Dude! Where’s My File?

Classroom Tools on May 12 2014

Saving a file is one of those skills that, once you learn and understand, you will be able to use over and over again, no matter what program you’re using. The process of saving is extremely straightforward but, if you don’t know where things are going when you save them, it can be a bit confusing. To make sure you don’t run into this problem, I’ll explain a couple of things about the computer and the process of saving.

The Operating System

When you first turn on your computer, you interact with what’s called the operating system (OS). The operating system is software that allows your computer to interact with hardware and software. For example, your keyboard, mouse, computer memory and flash drive are hardware. The programs on your computer such as Microsoft Word or Google Chrome, or Firefox are software. Today, we’ll be working with the Windows 7 operating system, but some examples of other operating systems are Mac OS and Linux. When we save something through a program, we are storing the things we’re saving in the computer’s memory. The operating system handles the interactions between the memory and the program. For this reason, saving involves the same process no matter what program you’re saving in.

File types

The computer uses file types to organize and understand what to do with the files you save. For example, if you are creating a document in Microsoft Word, the program will save the file as a .doc or a .docx file. The computer knows that when you double click that file to open it that it needs to run the Microsoft Word program. If you use the Open feature from the File menu in a program and try to open a file that doesn’t belong to that program, you will get an error message.


When you are saving a file, it goes into the computer’s memory. Where in the computer’s memory the file gets stored is completely up to you. Think of your computer as a filing cabinet. The computer has names for each drawer in the cabinet. Each drawer has folders in it which also have names. The files are like pieces of paper in the folders which also have names. As the user, you get to choose the folder in which you put your file. For example, My Documents is the standard folder in which your files will be stored. You can also create your own folders to keep your files organized. For example, if you teach several classes or subjects, you can create one for each. You can make as many folders as you want and you can make folders within folders so the organization options are practically endless. Below are some sample folders that have been organized by topic.

saving1saving2Save vs. Save As

The last thing we need to know is the difference between Save and Save as. When you save a file for the first time, you are asked to give the file a name and put it in a particular location no matter which option you choose. However, every time you click on the Save button, the computer saves the file in the same location with the same name originally given to the file. If, for some reason, you don’t want the original file to be replaced, you can choose Save as. This allows you to save the file under a different name, in a different location or both.

Learn More

You can watch an FAQ video on the saving processes. Stayed tuned for our online organization course this summer if you’d like to learn more about saving files and organizing your computer, or more advanced topics like working with programs that can handle different files types!