This week, I thought we would talk about how everything in the computer is connected. By connected I don't mean by wires and other mechanical means, but internally, through the computer's filing system.
Often I hear people say that a particular file (picture or text) "is in my word processor" or "it's in my email program." That implies that the file in question can be accessed only with that particular program. Not so.
Let me explain; most programs on your computer are capable of opening different types of files. For instance, word processors such as Microsoft Word or Works Word Processor are for working with text files, while photo editors, such as Paint Shop Pro and Photo Shop are just the thing for working with pictures.
The files themselves are not stored within the program, they are stored somewhere on the hard drive available to any program capable of working with them. That means you can share files often times with many other programs. All you really need to know is where on your hard drive the files really live.
For example, "c:\users\owner\documents\filename.doc" is an example of a typical file name complete with its path on the hard drive. The path tells how to get to a files location on the hard drive.
Let's take a closer look: The c:\ indicates what disk drive the file is stored on. Each disk drive on the computer, your floppy drive (typically the "a:" remember them?), your hard drive (c:), and your CD-Rom (typically d:), has a letter assigned to it. This is how to tell the computer what drive you are working with.
The next part of our path, "users\", is the first folder or directory.
Just like the manila folders you use in a file cabinet keep files organized, directories on your computer organize your computer files. Each directory is separated by a back slash (\) and you can have directories within directories.
In our example, the "documents" folder is in the "owner" folder, which is in the "users" folder, which is on the "c:" drive.
The last part of our path is the actual file name.
A typical file name comes in two parts, the name, separated by a dot and the extension. The name is what we call the file when we saved it (a fairly important thing to note when saving). And the extension tells the computer what kind of file it is so it knows what kind of program can open it.
Once you know the path to a particular file, you can access it from most of your favorite programs.
For instance, say you got a picture emailed to you and you want to use that picture in a letter you are writing with your word processor.
The first step in getting the picture into your letter happens when you save the picture from email. Make a note of the full path and file name when you save it and you can access it any time.
When you are ready to import your picture, use the insert menu (typical on most word processors) to load your picture. When the dialogue box comes up asking what file you want to insert, you can type in the file's full path and filename or just navigate to the file by double clicking. Start in the my computer window and double click the drive letter and end with the file name, if typing, separate your directories with back slashes and don't forget the three- letter extension after the dot. Then click OK. You should have your picture inserted into your letter.
As you can see, the path and file name is enormously important. So often I hear, "it's on my hard drive, but I don't know where" or "that file is in my word processor."
If you pay attention to what name and folder the file is saved under when you save it, you'll never misplace another file.
Sean McCarthy fixes computers. He can be reached at (888) 752-9049 or help@ComputeThisOnline.com (no hyphens).