5 Things every student needs to know about file management

With an increasing number of ways for students to create and transfer schoolwork, there is an increasing number of students experiencing issues with file management, whether it be file compatibility, organization, or even virus-eaten homework (the web 2.0 version of the classic canine-based excuse for latent homework). Here are five things that every student should know to make both their lives and the lives of their teacher easier:
  1. Choosing a File Location

    Too often I see students save a file in a program's default location, which varies from a user’s document folder on the network to a program folder on the local hard drive to even a temp folder that will soon be automatically emptied. Not knowing where a file was saved or having a file unintentionally deleted presents a problem when the file needs to be opened again. Therefore, when saving a file students should:

    • Be conscious of where a file is saved - choose a location, don't just click save.
    • Know the difference between saving to to a computer’s hard drive (files are only accessible at that computer) and saving to a network(usually accessible at any school computer) or online server (accessible at any computer with internet). Knowing how to use flash drives is also important.
    • Once in the Save dialog, students should know how to navigate to a specific drive, which can be done either via the drop-down menu up top or the sidebar shortcuts.

  2. Choose/Changing a File Type

    Choosing a file type is especially important when a student is working at home and may be using a software different from what is installed at school. Every word processing software has it's own native document type, which are usually not compatible with other softwares; different versions of the same software *cough* Microsoft Office *cough* may even have different file formats that are not compatible with other versions.

    It is therefore important for students to know the differences between different file types and how to choose/change a file's type. The easiest way to change a file type is via the 'Save As' dialog (File > Save As), which allows a student to save a copy of their document in a different format; simply change the file format from the 'Save As Type' drop-down menu located below the 'File Name' box.

    For more information about word document compatibility see Saving Word Documents.

  3. Renaming a File

    Files can be saved with a new name by using the 'Save As' dialog, however, this unnecessarily creates a second copy of the file. To rename a file without creating a copy of the file:

    1. Save and close the file
    2. Navigate to the file folder
    3. Right-click on a file and select 'Rename' OR click on the file and press F2
    4. Rename the file then press Enter

  4. Moving/Copying a File or Folder

    Files can easily be moved or copied to other locations from their current folder Just click on a file and then choose either 'Move to Folder' or 'Copy to Folder' from the Edit menu and choose a new location for the file.

    Tip: New folders can be created while moving/copying a file by right-clicking on the desired parent folder (where the new folder will be) and selecting 'New Folder'.

  5. Finding Files

    In a perfect world, files would always be where a student saved it (or thinks they did), but between faulty memories and accidental deletions/movings/renamings/alien abductions files sometimes go missing. The best method for locating a lost file is to use Window's search feature (or Google Desktop, if it is installed and indexing). Located on the Start Menu, the search feature can look for files on both local and network drives with just a partial file name. For a more comprehensive search, enable advanced options to search system folders, hidden files, and subfolders.

    Tip:A quick way to locate a file is to look at the recently opened file list located on many programs' file menus, which either show the locations of the most recently opened files or allow a user to open and then resave a file.


  1. Thanks so much for this post! We are in the process of trying to decide how to deal with all the variables of students and saving. (We have the additional wrinkle of personal student laptops not connected to the school server.) We were already going to emphasize use of the flash drive, but are still thinking about teaching them to use Google Docs. Do you think 7th and 8th graders can handle all the options, or should we focus in more narrowly?

    Again, thanks for outlining this topic so clearly.

  2. 8th graders can definitely handle the options and are a great age to give the opportunity to make the choice (prepares them for less hand-holding in HS). 7th graders can definitely handle using flash drives and online options, but tend to need more explicit instructions about when to use what. I would suggest introducing 7th graders to different options, but with each assignment note how they should save.