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Just about anytime you work with an application in which you are creating, editing, or otherwise modifying some kind of content, you'll be producing and saving your work as files. For example, when you type up a report in a word processor, the report is saved as an individual file, which you can then reopen in the application to continue working on it. Or if you're editing a video you shot of a great school recital, you're saving that video project as a file too. So it's important to understand the basic concepts involved in opening and saving files. For this example, I'm going to open an application in my Applications folder called TextEdit.
It's actually also sitting here in my doc; I could have clicked that as well. When I open this application, a new blank document has opened for me to type in. Now, in some programs, to create a new document or other project file, you need to choose File > New, which you can see generates another blank document, but I already had one open, so I'm just going to close this one. So I'll just type a few words here. Now, anytime you're actively working on a document or project, it's a good practice to save your file periodically so you don't lose your work, should the electricity go out.
To save what I've written so far, I'll choose File > Save. Because this is a brand-new document, I'm prompted to name this file, and to choose a place on my Mac to save it. So I'm going to call this Short Story. If you don't see the fully-expanded Save dialog box here, make sure you click the little triangle button, and I'm going to choose to save this on my desktop. It's already selected right now, but you can get to it by clicking Desktop under Places. Now, I'm also going to uncheck Hide Extension. Notice my file name now has .rtf at the end of it.
That .rtf is called a file extension. The purpose of including a file extension in the name of your file is to identify what kind of file this is, so if it needs to be opened by somebody else, their computer has a better chance of knowing which application to use to open it. So in this case, RTF stands for Rich Text File. It's basically a text document that can include formatting like bold, or italicized text. You may also see .txt files, which are plain text documents that don't include any formatting, and you'll also see all types of other extensions. Microsoft Word files are .doc files, Adobe Photoshop files are .psd, and so on, and so on.
Now, Macs do give you the option to check Hide extension, which was on by default there, because some people don't like seeing that part of the file name, and for the most part, Macs will be able to open files with hidden extensions with the right application, but if you have to share your file with someone, especially if they're running Windows, their computer might not know what application to use. So I always leave this option unchecked, and I suggest you do too. So I'll click Save, and now my document is saved, and you can see it's sitting right here on my desktop. Now, I'm going to close the document in TextEdit for the moment.
TextEdit is still running, but no documents are open right now. If I want to reopen the file, I have a couple of choices. I can choose File > Open, as long as TextEdit is the frontmost application, and this lets me browse in my computer to find the file wherever I saved it. This is a good choice if you're opening an older file, but let's cancel this for a moment. A faster way to open a file you were recently working on is to choose File > Open Recent, and here you can see my file is listed right here. All I have to do is select it, and it opens up, ready for me to continue working on it. The Open Recent command is fairly common across all types of applications, but what if I've already quit TextEdit? I'm going to choose TextEdit > Quit TextEdit.
So TextEdit is no longer currently running. Well, I could reopen TextEdit and then choose Open Recent again, but in this case, the file I want to open is sitting right here on my desktop. If the file you want to open is on your desktop, or in some other opened folder window, just double-click it. That simultaneously launches, in this case TextEdit, and then opens the file I double-clicked. So double-clicking the file should open the right application in most cases, especially if you followed my advice to keep the file extension visible. It is possible that the wrong application might launch in some cases, but one solution is to just quit the application you don't want and then open the correct application, then use the File > Open command to open the file instead. Okay.
So those are the basic things you should understand about opening and saving files. What I've shown you here applies to almost every application out there. You will find some applications that save your files or data automatically, and don't even offer a Save command so you can do it yourself. But those types of applications are much rarer, and you should still get into the habit of saving your files regularly while working on them.
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