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Windows File Explorer Help

It has been our experience that many relatively sophisticated users are unaware of some of the very useful capabilities of Windows Explorer.  This is written at the level of the novice users, but should provide ideas and information useful to many more advance users.

If you wanted to move your files around on the hard drive (like rearranging paper folders in your file drawers (see below) you would use a program called Windows EXPLORER .  It acts as your hands to manipulate files and folders

Files are stored in the hard disk in FOLDERS.  FOLDERS can hold FILES or other FOLDERS.  There is a FOLDER on your computer called MY DOCUMENTS.  You should put all of your documents in this folder.  You can categorize them however you want.  You might arrange them like this:

Picture of Windows Explorer

This is a picture of the Windows Explorer screen (not to be confused with Internet Explorer).  This person has six folders inside of his My Documents folder--Church, Kids, Letters, My Pictures (this is a default folder created by Windows), School and Spreadsheets.  Many of these Folders contain additional folders--Church has Board and Membership Committee.  Board has Agendas, Minutes and Other Stuff.  You can use whatever folder names you like, except that you cannot use a colon or a forward or backward slash in your file or folder names. We recommend that you not nest folders more than 5 deep.  It gets confusing and hard to find things if you go deeper than this. 

When you are running a program (that is, when you have one of your tools, like your word processor, opened out of the hard disk) and you want to save your work (put it away in the hard disk), you will do a FILE/SAVE--this is a shorthand way of saying that you will point to the FILE menu and (left) click and choose SAVE.  When you do this a menu box will open up, and you will be able to choose where to save your work and what to name the file.  You can also create new directories from this menu box.  Leave the extension (the part after the period) to whatever it defaults to.  Windows uses the extension to know what program to use to open the file.

 Other things you should know about Explorer:

The left pane shows the file structure (your disk drives and folders and how they are nested). The right pane shows what is in the folder that is selected in the left pane.  If you click on a plus or minus in the left pane it will open and close folders in that pane, but it will not change what is in the right pane.  If you click on a folder in the left pane, it will show in the right pane what is in that folder.

As is true throughout Microsoft Windows (with a very few exceptions for some non-Windows products) you left click on something to select it.  To click additional items you can hold down the control key while you click on the item you want to add.  If you simply click on another item Explorer will deselect the first item and select the second.  If you have a list of items, you can click on the first, and then hold down CTRL and SHIFT and click on the last item, and the first, last and all items in between will be selected.  Multiple items are picked by everything within the square created by the two items you pick. 

You can also select items by putting the mouse inside the right pane, holding down the left mouse button and moving the mouse.  This will create a rectangle inside the window.  When you let up on the left mouse button all the files partially or completely inside the square will be selected.

You can move or copy files from directory to directory by dragging them.  If you point to and drag multiple selected files, all of the selected files will be moved or copied.  When you drag the file(s) there may be a small plus (+) symbol next to the images you are dragging--this indicates that your are copying the files. By default Windows will assume you are copying only if you are moving from one storage device to another (like from one disk to another or from a storage card to a hard disk).  If you are moving items from one directory on a hard disk (or other storage device) to another directory on the same device, Windows will assume you are moving the item. To change a move to copy or a copy to move, simply hold down the control (CTRL) key before you drop the file(s) at their destination.

You can also choose to display files and folders in a list, either with or without details.  Details are such things as the date the file was created or last modified, the size of the file and the type (which is actually determined by the characters after the period).  This is controlled by icons near the top of the menu box. When you point to these icons, a box will open up telling you what the icon is for.

Most programs will have a place (usually, but not always under Options or something similar) where you can change the default location where files are saved. It is a good idea to change this default to somewhere under the My Documents directory. This way when you backup your files, they will all be in one location. If you leave the default directory pointing somewhere else it is easy to forget to save under My Documents and then not get everything backed up.


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