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Understanding files, folders, and directories

From: Computer Literacy for Windows

Video: Understanding files, folders, and directories

One of the most important concepts to understand when working with computers is the system for organizing, storing, and locating your files and applications. In this context, the term file refers to a single item such as a word processing document, a photo, a video clip, a song and so on. Applications are the programs you run on your computer with which you often use, interact, or create the files stored on your computer. Another term you'll hear frequently is folder. A folder is sometimes referred to as a directory. But I think folder makes more sense because it's easy to understand the concept of storing files within folders.

Understanding files, folders, and directories

One of the most important concepts to understand when working with computers is the system for organizing, storing, and locating your files and applications. In this context, the term file refers to a single item such as a word processing document, a photo, a video clip, a song and so on. Applications are the programs you run on your computer with which you often use, interact, or create the files stored on your computer. Another term you'll hear frequently is folder. A folder is sometimes referred to as a directory. But I think folder makes more sense because it's easy to understand the concept of storing files within folders.

In fact, every thing you interact with on your computer is stored in a hierarchy of folders. You can have folders nested within other folders and files stored within those nested folders. If it helps, you can think of your hard drive as one big master folder or even a filing cabinet where all the other folders are stored, accessed, and arranged. Let's take a look at an example of a file in folder hierarchy. I have this folder on my desktop called bills in which I want to store scanned versions all my utility and credit card bills. I am going to double click this folder, meaning I am going to click it quickly two times to open it up.

And inside this folder you can see I have three files. They are clearly labeled electric, heat and water with the month's name listed in the file name. Now as I receive more bills I could just continue to save them in this folder called Bills. But as you can probably imagine my folder will get pretty cluttered and disorganized quickly. This is an example when it's highly advantageous to create nested folders or sub-folders. So in Windows 7, I just click the buttons labeled New folder at the top of the window. This gives me a folder called New folder and notice the name is already highlighted, meaning it's selected and I can just start typing to rename this.

I will call this Water and I will press Enter or Return to tell Windows I am done typing. And then I create two more by clicking New Folder again. I'll call this one Electric and one more and we'll call this one Heat. Now I have created three nested or sub-folders within my main Bills folder. So with these sub-folders created I can now easily organize my various bills by dragging them into the appropriate folders. So I can take this electric bill drag it into the Electric folder and it gets moved on there.

I can heat and move it on top of Heat. You notice that it says Move to Heat, so when I release it pops in there and move water into Water. So if I open up the Electric folder by double clicking on it, you see my electric bill is in fact sitting in here. I am going to click this Back button in the upper left hand corner to go back to the main Bills folder. So if you understood that, you understand the essential principle behind the folders and file system of your operating system. Now you don't absolutely have to organize your folders. Your computer can keep track of the files wherever you place them but the question is whether you can.

It's not hard to do when there are only three files to organize, but how about 300 or 3000? Really I'd say organizing your files is an essential skill and habit to get into. Now I just want to discuss the different ways you can view the files within a folder. Here in Windows 7 you have a View button in the upper right-hand corner of your Windows and clicking this button rotates you through several views or ways of looking at the contents of your current folder. You can click the downward pointing arrow next to the button to see the list of different views. And you can actually then use the slider to further change the way the icons appear.

Now the view you choose is totally up to you. Your preferred view doesn't change the contents of the folder in any way, just how they are displayed. I personally prefer Details, so I can not only see the file names but other information like the date the item was last modified, the type of item it is, the file size if it's available. You on the other hand might prefer one of the various icon sizes. And again even though you can click the different sizes, using the slider lets you see the effects of the change without having to click buttons over and over again.

Again it's completely your choice of which view you prefer. But do note that while you are in Details view you can click on these headers to sort your list of files and folders. This can be especially useful if you want to say display the most recently modified files in order. You would just click Date modified to put them in that order. Or if you want to list them alphabetically again just click Name. Clicking any header twice reverses the order of the list. Lastly I want to mention that you can always see which field you are in by looking at the top of your window.

So for instance if I open up my Heat folder, notice that I am looking in my Desktop folder in Bills and in Heat. And if I want to jump back to Bills I can either click the Back button or just click Bills. Okay so that's an overview of the thinking behind the file and folder hierarchy system and the various ways you can view the contents of your folders.

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This video is part of

Image for Computer Literacy for Windows
Computer Literacy for Windows

55 video lessons · 20046 viewers

Garrick Chow
Author

 
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  1. 2m 44s
    1. Welcome
      1m 9s
    2. Using the assessment files
      1m 2s
    3. Using the exercise files
      33s
  2. 9m 53s
    1. What's a computer?
      1m 48s
    2. What's inside a computer?
      2m 46s
    3. Laptop vs. desktop computers
      1m 52s
    4. Special considerations when using a laptop
      3m 27s
  3. 17m 29s
    1. Understanding the operating system
      3m 3s
    2. Understanding files, folders, and directories
      4m 38s
    3. Understanding your Home (User) folder
      3m 9s
    4. Using your desktop
      2m 46s
    5. Taking out the trash (recycle bin)
      1m 45s
    6. The right click
      2m 8s
  4. 25m 38s
    1. Understanding applications
      4m 36s
    2. Opening and saving files
      4m 3s
    3. Choosing the right tool
      4m 37s
    4. How to learn any application
      4m 53s
    5. Five things that work in all applications
      7m 29s
  5. 35m 26s
    1. Understanding computer ports
      2m 33s
    2. Setting up a printer
      3m 36s
    3. Printing your documents
      3m 52s
    4. Setting up a scanner
      2m 8s
    5. Scanning a document
      5m 59s
    6. Setting up a projector or a second monitor
      6m 17s
    7. Using a projector
      3m 43s
    8. Portable storage devices
      3m 55s
    9. Pairing with Bluetooth devices
      3m 23s
  6. 20m 46s
    1. Understanding networks and internet access
      2m 58s
    2. Connecting to wired networks
      2m 47s
    3. Connecting to wireless networks
      5m 0s
    4. Working in a networked environment
      5m 49s
    5. Staying protected from viruses
      4m 12s
  7. 23m 24s
    1. Understanding email servers and clients
      2m 11s
    2. Setting up your email application
      4m 15s
    3. Receiving and reading email
      3m 50s
    4. Composing new email messages
      7m 4s
    5. Reply vs. Reply All
      2m 12s
    6. Dealing with spam
      3m 52s
  8. 8m 22s
    1. Understanding search engines
      1m 24s
    2. Conducting basic searches
      3m 44s
    3. Conducting advanced searches
      3m 14s
  9. 27m 15s
    1. Introduction to word processors
      4m 46s
    2. Formatting text
      7m 57s
    3. Introduction to spreadsheets
      4m 0s
    4. Creating a simple data table
      8m 13s
    5. Formatting a data table
      2m 19s
  10. 28m 52s
    1. Importing images from a digital camera
      7m 57s
    2. Storing and organizing digital images
      4m 28s
    3. Basic image manipulation
      9m 17s
    4. Tagging images
      4m 56s
    5. Sharing images
      2m 14s
  11. 12m 46s
    1. Common obstacles in sharing files
      1m 37s
    2. Creating PDFs for document sharing
      6m 4s
    3. Compressing files
      5m 5s
  12. 1m 4s
    1. Goodbye
      1m 4s

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