Find and Organize Your Files
See if this sounds familiar: You save all your files to the My Document folder. All your downloads clutter your desktop. You never delete anything. You don't even remember what's on your hard drive. Those memos from your boss--that is, three bosses ago, circa 1997--are just collecting virtual dust.
If that's your idea of file management, you need to do some spring-cleaning. Urgently. Just as you file paper documents in different folders and drawers, you should also compartmentalize your hard drive. The good news is that it's all very easy.
Follow these tips, and you'll feel like Mary Poppins, effortlessly cleaning your mess with a wave of a finger and a click of a mouse. Whether you're running Windows XP, 2000, Me, or 98, we've got you covered.
First things first: Before you can decide what to do with your files, you need to know what they are. In other words, is "aspen2002.doc" a Microsoft Word document about your travel plans or a travelogue? You can view each file by opening it in the application in which it was created. For example, when you double-click a file that has the extension .xls, you'll launch Microsoft Excel. But that's overkill.
A much quicker solution is to view the file in a file viewer. Because
they just display files, they are small and fast. The default Windows viewers
aren't always useful--for one thing, not all file formats are supported. If
you're overloaded with files, you might want to try Jasc's
Bonus tip: If the files you're viewing are digital photos, which you've
been dumping indiscriminately onto your hard drive, use Windows' own Thumbnail
view. In Windows XP, 2000, and Me, thankfully, the operation is simple. In any
If you're running Windows 98, you've more steps to take: Once you're in
the folder you want to view, right-click an empty area of the folder and select
If you're in a folder window and want to see the contents of your entire
hard drive via the handy Windows Explorer "folder tree" view, right-click the
folder icon on the left side of the window's Title bar, then select
Windows also lets you view the contents of folders as icons or lists. For file management purposes, the best view is the one known as Details. This contains information such as file size and date. You can designate certain folders to display in Details mode.
Within the folder you're organizing, in Windows XP, 2000, and Me, select
In Windows XP and Me, Details view can show more than the usual column
headings (Name, Size, and Date). For example, a folder containing MP3s can
display other relevant data such as Album Title, Artist, Duration, and so on.
To choose which columns you want displayed, select
Now that you know which files you want to organize, how do you move or delete them in batches? Dealing with them one by one is time-consuming; here's how to avoid such manual tasks.
Okay, so you want to delete all the Word documents from 1997 in a
particular folder--say My Documents. Before you can select these docs, you need
to sort through all the files inside the folder. You can do that by
right-clicking any blank area in the folder. Then select
At this point, you can grab all the offending files. You have three ways to do this when you're in the particular folder you want to clean up:
To find files saved during a particular date range, in XP, select
To set the dates, click and enter the 'from' and 'to' dates (Windows
XP) or the 'between' and 'and' dates (98, Me, and 2000), or use your mouse and
the calendar-style tool that appears when you click the down arrow next to the
date box. Click
If you want to select noncontiguous icons--that is, files that aren't
next to each other--click the first one with your mouse and then hold down
The last three characters in a file name (for example, .doc, .mp3, or .jpg) can tell you what type of file you're looking at (a Word document, an audio file, and an image, respectively). However, the extension tends to add to the clutter of information in a folder.
To hide extensions of "known" files (that is, those that have
extensions associated with an application), open any folder or a Windows
Explorer window, select
Windows associates an application with a file type, according to the file's extension. For example, your images in the JPEG format may be associated with Internet Explorer. When you double-click a .jpg file, IE will open so you can view the image. But what if you want to open that file in a different program, such as Jasc's Paint Shop Pro?
To tell Windows which application to launch, hold down
Do you have lots of MP3 files on your hard drive? If you do, you probably save them in different sub-folders, by genre, artist, or whatever makes sense to you. You might want to print a list of those songs, for easy reference. Here's how:
You can then open the file mymusic.txt in your word processor and print it.
Similarly, you can create a catalog of files in any folder, including
its sub-folders. You can replace the .mp3 extension with another, perhaps .doc,
to find other types of files, or leave out the '*.mp3' altogether to list every
file in that folder and its subfolders. Just change the file name (instead of
mymusic.txt) to something else that makes sense to you, and don't forget the
.txt extension. When you are done, type
Everybody knows that the only way to avoid computer disaster is to back things up. Daily. Religiously. Yet very few people actually perform that life-saving operation, because it seems too daunting--and who has time anyway?
Well, here's a way to make your daily backups quick and easy. If you do this, you'll have easy access to your most important files.
Let's assume that you save all your work to the same area--multiple
sub-folders within the My Documents folder, for instance. Open My Documents and
follow the directions in the earlier tip, Unite and Conquer, to launch the
Search tool for your version of Windows and open its date-setting area. In
Windows XP, click
Run your search, and when it's done finding the files created in the
past day, select
From now on, just before you sign off for the day (or night),
double-click that icon to open the Search tool with its saved search parameters
(in Windows XP, you'll need to reset the dates; click the drop-down arrow on
the date boxes, and if it's not after midnight, select
Do you share a computer with a colleague or family member? You might have a few "sensitive" files you want to keep hidden from prying eyes. In XP and 2000, this is possible thanks to the automatic settings for different users. However, in Windows 98 and Me, you need to hide the files. There are two ways to do that: