If you are confused by any terminology, search the webopedia
For just about everything you will do on your computer,
the filing system is absolutely vital. Some of it will have been
created for you already, but you can adapt this, creating systems
yourself which suit your particular needs and preferences. In IT,
knowing and understanding your filing system is as fundamental to
health and happiness as knowing which side of the road to drive
ORGANIZE YOUR COMPUTER
Whatever else your computer is or does, it is first
and foremost a storage system, an extremely large virtual
cupboard. Using a computer without deliberately organizing
what is kept on it is like throwing everything in your house into
one room and not washing up after dinner. Worse still, if
you don’t tell your computer where to file something, it will
file it for you – like getting someone to clean your house and
then leave without telling you where they put everything.
Fortunately, computers allow you to change
the way you have stored files so you can manage your information
retrospectively. Ideally, though, you should develop a filing
system on your computer as soon as you unpack it from its box
and turn it on, and from time to time (once a week) ensure
that it is clean and tidy.
HOW FILING WORKS
What you mean by files & folders
Imagine a typical filing cabinet with hanging files,
and tags on like "tax", "company pension scheme", "Quality Assurance"
etc. Within these hanging files, you may additionally have
flimsy manila folders which help to organize documents under the
general heading of "tax", for example, into further subheadings
such as "corporation tax", "PAYE", "Inland revenue reminders"
and so on.
Now imagine that you are designing a virtual filing
cabinet for the first time. You might be tempted to build
a hierarchy reflecting this system, which consists of a cabinet
(storage, high level), files (storage, medium level), folders
(storage, low level) and documents (lowest level). Unfortunately,
you did not design the system, and folders are higher than files
in computer filing hierarchy - indeed, they are fundamentally
Folders are for storing files
Files are documents (objects)
What your computer means by files and folders
In computer terminologya file is the 'thing'
that you work on - an object, rather than an object holder.
Depending on the program and medium you are dealing with, this
might be a text document, a picture, the track of a CD, a few
seconds of sound, a video, a web page or many other things.
What sort of 'thing' the file is can usually be inferred from
Filenames are addresses (and are sometimes called
addresses). Where the file is stored on your filing system is
called the file location. Consider an English address (not
all countries adopt this procedure):
This hierarchy of location is depicted from lowest
to highest - i.e. although the United Kingdom is actually bigger
than the Willow in Broughty Lane, it is shown at the bottom of
the 'address hierarchy'.
On a computer, the highest member of the hierarchy
is the drive,
a mechanism that reads and writes a storage medium such as
a floppy disk, a hard disc or a CD,
for example. Computers call these things by letters: A and B are
always floppy discs, C: is usually the hard disc of your computer.
If you have have a CD-ROM drive, it is probably D or E.
Let us say the "drive" in this case is the country - the United
Kingdom - a computer would write this address as follows:
UK:\Derbyshire\West Harnsford\Broughty Lane\The
The .per at the end of Samantha is a fictitious
'extension' to show that Samantha is a person, not a place.
You can see that the computer views addresses the other way round
- biggest location first, objects (people) last. Reading the address
backwards, the slash sign could be said to mean "found in".
|At any level in the hierarchy, you can have siblings,
that is to say, you can have a parent folder and many child
folders all on the same level. You might like to think
of this as a street having many houses, all of which contain people.
Folders are indeed like houses, in that you can't see what's in
them until you open them. For this reason, some people store
lots of documents at high hierarchical levels in one folder - like
leaving all the residents of Broughty Lane out in the street, so
you can see them all.
Storing something at the highest hierarchical level,
the hard drive, (the equivalent of opening a large room and throwing
a piece of paper on the floor, or writing "Samantha Turner, UK"
in the front of your address book) - is known as storing
something in the root directory. Storing a document
like a letter to your landlord about the rent increase he brought
in in 1995 should be filed somewhere sensible like c:\my documents\flat\correspondence\1995
not allowed to float around in the root directory. It won't
harm your computer if it does, but you will spend precious moments
of your life looking for it. Also, if you use folders systematically,
you can give files identical names which are however defined by
their context i.e. you could have different folders marked Brian,
Bill, Tina, Lesley, etc., each with a file called CV.doc in
it, rather than having one big folder called "CVs" and lots of
files called "briancv.doc" "billcv.doc" and so on.
To see folder hierarchy in action, right-click
the mouse on the Start Menu button in the bottom left hand corner
of the screen (or press Windows Key +E), you should
get a screen something like this. The plus signs in boxes
indicate expandable directories.
You can expand the directory by clicking
on it. This will show you what other subfolders are present. The
contents of a selected folder show up in the right hand screen.
When you save a file on a computer, you are usually
faced with the dialog box below. The word dialogue
is important. Boxes can't speak, of course, but in its own
way, this box is ‘asking’ you no less than 14 questions,
the answer to any of which may bring up more questions and options.
If you press “save”, the program will make a number of assumptions
on your behalf, based partly on its own default settings, and
partly on what you did last time.
Below is an organization chart which shows the structure
of a typical computer filing system (with only a few folders and
files - you may have hundreds of folders, many hierarchical levels
and thousands of files).
|In this diagram:
Drives are yellow
Folders are green
Programs are red
Files are white
|Take time to study the diagram. Note that
in the Microsoft Word 97 folder, there are two dissimilar items
at the same level - a program file, and another folder.
|It is typical, but it is by no means ideal. A
very common problem is depicted: the owner of this computer has
a folder designated for documents, and has sensibly created subfolders
for home and work. Meanwhile, another folder for documents
exists on the other side of the diagram, as a subfolder of the Word
In a hurry to send off her tax return, our computer
user opens the letter to the tax office, which she locates easily
in - it's in c:\documents\home\taxofficelet.doc. She quickly changes
the date, and then closes Word. The well-known dialog box
comes up: do you want to save changes to taxofficelet.doc?.
A taxi is waiting outside, so she just presses the RETURN
key twice, saying yes to save, and yes to whatever
Word offers her.
Without looking carefully at the dialog box (perhaps
she had not read these course notes) she does not notice that
the computer is about to save taxofficelet.doc in c:\programs\word\documents\taxofficelet.doc.
Next time she searches for her file, she cannot find the changes
she made. There are now two versions of the file in two
completely unrelated areas of the computer.
The moral of the story is: create your own filing
system, don't let the computer do it for you. Always check
that the dialog box is going to save the file where you want it
|Developing a working vocabulary of information technology
is an important component of IT skills.
One of the best places to check words that you
don't understand, or want to know more about is the Webopedia