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Where Should You Keep Your Files?

In Windows Vista and Windows XP, the files you create for your personal use belong in one place: the subfolder set aside for document storage in your personal profile, which is created when you set up your user account. In Windows XP, this folder is called My Documents; in Windows Vista, it's simply called Documents. (And if you don't like either name, you can rename this system folder.) Regardless of the name, using this folder as the default location for your personal data files makes it easier for you to find and back up files you create.

The icon for your Documents folder is never more than two clicks away—it's located at the top of the right column in the Start menu. When you click the File menu and choose Open or Save As from within any Office program, the resulting dialog box takes you straight to the Documents folder.

The Documents icon in Windows Explorer windows and on the Start menu is a virtual folder, not an actual physical location. Opening this shortcut opens the folder that's registered as the Documents location for the user who's currently logged on. The exact physical location of the Documents folder varies, depending on which Windows version you have installed and whether it was a clean installation or an upgrade. On most computers running Windows Vista, the Documents folder appears in your user profile, normally C:\Users\<username>\Documents.

If you currently store data files in other locations and you're willing to reorganize your storage system, you can substantially increase the odds that you'll find files you're looking for when you need them. Doing so also makes it easier to back up data files.

You can change the default location that individual Office programs use for data files. Why would you want to reset the default working folder? Maybe your family has a home server where all family members keep documents, music, photos, and other files. In that case, you might want to define your Documents folder on the home server as the default working folder; whenever you choose File, Open or File, Save As, the dialog box displays the contents of this folder. Follow these steps, for example, to adjust the default document folder in Word:

  1. Click the Office button, click Word Options, and select Save from the list on the left side of the dialog box, as shown in Figure 3.1.
    Figure 3.1

    Figure 3.1 Use the Options dialog box to adjust the default working folder for any Office program.

  2. Click the Browse button to the right of the Default File Location entry.
  3. Browse through drives and folders to select the correct folder and click OK.
  4. Click OK to close the Word Options dialog box and save your change.

Follow the same basic procedure for Excel and PowerPoint, clicking the Excel Options and PowerPoint Options buttons, respectively.

The default file location setting for each application is independent. If you set Word's default Documents folder to a location on your home server, for example, Excel and PowerPoint continue to open to the default location—the Documents folder on your computer.

Behind the scenes, Office creates and uses an additional group of subfolders in the Application Data folder within the user's personal profile. These subfolders represent standard locations where Office stores customization data.

Opening and Saving Files over a Network

Office 2007 enables you to work with files over a network in much the same way that you access files and folders on a standalone PC. If you are connected to a network at your home or school, you can open and save files in shared folders on the network, provided your user account has been granted the appropriate permission to read or write files. You can browse to shared folders using Windows Explorer or a common dialog box by starting in the Network folder (My Network Places in Windows XP). You can also enter the name of a shared network folder directly using UNC syntax (\\Computer_name\Share_name\). Unless the network administrator has restricted your rights, you can create and manage your own subfolders in this location.

Aside from the additional navigation steps, virtually no difference exists between using network shares and using local drives, assuming that you have proper authorization from your network administrator.

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