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Getting Your Computer Organized


If your computer screen looks like the picture above, you need to organize your life. (Trust me—even some experienced teachers have screens like that one!) Here are some guiding principles you should follow concerning the care and feeding of your computer.

In college, you never have enough time.

This means that any useless activity is your enemy—and in the "useless activity" category, I would instantly place "searching for that lost file." The hapless computer user of the screen above is really stuck if the question is "Where is that rough draft of the English paper I was working on two days ago?" This user needs a quick, slick way to instantly go to the piece—and to the brainstorm ideas from a month ago—and to the class notes typed in six weeks ago.

Spending a little time now saves a lot of time later.

It's difficult to see on that tiny image, but many of the file names are things like IMG_1234.JPG. or unknown-3.txt. Spending just a little time on renaming the file and specifying a place to put it would really speed up the later process of figuring out what on earth the file contains.

Most people don't use all the power of their computers.

Both Apple and Windows have ways to quickly organize the desktop junk, and that user above really needs to do so. The icons show up in no particular order and they are several layers deep, one on top of another. The first thing to do is to sort all that stuff, perhaps by kind of file. Here are instructions for organizing that desktop:

The desktop should be for things you need quickly and repeatedly.

Everything else, especially old material that you won't look at for months, should hide in a folder, probably inside the "Documents" folder.

And I will show you a more excellent way.

After you have organized all that desktop clutter (and cheers for you if you don't have very much), follow these instructions:
  1. Figure out how your computer creates file folders. The picture above shows the concept: The "Documents" folder can have daughter folders inside for things like "English Class" and "History Class." Each of these daughter folders can contain folders ("Argument Essay" or "Reformation Paper" for example).
    • Hint: Search the Internet for "Apple create folder" or "Windows create folder" to learn how.
    • Hint: This folder strategy also works for Google Drive.
  2. Go to your Documents folder and set up a file folder for each of the classes you will take this fall. You should also set up folders for anything else on that desktop that you want to save. ("My poems" for example)
  3. Now go back to that cluttered desktop and look at the contents of those files one by one. Make some decisions: Pitch or keep? And for all those mystery files that you want to keep, rename them so you can identify them later. (Right click the icon to find the rename option.)
  4. Now, one by one, open destination folders where you want to keep things. If you change the size of the window so it doesn't cover the whole screen, you can simply drag and drop the desktop icons to their new destination.

And for the future, make promises to yourself.

  • When you create a file, come up with a name that will help you find it in the future. (You don't have to call all your essays Doc1.docx.)
  • When you save a file for the first time, the computer will always ask where you want to put it. Take the extra moment and put it where you can easily find it—the desktop isn't the best place for most documents.
  • When the clutter on that desktop begins to look bad again, drag some files to places they belong, including the trash.

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