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Managing Documents

This chapter is from the book

In this hour, you learn how to manage your Word documents. The topics in this hour read like a file clerk's job description: You learn how to store (save) files for later use, open existing files so that you can revise them, quickly access your favorite folders and files, and so on. You may already know how to use Windows Explorer or My Computer to create new folders and rename, delete, move, and copy files. Here you learn how to perform these same tasks in Word so that you can handle them without leaving the Word window.

The highlights of this hour include

  • Saving and opening files

  • Accessing favorite folders and files

  • Creating folders

  • Changing your default documents folder

  • Switching among open documents

  • Starting new documents

  • Renaming and deleting files

  • Moving and copying files

Saving Documents

When you are typing a new document, it exists only in your computer's memory. Memory (or RAM) is a temporary storage area. In other words, it is dependent on electricity. As soon as you turn off your computer, memory is wiped clean and everything in it is lost. For this reason, you need to save your documents to a permanent storage medium, such as your hard disk, a removable disk such as a floppy disk, Zip disk, CD-R/CD-RW (a writeable CD-ROM), or a network drive (if you're on a network). These storage devices are not dependent on electricity, so the files stored on them remain there whether your computer is turned on or off.

You can think of your disk drives as filing cabinets. Just as a physical filing cabinet holds hanging folders that can contain other folders or files, so can your permanent storage devices contain folders, which can in turn contain other folders or files.


A disk drive is basically a disk player. It's the device that plays the disk, just as a tape player plays a cassette tape. Because you can't remove a hard disk from the drive, the terms hard disk and hard drive are often used interchangeably. (In contrast, you can remove a floppy disk, Zip disk, or CD-R/CD-RW from its disk drive.) If your computer is on a network, your own hard drive is often called your local drive to distinguish it from network drives, which are storage locations on other computers on the network.

Saving a Document for the First Time

Before you save a document for the first time, it has a temporary name such as Document1, Document2, or Document3. When you save the file, you replace this name with one of your choosing. Here are the rules for filenames:

  • They can contain up to 256 characters.

  • They can include spaces.

  • They cannot include these characters: / \ > < * . ? " | : ;

  • They are not case sensitive; as far as your computer is concerned, the filenames Letter to mom and letter to Mom are the same.

  • You can have only one file of any given name in a folder.


The number following Document in the temporary filename doesn't mean that you have that number of documents open. For example, if your document is named Document8, it doesn't mean that you have eight documents open. It means only that you've started eight documents in this session of using Word. (You may have closed some of them.) When you close all of your Word windows and start Word again, the temporary filenames start over at Document1.

As soon as you decide that the document you're typing is worth saving, follow these steps:

  1. Click the Save button on the Standard toolbar (or choose File, Save). Because this is the first time you are saving the document, Word displays the Save As dialog box to ask what you want to name the file and where you want to store it (see Figure 3.1).

  2. Figure 3.1Figure 3.1 Use the Save As dialog box to choose a name and location for your file.

  3. Look at the location in the Save In box. If you want to save the file in this location or in a subfolder it contains (the subfolders appear as folder icons in the main area of the dialog box), skip to step 4. Otherwise, continue with the next step.

  4. Click the down arrow to the right of the Save In box, and click the location in which you want to save the file (see Figure 3.2). For example, click the drive letter for your CD-R (or CD-RW) drive to save your file to your writeable CD. If you want to save the file in a location on your network, choose My Network Places. The main area of the dialog box then lists the drives and folders to which you have access on your network.

  5. Figure 3.2Figure 3.2 Choose a location in the Save In list.


    If there are multiple users on your machine, your personal My Documents folder will be listed in the Save In drop-down list both as My Documents and as User Name's Documents, for example, Heidi A. Steele's Documents.

  6. If necessary, double-click folders in the main area of the dialog box until the desired folder appears in the Save In box. If you want to move back to a parent folder (the folder that contains the folder in the Save In box), click the Up One Level button.

  7. Type the filename that you want to use in the File Name text box (see Figure 3.3). Word automatically adds the extension .doc to the name. (Depending on your Windows settings, your file extensions may not be visible.)

  8. Click the Save button.

Figure 3.3Figure 3.3 Type the name for your file in the File Name text box.


The Places list on the left side of the Save As dialog box contains buttons for some locations in which you are likely to want to save your files. The My Recent Documents folder contains shortcuts to the last couple of dozen documents you have worked on. The Desktop folder contains the documents you have placed on your Windows desktop. The My Documents folder is the default location for saving documents you create in Word. The My Computer icon gives you access to all of the drives and folders on your own computer, and My Network Places lists all of the locations you can access on your network. (My Network Places will be empty if your computer is not on a network.) You'll learn how to add shortcuts to the Places list for locations you frequently use later in this hour.

Word saves your document. If it finds an existing document in the same folder with the same name, it displays the message box shown in Figure 3.4.

Figure 3.4Figure 3.4 Word checks with you before overwriting a file with the same name.

If you keep the Replace Existing File option button marked and click OK, Word replaces the existing file with the one you're saving. (After you replace the existing file, you can't get it back.) If you mark the Save Changes with a Different Name option button, Word redisplays the Save As dialog box to let you choose a different name and/or location for the file so that it won't overwrite the existing file. Finally, if you mark the Merge Changes into Existing File button, Word compares the document you're saving against the one with the existing file of the same name, and marks up the existing file to show you all of the differences between the two files. You'll learn about this track changes feature in detail in Hour 18, "Collaborating on Documents." You will most often choose one of the first two options. If you aren't sure, choose the second option so that you retain both the existing file and the one you're saving.

Saving As You Work

After you've saved your document for the first time, you need to continue to save it every few minutes as you work on it. Each time you save, Word updates the copy of the file on your hard disk with the copy on your screen (in memory). If you save religiously, then in the event of a crash or power outage, you lose, at most, a few minutes' worth of work.

To save your document periodically, choose File, Save (Ctrl+S). It looks as if nothing is happening when you issue the Save command because Word assumes that you want to keep the same filename and location, so it automatically overwrites the original file on disk without asking you any questions.


If you live in an area with frequent power outages, consider buying an uninterruptible power supply (UPS). This gizmo sits between your computer and the wall socket, and kicks in when there is an outage, at which time it powers your computer by battery for approximately 10 to 20 minutes—enough time to save and close your documents and shut down Windows. Some UPS devices also come with software that saves and closes your documents and shuts down for you if an outage occurs when you aren't at home.

Saving a Document with a New Name or Location

If you want to create a document that is very similar to one you have already saved, you don't need to type the new document from scratch. Rather, you can open the first document, make changes to it, and then save the new document under a different name. Because you're giving the document a new name, it won't overwrite the original file. For example, you can create monthly invoices for a particular company by opening the previous month's invoice, changing the invoice number and other details, and then saving the revised invoice under a new name.


If you frequently use one document as the "jump-off point" for creating others, consider creating a template for this type of document, as described in Hour 10, "Working with Templates."

A variation of this idea is to open a document and then save it with the same name but in a different location. This is one way to copy a file from one place to another. For example, if you have a document on your hard drive that you want to put on a floppy disk, you can open the document from your hard drive, and then save it to your floppy drive.

To save a file with a different name and/or location, follow these steps:

  1. Open the file (see "Opening Documents" later in this hour).

  2. Choose File, Save As to display the Save As dialog box.

  3. If you want to save the new file to a different location, navigate to it so that it appears in the Save In box. If you're keeping the same location as the original file, type a different name for the new document in the File Name text box so that you do not overwrite the original file.

  4. NOTE

    See the steps in "Saving a Document for the First Time" earlier in this hour if you need help figuring out how to locate a drive or folder in the Save In box.

  5. Click the Save button.

Recovering Documents After Crashes or Power Outages

When you're typing a document, you might notice that at periodic intervals, the Save icon (the icon that appears on the Save toolbar button) flashes briefly at the right end of the status bar. When this happens, Word's AutoRecover feature is taking a "snapshot" of your document (saving a copy of the file in its current state). By default, the AutoRecover feature updates this snapshot every ten minutes when the document is open. If you close the document normally, it deletes the AutoRecover information.

However, if a computer crash or power outage prevents you from saving your document before Word closes, Word keeps the most recent snapshot for you. If you did not save for a long period of time before the crash or outage, the snapshot can contain a much more current version of your document than the one you most recently saved.

When Word crashes, it displays an error message such as the one shown in Figure 3.5. By default, Word will restart and try to recover your documents. If you see a check box offering to restart and recover your documents automatically, you have the option to clear it and not have Word restart and attempt to recover your work. However, unless you are sure that there were no unsaved changes in any Word documents that were open at the time of the crash, it's best to allow Word to attempt to recover your files.

Figure 3.5Figure 3.5 Word politely informs you that you will lose all unsaved work—a compelling reason to save frequently.

If you want your computer to send Microsoft a report about the crash, click the Send Error Report button. Otherwise, click the Don't Send button.


Microsoft analyzes the error reports it receives from crashes and may occasionally send you information about how to prevent the crashes you are experiencing. For example, if you are running another program that conflicts with Word, you may receive a message from Microsoft that contains a link to an article at Microsoft's Web site describing the problem and suggesting a fix.

When Word restarts, it displays the Document Recovery task pane, which lists all of the documents that were open at the time of the crash, as well as different versions of the same document, where applicable (see Figure 3.6).

Figure 3.6Figure 3.6 The Document Recovery task pane appears automatically the first time you start Word after a crash.

If [Original] is appended to the document name, either you made no changes since you last saved, or you did make unsaved changes and Word is displaying the original version to contrast with the recovered version (this is the case with both documents shown in Figure 3.6).

If [Recovered] is appended to the document name, you made changes since you last saved, and Word is offering you the version it saved with its AutoRecover feature.

Follow these steps to save as much of your work as possible:

  1. Click each file listed in the Document Recovery task pane to open it on the right side of the Word window. The name of the open file in the Document Recovery task pane appears in bold to indicate that it's the one you're currently viewing.

  2. View each file to see which one contains your changes.

  3. When you find a file you want to save, choose File, Save As. Keep the same name and location if you want to overwrite the original file. Otherwise, save the file with a different name and/or location.

  4. If you want to close a document, open it on the right side of the Word window, and choose File, Close.

  5. When you are done, click the Close button in the lower-right corner of the Document Recovery task pane.


If you want AutoRecover to take a snapshot of your document more frequently (perhaps you're working on a critical document during a storm, you don't have a UPS, and you're less than diligent about saving), choose Tools, Options to display the Options dialog box. Then click the Save tab, make sure the Save AutoRecover Info Every X Minutes check box is marked, change the number of minutes to a shorter time frame, and click OK.

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Last Update: November 17, 2020