Microsoft on File Management

September 18, 2011

A few weeks back Microsoft posted a note about upcoming Improvements in Windows Explorer (in Windows 8). I’ve previously identified file management as the second most important concept for computer literacy (in The Top 15 Most Important Understandings Needed for Solid PC Literacy). I can also say without any hesitation that the single most difficult, most time consuming, and frequently edited/re-written chapter (for both writing and illustrating) in The Ultimate PC Primer was the one on storage and file management. As such, I was thrilled to have confirmation from Microsoft that they’re taking the importance of file management for all level of users seriously. They call out Windows Explorer as

the most widely used desktop tool

More importantly, they admit that only a small group of “power users” push Explorer to its limits (and add plugins) while the majority use a handful of common features — copy, paste, rename, delete — frequently.  As a result, they claim:

Our goal is to improve the usage experience for a majority of customers

and continue to say that their number 1 goal with the Windows Explorer rebuild is:

Optimize Explorer for file management tasks. Return Explorer to its roots as an efficient file manager and expose some hidden gems, those file management commands already in Explorer that many customers might not even know exist.

I don’t often find occasion to publicly thank Microsoft, but in this case I’m quite glad they’re affirming the importance of arming users with better ability to manage their files. I also applaud their broad confirmation that power users don’t represent all users. Now that said, much of their work is focused on the Ribbon. While I have yet to encounter a single user who likes the Ribbon, Microsoft seems to have done quite a bit of research on this. So if we must use the Ribbon — is it too much to ask to give users the choice? — at least they’re planning on bringing the most commonly used features to the top left of it. We’ll see how this (and Windows 8 in general) is received once delivered.

In the meantime, if you know a newcomer to computing who has yet to grasp what file management is all about, check out Lesson 9 in The Ultimate PC Primer. Nearly all illustrations in there apply to all past and current versions of Windows Explorer (and the overall lesson will apply to storage and file management in nearly any operating system).

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The Top 15 Most Important Understandings Needed for Solid PC Literacy

June 10, 2011

What are the most crucial concepts that a newcomer to PCs would have to master in order to gain foundational computer literacy? Put on your “I know absolutely nothing about a PC” hat and consider the following. (If you need help finding such a hat, visit your nearest senior center for an eye-opening reminder of just how much you’ve already internalized and likely take for granted daily.) So, like a traditional Top 10 list (but with 5 more) ponder this…. Read the rest of this entry »


Me speak no PC

April 12, 2011

This was a new one to me. I was listening to an industry-leading expert talk about upcoming technology, and heard this statement uttered when difficulty was encountered changing file manager settings on the Windows-based computer driving the projector:

“I don’t know what I’m looking at because this is PC stuff.”

Wait. What?!?

The majority of the world’s computer users are on Windows-based PCs, and an expert invited to provide insight and training doesn’t know anything about one? What’s going on?

I’m not a big proponent of the Mac vs. PC sort of battle. Truly, I don’t care that much about which one is “better,” (meaning “better for everyone,” though I do have my opinion on which is now better for newcomers). But it does surprise me when an industry-leading speaker can’t figure out how to use a basic feature of Windows because she spends all her time on a Mac. (No, she didn’t work for Apple.)

Trust me, there are differences between those operating systems, but they shouldn’t be that monumental. So what’s going on? You die-hard Mac users out there, help me out on this one. Would you really be unable to figure out how to move files from one folder to another if you had to use a non-Mac platform?

Don’t get me wrong. File management concepts are something to which I dedicate most of an entire chapter of The Ultimate PC Primer. But I didn’t think Windows Explorer and Mac OS Finder were all that different once the core concepts of file management were understood. So, speaking of core concepts…

Could this be another case of core concepts never understood? (It wouldn’t be the first time I’ve witnessed a speaker baffled by a PC during a presentation.)


File this!

May 2, 2009

A family member recently upgraded from an “old” Windows XP machine to new brand new, “direct from the big-box electronics store” Windows Vista machine. Since he had a lot of data on the old computer’s hard drive, he took advantage of (or, based on how the story ends, was taken advantage of by) the store’s offer to extract his existing files to DVD-Rs and re-load them on the new PC, for a small service fee, of course. Sounds like it should save some time, correct? After all, those documents, spreadsheets, and digital photos might be a bother to burn to CD-R and then re-copy. And while a direct copy might be easier yet, that procedure is solidly outside the realm of most novices’ capabilities.

So, nartually, after paying this fee and taking home the new PC with two DVDs of archived files, I got the phone call: Read the rest of this entry »