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Posts from the ‘Files and Folders’ Category

iCloud Backup

True or False?

If your information is backed up to the iCloud, you can recover something you deleted before yesterday.


Ugh. Then what’s the point of the iCloud backup?

I get this question all the time. I think the word “backup” itself is confusing; it describes very different approaches.

Traditional backup systems copy data from your computer to an external hard drive and keep each complete backup intact; nothing is overwritten by subsequent backups. In these systems — Apple’s Time Machine and Windows’ File History, for example — you can locate and restore a file or files you deleted a day, week, or month ago.

Apple’s iCloud backs up your mobile data too, but primarily for sharing contacts, music, pictures and calendar events, etc. with your other devices in real time. In the process, it backs up your data, but only as one ever-changing daily backup that keeps overwriting yesterday’s backup. It is not your long term storage. (The limited, although important, function of iCloud’s backup is to load your data onto a new device. That it does seamlessly.)

To work efficiently, you want both systems:

  • Back up to the iCloud to keep a current copy of your mobile data to share among your devices, and to share with a new device if necessary. Be sure it is turned on: iPhone Settings > tap your name > iCloud > iCloud Backup > On.
  • Back up your computer to an external hard drive to keep your information longer term and unchanged by more recent activity.

Is that clearer or should I, um, back up???

Note: some of you backup your computer data to Carbonite. This offsite system’s data retention is somewhere between the iCloud and an external hard drive. From the Carbonite website: When Carbonite is backing up, it will keep a copy of your files in the backup as long as the files exist on your computer. If files are deleted or missing from your computer while Carbonite is backing up, the files will be removed from Carbonite after 30 days (15 days for trials).

Desktop Icons

For good reason, the visible items on the top of your desk are the things that will soon require your attention: unpaid bills, invitations, current projects, items to be filed, etc.

Use your computer’s “desktop” the same way.

(Your desktop is the first screen you see when you boot up your computer — typically the standard Windows or Apple designs unless you have changed it).

Computer users often have too many or too few icons on their desktop; neither is optimal. If you store all of your program shortcuts, folders, and files on your desktop, you cannot easily find that which needs your attention. If you are fastidious enough to not want to clutter your desktop, you are missing the ease of access to your most pressing projects.

  • To save a new file to your desktop, choose “desktop” (rather than “documents”) when you specify where to save the file.
  • To bring an existing file (or folder) to the desktop, open your directory, locate the file or folder, drag it from its current location, and drop it on the desktop.
  • To open a new folder on your desktop, right-click (control+click on a Mac) on the desktop and choose New Folder.

If you are working on a project over days or months, consider saving the folder or file(s) to your desktop, rather than in your documents; you’ll need fewer clicks to access it each time. Once you have completed the project, however, be sure to drag the folder or file(s) back to the appropriate location in your documents, freeing up your desktop space for the next project.

Paperless Billing

Your credit card companies and other vendors are hoping you will agree to paperless billing — that is, forego the mailed paper bills and accept emailed electronic invoices instead.

Paperless billing is attractive: you receive bills wherever you are, and you eliminate the threat of personal information stolen from your mailbox or seen by others in your home.

However, what I suspect keeps you from embracing paperless billing is the fear that you will forget to pay a bill. When a paper bill sits in a pile on the desk, it’s hard to ignore. (Of course you can print an electronic invoice to have your own paper copy).

If you do choose paperless billing, create email folders called “unpaid” and “paid.” As soon as you receive an electronic invoice, move the email to your “unpaid” folder. When you pay the bill, move the emailed invoice to your “paid” folder. You can even create sub-folders within your “paid” folder to separate “credit cards” from “cable company” from “utilities,” etc.

Are you wondering how you are going to remember to check your “unpaid” folder? Set a reminder or event alarm on your calendar for a certain day (or days) of the month that you need to pay bills.


There’s an old joke in the “computer help desk” world that describes a computer problem as a PICNIC: “Problem In Chair, Not In Computer.” Yeah, I know. Hilarious.

Although, to be fair, PICNIC can also be “Problem In Computer, Not In Chair” — that is, a computer problem not caused by the operator’s error.

That’s the one I encountered a lot this week.

There was a power outage/surge that severely compromised one computer. And a printer that wasn’t compatible with Windows 10. There was a software purchase that said “compatible with Mac 10.10.0,” but didn’t mention that it wasn’t compatible with anything before 10.10.0. And there was the computer that just died unexpectedly and had to be replaced — and then the replacement computer that wouldn’t print at all!

None of these were “Problem In Chair.” Sadly though, the “chairs” still suffered.

What to do?

  • Be sure you back up your files/folders/pictures somewhere (external hard drive, off site company, etc.) … just in case.
  • Check to see if your software and other hardware is compatible with a new operating system before you upgrade. Some older programs and devices may just not work, but others may need to be updated too. Use your favorite search engine to look up the program or device in relation to the new operating system and read what others have to say.

These problems are annoying and sometimes costly, and though they are not your fault, I’m sure that doesn’t make you feel any better.

Saving Emailed Pictures

This week, one of my clients experienced something we all fear: she lost some pictures she thought were saved in her computer.

Other than the loss of the pictures themselves, the saddest part is that this was easily avoidable.

Her method of storing these particular pictures — which were sent to her by email — was just not to delete the emails. As long as she could access her email account, she could find the pictures in her inbox. That is, until something unexpected happened to her email account (probably at the email company, not specifically on her computer) and all but her most recent emails disappeared. Sigh.

The lesson: save emailed pictures to your computer’s hard drive; don’t rely on saved emails.

How you save pictures to your hard drive depends on the kind of computer and software you have, but in many cases, you can drag and drop the picture from your email to your desktop or into a photo program. Another option is to click “download” and choose where you wish to save it. On mobile devices, you can usually tap and hold the image until the “save image” option appears.

Then be sure to back up your computer files!

Use Your Desktop

Icons on your computer’s desktop are shortcuts to programs, files, and folders stored in your computer. Are you using yours efficiently?

To make the best use of your desktop, place icons there for

  1. Long-term use: programs, files, and folders that you use often
  2. Short-term use: programs, files, and folders that take you to a current project (when the project is over, you can remove the icon from the desktop)
  3. Temporary use: a “holding space” for organizing files and folders. Let me explain …

When you organize files and folders, you might create a new folder and then try to drag existing files into it. However, if you can’t see those files and the new folder at the same time, dragging and dropping is difficult.

Rather, create the new folder on your desktop, drag your files into it, and then drag the whole new folder where you want to store it.

To create a new folder on your desktop:

  • Place your cursor on your desktop and right-click (control-click on a Mac)
  • Click on “new” and then “folder” (or “new folder” on a Mac)
  • Name the new folder
  • Press the “return” (or “enter”) key

Use your desktop wisely!

What is Dropbox?

What is Dropbox?

Dropbox ( is a file sharing program created in 2007 by two MIT students who thought of a good way to share files.

With Dropbox you can share documents (and pictures) with others, either to collaborate on a project or to send a file too large to email. Dropbox is easy. It works on Windows and Mac computers, as well as tablets and smartphones. It is free.

Once you create a Dropbox account and download the program, you will see a Dropbox folder on your computer and you will have your own storage area on the Dropbox website. Any document you drag and drop into your Dropbox folder will be uploaded to the Dropbox website, which you can access from any computer by visiting

To send someone else a document — either to collaborate or as a one-way document transfer — create a “shared folder” on the Dropbox website and invite someone (or a group of people) to join. This gives them access to the contents of the folder.

The recipient(s) will receive an email inviting them to share your Dropbox folder. If a recipient wishes just to download a shared document, he/she does not need to have a Dropbox account. But, if a recipient wishes to modify the document and upload it back into the shared folder, he/she will need a Dropbox account.

If you are using Dropbox to collaborate on a project, you and your recipient(s) must have the same software (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, etc). If you are simply sending a document for someone else to download (but not edit), you should convert the document to a .pdf format and upload the .pdf to Dropbox to be sure the recipient can open/read it.

In order to use Dropbox on a tablet or smartphone, you will need to download a free app called “CloudOn.” Once you give CloudOn your Dropbox information, you will be able to access the contents of your Dropbox folder. CloudOn even gives you the ability to edit documents, a feature not readily available in these mobile devices.

Of course, you can always email yourself a file and pick it up from another device — this might be most efficient for just one file — but for multiple files, large files, and for sharing files, Dropbox is a great tool. Check it out.

Note: Dropbox is not the only file sharing program available; GoogleDocs and Windows SkyDrive are similar. You will need to have a gmail account to use GoogleDocs and a Windows account to use SkyDrive. Both are free and easy to use.

Happy Holidays!

To my IT Mail Family,

I’m sure you remember pre-computer days

And recall that they were quite nice.

No hard drives and updates and programs and such

… Just phone calls seemed to suffice.

But you got a computer and tablet and smartphone,

And said, “How hard can they be?”

So you plugged them in and turned them on —

Then screamed, “Help! There goes my sanity.”

Soon came errors and Junk Mail and slow-loading pages,

And screens that sometimes would freeze.

You couldn’t find what you needed, or delete what you didn’t,

Though your grandkids could do both with ease.

But you’re definitely improving, so be proud of yourself.

You can email and Skype and send texts.

You can surf and can bank and can write your memoirs.

You’re ready for whatever comes next.

Best wishes for a new year filled with pages that load

And letters that don’t suddenly disappear.

And may your Junk Mail find its way into Spam

And may you avoid that maddening swirling sphere!

Please continue to enjoy these weekly tips.

Any special topic you’d like to see?

Your IT Mail returns January seventh,*

Ready for a new year of computer reverie!

Thank you for your support in 2012.


Carolyn Zalesne

The IT Girl

*I am available if you need me — just the ITmail is taking a vacation!

Make a Selection!

If you use a computer on a regular basis, you know that in order to select an item — a picture, an email, a document, a song — you must hover your pointer over the item and click on it. The clicked item will become “highlighted” and then you can move it, copy it, or delete it.

If you try to select more than one item at a time, your second item will light up, but the first item will become de-selected.

Isn’t there a way to select more than one item at a time? Yes.

The Control (Command) Key

To select more than one item at a time, hold down the Control key on the keyboard (the Command key on a Mac keyboard) while you click the items one by one that you wish to select. The first items stay highlighted as you click on the others.

The Shift Key

To select a group of files, folders, pictures, or songs in a row, you can use the Shift key: click on the first item in your list, hold down the Shift key on your keyboard, and then click the last item in the list. The first item, last item, and every item in between will be selected.

The Control (Command) and Shift Key and the Shift Key Together

If you wish to select most, but not all, of the files, folders, pictures, songs, in a list, you can use a combination of these keys to do this quite efficiently. Hold down the Shift key to select the whole group (as described above) and then let go of the Shift key. Then hold down the Control (Command) key and click (de-select) any selected items that you don’t want in the group.

Once you have your group selected, you can move, copy, or delete it. If you are dragging these selected items to another folder, you must click on one of the selected items to drag them all to the desired location. If you don’t click on one of the highlighted selections, you will de-select everything in your group and you will have to start selecting all over again.

If you are used to cutting, copying, or moving one file at a time, try using these keyboard keys. They offer an easy way to work more efficiently.

Save vs Save As

Why does saving documents cause so much frustration? Create a name for your document and tell the computer where you wish to save it. Seems simple. I believe that frustration is fueled by the all-too-confusing “Save As” option.

If you understand the difference between “Save” and “Save As,” you will not only work more efficiently, but also be more organized.


The “Save” command is for saving one document that you are working on and wish to keep. Soon after you open a new document, you should save it. When you click the “Save” command for the first time you are asked what you wish to call the document and where you wish to save it. Be thoughtful here; these choices will help you find your document later.

When you click the “Save” command after the first time — presumably after you update the file’s content — you will not be asked anything. The computer will understand that you mean to commit your recent changes to the existing document and will do it for you. Thus far, you have only one document in only one location.

Save As

The “Save As” command is exclusively for making a copy of an existing document. When you click “Save As,” you will be asked to name the new document (a different name from the original name) and to choose where to store it.

When might you use the “Save As” option?

  • If you are considering making some substantial changes to your document and wish to keep a copy of the original in case you don’t like the changes. (Of course, if you prefer the changes, you can always delete the original document and use the new one).
  • If you are sending the same document to more than one recipient and only a few items — perhaps the name and salutation — will change. Make a copy of the original document and modify only what needs to be changed. (See example below).
  • If you are designing a card, poster, invitation, etc. and you are not sure which variation (color, font, wording, layout) you or your committee might prefer. Save one, make a copy, make some changes, save it as a copy, make some other changes, etc. Present all the variations and spark some conversation.


You are in charge of your Thursday tennis game for the next few months and you create a schedule that lists the dates, players, phone numbers, and who brings the balls. You click “Save,” name the document “Thursday Tennis Schedule Fall 2011,” and store it in your “Tennis” folder. Anytime you update the schedule, you click “Save” to retain the changes.

If, halfway through the season, your friends ask you to organize the next season as well, you can open your “Thursday Tennis Schedule” document, click “Save As,” and name the new document “Thursday Tennis Schedule Spring 2012.” The format, names, and phone numbers are already in place. Just change the dates and move the players as needed. Don’t start from scratch if you don’t have to.

Use the “Save” command on a regular basis to be sure your most recent work is preserved. Use the “Save As” command on an occasional basis to make a copy of your document for a specific purpose.

And, no matter how many documents or copies you have, please remember what you named them and where you stored them!