Bringing clarity to fuzziness - Files vs Folders

Building blocks: Basic level. MAC & PC

Pre-requiste: Ability to create files and folders

Bringing clarity to fuzziness

Photo by BackyardProduction/iStock / Getty Images
Photo by BackyardProduction/iStock / Getty Images

Paper terms

A review of the familiar.

Papers go inside Manila Folders.
Manila Folders can go inside Manila Folders.

In your paper office you have filing cabinet(s). You store file folders in the filing cabinet(s). The folders hold various pieces of paper & can hold other folders & objects like keys, etc.

The folders are organized alphabetically or by project name or some convention you have come up with that allows you to keep track of your information.


Translation from paper terms to technical terms

When we understand how to do the same organization in the technical office as in the paper office, we can have a more organized experience on our computers. Hopefully this will contribute to a more comfortable experience technically.

Terms translated

Files are created in 2 ways. By scan and when on your computer in a program.


essentially is what you think of as information on paper.

Let's say, if you scan:

  • 1 piece of paper


  • Multiple pieces of paper combined.

The end result is a file.


when you create a new file from scratch, and you can type a small amount and have a one page file.  If you type a lot, the file could be several pages.

A file can be one page or several pages.

Examples of Files

Word, Excel, Pages, Numbers, PDF, Jpg


Manila folder = Folder

Think of how you name your paper folders, and now you can do something similar on your computer with your Folders.

Folders are created through your computer operating system not your program. On the Mac, you use the Finder to create new Folders.

You can put multiple files into a folder -- like a "hanging file" in a file cabinet.


Filing cabinet = Computer hard drive.

Primary locations on your Computer hard drive include: Desktop and Documents Folder, Download Folder.

Desktop is what you can see when you first turn on your computer. It is a location you can view immediately and it is a very convenient location to create and name folders.

A bit more info: Your computer operating system is the software that allows you to create Folders.

Desk, pens and paper, reference books (environment) = Software

Precaution: the more files and folders you have on your Desktop the slower your computer will respond.

If you are not sure how to use Folders it is likely that your Files are all over your Desktop.

The ideal is to create a folder and name it while on your Desktop. Then drag your folder into your Documents folder.



Stay tuned for the next

Building Block segment:


What is the finder and document folder?

how to drag folders into the Documents folder.

(Mac computer specific)



Photo by castillodominici/iStock / Getty Images

Photo by castillodominici/iStock / Getty Images