[xplorer˛] — Folders for dummies
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"Half knowledge is worse than ignorance" — Was that Socrates?

It may sound daft to you, seasoned file handler and proud xplorer˛ licencee, but there are a lot of people out there that have no clue what folders are or why on earth are required. I know one nearby and probably so do you (girlfriends, mothers and assorted lo-fi relatives :). So in this mini series we will go back to primary school and have a folder A-B-C.

We need folders because we have files and lots of them. All your pictures, music and documents are files, and you put them into folders to keep things tidy. Imagine your room as the computer and your clothes as files, then your drawers will be the folders. You could just throw everything on the floor but you find things easier if you separate clothes in drawers, one for socks, one for t-shirts etc. Likewise, you could put all your files in a single folder, but then it would take you ages to find that picture with the gay ducks you shot a few months ago.

The easiest way to open these folders is with a file manager like xplorer˛ or windows explorer (not internet explorer mind). When you double-click on a folder icon, you open the drawer so to speak and see the files it contains. You can keep anything in a folder. The only rule is that each file has to have a unique name. You can have files with same names but they can't be in the same folder, you must keep them in separate drawers.

The drawer analogy is good to begin with (I remember my Amiga used to have a drawer icon for folders) but folders are a bit weird. You wouldn't expect to find a drawer within a drawer, and then a further drawer inside that, but that's how folders are, a bit like a short story by Kafka. In fact the inner folder may have more items than its parent!

All the storage media in your computer behave like folders. The hard disk, CDROM even your camera when attached to the USB port is a root disk and can be accessed with a file manager. Usually the starting point of your journey is My Computer which is a super-folder that holds all these storage devices. By double-clicking on icons you get deeper and deeper into each disk, accessing its files and subfolders. The folder tree which is the pane on the left in xplorer˛ represents this complex structure graphically.

When you first buy a computer it comes preinstalled with a folder structure. The folder you are most familiar with is My Documents which is on the hard disk. Under there you have more specific folders, one to hold pictures, one for music and some others. You are free to reorganize things, creating your own folders and deleting others you don't need. Once you create a folder, you can change its name (rename it), and use mouse drag-drop to put files inside it, or move them out to a different folder.

You can even use drag-drop with folders themselves; grab a folder, drag it to another location (another folder) and drop it there. This will move or copy the entire folder with all its contents and any subfolders it may have. But you are not allowed to take a folder and drop it in one of its subfolders. You can try putting My documents inside My pictures but unless you use the force the file manager will go defcon armageddon and stop you entering such a bootstrap peril.

Using a file manager you roam your folders and either open or manage the documents they contain. Typical operations are deleting files, and moving them around from folder to folder. It is important at this point to understand the distinction between moving and copying files. If you grab a picture and drop it to another folder, you can either move it, or copy it. In the first case you will still have one picture, but in the second you will have two identical copies of the picture in two different drawers. It's a bit tricky at first to understand when files are moved or copied, especially if you only use the mouse. If you are uncertain you can use commands from the Edit menu instead: if you want to move, use Cut in the source folder followed by Paste in the target folder; to copy, use Copy followed by Paste.

We will finish this introduction with a practical demonstration. When you import pictures from your camera, the software usually puts each batch in a new folder under My Pictures. You can then go in the folder and browse the pictures. We will pretend we need to get a few pictures from a few batches, and gather them in a new folder that will be eventually burned to CDR. It's easy!

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