM - a read/write drive used primarily for storing backup copies of files
        3. A USB portable storage device (often called "thumb drives")
          1. Available in sizes from 64 MB to 5 GB
          2. Plug into a USB port on your computer (additional drivers required with Windows 98)
          3. The likely replacement for floppy disk technology
        4. Others such as Zip drives, tape, etc.

    5. How is the Information Organized?

      1. Each item of information (letters, lists, documents, financial information, spreadsheets, databases, etc. as well as components of the operating system and of the programs on your computer) is stored as a FILE
      2. Files are organized into FOLDERS
      3. Folders can contain SUBFOLDERS
      4. It is useful to think of the hard drive (C:) as a file cabinet.
        1. The file cabinet has drawers which are the equivalent of folders (it can hold as many folders as its physical size can accommodate)
        2. Inside the drawers (folders) are a number of subfolders
        3. Inside the subfolders are the files (or additional subfolders - think of them as sub-subfolders
        4. Open the My Town folder to see how this works

    6. Naming Files

      1. Most Windows files have names with two distinct parts separated by a period: MYFILE . EXE
      2. The stuff before the period or dot (.) is the name of the file assigned either by you (in the case of files you create) or by the programmer or supplier (in the case of the operating system, programs and applications)
      3. The stuff after the period or dot (.) is called the "file extension"
      4. File extensions are usually, but not necessarily, three characters long
      5. Extensions define the type of file and are very important because they are what Windows uses to determine what kind of file it is and how to process it. At http://filext.com/ you can look up file extensions to see what each means
      6. Windows should be configured to always display the file extensions. However, as delivered, Windows does NOT display these extensions, (probably because Bill Gates thought you too stupid to learn what we'll discuss for the rest of the course.)
      7. To learn how to display file extensions in Windows 98 or Windows Me, click HERE
      8. To learn how to display file extensions in Windows XP or Windows 2000, click HERE
      9. A note about "full file addresses"/li>
        1. Devices such as disk drives, CD and DVD drives, USB storage devices, etc. are assigned letters with a colon such as A: and C:
        2. The full address of a file contains all the information needed to locate the file on your computer. It would look something like

          C:\Folder\Subfolder\Sub-Subfolder\FileName.Extension

        3. The part of the full address preceding the file name is called the "path"

    7. Saving Files

      1. Whenever you create a file containing information you want to keep, it is important to save it properly.
      2. File Save vs. File Save As
        1. When you SAVE a file, the latest version replaces the previous one
        2. When you SAVE AS, you are asked for a new file name and the latest version is saved in addition to the previous one
      3. There are three characteristics of files that you must specify when saving a file:
        1. The file location
        2. The file name
        3. The file extension (file type)
      4. The procedure for saving a file is as follows:
        1. On the File menu, choose Save (or Save As)
        2. If you have previously saved a version of the file and you choose Save, the new version is saved, replacing the previous version
        3. If you have not previously saved a version of the file the procedure for Save or Save As is identical. In the dialog box that opens
          1. Near the top you'll see a section labeled Save In. Use the drop-down arrow at the right end of the box to select the FILE LOCATION (folder, subfolder, sub-subfolder, etc.) where you want to save the file
          2. Just below the window displaying the locations, you'll see a section labeled File name. Type in the FILE NAME you want to give this file
          3. Just below that you'll see a section labeled Save As Type. It is likely that something is already filled in here and you can just use it as the default. Or ... you can click on the drop-down arrow to choose a different FILE EXTENSION (For more information on this, see NAMING FILES above).
        4. To see a demonstration of how to properly save files, click HERE
      5. But suppose you want to create a new folder in which to save the file
        1. After you have chosen Save (or Save As) on the File menu and the dialog box has opened
        2. To the right of the Save In section you'll see a number of small icons.
        3. The one that looks like a file folder that is about to explode (the one WITHOUT the crooked arrow in it is the Create New Folder tool
        4. Click on it. A dialog box will open and you'll see a section titled Name.
        5. Type the name of the folder you want to create there and then proceed to save the file into it as described above.
        6. To see a demonstration of how to create a new folder, click HERE

    8. Viewing Files and Folders

      1. There are two basic formats for the interface used to display the contents of the computer
      2. The single-pane view - used for most folders and in My Computer
        1. Shows one folder with its sub-folders and files
        2. The contents can be viewed in several different ways according to your needs and/or tastes
          1. Thumbnails - Displays a picture of the contents of the file or folder when possible
          2. Tiles - Displays large icons along with the file name (and extension if you have enabled them)
          3. Icons - Displays small icons along with the file name (and extension if you have enabled them)
          4. List - Displays just a list of the file names (and extensions if you have enabled them)
          5. Details - Displays file name, type, size, date created and other options information about each file
        3. You can choose the view you want by clicking on the "bingo card" icon on the tool bar

          The “bingo card” icon

      3. The double-pane or Windows Explorer view
        1. A tree-like view which can show the entire contents of the computer
        2. As in the "My Computer" view, contents can be viewed in several different ways

    9. File and Folder Operations

      1. Left vs. Right Click
        1. Left clicks ALWAYS perform an action
          1. A left single-click when done on a button in a dialog box causes an action to take place.
          2. A left single-click on a folder or file name selects the folder or file for further action (as yet unspecified)
          3. A left double-click causes the default action for a given file type (see How Windows Manages Files below)
        2. Right clicks ALWAYS display a menu
        3. A right single-click opens a menu (context sensitive) displaying a list of possible actions and other information
        4. A right double-click does nothing

      2. The Power of Right-Click
        1. Right-click menus are context-sensitive. That means that what you see on the right-click menu depends upon what object you right-click on.
        2. A "Generic" Right-Click menu contains commands for
          1. Software Operations (Open, Print, Edit, etc.)
          2. Basic File Management Functions (Cut, Copy, Paste)
          3. Send To (Move or Copy a File, Open Software Applications, Create Desktop Shortcuts, Initiate E-mail, etc.)
          4. Properties (Displays information about the item clicked)
            1. File or Folder
            2. Type of File
            3. Opens With
            4. Location
            5. Size
            6. Date Created, Modified, Accessed
            7. Attributes (Archive, Read-Only, Hidden, System)
              • Hard or Removable Disk
                • Type
                • File System Used
                • Used Space
                • Free Space
                • Capacity
              • Special Objects
                • Desktop
                • Start | Programs
                • Taskbar
                • My Computer

        3. Copying Files or Folders
          1. You can copy files, folders, subfolders, sub-subfolders, etc.
          2. Copying creates a duplicate of the original
            1. In the same folder with a different name
            2. In a different folder with the same name
            3. In a different folder with a different name (but the same content)
          3. The original remains in the same location unchanged
          4. There are (as is usually the case in Windows) several ways to do this:
            1. Right-click menu (see a demo HERE)
              1. Right-click on the file or folder you want to copy
              2. Choose Copy from the context-sensitive menu
              3. Right-click on the folder to which you want to copy the chosen items
              4. Chose Paste from the context-sensitive menu
            2. The Task Pane (in Windows XP) (see a demo HERE)
              1. Left-click on the file or folder you want to copy to highlight it
              2. In the Task Pane on the left, choose Copy This File
              3. In the dialog box that opens, left-click on the folder to which you want to copy the chosen items
              4. Click on the Copy button at the bottom of the dialog box
            3. The Edit menu in My Computer or Windows Explorer (see a demo HERE)
              1. Left-click on the file or folder you want to copy to highlight it
              2. Left-click on the Edit menu, then left-click on Copy
              3. Left-click on the folder to which you want to copy the chosen items
              4. Left-click on the Edit menu, then left-click on Paste
              Drag and Drop (see a demo HERE)
              1. Position the mouse pointer over the file or folder you want to copy and depress and hold down the right mouse button
              2. Drag the pointer to the folder to which you want to copy the chosen items
              3. Release the right mouse button and on the context-sensitive menu choose Copy Here
          5. Note, if you want to copy more than one file (or folder) at the same time, you can select multiple files (or folders) as follows:
            1. To select multiple files or folders that are listed contiguously, left-click on the first one, then shift-left-click on the last one. They will all be selected
            2. To select multiple files or folders that are not listed contiguously, hold down the CTRL key and left-click on each one you want one at a time.

          Moving Files or Folders

          1. You can move files, folders, subfolders, sub-subfolders, etc.
          2. Moving is similar to Copying in that it creates a duplicate of the original
            1. In the same folder with a different name
            2. In a different folder with the same name
            3. In a different folder with a different name (but the same content)
          3. But the action also deletes the original file from its former location
          4. There are (as is usually the case in Windows) several ways to do this
            1. Right-click menu
              1. Right-click on the file or folder you want to move
              2. Choose Cut from the context-sensitive menu
              3. Right-click on the folder to which you want to move the chosen items
              4. Chose Paste from the context-sensitive menu
            2. The Task Pane (in Windows XP)
              1. Left-click on the file or folder you want to move to highlight it
              2. In the Task Pane on the left, choose Move This File
              3. In the dialog box that opens, left-click on the folder to which you want to move the chosen items
              4. Left-click on the Move button at the bottom of the dialog box
            3. The Edit menu in My Computer or Windows Explorer
              1. Left-click on the file or folder you want to move to highlight it
              2. Left-click on the Edit menu, then left-click on Cut
              3. Left-click on the folder to which you want to move the chosen items
              4. Left-click on the Edit menu, then left-click on Paste
            4. Drag and Drop
              1. Position the mouse pointer over the file or folder you want to move and depress and hold down the right mouse button
              2. Drag the pointer to the folder to which you want to move the chosen items
              3. Release the right mouse button and on the context-sensitive menu choose Move Here
          5. Note, if you want to move more than one file (or folder) at the same time, you can select multiple files (or folders) as follows:
            1. To select multiple files or folders that are listed contiguously, left-click on the first one, then shift-left-click on the last one. They will all be selected
            2. To select multiple files or folders that are not listed contiguously, hold down the CTRL key and left-click on each one you want one at a time.

        4. Renaming Files or Folders
          1. You can change the name of a file or folder at any time
          2. But you must be careful NOT TO CHANGE THE FILE EXTENSION
          3. There are (as is usually the case in Windows) several ways to do this
            1. Right-click menu
              1. Right-click on the file or folder you want to rename
              2. Chose Rename from the context-sensitive menu
              3. The name of the file will be highlighted in blue with a box around it
              4. Type in the new name for the file or folder (be sure to include the extension for the file)
              5. Press ENTER to complete the process
            2. Use the F2 key
              1. Left-click on the file or folder you want to rename
              2. Press the F2 key
              3. The name of the file will be highlighted in blue with a box around it
              4. Type in the new name for the file or folder (be sure to include the extension for the file)
              5. Press ENTER to complete the process
          4. NOTE: File names may not contain any of the following characters: / \ : * ? " < > or |

        5. Deleting Files or Folders
          1. You can delete a file or folder at any time
          2. There are (as is usually the case in Windows) several ways to do this
            1. Right-click menu
              1. Right-click on the file or folder you want to delete
              2. Choose Delete from the context-sensitive menu
            2. The Task Pane in Windows XP
              1. Left-click on the file or folder you want to delete to highlight it
              2. In the Task Pane on the left, choose Delete This File
            3. Edit Menu in My Computer or Windows Explorer
              1. Left-click on the file or folder you want to delete to highlight it
              2. Left-click on the Edit menu, then left-click on Delete
            4. The Delete Key
              1. Left-click on the file or folder you want to delete to highlight it
              2. Press the DELETE key
          3. Normally, deleted files or folders are sent to the Recycle Bin
          4. If you delete a file by mistake, you can restore it from the Recycle Bin (see a demo HERE)

      3. How Windows Manages Files

        1. File Extensions
          1. Each application program (Notepad, Word, Quicken, Turbo Tax, etc.) creates binary files (0's and 1's) in a particular format
          2. Typically only the program that created the file can read it
          3. Windows uses FILE EXTENSIONS to associate the data files created by a program with the program that create them
          4. Most Windows files have names with two distinct parts separated by a period: MYFILE . EXE
          5. The stuff before the period or dot (.) is the name of the file assigned either by you (in the case of files you create) or by the programmer or supplier (in the case of the operating system, programs and applications)
          6. The stuff after the period or dot (.) is called the "file extension"
          7. File extensions are usually, but not necessarily, three characters long
          8. Extensions define the type of file and are very important because they are what Windows uses to determine what kind of file it is and how to process it.
          9. Some Examples of Extensions

            Extension
            Description
            Opened By
            jpg, gif Graphics, Pictures Default browser or graphics program
            bmp (Bulky) graphics Microsoft Paint or graphics progam
            doc Word Processing file Microsoft Word or WordPad
            xls Excel Spreadsheet file Microsoft Excel
            txt Text file Notepad, text editor, Microsoft Word, etc.
            pdf Portable Document file Adobe software (Reader or Acrobat)
            htm, html Hypertext Mark file Default browser (edited in text editor)
            wav, mp3 Audio Clip Windows Media Player
            avi, wmv Video Clib Windows Media Player
            rm Video Clip Real Player
            dll Dynamic Link Library Used by software in a variety of functions
            exe Executable file File that actually runs software
            zip Compressed file Opened by WinZip, PKZip, etc.

          10. There are several thousand extensions. You can learn more about these extensions and look up others that you may come across at:
            http://www.ace.net.nz/tech/TechFileFormat.html
            http://filext.com/
            http://www.webopedia.com/quick_ref/fileextensionsa.asp

          11. Different programs are typically not able to read each others files. To demonstrate this, try these exercises:
            1. First:
              1. Create a small plain text (ASCII) file, using Notepad
              2. Save it three times, using .TXT, .DOC, and .JPG extensions
              3. Double click on each to open and view
            2. Next:
              1. Create a small plain text (ASCII) file, using Microsoft Word
              2. Save it three times, using .TXT, .DOC, and .JPG extensions
              3. Double click on each to open and view
            3. Finally:
              1. Open a picture (graphic) file
              2. Save a picture files three times using .TXT, .DOC and .JPG extensions
              3. Double click on each to open and view
          12. The File Extensions tell Windows what type the file is (or is supposed to be)
          13. A list of file types is kept in the Registry, defining
            1. what actions are possible for each file type (Open, Edit, Print, etc.)
            2. which software to use for each action
            3. where that software is stored

        2. File Associations
          1. Software that is assigned to do something with or to a particular type of file is said to be "associated"
          2. All file types will have at least one possible actions called the Default Action. This is (almost) always "Open"
          3. he Default action is the one that double left-clicking brings about.
            1. When a user invokes a particular file by double-clicking, the operating system consults the Registry
            2. From the list path for the Default action, it calls up the appropriate executable software file to carry out the desired action
          4. In general, actions other than the Default are invoked from the right-click context menu.
          5. Right-clicking a file once will bring up a list of things (called the context menu ).

            1. The top portion of the menu shows all the possible actions for the file, including the Default, which will be in boldface.

              The graphic to the left shows the menu displayed on my system when I right-click on a graphic (picture) file

            2. In this case "Open" is the default operation
            3. Many file types may have several possible actions, often using different software. For example, on my system, if I right-click on a graphics file I have a choice of:
              1. Opening (viewing) the graphic using the default browser
              2. Editing the graphic using Adobe Photoshop Elements
              3. Re-sizing the graphic using a free utility called PixResizer
              4. Printing the graphic using the default browser
            4. I've also added other commands to the Right-Click menu
              1. Convert the graphic from one format to another
              2. Add or edit a note describing the graphic on the Details view
              3. Scan for viruses
              4. Etc. (we'll discuss the "Open With" section of the menu later)

            1. A list of all the file types registered on a particular computer together with their associated actions and software can be seen by going to My Computer|Tools|Folder Options|File Types

          1. Managing File Associations

            1. Many of us have had the experience of installing some new software only to find that, without asking, the installation has changed our file associations so that some of our favorite programs no longer work. Knowing how to manage file associations will allow you to take back control of your computer.
            2. There is a simple procedure to change the default action or to occasionally use a different program to open a file using the "Open With..." command
              1. Right-click on a file of the type whose associations you wish to edit.
              2. Selecting this entry will bring up a list of programs from which a selection can be made to open the file. An example of the pertinent section of a context menu is illustrated in the picture shown nearby. Generally, this list contains any programs previously used to open the particular file type involved. The example shown in the picture is a text file, and for this file type there are a number of commonly used programs.
              3. If the list does not contain the desired program, select the entry Choose Program.
              4. This will open the dialog box "Open With" and in it you can look for an appropriate executable from all the files on the computer. In the lower part of the dialog box is an entry, " Always use the selected program to open this kind of file". Place a check there if you want this program to be the default for opening the type of file in question. If you only want to use the program at this time, make sure to leave the box unchecked.
            1. To see a demonstration of this process, click HERE

        3. Finding Lost or Misplaced Files.

          1. It is (too) often the case that after you've saved a file, you can't remember where you saved it or even (sometimes) what you named it.
          2. Windows has a solution for you. It's called "Search"
          3. Windows Search can be accessed in several different ways
            1. From the Desktop click on Start, then on Search
            2. From the My Computer window, first click on the Search Tool on the toolbar then click on "Search for Files or Folders" in the Systems Tasks section of the Task Pane
          4. When the Search dialog box opens, it looks like this:
            Search Window
          5. You can search for:
            1. (Just) Pictures, Music or Video files
            2. (Just) Documents (word processing, spreadsheet, etc.) files
            3. All Files and Folders (anywhere on your computer)
            4. Computers or People (computers on your network or people in your Outlook or Outlook Express address book
            5. Information in the Help and Support Center (help and information on how to use or fix your computer
            6. The Internet
          6. Let's look at how to search All Files and Folders (since we are assuming that you want to know about searching because you sometimes lose or misplace a file somewhere in your computer's storage space)
          7. When you click on All Files and Folders, the search window that opens looks like this:
            Files and Folders Search Window
          8. You can specify:
            1. All or Part of the File Name (if you can remember it)
            2. A Word or Phrase in the File
            3. Look In (what storage space to search)
            4. When the File was Last Modified (if you can remember)
              1. Within the Last Week
              2. Within the Past Month
              3. Within the Last Year
              4. Or you can specify a range of dates
            5. What Size is It
              1. Small (less than 100 KB)
              2. Medium (less than 1 MB)
              3. Large (more than 1 MB)
              4. Or you can specify a maximum or minimum size in KB
          9. Here are some examples:
            1. To find a file named Suzie's Picture which you saved as a .jpg file but you can't remember where, In the "All or Part of the File Name" you'd type Suzie's Picture .jpg. This would find the specific individual file.
            2. To find a missing word processing file the name of which you can't remember, In the "All or Part of the File Name" you'd type *.doc" (the .doc extension is the one that Windows uses for Microsoft Word word processing files and the asterisk ( * ) is a "wild card" character that stands for "anything at all"). This would find all the word processing files stored on your computer.
            3. To find a missing spreadsheet the name of which escapes you except that you know it begins with an "H", In the "All or Part of the File Name" you'd type h*.xls (the .xls extension is the one that Windows uses for Microsoft Word word processing files and the asterisk ( * ) is a "wild card" character that stands for "anything at all", so it would search for a filename beginning with H and having "anything at all" after it. This would find all the spreadsheet files on your computer whose names begin with "H".
            4. To find a file about which you can't remember anything (neither the name nor the type), but you do know that you saved it within the last week, In the "All or Part of the File Name" you'd type *.* (both the file name and the file extension can be "anything at all" and in the ":When Was It Modified" section you'd choose "Within the Last Week". This would find all the files that where created on your computer during the last week..
          10. In addition to Windows Search, within the last few months, several vendors have made available for free download what they are calling "Desktop Search Engines". These have many more advanced search features than does Windows Search and, if you have a large number of files saved on your computer, they are worth trying. However, a discussion of them is beyond the scope of this course. The Desktop Search Engines currently available include:
            1. Google Desktop Search, reviewed Here
            2. Yahoo Desktop Search, reviewed Here
            3. Microsoft MSN Toolbar Suite, reviewed Here
            4. Copernic Desktop Search, reviewed Here