8.25.2009

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.

8.04.2009

Revenge of the StickyKeys

If you're ever present in a computer lab when a student discovers the StickyKey shortcut, you will soon be treated with a chorus of trill tweets - the sound that accompanies StickyKey activation - as the student shares this new trick with his classmates.The students rarely if ever know what that sound actually indicates (they just really like the noise), and will soon be raising their hands to tell you that something is wrong with their computers. Sometimes StickyKeys will be activated without your knowing, e.g. when audio is muted, and your only indication will be a seemingly possessed computer. How will you know? How do you fix it? Here is your guide to StickyKeys, including how to recognize when StickyKeys is the culprit of a computer gone awry and how to disable the StickyKey feature.

What is StickyKeys?


StickyKeys feature lets you press a modifier key, such as Shift, Ctrl, Alt, or the Windows Logo key, and have it remain active until another key is pressed. Pressing a modifier key twice will keep that key activated until two keys are press simultaneously, assuming the lock setting has not been changed...but we don't assume, do we.

What's the point?


StickyKeys is an accessibility feature, allowing enabling multi-key shortcuts or capitalized letters to be typed one key at a time.

What is that noise, a.k.a. what is the StickyKeys shortcut?


When enabled, pressing the shift key five times in a row will enable StickyKeys. The shortcut is accompanied by a very annoying noise...at least it's annoying when 30 middle school students discover it at the same time.

When the shortcut is enacted, a pop-up should appear describing StickyKeys and asking whether the user would like to keep StickyKeys on or not. Seeing as students (and lots of adults, let's be fair) don't actually read pop-ups, but simply hit OK, this leads us to the next part...

How do I know if StickyKeys is enabled?


If normal StickyKey mode is enabled one usually won't notice, except for the beep that accompanies the use of a modifier key; even with StickyKeys enabled, modifier keys can be used as they normally would.

The real problem occurs when a modifier key gets locked, which happens when it is pressed twice in StickyKey mode. If the Shift gets locked, the computer will act as though the caps key is engaged, even when it's not. If the Ctrl or Alt key gets locked, the computer will enact keyboard shortcuts as the user attempts to type - menus will open, windows will close, and one might consider grabbing for the holy water.

Or, as was the case that prompted me to write this post, shortcuts won't work at all. While working in Photoshop, all the keyboard shortcuts suddently ceased to function. Turns out I had StickyKeys enabled and the shift key locked, so any shortcuts with ctrl did not work.

Another indication of StickyKey lock-down is a repeatedly failed workstation login. If StickyKeys is enabled when workstation is logged out of, StickyKeys will remain enabled when the next student tries to log in, making his/her login seemingly defunct.

How do I disable StickyKeys?


Go to Control Panel > Accessibility Options and make sure that "Use StickyKeys" is unchecked. To help prevent StickyKeys from being re-enabled, click the Settings button (under the StickyKeys section) and uncheck both "Use Shortcut" and "Press modifier key twice to lock". For good measure, I've disabled ToggleKeys and FilterKeys too. Ha.