Faster Saving and Opening

October 2, 2009 at 10:22 pm | Posted in Computers, Software | Leave a comment

I’ve spoken before about Windows Documents. How to set up your own Digital File Cabinet, and so forth. With XP, they introduced a great idea, with a default location for saving your files in My Documents.

Unfortunately, the implementation sucked. Music and Pictures were inside Documents and everyone and their dog install various folders there. Mine collected several dozen sometimes meaningless folders from who knows where. The folder path is long and includes spaces, causing grief for tape and CD backup systems. (max. 256 character path means file names get cropped or files left out – 20% are taken just to get into the real My Documents location) Adding your own folders in just adds to the mess and reduces the file name lengths you can use. In short, it was a hard to manage dumping ground. You really don’t want your File cabinet to be randomly loaded with junk.

I created a separate folder system that’s served me well. The only downside is when a program goes to save, I sometimes have to navigate up and out, into the right drive and then folders to save. Lots of extra steps.

XP did include a way to move My Documents to another drive so you could keep all the settings together with your other data though. And Outlook and Outlook Express allow you to change the location of their email data similarly. Much easier to back up when your data is separate from programs and not buried somewhere obscure.

Vista does improve on this, separating out the folders and removing the “My ” nonsense.

Save Shortcuts
Recently, I finally thought of a faster way to get to the folders I actually want to save stuff in. Shortcuts.

In My Documents, right click an open space and select New, Shortcut. Click Browse and navigate to your commonly used Save locations (Documents, Music, Websites, Downloads, etc.), select the folder and click OK. Click Next. The folder name will become the shortcut name. I’d add an Underscore “_” in front of it, like “_Music” – this will cause it to sort to the top of the other stuff so you’ll see it first. Click Finish.

Now, next time you click Save and find yourself in My Documents, just double-click the shortcut to get you where you WANT to save it.

This trick can also be used for files you open all the time that are not stored in My Documents. File, Open may bring you to My Documents as well – just create a shortcut to the file you like (as above) and double-click it in My Documents. It will open without being there.

Another similar feature built in to XP is the SendTo. You can right-click on a file, select Sent To, then select a choice from the menu. If you have a specific place you copy files to regularly, like an archive or shared folder, you can add a shortcut to the favoured location.

On the C: drive, in Documents and Settings, you’ll find your SendTo folder under your /username. Create shortcuts here to the folders you use, as described above.

If there are shortcuts that programs have installed that you don’t want, you can delete them. Some will be in /All Users but you may have to unhide it. Just be careful about deleting ones that are not shortcuts (with the arrow) – they’re put there by the OS and would be hard to replace.

Custom Toolbar
And finally, if you have programs, folders, or files you use all the time, you can create a “quick launch” bar for them. Create a folder somewhere handy and put the shortcuts in it. Then right click on the Windows Taskbar (at the bottom), select Toolbars, New. Browse to the folder and click OK. Now you have a popup menu on the Taskbar of all your choices. One click to launch. Or you can click and drag (if the taskbar is unlocked) the menu to the top or either side of your screen. A custom fixed menu. Right-click the new toolbar to configure – show text or not, icon size, auto-hide, and so on. I use a couple of these. If you don’t like it, right-click and select close.
(I don’t think this works in Vista)

With a few tricks like that, you can get things done faster. And that’s the whole point.

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