Kathy Schrock, an independent educational technologist and former school district Director of Technology, answers teachers' questions with quick and easy tips for keeping computer workspace managable. Read on to organize your virtual life!


Q. It takes me forever to locate a computer file again once I've saved it. How do I organize my files so I can find the ones I need?

A. You can organize your computer files in much the same way you organize your paper files in folders or notebooks. In Windows, open the "My Documents" icon on your desktop and right-click to create new folders. On a Mac, open the "Macintosh HD" icon, type "Apple-N" to create a folder specifically for your documents, and then "Apple-N" again to create new folders for all your existing files. Label these folders the same way you would title paper folders: thematically (Bats, Weather, Whales) or by type of file (Photos, Movies, Audio, PDFs). Whenever you save a new document, just navigate to the appropriate folder on your hard drive and "file" it.


Q. My desktop is covered with folders. How can I neaten it?

A. Your desktop doesn't need to contain all your folders themselves, just shortcuts to a few key thematic or file-type folders. A shortcut appears as a tiny icon. To create shortcuts in Windows, right-click on a folder in "My Documents," select "Create Shortcut," and then drag the new shortcut icon to your desktop. On a Mac, a shortcut is an alias. To create, click on a folder, type "Apple-M," then drag the alias to your desktop. An added bonus? Shortcuts use far less memory compared to documents or entire folders, so keeping them on your desktop instead helps your computer run faster and more smoothly.


Q. My list of favorite Web sites grows longer every day. How can I make it easier for students to access sites I want them to visit?

A. You can create shortcuts to sites directly on your desktop! For each site, enter the URL into your browser. In Windows, click on the icon that appears in the address bar and drag it to the desktop. On a Mac, click on the entire URL and drag it to the desktop. Rename each shortcut with a shorter, more meaningful title than the URL, such as "PBS Bats" or "ZoomWhales." When students click on the shortcut you created, they will go right to the site. You can even move several shortcuts into a folder on the desktop or save them on disks for students to take home.


Q. When I do student reports or order books, I have to type the same school information over and over. How can I save time?

A. In Windows or on a Mac, open a Word document and type the text you'll reuse. Click the "Tools" menu, choose "AutoCorrect," click the "AutoText" tab, and click "Add." To add text to a document, click the "Insert" menu, choose "AutoText," scroll down to select the text you want, and click "Insert." Another option in Windows is the clipping feature: highlight the text you want and drag to your desktop. To insert the text, drag it from the desktop.


Kathy Schrock is currently an online adjunct graduate-level professor at two universities and an independent educational technologist. Visit her website for more tips and ideas for using computers and technology in the classroom.

This article was originally published in the April 2005 issue of Instructor magazine.