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What's the file explorer ?
The Windows Explorer is the file manager provided with the Microsoft Windows operating system.
It allows you to, among other things, to:
- search, display and change the names of files and folders,
- manipulate files and folders (copy, move, delete),
- open data files, and launch programs
It is also the Explorer that displays the desktop (see the "Desktop" section), including the taskbar and the Start menu.
In short, Explorer allows you to browse the contents of your computer and access your various folders and files.
When you click on the Explorer icon in the taskbar...
... you open the Quick Access which allows you to access folders and especially the most frequently used ones, as well as recently opened files.
(If your computer does not have the quick access or shortcut to the explorer, ask your trainer for help).
Depending on your version of Windows, Explorer may look a little different.
Understand the explorer to organise your files
This includes the ribbon at the top with tabs and options for viewing and sharing.
There is also the address bar which shows where you are in your computer. It allows you to see the tree structure of the folder you are in, showing the path you took to get to the folder :
For navigation, we will mainly use the central part and the left column.
On the left, the navigation pane (blue frame) allows you to see the tree structures of your computer. It also contains some shortcuts to the most used folders :
Most of the times, on the Windows 10 Explorer, there is also a shortcut to OneDrive, which allows you to store your data online.
When you click on a folder, its contents are displayed in the central part of the explorer (green frame).
This offers to organise its contents according to the main and structuring spaces:
It is possible to choose another organization for your contents but by default, "downloaded" documents will be placed in the downloads folder.
File or folder ?
In a computer, there are many different documents, which are called "files".
A file is a collection of information stored in digital form and filed in a folder.
There are several types of file:
- text documents
- audio documents
- But also: software, internet files, databases, presentations, ...
A folder is a group of files, arranged or classified based on different criterias. A folder is like a binder, where you would store documents and files. Folders can be recognised by their icon:
Files names and extensions
Each file has a name, which allows it to be identified and classified, followed by an "extension". In fact, each file has a specific format, which determines its nature and allows it to be shared and opened with different tools (computer, smartphone). To know the nature of a document, you need to look at its "extension", i.e. the two to four characters behind a file name, separated by a dot.
In the example above, the extension of the file with the name "Apple cake recipe" is ".docx".
The extension is also used to determine which software should open the file. If you "double-click" on the document, the word program will start and open the document.
For images, the extension would be .png or .jpeg. And so on.
Here are some example of the most common files icons :
Exercise: Explore your computer and try to find and recognise different types of files. Find at least one word file, one picture, one video and one audio file.
Most common extensions:
Videos and movies
Images and pictures
Audio and music
What is file compression?
The aim of compression is to save space by creating smaller files from the original ones, in order to be able to transmit them more quickly (faster downloads, easier sending by e-mail) or to store them in a smaller memory space, for archiving purposes for example.
Compressing files therefore means reducing their size. Compressed" documents have specific formats.
About ZIP files
A ZIP file is an archive containing one or more files, which are compressed with a compression algorithm to reduce the size of the archive. ZIP is the best known and most widely used archive format.
Creating a ZIP file or "zipping" means compressing files and concatenating them into a single archive.
How to create a zip ?
From Windows, it is thus possible to create and extract ZIP files very simply by using the File Explorer :
1. Right click on the file or folder to be compressed,
2. Select (or point to) "send to" and choose "compressed folder" on Windows.
A new compressed folder with the same name is created in the same location. The original folder is not affected as this creates a new one without destroying the original.
Exercise: Try to create a zip file from two documents on the computer.
Extracting a ZIP file
Once the file is unzipped, the document(s) it contains will be visible and accessible.
1. Locate the zipped folder from which you want to unzip (extract) files or folders.
2. Perform one of the following actions:
- To unzip a single file or folder, open the zipped folder, then drag the file or folder from the zipped folder to a new location
- To unzip the entire contents of the zipped folder, long-press (or right-click) the folder, select Extract All, and follow the instructions.
The desktop is what you see when you turn on your computer. And it almost works like a real desk !
What can you find on your desktop ?
There are files, folders and applications.
At the bottom of the desktop is the taskbar from which you can navigate the contents of your computer. There is also information about Wifi, the date, the battery level...
There is also always a direct link to the recycle bin. Here again, it works like in a real office, where you can systematically find a bin to throw away all the documents and drafts you no longer need.
The Windows Recycle Bin lists all the files and folders you have previously deleted. As long as the files are in the recycle bin, they can be recovered with the "Restore" command (accessible by right-clicking on the file to be recovered). The files are still present on the computer. "Empty the Recycle Bin" allows you to permanently delete the items and free up space on the hard disk.
The icon will look different depending on whether the Recycle Bin contains files or not. On the left is the Trash icon when it is empty and on the right when it is full.
Using the Recycle Bin allows you to work more efficiently (see also the section on filing and storage). Empty it regularly, as you do in real life!
Exercise: Explore the recycle bin, permanently delete the third item and restore the second item.
Why and how should you store your computer?
How many icons do you have on your desktop? When you are looking for a document you created a few weeks ago, how long does it take to find it? Do you sort your files regularly? How is your external hard drive organised? Do you have a backup on a cloud?
Like the rooms in a home, a computer needs to be regularly tidied and organised so that browsing is pleasant and efficient, but also so that the computer is more efficient.
Proceed step by step:
- Declutter: put aside what you keep and delete the rest (files, folders, software).
- Sort: keep only what is regularly useful and archive the rest.
- Tidy and organise the different areas: the desktop and the library (documents, images, videos, music).
How to organise the icons on the desktop?
As far as possible, you should try to limit the number of icons and documents on the desktop. If, however, there are many, think about re-organising them!
To rearrange the icons by name, type, date or size, right-click on an empty area of the desktop and then click Rearrange Icons. Click on the command that indicates how you want to rearrange the icons (by Name, by Type, and so on).
Here are a few tips and principles for organising your files on your computer:
- Getting started. It's not always an exciting task, but it saves time later
- Delete duplicate files
- Create general and thematic folders, but avoid "miscellaneous" type folders
- Create sub-folders
- Name your folders and documents correctly and always in the same way (unique name, precise and detailed but short, no special characters, include a date, etc.)
- Archive documents you no longer need (see the chapter on compression) to keep only those you use regularly
- Use a collaborative platform, such as the cloud, to make online backups