Software

Four ways to skirt your system's folder hierarchy

If you don't use My Documents to store your files and you're tired of working around it, try one of these tips for quickly accessing your frequently used files.

By default, Office applications open the My Documents folder when you click Open or Save. The truth is, I don't know anybody who actually uses My Documents. Most of us end up wading through our system's folder hierarchy to find the folders we actually use. At first, it doesn't seem like a big deal, but the routine quickly becomes irritating. Fortunately, there are at least four ways to reduce the search for files and folders when you don't use My Documents to store files:
  • Change the default file location folder.
  • Add folder shortcuts to My Places.
  • Add shortcuts to My Documents.
  • Save files to the Favorites folder.
Change the default file location folder

You're not stuck with the My Documents setting. You can force your applications to start with any folder on your system, as follows:

  1. From the Tools menu, choose Options.
  2. Depending on the application, click the following tab:

    Excel: General

    Word: File Location

    PowerPoint: Save
  3. Depending on the application, change the folder as follows:

    Word: Use the Look In drop-down list to maneuver to the folder.

    Excel: Type the complete path for the folder in the Default File Location field.

    PowerPoint: Type the complete path for the folder in the Default File Location field.
  4. Click OK.

Office 2007 users should click the Office button and then click the application Options button (in the bottom-right corner). Select Save and enter the complete path for the folder in the Default File Location field in the Save format section. When you open or save a file, the application will default to the new folder.

Add shortcuts to My Places

Changing the default folder is one way to eliminate several steps, but what if you work in a number of folders? You can still specify a custom default folder location, but you might find that you're still clicking through the hierarchy a lot to get to files in other folders. When this is the case, add the folders you visit the most to the My Places folder, as follows:

  1. Click (or choose from the File menu where appropriate) Save, Save As, or Open.
  2. Use the Look In control to locate the folder you want to add to My Places.
  3. When you find it, select it.
  4. From the Tools drop-down list (on the title bar), choose Add To My Places. Doing so adds the file to the My Places bar to the left of the dialog box.

If you're using Office 2007, the process is a bit different because the Add To My Places command is no longer in the Tools list. Instead, complete the following steps to add a folder to My Places in an Office 2007 application:

  1. Click the Office button and click Save, Save As, or Open.
  2. In the resulting dialog box, use Look In to locate the folder you want to add to My Places and select it.
  3. Right-click any background spot on the My Places bar.
  4. Choose Add folder.

With the shortcut on My Places, your favorite folders are just one click away. To remove a folder from My Places, right-click the shortcut on My Places and select Remove.

Add shortcuts to My Documents

One way to corral all your files into one place, regardless of where you're actually storing them, is to add shortcuts to My Documents. Using this solution, you won't have to change the default file location or add anything to My Places. When you want to open a file, you simply click the shortcut in My Documents. However, you will have to create a shortcut for each existing file or folder in question and for new files you create, so this isn't an efficient way to go if you create new files often.

Add shortcuts to My Documents as follows:

  1. Using Windows Explorer, locate the file or folder. (Right-click the Windows Start button and choose Explore.)
  2. Right-click the folder or file and choose Create Shortcut.
  3. Find the shortcut in the current folder and right-click it.
  4. Choose Send To.
  5. Select My Documents.

Once the shortcuts are in My Documents, you have quick and easy access to them.

Save files to Favorites

Perhaps the simplest way to get quick access to a file is to save it to Favorites. Just remember that these files are visible to anyone using your system, but if you're the only one using your system and you're not working with confidential files, this is an acceptable shortcut that requires no setup.

To add a file to Favorites, do the following:

  1. Right-click any menu or toolbar and choose Web.
  2. Click Favorites on the Web toolbar.
  3. Choose Add To Favorites from the resulting list.
  4. Enter a new filename in the Add To Favorites dialog box. Or do nothing and accept the default filename.
  5. Click Add.

When you want to open the file, you can use the Open command as you normally would or click Favorites on the Web toolbar.

There are many ways to outwit the My Documents arrangement — what shortcuts do you rely on to quickly save and open files?

About

Susan Sales Harkins is an IT consultant, specializing in desktop solutions. Previously, she was editor in chief for The Cobb Group, the world's largest publisher of technical journals.

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