Files Folders and Programs

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Your Computer

In today's world computers have become a standard fair everywhere from our homes, to our jobs, and in the world we live in. Many of us that have seen the technology evolution have learned technology in many situations just in time, or just enough to get by. The goal of this course is to take away some of the misconceptions of computer technology and help in understanding.

The computer in of itself is a dumb box, it only does what you tell it to do, even if it is not the correct thing. For example when I was younger my father brought home a computer from work. I was having some problems loading a disk and ended up telling the disk to format itself, not knowing what this did. I learned later that basically I told the disk to erase all of the information that it had on it. Needless to say I have never done that again, unless I meant to.

Another change that has occurred in recent history is the convergence of the users experience with a computer. No matter what the commercials say either computer you purchase works on the same principle. You creates documents using a computer program and store it digitally. Yes this is a gross generalization, but in today's world no matter the computer you should be able to complete a given task, such as word processing.

Window System

Whether you are using Microsoft Windows or Macintosh OS they are both based with a concept know as windowing. This means that information is viewed in different windows. So you may see a program window or a folder window depending on what you are doing. Within each window specif information is contained. When you first start up a computer the window you usually see once you have logged in is know as the Desktop, this is the only window that is always open for you, every other window you open by choice.

Each program, file, or application that you open will open within a window. Today's computers have the ability to have multiple windows open at one time. This allows you to work between applications and files so that you don't have to close and open windows again and again. Basically it means that I can have my Internet open, a Word Document open, and an Excel Document open. I may be working between these documents and need each of them open the entire time.

So how does this work so you can move between your work.

When you open an application the window that it opens in has some information associated with it. One thing associated with it is the type of file it is, for example a Word document is a type of a file, an Excel Spreadsheet is a type of file. Common files have endings associated with them, for example I have a file called HowTo.doc this is a Microsoft Word document. I could also have a file such as one called house.jpg . This is a picture file, I know this because of the ending information after the period, which are also known as extensions.


You will begin to notice that every window you have open has information such as this associated with it. This is how you know what you are working on, if you have more than one window open.


Moving Between Windows

With newer computers and faster computers being made every few months, there are a lot of opportunities to have your computer do multiple things at once. For example you can be in a library database doing research and typing your paper in a word processing document at the same time.

This allows you the ability to quickly be able to outline your paper and move between different research articles. So how is this done? Well as you can see in the picture below there are four windows open. If you look at the bottom of the screen where the arrow points to Open Applications there are a 5 blue boxes with names in them. Each box represents a program or window that is open.


So what does this mean to you? Well lets take the case of the teacher working on creating a graphic organizer for students to brainstorm story ideas. She wants to pull images off of the web to help students visualize the writing process. So she opens a program to create the graphic organizer, lets say Inspiration, and then she opens the Internet. Now she has two windows open, and she wants to take the copyright compliant image that she has from the Internet, and paste it into her graphic organizer. So she starts with the Internet as the page she can see. Then when she is ready to change back to Inspiration she can go to the task bar at the bottom of her screen and click on the open Inspiration document. Now she can paste the image from the Internet. She can then click back on the task bar to the Internet. Never actually having to close the program, rather moving between two fully opened windows. Note: Think of each program window as a push button, the button that is pushed down is the one you are working on

So lets try it. Open up a word processing document and your Internet browser. You should see two icons on your task bar now, showing information about the two windows. If look in the upper right hand corner of the windows you will see a set of icons. These icons allow you to change the way you look at each of the windows.

These icons appear depending on how you have your windows set up initially. If you have a Window open all the way so that you can't see anything other than the task bar and the window you will see the following icon set.

Minimize, Restore Down, Close

These set of icons allow you to minimize, restore down (mean make the window smaller), and close the window.

You will likely want to use the Restore Down function to work with windows side by side. This will allow you to drag information between different windows. For example if you'd like to drag an document from one folder to another folder. This can be helpful if you need to see both documents or windows at the same time.

Minimize, Maximize, Close

If you have a windows that is smaller than your full screen, meaning you can see other windows, or your desktop you should see the icon set above. These set of icons allow you to minimize, maximize, and close your window.

Normally if you are going to be working on a document for an extended period of time, you will want to have the document open in full screen. So this would be when you'd want to use the Maximize function, this way you can work on your document and see a larger working area. For example if I was working on writing a paper or working with data in a spreadsheet I would keep the documents open so that I could see everything at once.

Short Cuts

Also within every operating system there are key commands that can be helpful to move between windows, and other actions. One example is the Alt Tab key combination in Windows. By pressing and holding the Alt key and then tapping the Tab key you can cycle through the windows that you have open in front of you. Meaning I can move between my web browser and my word document without having to move my mouse. This can save time and energy.

Another shortcut that is helpful in Windows is the Windows D key combination. By pressing the Windows key and the D key at the same time you will be able to minimize all the windows at once to see the desktop. There are a large variety of these key combinations that are available. If you'd like to learn more take a look on Microsoft's website.

Another Helpful way to access information is by using the right click of your mouse. By right clicking on anything within Windows you will have what is known as a contextual menu appear. This window basically will allow you to do a set of actions related to what you have clicked on. Whether it is copying or pasting, or changing your desktop. If you ever want to see what you can do in a specific space right click on it. This is a great way to learn what you can do to something.


The most basic type of information that a computer stores is a file. A file is most likely compared to a piece of paper in the past. Just as with a piece of paper the file type determines what it does. For example you may use graph paper to do a mathematical plot or an architectural drawing, while you might use drafting paper to create an architectural drawing or create a sketch of a artistic design. Then you might use a post it note to jot down a phone number and a ream of college ruled paper for note taking.

Each of these paper types lends itself to an activity, just as a computer file lends itself to an activity.

So for example a Microsoft Word file lends itself to a written paper or form. An Adobe PDF also lends itself to a paper or form, that no one can edit. An picture file lends itself to being able to share an image. So each file type holds different types of information. Unlike paper however a computer needs a specific program to open a certain file type. It would be like having to have a special key to open the drawer with the graph paper in it, if you didn't have the key then you couldn't get to the paper.

Files and Different Programs

Often times people can become confused in regards to the programs that can open a file. Often times this is because someone doesn't have a program or that the computer makes an assumption on what program to open something in. So lets take the example of a picture that you have on your computer.

A picture can be opened with a few different programs even though the same information is shown. I can open a picture with Microsoft's Photo Editor, Microsoft Paint, Adobe Photoshop, or some other program. The way that I have my computer set up will determine which program to open the image file when I click to open it. For example if I click on a picture file called house.jpg my computer will open it will a preview program, only showing the picture so I can see it, rotate it, and print it. However if I want to open the picture with Microsoft Paint I have to take a different approach. I have to first open Microsoft Paint, and then go to File > Open and choose the picture that I want to open. So having a little knowledge of what a program is suppose to do is necessary for being able to open a file.

Often times you can also find out what file types a program will open by going to File > Open. Then at the bottom of the window there is an area that allows you to look for Files of Type that will show you all the different types of files that can be opened. So in this example you will see a list that includes .gif, jpg, All Picture Types and All Files. The last option of All Files will show all file types that are on a computer, this doesn't mean that it can actually open the file.


Most programs have one of two functions related to files, either they are to create the files or to view the files that have been created by another program. For example, an Internet browser is used to view web pages that could have been created in Dreamweaver. Windows Media Player is used to view movies that have been made in Windows MovieMaker, and the examples go on and on.

Viewing and Identifying Files

Normally when you open your My Documents folder you will notice that you have a list of icons some are your folders, while others are actual documents. Some of them show a preview of what the document is, others only show a nondescript icon. Each icon actually corresponds to the program that would be launched by double clicking on that file.


This is helpful to know what programs are associated with certain file types. Meaning a Word Document will open in Microsoft Word, as well as a Rich Text Document, .rtf, would also open in Word.

So how can you find out more information about a file, or change the way a folder appears for you.

Lets talk first about changing the view of the folder. In Windows you have several views that you can switch between. To access the different views go to the View menu in your Windows Explore folder (this is what your My Documents folder is). You should see a list that has the following listed; Thumbnails, Icons, List, Titles, and Details. Each of these will show you a slightly different view of your folders. For example I prefer to have my folders organized by their details, this way I can see the date I modified the file, the name of the file, and the type of file.


You might prefer something else, there is again no right or wrong way to look at this.

You may also want to look at information about a file individually. With each file there is what is known as metadata, or data about your data. For example with a song you'd want to know the metadata such as the artist and the album it was on. The same applies to your other files. This information can include everything from who authored the document to what size it is.

To access this information about a certain file the most common way to do this is to first select the file. Once you have selected the file you should be able to go to File > Properties, which will open another window showing you the information about the file. Notice that there are multiple tabs associated with the file. From here I can see that the program that will open this file is Adobe Acrobat, that it is 6.23 MB in size and that it was created in September 2009. There is also information related to the author and other information in the other tabs.


This information can also be accessed by right clicking on a document and selecting properties from the contextual menu.


When people think of organizing their files within the paper world they think of folders most often for a storage facility. The same applies to a computer. Folders are where you organize your files.

There is however an additional thing to think about when you organize your files, and that is the storage that exist above the folder structure. Just as your files are located in a building, in a room, in a file cabinet, in a drawer, and then a folder, your computer files are located on a computer on a drive and then in a specific folder, which may be inside additional folders.

So when you think about storage on a computer you will want to think of the linear progression of Computer > Drives > Folders > Files. This will help you start to structure your file organization.

File and Folder Management

The effective use of a computer relies on how the user interacts with it. Effective use stems from the ability of a user to store files and information in meaningful ways related to what they do. Organization is something that is usually very personal, and related to what you do. I can give you suggestions to how to organize your files, but in the end you will make the final decision.

A computers operating system helps users to organize their information in a hierarchical structure. Not unlike a physical file cabinet, files on a computer are sorted in folders. Folders may contain other folders or files that relate to the title of that folder. The following are suggestions on how to organize your files. When you access your folder structure this is usually done within a window that you will see different information regarding what is in the folder location.

So lets start with a conceptual understanding of our file structure Computer > Drives > Folders > Files.

Computers are the actual hardware that holds all of the information. So within Windows you will often see and icon on your Desktop called My Computer. This will list a variety of the storage devices that are attached to the computer.

The next order of our hierarchy is Drives which is basically a physical device which holds information. A Drive can be physically attached, usually your C: Drive and your CD Drive, or attached over a network, this typically has an icon associated with it that looks similar to this Networkdrives.jpg.

Folders are the lowest organizational structure. Typically your computer is set up in one of two ways. Your My Documents folder is set up so that your information is saved on your computer, and the school district has made it so that this is backed up on a school server, or your district has you saving your documents on a network drive. By saving your files to the network you are protecting yourself if the computer that you use daily were to explode or be stolen, you won't loose your stuff. This is usually different from what people tend to do at home, which is to save it in their My Documents folder, which is stored on the computer hard drive, which is part of the physical computer, also known as the C Drive.

You will need to know where you will be saving your documents primarily, I am going to refer to this area as My Documents from here on.

NOTE: Each school district has its own policies and operating procedures. In some cases you will be asked to save you files to your My Documents folder, since they have linked it to your Network folder.

Within your My Documents folder is where you will want to save your projects and work. I tend to create folders that are related to the things that I do. So many of my folders are organized around projects that I am working on. As a classroom teacher I would tend to organize my folders in regards to the units that I teach. This way I would always know where something was. As a Social Studies teacher teaching American History I might have a folder about The 1920s within this folder I would have key parts of the unit as folders ie. Culture Change, Stock Market Crash, Immigration and Red Scare, and Prohibition. Then within these folders I would keep Word Documents, Power Points, Smart Notebook files, and Image files. This way everything is in one space.

Putting it All Together

So now you have an idea of what folders are, files are, and drives are. So lets take a look at this globally.

Start by opening My Computer You should see something that is similar to this.


Notice I have 9 total areas that contain some storage device. The most common view is to see a list of the local folders that you have access to first. This is usually your My Documents folder. The next type of storage that is commonly listed is the physically attached drives most notably your C: Drive. This is also the drive that is only associated with that computer. Meaning if I save something on C: I can only get to that stuff on that physical computer. Next on the list is Devices With Removable Storage meaning things such as thumb drives, or external hard drives. Last but never least are your Network Drives. These are the drives that you can access when on your schools network, meaning if you have a laptop you can't access these when you are at the local coffee shop or at home.

This shows you all of the folders that are attached to your computer.

Types of Folders

My Computer

Opening My Computer you will see all disk drives available to you. These includes local computer drives (hard drive (C:), floppy disk, CD-ROM, DVD, Zip drives as well as portable media drives) and network drives (shared network drives).

Network Drives

If you are logeed in to a computer on a network (at work or school for instance) you may have access to several network drives. These drives allow users to access and share files with a large number of people without having to use the same computer. Typically, if you are logging into a network you will have a network drive available to you. If you are unsure if you have access to network drives, check with the network administrator.

My Documents

This folder is where your local files may be stored. When you log into your account you will be able to access these files. Other users will cannot access this folder unless sharing is turned on (by default it is not).

Shared Documents

The Shared Documents folder allows users of the same computer to access files without having to log in as another user. If you plan to share a file with other users of the same computer, it is a good idea to save it in the Shared Documents folder.


By default any folder that you create or is created by the computer looks like this. These icons in general mean that there is more information within the folder. You may find folders that are created by applications such as iTunes or Smartboard software.

Creating Folders

Within Windows you can create folders in a few different ways, but the general idea is similar no matter how you do this. The most common way to create a folder is to open your My Documents folder, then from the File Menu choose File > New > Folder, which will create a folder titled New Folder with the name highlighted. You should be able to give this folder a name by typing.

You can also create a new folder when you have started to save something. For example I may have been working on a Word document and have gone to save it and realize that I don't have a folder for my project. When I am in the Save dialog menu I should see an icon that looks similar to the following in the top right hand corner of my menu.


When you click on this it will create a new folder, which you can again give a new name, and then save your document inside of it.

Finding Files and Folder

Everyone has misplaced something in their life. Whether it is your keys or a glove, in the real world you have to occasionally go looking for something. The same thing can happen on a computer. This can cause real strain in some cases because some times you aren't even sure where to start looking. Luckily there are a few ways to find things that are built into a computer.

Note: Within a computer system you must have initially saved your document, if you don't save something, you will unlikely be able to find it. So save things often.

The first strategy to finding something is by looking in the My Recent Documents area of the Start Menu. This will list a group of 10 or so documents that you have recently had available to you. So if you had the document open a day ago you may still be able to find it in this list.


This same list usually also works within a program. For example in Microsoft Word you can usually find a list of your most recent documents under the File menu, so this way you can access recent documents from within Word.

Another very helpful way to find a file is the Search function built into your computers operating system. In Microsoft Windows this is built into Windows Explorer.

To access the Search function you will want to open a Explorer window, such as your My Computer window. You will then want to click on the Search icon which is the magnify glass in your toolbar. If you don't see this in your toolbar you can also bring up the Search function by pressing the following keys CTRL F.

Once you have done this you will see your side bar of the window change to show the Windows search companion, in this case the dog.


You should notice that there are some choices on how to search. You can search by one of the following;

  • Pictures, music, or video
  • Documents
  • All files and folders
  • Computers or people

To start your search first click on the type of search. Typically I would do a search for All files and folders. This will then give you some search criteria. Depending on how specific you are will help your computer find your stuff. For example if I am looking for a file called registration and I know that it would have the word Summer in it I would add these two words to the fields provided. I could then add additional criteria, such is when was the last time I modified it. Then I simply click on the Search button. Now my computer is going to start looking through my computer for files that match this search. If I am lucky I will find the file I was looking for in the list. If I don't see it I would try to widen my search, this way it would include more documents.


Once you see your document you can open it directly from the window, but you should also make note of where it is located. It will first show the Name of the document and then you will see In Folder which shows the path to the file. So for example you will see something like the following C:\Documents and Settings\username\My Documents\Conferences\SummerConference. This is known as the file path, which is simply the computers way to show you were you are going in relation to where a document is.

Moving Files and Folders

Once in a while you will find yourself in need of moving a file or a folder from one location to another. Whether it is to a new folder or from one drive to another. Thankfully this is an easy process. The first thing you need is a file to move, the second is a location that you are going to move it to. To do this you can open up your My Documents folder, navigate the the location of the file you want to move, then open another window, by opening your My Documents folder. Now you will want to find the location you want to move it to. Once you have both of these locations open you can select the file and simply drag and drop it to the other location.

So how might this look structurally?

Here is the original document structure;

My Documents > On Going Projects > Project.doc

My Documents > Completed Projects

Drag and drop Project.doc

Here is the end structure;

My Documents > On Going Projects

My Documents > Completed Projects > Project.doc

This will allow you to move files and organize them so that it makes sense. You can also create copies of files so that they exist in two locations. If you do this you have to remember that updating one doesn't update the other.


One of the main components within a computer is a Program. A computer program is some thing that when asked to does a set of actions. A few common programs people tend to be familiar with are Microsoft Word, Microsoft Powerpoint, and Internet Explorer.

Each program has a specific function that it focuses on. So for example if I want to create a document for publishing, such as a research paper I would look for a word processing program, such as Microsoft Word. If I wanted to search for something on the Internet I would choose an Internet browser so I could go to Google. In this case I might open Internet Explorer or Firefox, which are both Internet browsers.

Basically a program is something that allows you to do an action with a computer. Programs tend to create documents that are viewed or edited within those programs. So Word documents are edited within the program Microsoft Word.


Within ever program there are actions that are common one of them is Saving. Almost every program that is part of a computer has a menu that allows for saving. It tends to be under File. There is often two choices in regards to the saving of a file. The first is Save, and the other is Save as. There is often confusion about which on is which and when to use them. So here is an explanation of both. Let's start with Save As.

Save As is the less used of the save commands. Its main function is to save a document that has already been created and either saving it under another name, or in a different location. Save as also is what commonly happens the first time you hit the Save button. You are asked to find a location to save the document, and asked to give it a name. Once these things are done you can click on the Save button. This then saves the document.

Save on the other hand is a command that you should use often. Once you have created a document the first thing you should do is save it, by going to File > Save. This will open a window that asks you to give your document a name and specify a location. Since this is the first time it is saving the document you have to tell your computer where to file the changes that you have made. Once you have told the computer where to save the document you can then tell it to Save any time you'd like and this is where it will place the changes.


Another common question that is asked is where can I get help?. There of course are a lot of different place to go to get help. For example is one place to get help.

Another place and usually the first to go is the computer programs help. Yes every program has a help document associated with it. You can easily access it by pressing the F1 key. Each computer program and every operating system has a help file. By pressing the F1 key you will be able to access the help file. Most help files are written in similar ways with an Index of the topics as well as a search feature to help you find an answer. Help files are continuously improving as companies realized that computer programmers weren't the best writers of help files, so you should feel more comfortable reading these files than 5 years ago.

Another way to find out something is to Google for the answer. This is sometimes an easy way to find where something has moved in a program, or if something is possible. A good rule to stick to when searching is to set a limit on the amount of time you spend looking for the answer. Generally if you can't find it within 20 minutes you may not be able to find the answer, or need to change your search query.

The last place that you may want to try to find help is YouTube. More and more people are creating short video tutorials about how to do things on a computer. Again your millage may vary here as with Google.


PDF stands for portable Document Format, which is a document that has been converted from something like a Word document into something closer to a picture. PDFs are simply was to send information with almost a guarantee that the other person will be able to open it, because PDF viewers are available for no cost.

PDFs however are for the most part a Read Only type of a document meaning that you can't simply open a PDF file and edit it with the same ease that you can with a Word document. To edit a PDF you need to have a full version of Adobe Acrobat Professional. However you can create PDFs on your computer.

Creating a PDF

When you want to create a PDF you can do so with a few different types of software. No matter which of these software packages you have available to you they all work the same. When the software is installed it adds an additional printer to your printer list. So for example if you are using Adobe Acrobat Professional you will see a printer called simply Adobe PDF. If you have installed something like Cute PDF you will see something called CutePDF Writer in your printer list. If you choose this and say okay you will be asked to give the document a name and asked to save it somewhere. Once you have done this you will have a complete PDF.

Now you can email the file to anyone and they should be able to view the document without any problems.

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