All the information that is “in your computer” is actually stored on your computer’s hard disk drive (often referred to as Drive C:). In a sense, your hard disk is like a filing cabinet. And, like a filing cabinet, the information on your hard disk is organized into files and folders.
Just as a folder in a filing cabinet is a “container” for storing paper documents, a computer folder is a container for storing computer documents. A computer document, in turn, is anything that you might want to look at on the screen, or print on paper. That includes typed text, spreadsheets, and pictures. In the computer world, music (songs) and video (movies) are also documents. And just like any documents, music and video files are stored in folders.
You would not want to open up your real filing cabinet and dump all its contents onto your real desk. You would end up with a big disorganized mess. Your computer’s hard disk can hold tens of thousands of files and folders. You would not want all your files open on your Windows Desktop (screen) at the same time, for the same reason. It would just be too much clutter.
A folder or file that is currently visible on your screen is said to be “open.” One that’s still “in the filing cabinet,” so to speak, is said to be “closed.” On your computer screen, all folders and files are represented by icons – those little emblems you see around Windows programs. It is easy to tell a folder from a file by the icon. As a rule, icons that represent folders have a manila file folder as part of their icon, as shown in the top row below. Icons that represent documents sometimes have a little dog-eared sheet of paper as part of their icon, as seen in the bottom row below.
To open a folder or file, you can typically double-click on its icon. When you open a document, a program that is capable of displaying (or “playing”) that document opens, and displays the document. For example, when you open a song (music) or a movie (video), Windows Media Player or another program will open to play the document.
When you open a folder, a program called Windows Explorer opens and displays the contents of that folder. The most important thing to understand is the difference between folders and files.
- A folder is a “container” in which you can store documents, similar to a manila file folder in a filing cabinet.
- The icon for a folder will usually resemble a manila file folder in some way.
- A file (or document) is like a paper document; something you store inside a manila file folder. However, on a computer this can be a picture, a song, or a video as well as typed text or a spreadsheet.
- Icons that represent documents often have a dog-eared piece of paper as part of their icon.