FOLDERS AND FILES EXPLAINED
This category will teach you how to Create, Open, Rename, Save, Delete, Copy and Move a Folder and/or File. It will also teach you about the relationship between Folders and Files as well as explain about File Types, File Formats, File Names and Extensions, File Sizes, System Folders, Path Names and Icons.
If you have not read this page before continue reading it, from top to bottom, as normal. Otherwise you can click on a subject below to get near/on the subject you was reading before. How To Create A Folder is the next section - It is also linked at the bottom of this page.
Although OS X (Mountain Lion) allows data to be stored inside Memory, the core storage place for data is inside a File. In turn, the core storage place for a file is inside a Folder. You can think of Folders and Files in the same way as normal Filing Cabinet (thick card) folders and paper files/documents. The filing cabinet is the storage device. When you open the filing cabinet you usually then open a folder, before looking at the file(s) within that folder. I say Usually because you can have one or more loose files within the filing cabinet itself of course. With a computer it is slightly different.
Your Hard Drive (or Hard Drive Partition) is the main storage device (filing cabinet) - A CD/DVD, Floppy Disk and
Flash Drive (Memory Stick/Pen) are classed as Removable Storage Devices but nevertheless can also be classified as a filing cabinet (removable filing cabinet / removable
storage device). When you open (go inside) a storage device such as the hard drive you usually then open a folder, before looking at the file(s) within that folder.
Again, I say Usually because you can have one or more loose files within the hard drive (root folder) itself as well.
The above said is the normal Folders and Files scenario. However, the computer has extra features not found with a filing cabinet. One of them is the ability to store hundreds of files inside one folder. Another is the ability to have many folders within one folder. These are known as sub-folders and can also store hundreds of files inside them. Here are some examples:
Fig 1.1 A Filing Cabinet
Fig 1.2 The Machintosh Hard Drive
Fig 1.3 Sub-Folders and Files
Fig 1.1 is showing a filing cabinet that has two separate folders inside it, one called Business and the other called Home. The business folder has three files inside it
(Accounts.xlsx, Invoice.docx and Manual.pdf) and the home folder has two files inside it (Bills.xlsx and Letter.docx).
Fig 1.2 is showing how the Machintosh Hard Drive root folder (Machintosh HD itself) can store a folder with six files inside it, in the same way as a filing cabinet. It shows the Business folder with the files Accounts.xlsx, audio_notes.mp3, Invoice.docx, John.jpg, Manual.pdf and Notes.txt inside it.
Fig 1.3 is showing the Machintosh Hard Drive root folder (Machintosh HD itself) with a folder inside it called Business. Business is storing the same three files inside it as the filing cabinet example (Fig 1.2) - Accounts.xlsx, Invoice.docx and Manual.pdf - except now it also has a sub-folder inside it called Bills. Bills also has three files inside it, called Electric.xlsx, Gas.xlsx and Phone.xlsx. A sub-folder is just a folder, like Bills, that is inside another folder (such as Business). If the Bills sub-folder was not inside the Business folder but inside the Machintosh Hard Drive (Machintosh HD itself) root folder instead, along side the Business folder, it would be known as a folder only. That is the only difference between a folder and a sub-folder - A sub-folder is a folder within its own right but also a sub-folder when it is not a main (raw/root) folder.
Although the hard drive as a piece of hardware is the core storage device for a computer, and more precisely for the OS X (Mountain Lion) operating system files, it should be looked upon as the Root Folder and not just as the core storage device. Meaning. Machintosh HD is the root folder, on the hard drive, that all the other folders get stored inside. So the Business folder for example is actually a sub-folder of the Machintosh HD root folder simply because it is a folder stored inside the Machintosh HD root folder, but at the same time Business is also a main folder in its own right for any sub-folders it contains itself (i.e. Bills).
The reason I mention this is because most people are led to believe, through Magazines and Books, that the Machintosh HD root folder is a storage device (storage folder) for the OS X (Mountain Lion) operating system files only; which is not true. The Machintosh HD root folder can be used for your storage purposes too, like I have shown above with the Business folder, as long as you avoid deleting any of the OS X (Mountain Lion) operating system folders, sub-folders and files.
The main folders that are installed for the OS X (Mountain Lion) operating system are called APPLLICATIONS, LIBRARY, SYSTEM AND USERS. The USERS folder initially contains
three sub-folders. One named GUEST that is used for storing system folders and files relating to the Guest User Account. One named SHARED that is used in conjunction
with Network/File Sharing, and therefore publicly available. And one named after your User Name Account (i.e. Yoingco).
Each User Name Account sub-folder is private to that user and contains personal sub-folders that help OS X (Mountain Lion), and that user, stay organized. These personal sub-folders, which are also classed as part of the OS X (Mountain Lion) operating system folders, are called DESKTOP, DOCUMENTS, DOWNLOADS, MOVIES, MUSIC, PICTURES and PUBLIC. The User Name Account called Guest, which is a limited account created and primarily managed by OS X (Mountain Lion), can be turned off/on using a standard Administrator account (i.e. your account) but its personal folders and files cannot be viewed by a standard Administrator account.
You should never try to delete the OS X (Mountain Lion) operating system folders, sub-folders or files otherwise you may end up with a non-working computer. They are explained here to make you aware of them, so that you know what they are used for and which ones you can use. By default (normal behaviour) OS X (Mountain Lion) is set up so that its most important folders, sub-folders and files are hidden from you, to avoid accidental erasure.
This folder contains Application Icons that are actually shortcut links to the folders, sub-folders and files that make up the Applications and Softwares installed on your computer. Double clicking on an Application Icon from within this folder will launch (run/open/execute) the associated apllication or piece of software. The same Applications (shortcut links) can also be found on the FINDER Sidebar.
This folder contains shared sub-folders and files that make OS X (Mountain Lion) and Third-Party Applications can use - Shared Libraries, Startup Items, Application Settings and System Preferences. Deleting any sub-folders and/or files within this folder can cripple OS X (Mountain Lion) and Third-Party Applications to the point where it may no longer work. So do not delete anything from this folder.
This folder contains the actual sub-folders and files that make OS X (Mountain Lion) work - Control Panels, Extensions, Fonts, Libraries, Application Settings and System Preferences. Deleting any sub-folders and/or files within this folder can cripple OS X (Mountain Lion) to the point where it may no longer work. So do not delete anything from this folder.
This folder contains sub-folders relating to the user accounts on the computer - The generic user account sub-folder called GUEST relates to folders, sub-folders and files belonging to the GUEST User Account whereas the generic user account sub-folder called SHARED relates to folders, sub-folders and files that can be used (shared) by all users (these include Printer files and Adobe Reader files for example). The administrator user account sub-folder (Yoingco in this example) is named after the User Name you set up when first installing OS X (Mountain Lion). It contains the main folders, sub-folders and files belonging to Your User Account.
USER - User Name - Desktop
The Desktop folder is a sub-folder inside your User Name folder (i.e. Yoingco) but also a folder in its own right. It is linked on the FINDER Sidebar and contains YOUR
Icons as found on the actual desktop. For example. If a piece of software places an icon on the desktop as part of its installation process, such as a mounted disk drive
icon, that icon will not be found in this Desktop sub-folder. Only icons created on the desktop by yourself or OS X (Mountain Lion), such as shortcut icons to files and
standard folder icons, will be inside this Desktop sub-folder.
A shortcut is an icon (file) that links (shortcuts) straight to an actual folder or file, as opposed to being the actual folder or file, which means double clicking on a shortcut icon either takes you inside a folder (or sub-folder) or opens (executes/launches) a program. Read the Create A Shortcut Icon section for more information.
USER - User Name - Documents
The Documents folder is a sub-folder inside your User Name folder (i.e. Yoingco) but also a folder in its own right. It is linked on the FINDER Sidebar and is meant to contain your Documents (files) only, such as your Microsoft Word 2011 documents, but these days some software packages use it as a place to store their configuration file(s) for example. A configuration file is a file that normally contains information (settings) about the way you use a particular piece of software and/or about when it needs to update itself and so on. Because of this "Configuration Saving" trend, be careful what you delete from within the Documents sub-folder. Do not delete any sub-folders named after a piece of software for example, such as the Microsoft User Data folder.
Always create categorized sub-folders (i.e. Business, Home, Internet, etc) for your documents (files) otherwise they will all end up in the Documents sub-folder only,
which in the long run means you get confused with which files to delete and which to keep because you no longer know which files are old/irrelevant and which are
This is a normal scenario - Save a file as Accounts.xlsx. Update it next week. Decide the name is no longer relevant so save a new copy as Accounts_John.xlsx. One week later update the file by changing (deleting) john's account details for Sarah's account details and then resave the file as Accounts_Sarah.xlsx. As time goes on you forget about the original Accounts.xlsx and stick with Accounts_John.xlsx and Accounts_Sarah.xlsx. One year later you have many forgotten original files - Accounts_Tracey.xlsx, CV.docx, Scan001.jpg, Essay.docx and so on.
USER - User Name - Downloads
The Downloads folder is a sub-folder inside your User Name folder (i.e. Yoingco) but also a folder in its own right. It is linked on the FINDER Sidebar and is primarily used as a storage folder for files you download from The Internet. This can include Software, OS X (Mountain Lion) Specific Files and Templates for example. You can use this folder for normal use too though.
USER - User Name - Movies
The Movies folder is a sub-folder inside your User Name folder (i.e. Yoingco) but also a folder in its own right. It is linked on the FINDER Sidebar and contains audio/video files (i.e. .flv .mpg .wmv etc) that you have downloaded from The Internet, copied from a CD/DVD, purchased from iTunes, synchronised with your iPad and so on. This is normally the first folder a multimedia application will look inside when it needs to open (read) or save (write) an audio/video file.
USER - User Name - Music
The Music folder is a sub-folder inside your User Name folder (i.e. Yoingco) but also a folder in its own right. It is linked on the FINDER Sidebar and contains music files (i.e. mp3 music files, playlist files and general settings files) that you have downloaded from The Internet, ripped (copied) from a CD/DVD, purchased from iTunes, synchronised with your iPad and so on. This is normally the first folder a music application will look inside when it needs to open (read) or save (write) a music file.
USER - User Name - Pictures
The Pictures folder is a sub-folder inside your User Name folder (i.e. Yoingco) but also a folder in its own right. It is linked on the FINDER Sidebar and contains picture files (i.e. jpg and png photo files) that you have downloaded from The Internet, copied from a CD/DVD, synchronised with your iPad and so on. This is normally the first folder a graphics/paint/photo application will look inside when it needs to open (read) or save (write) a picture (image/drawing/photo) file.
USER - User Name - Public
The Public folder is a sub-folder inside your User Name folder (i.e. Yoingco) but also a folder in its own right. It is classed as a Shared (Publically Shared) folder
as it can be seen on other computers within your network, provided you have File Sharing switched on.
This folder, which is NOT linked on the FINDER Sidebar, is set up so that its contents can be seen by other people on your computer network. Furthermore, that contents can be copied by them onto their computer and then edited, but the edited content cannot be put back into the Public folder as edited content (i.e. as edited content with the same file name as the original). This is because the PUBLIC folder and its contents is read-only (look and copy only) when being viewed by a non-owner of the PUBLIC folder (i.e. a user on another computer who only has access to your PUBLIC folder). In contrast to this; the SHARED user account folder (see above) can be used to share/edit contents amongst other users on your computer.
The Public folder also contains a folder called DROP BOX, which is nothing to do with the cloud application called Dropbox. It allows other people on your computer network to copy files into your DROPBOX folder, but they cannot see its contents.
When naming folders you can use Letters, Numbers, Spaces and some Punctuation Marks (such as \ / * ? " < > | but not :) but overall you are better off keeping it simple by only using Letters, Numbers and Spaces as other characters tend to be used by (reserved for) the OS X (Mountain Lion) operating system.
Continuing with the Filing Cabinet example, above. Computer files are exactly the same as the (paper) files you put into a filing cabinet (thick card) folder, with the exceptions that they are stored on a computer and made from data instead of ink. For example. To make a C.V you might type it out using Microsoft Word 2011 instead of a typewriter. To do your accounts you might use Microsoft Excel 2011 instead of filling out receipts by hand and using a calculator. To put a photograph with a file you insert it as part of your file instead of attaching it with a paper clip. And so on. The point being that you will end up with a file, of some sort, that is identical to a filing cabinet file. The sort of file you end up with depends on what you are doing.
If you are typing out a C.V only it will be saved as a Text File and if you are drawing something only it will be saved as a Picture File. A file can also be a mix of
text and drawings. In which case, you have the choice of saving your file as a text file (with drawings inserted) or as a picture file (with text). These two types of
file (file types), Text and Picture, are standard in both a filing cabinet file and a computer file, but this is where the comparisons end because the next two file
types (types of file) are only found with a computer. They are the Music and Video (Multimedia) file types.
You can save a piece of music as an Audio file, a piece of video footage as a Video file or have a video file that combines audio and video. So far that is four standard file types for the computer (Text, Picture, Audio and Video). The fifth and final standard file type is the Executable (launchable) file. It is a file that launches itself as either a service (i.e. Print service) or product (i.e. Microsoft Word) so you can use it as a tool - Double clicking on a WORD Document or opening the Microsoft Word.app application for example actually launches, behind the scenes, its Text Editor/Processor executable file; but you just call the whole thing "An Application". So just think of the Executable file type as an Application or File that launches a product or service, if that makes life easier for you!
When typing a letter you normally give it your own style. Perhaps you underline some words, use a different colour ink to highlight
important words, CAPITALise words, use pencil instead of pen, sign it in a certain way and so on. Before you put it into an envelope you might also enclose a photograph,
cheque or whatever. In other words, you will have customized/styled that letter. Or in computer terminology you will have formatted it.
With written format you could write the letter in Crayon, Ink, Pencil or whatever. With handwriting style (format) you could write in Gothic text, Old English text or whatever. Even the wording could be formatted. Shakespearian, Latin, Spanish and so on. You could also mix these formats together to give you your own unique format. This is what has been done with the computer. An application like Microsoft Word 2011 shows this nicely. It allows you to change the text style, text colours and text language, insert photographs and so forth so you end up creating a unique letter style (format) for yourself. Although the word Format basically means to Design, Set Up, Arrange, Layout, etc with computers it also means the way the data is layed out (organised). Here is a description of some common file formats:
Example.txt This file is called Example. Its file name (Example) has an extension called .txt
The .txt file name extension means it is a file that contains pure Text only - No colouring or styling. This kind of file is normally written using a standard text editor application such as TextEdit.
Example.jpg This file is called Example. Its file name (Example) has an extension called .jpg
The .jpg file name extension means it is a file that contains a Picture (normally a Photograph) formatted (data strutured) in the JPEG File Format - When you take a photo with your digital camera it will normally save the photo as a JPEG file (JPEG - Joint Photographic Experts Group - is also known as: JPG). If you then edit that photo using a photo editor application whereby you then insert/combine Freehand Drawings, Text and other Photographs over the original photo, the original photo will still be saved as a picture file.
The file data will usually be Compressed, which means the dots (pixels) that make up the picture (i.e. photograph) will be stored in the file as compressed/crunched data. So if three dots are coloured red the data might be stored as three words (RED, RED and RED) or as compressed data (i.e. 1, 1 and 1 - where 1 means the colur red). This means the file will be smaller because it is only saving 3 Byes (1, 1 and 1) as opposed to 9 Bytes (RED, RED and RED) for those three dots. Now imagine every dot in the picture being represented by one number as opposed to three words.....the whole picture data could be crunched down to one third of its original size. And this is exactly what a Scanner and a Digital Camera for example normally do. They compress/crunch the data before saving it as a .jpg file.
Example.png This file is called Example. Its file name (Example) has an extension called .png
The .png file name extension means it is a file that contains Imagery (normally of medium size and used by Website Designers) - Icons, Buttons, Logos and so on. PNG (Portable Network Graphics) files are roughly the same as JPG files, but with a slightly different approach to the data structure (formatting). The data itself is also compressed twice, and not once like JPG. PNG data is compressed both horizontally and vertically whereas JPG data is only compressed horizontally.
Picture files in general store dot information, colour information, file size information and so on. If you want to use big pictures JPG files are better than PNG files
because of the way JPG data is compressed. However. If you only want to use medium sized pictures or drawings PNG files might be better for you, especially for website
use. A PNG file normally starts off as a JPG file (from a photo application, scanner or digital camera) which you then save as a PNG file to cut down on file size (less
colours, very compressed data and so on).
Example.mpg This file is called Example. Its file name (Example) has an extension called .mpg
The .mpg file name extension means it is a file that contains Video and/or Audio (normally both) that has come from a Web Camera, Home Movie or Professional Video source. There are video and audio Editing applications you can use to edit MPG (Moving Picture Experts Group) formatted files but in general people just use video and audio files for playback purposes. Video and Audio files have their own way of formatting data (just like the old BetaMax vs VHS video tape scenario years back) and therefore have many different file formats, such as .cda (CD Audio), .mp3 (Music/Sound/Speech), .avi (Audio/Video), .wma (Audio) and .wmv (Audio/Video).
Example.docx This file is called Example. Its file name (Example) has an extension called .docx
The .docx file name extension means it is a file that can contain Text, Pictures, Video, Audio and Objects (Links to Web Pages, etc). The text can be coloured and styled. This kind of file is a Microsoft Word (Word Processor) file that is used in later versions of Windows and OS X (Mountain Lion).
Example.xlsx This file is called Example. Its file name (Example) has an extension called .xlsx
The .xlsx file name extension means it is a file that can contain Text, Numbers, Pictures and Charts/Graphs. The text can be coloured and styled. This kind of file is a Microsoft Excel (Accounting) file that is used in later versions of Windows and OS X (Mountain Lion).
Example.html This file is called Example. Its file name (Example) has an extension called .html
The .html file name extension means it is a file that contains (Programming Language) pure Text, that a web browser such as Safari translates as instructions for displaying a specific Web (Internet) Page and its content. This kind of file is normally written using a standard text editor application such as TextEdit or with a special editor made for website programmers. There are many variants of the HTML (HyperText Markup Language) file format - .htm, .xhtml, .dhtml and so on.
Example.app This file is called Example. Its file name (Example) has an extension called .app
The .app file name extension means it is a file that Executes (launches/opens) itself as an application. Skype, iPhoto, TextEdit, Microsoft Word and Safari are all applications. When you double click on the Microsoft Word 2011 application icon for example it executes (launches/runs/opens) the actual file/script that tells it to show you its front-end (it Graphically User Interface - Buttons, Icons, Menus, etc). Executable files (codes/scripts) are written by Software Producers and Programmers. The only time you need to differentiate between an .app file and another file is usually when you need to install something and need to find the .installer file or .zip file.
Example.pdf This file is called Example. Its file name (Example) has an extension called .pdf
The .pdf file name extension means it is a file that already has the document Text, Fonts and Images embeded into it in order for it to be displayed and/or printed. This makes the PDF (Portable Document Format) file format independent of the computer being used and therefore the document (pdf file) should work (display and/or print) on any computer screen regardless of its operating system. PDF documents (files) tend to be formatted (layed out) like a manual or guide, which is what a PDF file normally is.
Do not be put off by File Formats. They come and go as soon as a new text editor, music application or whatever hits the market. To play safe just use the file format
that best suits your needs or the standard file format for the application you are using, regardless if that file format is the best/worst choice. For example. Imagine
you have just scanned a large photograph in .jpg format, which then goes into a photo application. You have plenty of space to save the photograph (as a .jpg file) on
your hard drive but not enough space to save it onto a floppy diskette (as a .jpg file). What do you do? Answer. Save the photograph onto your hard drive first, as a
.jpg file, and then resave the photograph as a smaller .png file onto a floppy diskette.
So to sum up. A file is just a block of data (numbers/characters) that can be used to make a picture, a document (text), a video or an audio track. These data blocks cannot be launched on their own because they need additional software (such as a Photo application or Word Processor application) to make them work and/or viewable. The exception being an executable block of data, which launches/opens itself as a product or service. Each file is known by its Type (Text, Picture, Video, Audio or Executable) and Format (.txt, .rtf, .doc, .bmp, .jpg, .mpg, .avi, .exe and so on) which is governed by the way the block of data is formatted (compressed, styled, etc).
When naming files you can use Letters, Numbers, Spaces and some Punctuation Marks (such as \ / * ? " < > | but not :) but overall you are better off keeping it simple by only using Letters, Numbers and Spaces as other characters tend to be used by (reserved for) the OS X (Mountain Lion) operating system.
A file's size is measured by the amount of data (numbers/characters) it is storing. Each number in a file is known as 1 Byte and so is each character. So if a Text file
only contains the words "Hello Ben" (without the quotes) it will have a file size of at least 9 Bytes, because it contains 9 characters. If it contained "123456789" it
would still have a file size of at least 9 Bytes, because it would contain 9 numbers. And even if it contained a mixture of numbers and characters, like "Hello 123", it
would still be at least 9 Bytes. I say At Least because a file is not just made up from its own data (numbers/characters) but also from application data.
When Microsoft Word 2011 for example saves a text (.docx) file it not only saves the text but it also saves things like the Colour data, Font data and Paragraph data. So if every letter of "Hello Ben" was a different colour Microsoft Word 2011 might save the data as 9 Bytes for the Text plus 27 Bytes for the Colour (Each colour is made of up a Red, Green and Blue value which means 1 Byte per colour value. So 3 colour values x 9 letters = 27) plus Bytes for any Font and Paragraph data used - Giving you a total file size of at least 36 Bytes (27 colour values + 9 letters). Unless you know how each application stores data into a file you will never know what a file's size is going to be until either the application tells you or until the file has been saved.
In order to put file size into perspective, when a file contains more than 1 Byte the Bytes are then known by other names. The same as in English. You say 1 Letter, 1
Word, 1 Sentence and so on. In computer terms 1,024 Bytes are known as 1 Kilo Byte (1 KB) and 1 Million Bytes are known as 1 Mega Byte (1 MB). When a file contains
2,048 Bytes you then say 2 Kilo Bytes and with 2 Million Bytes you say 2 Mega Bytes. And so on.
1 Floppy Diskette can store approximately 1.44 MegaBytes (in reality 1.38 MegaBytes or 1,457,664 Bytes) which means you could store up to 118 Microsoft Word 2011 files, consisting of 1 (full) Page each. Or put another way, up to 29 C.Vs consisting of 4 pages each. This may sound a lot but in todays age of mass storage 1.44 Mega Bytes is quite small. Years ago people were quite happy to carry 2 floppy diskettes around with them. I.e. One for their C.Vs and one for their Contacts List. These days people tend to carry a CD/DVD or Flash Drive (Memory Stick) around with them, full of Music files, Photographs, C.Vs and Project files.
Remember what has been said here because before you start typing out big files, or start downloading (saving) files from The Internet, you need to make sure you have enough space (bytes) on your flash drive for example to store those files. Otherwise you will get the classic "Disk Full" error, which means there is not enough space remaining on your flash drive to store the files.