Analog Thinking for a Digital World: Making Sense of Your File System

Since Windows 10 has come out, we’ve had many customers who have trouble functioning within the operating system. It seems that for the past two new operating systems, Microsoft has been changing things simply for the sake of changing things. Simple stuff, such as getting rid of the Start Menu, including apps instead of just programs, and changing the Settings layout—these are all things that have changed, but the changes aren’t as intuitive as Microsoft was hoping. If you’re used to using Windows XP, Windows Vista, or Windows 7, and suddenly need to make the switch to Windows 8 or 10, then things aren’t where you’ve learned or expected them to be. So a little basic thinking structure can make the use of almost any operating system that much easier to use with regards to file saving and organization. We can do this by applying thought patterns that don’t include the technology in front of us, but that associate it with non-tech things well enough that we can draw a comparison to different parts of the operating system. We can dive into different parts of your system to draw these comparisons.

Take, for example, the desktop. The desktop would be the very first screen that you see upon booting up your machine. It may seem obvious, but the desktop on your computer can be likened to an actual desktop that you do work on. Imagine you’re working in an all-paper office. You sit at a desk and have various things that you’re working on. What sits on your desk? Primarily, it’s two different things: office supplies that you use a lot and items that you are currently working on. Programs that you have placed on those desktop are like the tools that you use to get your work done: pens, pencils, erasers, rulers, reference books—you keep them on the desktop because you use them often enough that it doesn’t make sense to pack them away. The files that you keep on the desktop—documents, spreadsheets, presentations—these are the projects you’re actually working on, and it helps to keep them handy, right on the table in front of you, so that you can easily access and continue to work on them.

After the desktop, we deal with the folder structure. The Documents folder, for example, is your filing cabinet. Once projects are done, or when they get paused or stopped, you can file them away. This makes them less readily accessible once you sit down at your desk (or boot up your machine), but they’re still there and available, and you can pull them out any time you want to. They’re simply sitting in a folder in a drawer instead of right in front of you, and you can organize and label these folders in whatever way works best for you and the expediency of your work.

To break from the “paperless office” analogy and focus more on things you may have at home, Pictures are like your photo album. You close it and put it somewhere, but when you want to revisit those memories you open it up and take a look. Just like Documents, they can be organized in whatever way you’d like—thematically, by date, by specific trips you took, etc. In this case you can use folders the same way that you would use your photo album in the paper world. Videos are like your DVD collection. Again, they sit on a shelf until you want to watch them. Similarly, Music is like your CD collection.

It could be argued that either Contacts or Favorites are like a Rolodex. I prefer to compare Favorites to the Rolodex, since it’s a tool that gives you a list of commonly-used resources that would be extremely difficult to remember yourself. Since Contacts is usually contained within email as opposed to floating in the system’s file structure, it’s more like your personal phone book in which you’ve written down information about friends and family.

I’m sure you get the gist; I wouldn’t want to get too pedantic on you. The point is, you can apply your thoughts for things that aren’t related to technology, draw comparisons to the structure of the system you’re using, and maybe connect a couple of synapses that will make the system that much easier to use for you.

Thanks for reading, and I hope this was a help.

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