Saving a file

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The most common cause for frustration among newcomers to computing is the fact that they cannot find the documents (files) they saved earlier. This happens simply because they don't know how to save a file.

Saving a computer file is actually a very simple process provided you know a few basic things. Here is what you need to know:

Suppose you have written a letter to your neighborhood bakery manager complaining how they misspelled your grandson's name on his birthday cake, and claiming at least part of your money back. Now you want to save that letter. This is what you need to do.

1. Click "File" on the tool bar.
2. On the drop down menu click on Save As.
3. Save As dialog box will appear which looks like this:

Save As dialog box
Save As dialog box.

Look there are 3 variables here.
1. Save in: (This refers to the location or the name of the folder where you want to save the file.)
2. File name: (Needs a short but descriptive name here so that from the file name you can recognize later what file it is.)
3. Save as type: (This actually refers to the 3-letter file extension so that the computer can understand which program can open it later.)

As you can see from the above screen shot, the computer has already chosen the 3 variables for you, including the file name (Document). If you just click on the save button, your letter to the bakery manager will be saved in the folder named "My Documents", with the file name Document, and it will be saved as type Word for Windows 6.0 (.doc). The full name of your file will be Document.doc and it will reside in the folder called My Documents.

To take full control of the situation you should select the variables, at least the first two variables. You should specify the "save in" location or folder, and the file name. If you are not sure about the "save as type", leave it up to the computer. In fact, unless you know well what you are doing and why you are doing it, it is better to leave the third variable alone. The computer will normally choose the right file extension for you.

Now going back to our example, let us try to save our letter to the bakery manager so that we can have full control of the situation.

First, let us decide where to save the file. Remember we created a folder named "Complaints" in the last section (Creating a new folder)? This would be the proper folder for this letter. And that folder was created in our hard drive "C". On the right side of "Save in" box, there is a downward pointing arrow head. Click on it. A dropdown menu appears showing the computer's different parts. See screen shot below.

'Save in' dropdown menu
"Save in" dropdown menu showing
the computer's different parts.

Click on your hard drive (my one is called Aptiva C) once. The hard drive's name will now appear in "Save in" box. And the contents of your hard drive will now be visible in the large white section underneath it. See screen shot below.

Picture shows contents of my hard drive Aptiva C
Picture shows contents of my hard drive
Aptiva C.

Navigate through the contents of your hard drive (don't forget to scroll horizontally, if necessary) and locate the folder called "Complaints". Double-click on it. The "Complaints" folder will now appear in the "Save in" box. Since this is the folder where we want to save our letter to the bakery manager, we are done with part one.

Secondly, we need to give our file a short but easy to recognize name. How about "letter_to_bakery"? Sounds good? Then type in that name in the "File name" box.
Note: There are some rules associated with naming a file. To learn more about file names, click here. (Click on the Back button of your browser to come back to this page.)

Thirdly, notice Windows has already selected a "Save as type" name in the third box. Usually there is no need to change it. Windows knows what it is doing. So leave it alone. At this time your Save As dialog box will look like this:

We have specified the first two variables and accepted the third variable chosen by Windows
We have specified the first two variables and
accepted the third variable chosen by Windows.

At this point just click on the "Save" button to the right of the "File name" box. Your letter to the bakery manager will be saved in your computer's hard drive, in a folder called "Complaints", under the file name "letter_to_bakery", with file extension .doc, which can be opened by word processors like Windows WordPad or Microsoft Word.

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Several Notes:

If you open "letter_to_bakery" later, make changes to it, and want to save the changed version, then click on "File", on the resulting dropdown menu find "Save", and click once on it. Your original version of the letter will be lost, only the revised version will be saved as "letter_to_bakery". Want to save both versions? Then after editing the original version, choose "Save As" from the File menu, and save the revised version under a different file name such as "letter_to_bakery1" or "rev_letter_to_bakery" or something like that.

A clarification for the absolute beginners: When you are saving a document (text or picture) for the first time in your computer, even if you by mistake choose "Save" from the File menu, Windows will automatically open up the "Save As" dialog box so that you can specify the three variables discussed above. But after modifying or making changes to a file (already existing in a folder with a file name), you must very carefully choose either "Save" or "Save As" from the file menu to save either only the revised (modified) file, or both files - original and revised. Please read again the preceeding paragraph, and then the next paragraph to understand one hundred percent the difference between "Save" and "Save As".

Knowing when to choose "Save" and when to choose "Save As" correctly is very important. Do you use templates (blank forms) to prepare weekly reports, or time sheets, or sales statistics, or work schedules etc.? It is very important not to ruin your template by just selecting the "Save" button from the file menu after using the template to prepare, say, a month's sales statistics. If you do, you will lose the blank form (template). The template should have a file name such as "template.xls". When you fill in the numbers on the template to prepare, say, your monthly sales reports, you should choose "Save As" from the File menu, and save your work under different file names, such as "january_sales_report.xls", "february_sales_report.xls", etc.

Sometimes file names are case sensitive, meaning "my_letter", "My_Letter", or "My_letter" are not the same things. So be careful.

If you know the fact that one word processor may not be able to read documents produced by another word processor, you will realize the importance of format, or file type, or 3-letter file extension. My Lotus WordPro word processor normally saves documents with .lwp extension unless I specify something else like .doc at the time of saving files. If I send you a file like "essay.lwp" as an e-mail attachment, and your word processor is Microsoft Word, you will not be able to open the attachment. That is why the "Save As" dialog box asks the "Save as type" question (the third variable). Remember if you save a text document in Rich Text Format (.rtf) it can be opened by any word processor. (The .rtf file size will be invariably larger.)

A quick note about text file (.txt): Documents ending with .txt extension can be opened by any word processor but .txt documents do not retain formatting, such as bolding, underlining, italicizing, spacing, indenting, font style, font size, bullets, tables, and so forth. So, if you have spent a lot of time to write your resume with your expensive word processor and made it look perfect with immaculate formatting, don't save it with .txt extension. If you do, all your beautiful formatting will be lost!

Graphics can be saved in various formats. Your ultimate use of the graphic should determine which format you should choose. For printing, bitmap or .bmp is usually good, but expect large file size. (For printing you can also try .tif extension. This will have smaller file size than .bmp extension). For web publishing or transfer over the wire such as e-mail, .jpg or .gif is best. (For photos .jpg is usually recommended. For graphics consisting mostly of lines and few colors .gif is better.) You may, therefore, want to specify in the "Save as type" box the file format (or three-letter file extension) you prefer when you are saving graphics (pictures). Specifying the correct file format in the third box (of the "Save As" dialog box) needs a little experience. Until such time when you are confident that you know what you are doing, just accept the default file format (that is the file format already chosen by the computer for you).

Keyboard shortcut for Saving (Save) is Ctrl+S.

If you need help using the Internet, check out the companion site:
Internet Basics For Seniors
If you need help with Windows XP, check out the companion site:
Help with Windows XP (New)
If you are an absolute beginner in computing, check out:

ABC's of Computing

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