File Fill-In Tutorial

[page last updated 2008/5/29; frequent updates not usually required]


Filling You In About Handling Computer Files at UA Fort Smith

These instructions use Windows-based examples.

Starting to Make It Easier – the Computer Settings That Will Help You

Let’s begin by making this as easy as possible, and that means getting all the information you need up on the screen.

  1. You can leave this web page open, and switch back and forth between it and the desktop (opening screen). Use the little _ button in the upper right corner to minimize the web page, so you can see the desktop.
  2. At your desktop (the opening screen), find the My Computer icon and click on it to open it.
  3. At the top of the My Computer window, find the Tools and click on that.
  4. On the drop-down menu that appears, click on Folder Options.
  5. Look at the top for the tab labeled View and click on it.
  6. Be sure to set the following options:
    Put a Checkmark in the boxes for
    Display the full path in the title barBe sure the dot is in the circle for Show hidden files and folders (you WANT to see them)Be sure the box is EMPTY for Hide extensions for known file types (you don’t want anything hidden).
    image View_options.gif ht477 w389
    View Options
  7. Click on the OK button to save your settings.
    This will put more information about your files on the screen.
  8. Now, let’s look at how files appear. You probably have something like this in the My Computer window:
    image My_Computer_drives.gif ht470 w486
    • The Hard Disk Drives show one drive, called C:\
    • The Devices with Removable Storage (diskettes and discs you can take out) show drive A:\ which is the diskette drive, and a CD or DVD/CD drive, usually drive D:\.(Don’t worry about drive B — you may not have one, and you won’t need it.)
    • The Network Drives on campus computers show at least one network drive for you (perhaps more) and one of those is the Mysterious R Drive (which will be covered in more detail later).
  9. Click on the C:\ hard drive.
  10. The Address box probably says C:\, which is the name of the hard drive in the computer.
    (Computer drives are named A, B, C, and so on, but the main hard drive is normally called C:\ and the most files will be on here. Think of it as a big file cabinet.
  11. Scroll down (use the roller wheel on your mouse if you have one, or move the slider at the side of the window down) and see the yellow file folder names go past. Each yellow file folder represents a directory on the hard drive — rather like a file drawer in the file cabinet.
  12. When you go down far enough, the yellow file folders end and the individual file names begin. These files are in the main directory C:\. Think of them as lying on top of the file cabinet for quick access.
  13. Go up to the little scale-model window (the popup label says Views and get the drop-down menu.image Views_menu.gif ht319 w727
  14. Notice that if you select the Details option, you can see the type of file, and the size, and the date it was last modified. This can be very useful, as you’ll see later. For example, when you know the size of the file, you will have a better idea of where you can and cannot store it.

Types of Files and When to Use Which

There are many types of computer and digital files. While the names may differ, the type of file is shown by the suffix at the end of the name — the letters after the dot.

VERY IMPORTANT TO REMEMBER: The suffix shows the format of the file, which is what makes it different from files with other suffixes. You CANNOT change the type of file simply by changing the suffix. You must convert the file to another type by using the proper program.

Here are some of the types of files you are likely to need to work with here:

  • Graphic files most often used have suffixes such as .gif (Graphics Interchange Format), .jpg (Joint Photographic Experts Group), and .png (Portable Network Graphics) — all of these can be used on World Wide Web pages. You may also see .bmp (Windows BitMaP) and .tif (Tagged Image File format). These are the formats which will usually be most useful to you here. There are many others.People often scan pictures into a .tif format file, because it is good for resizing it (making it larger or smaller). Then they might convert it to another type of file, such as a .gif, to use on a web page.
    You may also find files in formats designed for specific programs, such as .wpg for WordPerfect graphic files (WordPerfect prefers to automatically convert all the other formats into its own before including a graphic in a document.) Many drafting programs use their own special formats, too.
  • Text files are usually created by word processor programs, such as Word (files ending in .doc) or WordPad or NotePad, which might be .txt (plain text) or .rtf (Rich Text Format) files. .rtf files keep many features such as underlines, bold type, italics, etc., intact, but can be used by almost any word processor.Other word processors may use different formats (WordPerfect uses .wpd, for example). Many word processors can convert from one type of text file to another (Word .doc into WordPerfect .wpd, for example).
  • Web pages use the code that tells your web browser (Internet Explorer, Firefox, Netscape, etc.) how to display the information. They usually use the suffixes of .htm or .html. (That’s right — sometimes the suffix is 4 characters long for certain types of files.)
  • Spreadsheet files have different suffixes, depending on the program used to create them. For example, Microsoft Excel creates .xls files.
  • Presentation files have different suffixes, depending on the program used to create them. For example, Microsoft PowerPoint creates .ppt files.To save a PowerPoint presentation with a viewer included, see the instructions here.
  • Sound files may have a number of different suffixes, depending on the format. A long list is available here. The most common ones you are likely to encounter here are:
    • .mp3 and .mpa
    • .wma Windows Media Audio
    • .wav
    • .cda the format of files on a compact disc
    • .ra or .ram RealPlayer format (requires RealPlayer software and is difficult to convert to another format — also, many examples on the web are only links and not the actual file)
    • .aac Advanced Audio Coding, used by Apple on iTunes and iPod downloads (will need to be converted to another format to use in PowerPoint and many other applications)

    The first four formats are the most useful and often found, when doing presentations in PowerPoint, and can usually be played by Windows software already on computers on campus. A list of all the formats usable by PowerPoint is available here.

  • Video files have a wide range of formats, many of them listed here. The ones that are most often seen here are:
    • .avi (Audio Video Interleave)
    • .mov (Apple Quicktime movie)
    • .mp4 and .mpg files (Moving Pictures Experts Group)
    • .wmv (Windows Media Video) playable by Windows Media Player
  • Adobe Acrobat is a special case. This software creates a fixed, unchangeable file (unless you have a full copy of Adobe Acrobat) which includes text, graphics, and sometimes other files as well. These are .pdf (Portable Document Format) and they have the advantage of appearing on the screen exactly as they do when printed.
    You can read these with the free software you can download by clicking
    image get_adobe_reader.gif ht31 w88
  • Compressed files are files that have been compressed in size. They need to be specially read or else uncompressed before using them. The most frequent suffix is .zip.

Converting File Types from One to Another

In order to convert a file from one type to another, you need to first open it in a program which can edit that kind of file.

For example, let’s convert a graphics file so we can use it in a web page. We have a Windows bitmap picture, or “bump” file, called Zapotec.bmp. We need to make it a .gif, a .jpg, or a .png file. We can’t just change the suffix, however. That would be like painting a Volkswagen green and calling it a John Deere tractor. It’s still really a Volkswagen, right?

  1. Click on Start, then Programs, then find Accessories.
  2. Under Accessories, find the Paint program and click on it to load it.
  3. In Paint, you have a blank white screen.Paint blank screen
  4. Now go to File and select Open.
  5. The default is to open in My Pictures but we want to go someplace else. Click the little yellow file folder up in the tool bar, the one with the green arrow going up.
  6. Now you are in My Documents. Click on the up arrow again. You are moving up from smaller directories to larger ones.
  7. Click on My Computer and choose Local Disk (C:\).
  8. Now move the view over to find the yellow folder marked Windows.
  9. Click on the Windows folder (as shown below) to open it. Scroll past the yellow folders until you get to individual file names.image paint2.gif ht393 w434
  10. Once you get to individual file names, go up to the little scale model screen button and get the drop-down menu again. This time, choose Thumbnails.
  11. Now the list looks different, but scroll down past the yellow files until it looks something like the picture below.image paint3.gif ht389 w524
  12. Some of these files will be different on your computer, but the one we want is right there: Zapotec.bmp.
    Click on it to open Zapotec.bmp in the Paint program.
  13. Now that you have it open, go back up to File, and select Save As.image paint4.gif ht389 w514
  14. Right under the list of files is a File name box, and under that is the Save as type box. Click on the arrow to the right of the Save as type box to get the drop-down menu.Paint file types
  15. This list shows all the file types that you can save this picture to. If you select .gif, then you can convert this graphic into another type of file, which will be usable on a web page.
  16. Once you have set the file type to .gif, type in a new name for the file. Call it Zap1. You don’t have to put .gif after it in this case, since Paint will automatically add that suffix to your name to create Zap1.gif.
  17. Now go up to the top of the box, and use the green arrow coming up out of the yellow folder button again to go up the directories.
  18. When you get to the C:\ directory, click on Documents and Settings, and find your login name. Click on that.
  19. Click on My Documents to open it.
  20. Click on My Pictures to open it.
  21. Now click on Save to save the converted file to your own My Pictures directory.

These are roughly the same steps you would take to convert picture files, sound files, and many other types of files from one type of file to another, in Windows programs. Just load the file in a program that can use it, and you may be able to change the file type to another one on the list, and save it to a place on the hard drive where you can find it easily. If one program won’t convert the file, try another.

Windows Media Player, for example, can play (and convert some of) the following files:

  • .wma Windows Media Audio
  • .wmv Windows Media Video
  • .asf Windows Media including .asf, .asx, .wpl, .wm, .wmx, .wmd, and .wma
  • .vob DVD video
  • .cda audio compact disc files
  • .mp3 and .m3u audio
  • .avi video
  • .wav audio
  • .mpeg, .mpg, .mpe, .m1v, .mp2, .mpa video
  • .midi, .mid, .rmi synthesizer audio
  • .aif, .aifc, .aiff audio
  • .au, .snd audio

Finding Files on the Computer and introducing the Mysterious “R” Drive

Windows has certain default ways of doing things. You can change these on your own computer, but on campus computers, you will need to work within the default system.

Since many people may use the computers on campus, Windows puts all of your personal files (documents, pictures, etc.) into a special place on the hard drive under your login name, unless you tell it to save or copy the files to something else, such as a CD or a USB Flash drive (memory stick, thumb drive).

  1. You can minimize this window, and see your desktop (the opening screen).
  2. At the desktop, click on My Computer.
  3. Click on the C:\ hard drive.
  4. Click on Documents and Settings
  5. Click on your login name.
  6. Click on My Documents

Here are the subdirectories containing the files you normally use and save while on this computer. You should see subdirectories for My Music, My Pictures, My Downloads and others.

If you save something (for example, a picture from a web page), but aren’t sure where on the hard drive it ended up, it should be in one of these subdirectories. Pictures, of course, usually get saved automatically to My Pictures.

The Mysterious “R” Drive

While on campus, you have extra storage space that you can reach from any computer on campus to which you can login. (For security reasons, you cannot access this from off-campus.)

  1. You can minimize this window, and see your desktop (the opening screen).
  2. At the desktop, click on My Computer.
  3. Click on the icon with the little pipe thing under it. It should say something like “yourloginname on ‘” and some other stuff, and at the bottom of the description is (R:).
    This is your allotted space on the campus R:\ hard drive.

The R:\ drive is where you can store files that are too large to email, or save to a diskette, or that you don’t have time to save to anything else. It is your private space on the campus system, no matter which computer you logged into when you sat down. (For security reasons, you cannot access this from off-campus.)

You will have this space during the semester for which you are registered.

Saving Files and Where to Put Them — including the Mysterious “R” Drive

Saving files can be a little tricky, depending on where you save them.

  • There are two ways to save a file.
    • Press Ctrl and s keys together (S for Save), OR
    • On the top bar of the program you are in, click on File, then on Save As. If you click on Save (without “As”) it is saved to the default space — Save As lets you choose where to save as well as what format to save in.
  • After you save the first time, using Ctrl and s keys together (usually written as Ctrl-S, but don’t type the hyphen!) will automatically save the latest version of your file to the place you specified, in the format you selected.VERY IMPORTANT TO REMEMBER: Since so many people can use campus computers, your files may be wiped off the computer when you leave. Therefore, always save any files you want to keep to your own media (CD, USB drive, diskette) or to the R:\ drive before you logout.
  • If you like, you can choose to save to the R:\ drive. Then your files will be safe until you retrieve them later, even from a different campus computer.


  • To save to a diskette, go UP one more directory above C:\ so you see all your drives.The diskette will be in drive A:\.
    VERY IMPORTANT TO REMEMBER: Diskettes normally only hold 1.2 MB (1,200 KB). If your file is larger than that (such as a graphic, or a sound file), you may not be able to save it to a diskette.

    USB Drives

  • To save to a USB/flash/thumbdrive or memory stick, connect the drive to a USB port of the computer. You can use an extension cable if needed — some campus computers without a USB port on the front may have an extension cable set up for you already.
    You should see a reaction as the computer realizes the drive is there. It might take a minute or two before it shows up in the My Computer list of available drives, however.Click on View and then click Refresh if the USB drive doesn’t show up after a minute or two with the other drives.VERY IMPORTANT TO REMEMBER: The drive letter of your USB drive may NOT be the same on different computers. It could be drive E on a campus computer, and drive M on your computer at home. That is okay — when you get it back to your home computer, it will be drive M again. It’s just the way Windows handles it, and shouldn’t interfere with your files.You can save to a USB drive just like a hard drive. Be SURE that the light on the USB drive shows the drive is done before removing it from the USB port on the computer (the light goes out, or stops blinking, depending on your USB drive).
  • VERY IMPORTANT TO REMEMBER: Saving to a CD is trickier. See Naming and Renaming Your Files, below.

Naming and Renaming Your Files and Why You Can’t Save the Same File to a CD

Naming Files (Spaces Are Bad)

Current versions of Windows allow long file names, but some programs have trouble handling spaces in names. So, how do you handle a name like “My birthday pictures July 2002″ to be safer?
The answer is to use an underscore (an underline) instead of spaces: “My_birthday_pictures_July_2002″. The underscore key is on the keyboard, just right of the zero. Use it with the Shift key to create an underscore.

Renaming Files

You can right-click on a file and use the option to rename it.

VERY IMPORTANT TO REMEMBER: Do NOT change the suffix of the file. You cannot change the suffix without possibly damaging the file so it cannot be used. Convert the file instead.

Files on CDs

Files on CDs are different, because they are “burned” onto the CD.

VERY IMPORTANT TO REMEMBER: You cannot just Save to a CD, and you cannot just “write over” an existing file of the same name.

For example, if you wanted to save the Zapotec.bmp graphic to a CD, you would insert a CD, and when the popup appeared, you would select to open the CD and write files to it. CD popup

Next, you would find the Zapotec.bmp file, click on it just once to highlight it, and use Ctrl and c together (Ctrl-C, as it is usually written) to copy it to the Windows Clipboard.
The Clipboard is a little space in Windows memory that can hold ONE thing: one picture, or one piece of text, or one file or directory.

Then you would go to the CD window and paste the file there, using Ctrl and v together (Ctrl-V is easier to remember if you think of the V as pointing down, as in “paste it right down here”).VERY IMPORTANT TO NOTICE: The line above the file says Files Ready to Be Written to the CD.You haven’t actually put anything on the CD yet. You just put files into storage, ready to be burned to the CD later.In the left column, notice the choices: Write these files to CD and Delete temporary files. Again, remember that these files are only temporary — they are not on the CD yet. Save file to CD
Select Write these files to CD and you get another popup for the CD Writing Wizard.The name of the CD defaults to today’s date, but you can change it to something else if you like. CD Writing Wizard

Once you click on Next the file will be burned to the CD. Then the Files Ready to Be Written to the CD line will be removed (unless you have other files not yet burned).

Since burning files to CD is more complex, you cannot just “save” a file to a CD. You can save it to be ready to be burned, and then burn it later.

Since burning to a CD is not the same as just replacing data on a hard drive, you cannot normally save a file to replace the old version in the same way.
You have two choices: either delete the old file (if you have a CD-RW, that is — a CD-R will not let you delete files), and then burn the latest version to the CD,

OR you can name the newer file version something different (such as putting a version number after it, or a date/time.

Copying and Moving Files and Not to Lose Them in the Process

Copying Files

Windows offers more than one way to do many things. You can go up to the Edit in the toolbar at the top of many programs, and click on Copy, or you can use Ctrl and c keys together (Ctrl-C, as it is usually written).

When you highlight something and then use Ctrl-C, you copy whatever it is onto the Windows Clipboard. The Clipboard is a little space in Windows memory that can hold ONE thing: one picture, or one piece of text, or one file or directory.
The next time you copy something, that will replace the earlier thing you put on the Clipboard.

Then you would go to wherever you want the file, and paste the file there, using Ctrl and v together (Ctrl-V is easier to remember if you think of the V as pointing down, as in “paste it right down here”).

Moving Files

Let’s use Zapotec.bmp again as an example. Go to C:\Windows (the C: drive, in the Windows directory), and find Zapotec.bmp.

File drop-down menu   Right-click on Zapotec.bmp and the drop-down menu appears for the file.
Some of your choices may be different than shown here, but the basic ones usually are visible.
Click on Send To for a submenu with more choices.Some of the choices shown may be different from the ones you have on the computer you are using.You can send the file to your My Documents directory, or to your diskette in drive A: (or a USB drive, if you had one connected), or email it to yourself or someone else.This is another way to copy files. The original stays in place. File submenu

But what if you don’t need the original to stay in place, or want to remove it completely and move it elsewhere?

When you Delete a file, it remains on the Clipboard. That means that you can then Paste it someplace else.

The command for Delete is Ctrl and x together (Ctrl-X, as in crossing out something to remove it).

If you Ctrl-X a file, and then Ctrl-V to paste somewhere else, it will be effectively moved to the new place.

VERY IMPORTANT TO REMEMBER: When you delete a file, you risk losing it if you are interrupted. It is safer to Copy the file to the new position, and then go back and Delete the original.

Deleting Your Files and How to Get Them Back Before It’s Too Late (Maybe)

The command for Delete is Ctrl and x together (Ctrl-X, as in crossing out something to remove it).

If you realize that you need a file back, however (and it happens to everyone, sooner or later), you may still have a chance, provided you haven’t logged out of the computer yet. If you are using a computer on campus, you may have your file erased immediately or soon after you log out, to make room for more recent users, so act quickly.

Go to the desktop (opening screen) and you should find (usually under My Computer or nearby, an icon called Recycle Bin. Click on it.

Now you have a list of all the files you deleted earlier. While this bin may be emptied when you logout (on a campus computer), until then you have a chance to retrieve the file you deleted.

Restore menu Right click on the highlighted file, and you should see a menu of choices.The first choice is Restore, meaning put the file back where it was before.
Select this to return the file to where it was before you deleted it.

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