File Organization Made Easy

Directory TreeA simple guide to keeping better track of your files using Windows 7 or Vista

Before I became a computer technician, the files on my computer were a mess. I would lose data and tons of work only to find them later in a place where they didn’t belong. If you find yourself in the same situation, here are some tips to keep your files organized.


Understanding the directory structure

Almost since day one, Windows has offered a place for users to keep their files: “My Documents”. In more recent versions of Windows it’s just “Documents” and it’s located under your user folder along with Pictures, Music and Videos. You can get to these folders by looking under your user name on the Start Menu. The basic structure of these folders will help you keep your files organized by category or type.


Turn on the Navigation

There’s nothing like having a map to keep track of where you are. So turning on the Navigation Pane is definitely a good idea when you’re learning to manage your files. Here’s how you do it. In Vista and Windows 7 open Documents and find the button that says “Organize”. It should be toward the top left of the window. When you click it, it will drop down showing the option “Layout” then make sure “Navigation Pane” is checked. If it’s enabled, you should see the file structure on the left part of the window. When you put your cursor over the folders you will notice a white triangle to the left of some of the folders. This indicates the folder has subfolders under it. When you click the arrow it will turn downward and black, indicating that the folder is open, allowing you to see the folders in it.


Simple Subfolders

Let’s say you have a ton of photos. Of course when you copy or import them from your camera you’re going to put them under the Pictures folder right? After a while it’s going to get very difficult to find a specific picture when they are all piled up. Even when your camera creates subfolders with the date, it can be difficult. Why not create an easy to understand folder system that helps you keep them organized? If you made a new folder under Pictures called “Hawaii Vacation 2008” you would know exactly where to look to find those pictures.


Making New Folders

Creating a new folder (or subfolder) somewhere is easy. Simply right-click on an empty space where you want the folder, select “New” and then “Folder” from the menu that appears. Then type the name of the new folder. If you don’t type a name it will be labeled “New Folder” and if that already exists then it will get a number added to it. To fix this or if you ever want to change a folder name later, right-click the folder and select “Rename” from the menu and then make your changes.

Now that we have a new folder to put our pictures in, we need to cut the pictures from where they currently are and paste them into the new folder.


Make a Selection

Now that you know how to make a new folder, name it properly and see where it’s located, let’s start organizing. First if you haven’t already, make a folder where you want your files to be. Then using the navigation pane, go to the folder where the files are that we need to move. Now select the files by using one of three methods.

  1. If all the files you want to move are in one folder, you can go to that folder and hit Ctrl + A. This will select all the files there.
  2. If you want some but not all the files and they are in a row, you can click the first file once to select it. Then while holding Shift, select the last file. All the files in between will be selected.
  3. If you only want a few files you can hold Ctrl then click the files you want. This can also work to deselect files so if you want all but a few files, you can use Ctrl+A to select all the files then hold Ctrl to deselect the ones you don’t want. Try it!

Move = Cut + Paste

Your files should now be selected and ready to cut. Right-click one of your highlighted files and from the menu that appears select Cut. Now you can navigate to the folder you created and right-click again on an empty space. Select Paste from the menu and viola! Your files are in their new and easy to find location.

Howard DeAlvarado owns Computer Ace, a Phoenix based computer repair and services company. He has over 18 years of computer service expertise and is MS & A+ certified. Follow on Google + as well as Twitter.