Copyright Michael Karbo, Denmark, Europe.
Chapter 6. Drives, files and Explorer
A pc contains an incredible amount of data. When you work with user programs like Word, Excel and Photoshop, you create even more data. This whole mass of data must be maintained, and much of the work consists of file management. Let us look at that now. Do all the exercises, they are not particularly complicated, yet they are important for the understanding of Windows XP.
What are data?
Data can be programs, documents or something else, but they are all saved in files. All these files, of which there are thousands, are saved on the hard disk drive in multiple folders.
The folders are structures that you create and maintain with the Explorer program.
Figure 27. Data are saved in files, which are in folders on a drive.
On with Windows Explorer
Now let us look closer at the computer’s folder and file contents. The file names are actually in two parts (a first name and a suffix), but ordinarily only the first names are shown. Now change the view, so the suffix (or rather the file type name) is shown in Windows Explorer.
1. Open Windows Explorer with the keyboard shortcut Windows+e. That opens Windows Explorer directly, where the system folder My Computer is selected in the folder window.
2. Select menu items Tools à folder options.
4. Click on OK. Now the complete file names are shown for all files in all folders. Let us see an example. Click on the C-drive in the folder window:
5. Then you see the contents of the C-drive’s root. That is the ”top” folder level on the hard disk. You might first get a warning not to make any changes. Then just click on ”Show the contents of this folder”:
6. Then click on the Windows folder in the left window. That is also a system folder (you might have to click again on Show the contents of this folder). It contains all the data that are in Windows XP.
7. The Windows-folder contains a vast number of other folders and files, so on the surface it is difficult to survey. You see the contents of the folder like this:
Figure 28. In Windows Explorer the Windows folder is selected in the left window; the right window shows its contents (or rather a small part of it).
A folder with many files
You have opened the folder C:\Windows with Windows Explorer. But the problem is that it is hard to oversee what data are really in the folder.
1. It can help a little bit to activate the status bar. Select menu items Show à Status bar like here:
2. The Status bar is seen in the bottom of the window, and it often gives information about the current objects.
3. Right now it tells that there are 123 objects (plus 2 hidden):
4. In my case (yours may be different) there are 123 folders and files in the C:\Windows folder. Now you need to sort them according to type. You do that by clicking with the mouse in the column heading Type like here:
5. Then select the Summary view:
6. Now it is easy to review the contents. Here I show an excerpt. Notice all the folders in the right column:
Figure 29. Three columns with incidental files and folders fom the Windows folder. Each file is seen both with suffix and icon. Folders usually have only a first name.
Compare the icons
You see a row of small icons. Many of them are folders, which each contain different files, but most of them are files. In many cases there is a connection between the files suffix and the icon, with which they are shown. Can you see that?
1. Try to look at the bmp-files; here are three of them. They have the same suffix, and they all have a light blue icon:
2. Similarily you can see the so-called ini-files. Here are four of them with the same unambiguous icon, which is used for ini-files:
3. Find the exe-files by yourself. They do not follow the same system, since they do not appear with the same type icon. I have 16 exe-files, which are shown with nine different icons. How many do you have?
More about file types
Now you have been ”down and looking” in the Windows folder. Such a folder filled with system files is really not particularly interesting for us users. But you have seen that it contains a great number of file types. There are bmp-, dll-, exe-, ini-, log- and many other file types.
It is quite a science to understand the individual file types (or formats as they are also called).
What are dll- and ini-files used for? You don’t need to be an expert in that subject (at least not for now). But let me give you a few hints.
1. You can let the mouse rest on the individual files in Windows Explorer. Then a help text appears, which often can tell a little about the contents of the file. Try to rest the mouse cursor on one of the log files like here:
2. The yellow text box tells you that this is a text document. So that is a file that contains pure text and nothing else. With that we can understand that log-files are of the same file type as txt-files. They also have the same icon in the summary – can you see that?
3. These file types can be opened in the Notepad program. Try that. Find the regopt.log file and doubleclick on it:
4. That opens the Notepad program, and the text file is read in. That appears to be a file that is created by Windows XP during the installation:
5. Since the text file is opened in Notepad you can easily change the file contents and save it, BUT DON’T DO THAT. You must not change the system files in the Windows folder, that can destroy them.
6. The Ini-files are also text files, which can be opened in Notepad. Try that yourself, but be careful not to change their content.
7. Let us see another file type, that is the bmp-files, wich are a format for graphics files. Find the file Sæbebobler.bmp (Sæbebobler means soap bubbles), and doubleclick on that:
8. Now you would expect that Paint opens, but that is not the case. In stead the graphics file is shown in a window named Windows picture and fax viewer.
9. Windows picture and fax viewer is a small program included in Windows XP. It is designed for viewing graphics files. Here you see the contents of the file, which appears like a soap bubble like pattern:
10. This pattern can be used as decoration on Windows Desktop, that is why the file Sæbebobler.bmp is in the Windows folder. We will get to that later.
11. Close the viewer for now with Alt+F4. In stead make a right click on the file, and select the menu item Edit:
12. Now the the file is opened in Paint! Here you can edit the picture as much as you want, but don’t do that since this is a system file.
You have now seen that Windows Explorer can be used to localize individual files on the hard disk. And you have seen that the files each have a type, which identifies what they can be used for.
As mentioned before there are countless numbers of file types, and you will never get to know them all. But – depending on which programs you work with – it is a good idea to know the file types that you produce and use. Here are some examples:
Figure 30. User files, which can be found on the hard disk. Each file type has its own properties.
Now you have dug a little into Windows Explorer and seen examples of folders and files. We will leave this rather technical subject and now look more at the”packing” of Windows XP.