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Organizing the files you download off the Internet, Part 3

technofile  by al fasoldt

Columns and commentaries in a life-long dance with technology

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Organizing the files you download off the Internet, Part 3

Technofile for June 8, 1997

By Al Fasoldt

Copyright © 1997, The Syracuse Newspapers

Sometimes you have it easy when you download files off the Internet. You click on an icon and the program sets itself up.

But don't kid yourself. Sometimes you'll click on one icon and discover a zillion new icons have just taken roost on your desktop. And sometimes you'll do everything I've recommended in the first two articles in this series—putting downloads in separate folders, being careful about where they go, and more—and you'll still end up with mystery files.

That's what we're dealing with in this final part of the series. If you haven't read the previous parts, you can read them on the Web at and These tips are specifically aimed at Windows users, but Mac fans should be able to pick up some help, too.

First, the basics. You should make sure your Web browser or your ftp program places all downloads into one folder initially. Later, make a folder for each downloaded file and move it there. Be sure you move the file and not copy it. (In Windows, hold down the shift key when you drag the icon for each file to make sure it's actually moved.)

Use the techniques described previously to handle ZIP files that unveil setup programs when you extract their contents. You also find tips in the other parts of this series on dealing with self-extracting setup programs.

What if you can't find a setup icon in the files that appear in the individual folders you've created? In that case, you need to do some detective work.

Start by making sure you have an icon for Notepad, a Notepad replacement (check out for good ones) or another text editor on your Windows 95 desktop. You may need it shortly. (If you have the old Windows, keep Program Manager handy so you can get at the text-editor icon that way.)

Go into the folder holding the extracted files from the download. Look for a file that has a document icon or one that has .DOC or .TXT at the end of the name. If you don't see one, look for a file with a name such as "READ.ME" or "README.1ST" or something similar. Double-click on the icon to see if your computer will display it. If Windows complains that it doesn't know how to handle the file, drag the icon over to the text-editor icon and drop it there. You can then view it that way.

If you see no sign of a how-to document, look for a help file. If you see one, double-click on its icon to read the help text.

What you're looking for are the program's setup instructions. Generally, programs that do not have their own setup files merely need to be moved to a permanent location on your disk drive. The only other chore is making a shortcut.

Caution: Do not take any files out of the folder you created. Instead, figure out where you want the program to go—to a master folder called Programs, maybe (or Program Files, as Windows 95 insists)—and then drag the entire folder into that master folder. Hold down the shift key to make sure the folder is moved and not copied.

Then open the folder in its new location. Find the program file. (If you're like me, you'll get confused now and then by the fact that some programs have separate icon files in the same folder. They both look alike. If you click once on each one, you'll be able to tell which is the icon—which you want to leave alone—and which is the program. When a file is highlighted, Windows reads out the file size at the bottom of the window. Icons are only a few hundred bytes; programs are much larger.)

Windows 95 users should do this: Click the program icon once with the right mouse button and drag it out of the window onto your desktop. Let go of the button and choose "Shortcut" from the pop-up menu. With the shortcut icon still selected, press F2 and type your own name for the shortcut. (Don't accept the name Windows gives. Type something that make sense to you.)

Right-click on the Start button and choose "Open." This opens the Start Menu. Navigate to the Start Menu folder you want to store the new shortcut in and drag the shortcut there, then close the folder.

Users of the old version of Windows should do this: Drag the program file's icon to a group window in Program Manager. Windows will create a shortcut icon when you drop the icon onto the window.

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