Windows 7 for Beginners – Folders

Whenever you start learning something new, the hardest part is always the terminology. All the words are in English, but they are often used in ways that are counter intuitive. Folders is one such term.

In the physical world, you can have a manilla folder, or a plastic book-like folder, or you could just have a hanging folder in a filing cabinet. The one trait all those physical objects share is their ability to hold things – usually pieces of paper.

Computer terminology has borrowed that idea of holding and grouping things for the folders on a computer, but there the real world analogy ends. On a computer, folders can hold everything from documents and music, to applications [like Word or Excel or your favourite browser].

Computer folders can also contain other folders, lots of them, and those sub-folders can contain folders of their own.  Once you realise that, the similarity to real world folders becomes very thin indeed. The terminology, however, remains.

Understanding folders

An easier, more visual way of thinking about folders is to picture the trunk and branches of a tree :

win 7 tree pic 2

In the graphic above, the Desktop is the trunk of the tree. From there, 7 main branches lead to important categories of ‘things’, including the Control Panel and the Recycle Bin. However for you and I, the most important branch is the one called ‘Libraries’.

As you can see, sprouting from the main branch of Libraries are smaller branches that lead to Music, Videos, Pictures and Documents. And finally, hanging off Documents are two folders called ‘Public Documents’ and ‘My Documents’.

Due to lack of space, I haven’t labelled the smaller branches leading  from Music, Videos and Pictures, but they too have folders attached to them. For example, Music has folders called My Music and Public Music.

In the following examples I will only talk about the My Documents folder, however the same rules apply to all folders.

computer iconTo see what this tree structure looks like in action, double click the Computer icon   on your desktop. The following window is displayed :

nav via my computer window

The tree structure circled in red does not look like our graphic of the tree, but each indentation signifies a branching.

The indentations should be easier to see in this closeup :

tree indentations

Thus Libraries is indented from Desktop, and Documents, Music, Pictures and Videos are all indented from Libraries.

Now let’s have a closer look at the ‘Documents’ branch of Libraries.

To expand the branches of the tree structure, either double click Documents,  or click the small arrow in front of it.

document tree

You should now be able to see the two yellow folder icons  in front of ‘My Documents’ and ‘Public Documents’.

At this level of the tree structure, Windows 7 creates the categories and folders in order to make using Windows programs easier.

Unfortunately there is a price to pay for this ease of use, and it’s the same price you pay in the real world  when you chuck all your important documents into one very big box – finding things becomes difficult.

To make life easier, Windows has created a folder called My Documents, and will automatically save documents to that folder unless told otherwise. Think of My Documents as that big box I mentioned, or a black hole…

If you’re reading this, you probably already know about the black hole. What you may not know, however, is that you can organize your documents by creating your own folders within My Documents.

How to create your own folders

Creating your own folders is a simple, 3 step process.

Step 1   If you are still in the Computer window, click My Documents.   If not, double click the Computer icon –  – on Desktop, expand Libraries, expand Documents, and then click My Documents.

Step 2   Up the top of the Computer window you should see a number of options.

new folder option

The one we want is ‘New Folder’. Click ‘New Folder’.

Step 3   Windows displays a new folder with the default name – ‘New folder’ – highlighted in blue :

new folder name

Simply type in the name you want to give this folder and press Enter. Just remember that the name of the folder should be that of a category or logical group. For example, if you write a lot of memos, you could group them by recipient name, or month, or subject matter.

As I already have all the folders I need, I have named my new folder ‘1 Testing’, and there it is :

new folder done

How to use your own folders

Once you have created your own folder[s] you can drag and drop existing documents into them – much like you would file papers in a filing cabinet.

Simply click on the document you want to move, and keep the mouse button held down as you slowly move the file to its new location. This is the ‘drag’ part.

When the correct folder is highlighted, release the mouse button and the document will ‘drop’ into the folder you have selected :

drag and drop

In the screenshot above, I dragged a file up to ‘1 Testing’. The shot was taken just before I released the mouse button.

Saving a new document directly into a folder

Dragging and dropping existing documents into folders is tedious and time consuming. A faster, easier way to organize your documents is to save them directly into the correct folder[s] right from the start.

To demonstrate how this is done, open Word 10 and type something onto the blank page that is displayed.

Next, select the File tab, and click either ‘Save’ or ‘Save As’ :

where is Save As

[Note: I prefer ‘Save As’ because I remember when clicking ‘Save’ would automatically save my new document into My Documents. Nowadays, ‘Save’ is smart enough to know when you have not selected a location for your file and politely asks you to select one, but old habits die hard.]

After you click ‘Save As’ [or ‘Save’], a new page opens showing the Windows 7 folders. Under Libraries, expand Documents to show ‘My Documents’. Now expand ‘My Documents’ to show the new folder you created. Mine is called ‘1 Testing’ :

saving to 1 testing

Double click your folder to open it. Now you are ready to name your document as you would normally.

Type a name for your file and click the Save button.

You have now learned how to create and use folders.

The next time you want to edit, or print a particular document, you can use your named folders to narrow down your search to just a few documents instead of possibly hundreds!

This how-to is part of an assignment I have to do for my Certificate IV in Training and Assessment. It takes the place of work-based training so I would really appreciate any comments you might have, or any questions as your feedback will become part of my training process.

Thanks in advance,


p.s. This is my 400th post. I honestly can’t believe it. Time really does fly when you’re having fun!

About acflory

I am the kind of person who always has to know why things are the way they are so my interests range from genetics and biology to politics and what makes people tick. For fun I play online mmorpgs, read, listen to a music, dance when I get the chance and landscape my rather large block. Work is writing. When a story I am working on is going well I'm on cloud nine. On bad days I go out and dig big holes... View all posts by acflory

16 responses to “Windows 7 for Beginners – Folders

  • Kathryn Chastain Treat

    I have folders all over my desktop with subfolders. Some of these folders are now in a different location to keep my desk top clutter clearer.


  • Yvonne Hertzberger

    Thanks Meeka. That really helps.


  • Courtenay Bluebird

    Congratulations on your 400th post, lovely Meeka! I am sad to say that since I am a Mac user I don’t have any specific questions about this “how-to,” but I would like to laud you on its conciseness, visual literacy and overall readability.

    These sorts of technical documents are THE hardest thing to write, IMO, but you make it look easy, which is brilliant.


    • acflory

      Thanks Bluey. 🙂 They are harder to write than they look, but if it flowed and looked easy then I really have done my job. 🙂

      If I ever get a MAC I’ll definitely come to you for some pointers. -hugs-


  • EllaDee

    Very handy tutorial. Even in my corporate world, I still need to show people how to create folders. I love you graphic tree – it’s very visual and grabs attention 🙂
    2 other bits of folder related information I offer (cut and pasted from a missive) are:
    A guideline of naming folders and documents succinctly and limiting numbers of characters in folder and document names to 64 characters, or less if there are multiple sub-folders, and to bear in mind that for moving documents between folders or export to DVD/CD the total folder/sub folder document name string needs to fall within a total 254 Windows Explorer character limit, is suggested. If the character limited is exceeded the document name may be truncated during move/copy processes or functionality frozen.
    If you have a myriad of subfolders and want to search for a document within them, select the parent folder then Control F or click in the Search panel, type *.* and all contents – documents and subfolders – will be listed and you can sort by whatever field, eg type, date modified or name suits.


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