Best Practice: Managing Files on Your Own Computer

Contents

Overview

Managing your course files, both on Blackboard and on your personal or work computer, is important to maintaining an efficient and productive course. Whether on a Mac or a PC, understanding how to access the files on your computer will make building and managing your course’s content that much easier.

On a PC, the file management system is called the File Explorer (not to be confused with Internet Explorer), and on a Mac, the file management system is called the Finder. Both serve the purpose of allowing you the user access to everything from your personal files to programs and applications to important system files.

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Windows File Explorer

You can access your File Explorer window by clicking on File Explorer, Documents, your personal folder, or the folder icon ( / ) in your taskbar or start menu. All should take you to the File Explorer, though some will take you to different parts. It actually does not matter how you get to your File Explorer, because once you’ve opened the File Explorer window, you can navigate to any other part of the File Explorer very easily using the navigation bar on the left (the OSX Finder has a similar feature).

Pictured above is the Windows Explorer, viewing the Quick Access window (see the navigation bar on the left to see your current location).

  • Quick Access – Contains shortcuts to commonly used folders, such as Desktop, Downloads and Documents. These items can populate automatically, or be manually adjusted to grant you quick access to any particular folder you use on a regular basis.
    • Documents – the folder intended for text files, such as Word files or PDFs.
    • Downloads – the folder where most browsers automatically send downloaded content to by default.
    • Desktop -the folder where all content stored on your desktop work space are stored.
  • Networked and Shared Folders – If your account or department has been set up to use a cloud service or other shared drive, they will usually appear in the navigation bar.
    • Cloud Sharing drives – These are folders that will automatically synchronize with a cloud sharing service while the associated application is running. Examples can include Box, DropBox, OneDrive, iCloud, Google Drive, and Adobe Creative Cloud.
    • Network drives – These are shared drives specific to your department or office. Contact your department’s technology group for more information.
  • This PC – This contains the complete catalog of all files and folders on your computer. This folder can be expanded to find virtually any item on your PC. Clicking on This PC will open up a catalog of folders including the folders mentioned in Quick Access above. In addition to these folders, you may see several other folders, including:
    • Music, Pictures and Videos – Like the Documents folder, these folders are specifically built to house, organize and manage specific file types. Audio files, such as music and recorded narration are best stored in Music, image files such as photographs are best stored in Pictures, and movie files such as film clips or camcorder recordings are best stored in Videos. You are not obligated to store these types of files in these folders, but keep in mind that these folders will offer certain tools by default depending on what types of files they designed for (such as organizing images by dimension or music or videos by duration, etc)
    • External Drives – This includes DVD/CD/BluRay disks, Flash/Thumb Drives, and External Hard Drives. Plugging any of these drives to your computer should make the associated directory appear in your navigation bar.

At the top of your folder, you may see a toolbar called a Ribbon, which contains a few basic file management functions, such as cut, copy, paste, move, delete, and the new folder option.

 

Note: If you do not see this toolbar at the top, you may need to expand your toolbar using the arrow at the top right corner.

You may see a number of tabs in your Ribbon toolbar depend on which folder you are in. One useful tab is the View tab, pictured below.

In the View tab above, you will see a Layout area, which allows you to control how each item in the current folder appears. toggling through these options change the size of the icons and how they are arranged.

Here, the display is currently set to Details mode, which allows you to see the individual items in this folder stacked on top of one another and organized by name, date, type or size. It is highly recommend that you use this layout frequently, as it will greatly enhance your ability to manage your files.

Each of these directories can contain multiple files and folders, and it is an easy matter to create new folders with them. Course material might be consolidated into a single area, such as My Documents. You may also want to put the handouts for a single course into a folder labeled for that course. If you have the same course being taught multiple times across various terms, you may also want to create subfolders within those folders for Fall 2013 or Spring 2013.

The navigation bar on the left can be expanded to view any sub-folder in the context of surrounding folders. This makes clicking-and-dragging that much easier. All you have to do is click the arrow tabs on the right of each folder to expand it and view the sub-folders in its contents.

Whether you keep image, audio and video files associated with your course files, or separated into your Video, Music and Pictures folders is up to you. As long as you keep them organized into folders, they will be easier to find.

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Uploading and Downloading with the Windows Explorer

When downloading files in your browser, if the browser does not have a default save location such as the Downloads folder, or if the option Save As has been selected, a pop-up window will appear that closely resembles the Windows Explorer. A similar window will appear when you click Browse when trying to upload a file. The browser is using the Explorer interface to search your computer for the file you want.

  

The primary way to tell the difference is the Open or Save options at the bottom, the File Name field, as well as the option to filter by file type. It is very easy to confuse these windows for your Windows Explorer, but these both serve a very different function. When saving a file, and this window pops up, the Browser is asking you where in your filing system to save the file to, as well as what to call it. When opening a file, the Browser is asking you to browse your filing system to find the file you want to upload. This of it as the equivalent of opening the drawer to your filing cabinet to place a document into a specific file, or opening that same drawer and browsing through your folders to find a specific file to take out.

Note: though this is not its default state, it is possible for the the Save folder to be contracted into a smaller view. Toggle back and forth by selecting the Browse Folders button:

 

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The Mac Finder

You can access your Mac Finder by clicking on the face icon in your dock, which should be in the lower left corner.

Screen Shot 2014-04-28 at 10.20.42 AM

Depending on which version of Mac OSX you are using, you may see a different list of items in your left-hand navigation bar, but your Finder should look something like this:

Screen Shot 2014-04-28 at 10.05.37 AM

Depending on your settings, you may see a Favorites area in the left-hand menu bar, which should contain a list of shortcuts to folders such as Applications, Desktop or Documents. You may also see a Devices area, which will show you a list of your hard drives and any disks you have connected to your Mac.

Screen Shot 2014-04-28 at 11.45.44 AMIf you are not seeing any of these areas, you can modify your Finder Preferences by selecting the Finder drop-down menu at the top left of your screen, and selecting Preferences. This will open up a small window, which will allow you to modify your Sidebar.

Favorites that you may want to include are commonly used folders, such as Downloads, Movies, Music and Pictures, or a link to your computer username to get to a folder containing all of the above. If they’re not already selected, Applications will take you to a list of all your computer’s apps, and Desktop will take you to a list view of all the items on your desktop. Documents is also a commonly used folder, and can be useful for keeping your course documents in order.

Shared devices include servers and shared folders. If you are working in an office with shared folders or an iCloud drive or anything similar, you can create a quick link for them here.

Devices you may wish to include your overall computer by name, its hard drive and any additional internal hard drives, external hard drives, as well as any disks, flash drives, or other devices such as iPods.

As with the Windows Explorer, it does not actually matter which of your folders you use to store your course material (although using Applications is not advised), for each of these folders can contain multiple files and folders, and it is an easy matter to create new folders with them. Course material might be consolidated into a single area, such as My Documents. You may also want to put the handouts for a single course into a folder labeled for that course. If you have the same course being taught multiple times across various terms, you may also want to create subfolders within those folders for Fall 2013 or Spring 2013

Screen Shot 2014-04-28 at 12.00.06 PMNote: While the items in the left-hand menu bar don’t expand into an accordion view like the Windows Explorer, if you put your folder into list view (click the box at the top with the horizontal lines), each item in the folder will appear with an arrow to the left, which will allow you to expand to view its individual components, making for convenient drag-and-dropping.

 

Whether you keep image, audio and video files associated with your course files, or separated into your Video, Music and Pictures folders is up to you. As long as you keep them organized into folders, they will be easier to find.

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Uploading and Downloading with the Mac Finder

Just as with the Windows Explorer, when downloading files in your browser, if the browser does not have a default save location such as the Downloads folder, or if the option Save As has been selected, a pop-up window will appear that can be expanded into something that closely resembles the Finder window. A similar window will appear when you click Browse when trying to upload a file. The browser is using the Finder interface to search your computer for the file you want.

Screen Shot 2014-04-28 at 12.15.40 PM Screen Shot 2014-04-28 at 12.13.58 PM

The primary way to tell the difference is the Open or Save options at the bottom, the Save As field, as well as the option to change the file format. It is very easy to confuse these windows for your Mac Finder, but these both serve a very different function. When saving a file, and this window pops up, the Browser is asking you where in your filing system to save the file to, as well as what to call it. When opening a file, the Browser is asking you to browse your filing system to find the file you want to upload. This of it as the equivalent of opening the drawer to your filing cabinet to place a document into a specific file, or opening that same drawer and browsing through your folders to find a specific file to take out.

Note: it is possible for the the Save folder to be contracted into a smaller view. Toggle back and forth by selecting the drop-down arrow button:

Screen Shot 2014-04-28 at 12.11.33 PM

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