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Organizing Your Excel Files

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Learn how to manage files in Excel 2003 in this sample chapter from Teach Yourself Microsoft Excel 2003 in 24 Hours.
This chapter is from the book

This hour covers the following topics:

  • How to save your work

  • Understand filenames

  • What you need to know about save options

  • How to rearrange your files

In the previous hour, you saved the sales file you were working on. At the time, you probably were not aware that you were performing one of the most important functions of any computer program. Saving your work is a key element of working in Excel or any software. The save process only takes a few seconds and ensures that you can return to your work later. If you exit Excel without saving your worksheet, or the power cuts out, you lose all your work.

If you're using Excel in the office, or over a network, saving becomes even more important. Your worksheets might be part of a large project and need to be accessed by your co-workers. Saving your workbooks to the correct drive and folder is almost as important as the save itself. After all, you'd hate to be awakened from a sound sleep with a phone call from an irate colleague asking where you saved the amortization schedule.

In this hour, you learn the ins and outs of saving your work. During the lesson, you also refresh your knowledge of working with drives and folders within Windows. Finally, you learn how to copy files from one location to another and how to delete them altogether.

Saving Your Workbook

If you don't save your workbooks, you're playing a form of computerized Russian roulette. Your unsaved work is unprotected. If the power goes off or your system crashes, your worksheet is gone forever. Saving your work takes a few brief seconds and ensures that you or your colleagues will be able to open the workbook later. A saved workbook can be stored indefinitely.

When you save your work in Excel, you need to consider a few points:

  • The location of the saved file—You can save to your computer's hard drive or to a floppy disk. If you're working on a network, you can save your files to a drive and folder on the network.

  • The name of the file—The filename should be descriptive so that you or someone else can identify it. A cryptic name like SMBUD might make sense at the time you save the file, but will probably confuse you and everyone else later, especially if you need to locate that one file from a long list.

  • The format of the file—If everyone in your office is using the same version of Excel, you won't have any problems. However, in many offices, multiple versions of Excel are in use. If you use a feature that isn't present in an earlier version of Excel, someone opening your file in an earlier version won't see that feature's results.

Navigating Through Files and Folders

In most cases, when you save a file, Excel automatically saves it to the My Documents folder located on your computer. However, you can place the file anywhere you like. If you're working on a network, your network administrator must have granted you access rights to save a file in a network folder.

Network folder—A folder that's located on one of the network drives. Network folders can be shared so that everyone on the network can access them, or they can be private, so that only you or your workgroup can access them.

Many Excel users are confused by the storage system that Windows uses for files and folders. Actually, the file system is simple to understand. Windows uses a file folder metaphor for organizing the files on your computer. Both the files you create and the software programs you used to create them are stored in folders. You work with computer folders just the way you work with the paper files in your office. You can create a filing system that contains many subfolders, or you can use a top-level folder to store your files.

The folders are stored on drives that are lettered alphabetically. A computer drive is the electronic equivalent of a filing cabinet. The hard drive on your computer is usually called the C: drive. If you're working on a newer computer with a large hard drive, your hard drive might be partitioned into more than one drive—say C, D, and E. Network users can have many drives available.

Picture your drives and folders arranged in one large file room. The order of your drives and folders is arranged hierarchically. Each filing cabinet in the room represents another drive. Within each drive is a group of folders. A folder can contain files, subfolders, or a combination of both.

If you were actually filing papers in a real file room, you'd need to put away the folders in one filing cabinet before you could open the drawers on another cabinet. Electronic filing is much the same. You need to navigate up through the folders on one drive before you can go to another drive.


If you're familiar with the old MS-DOS filing system, a folder is the equivalent of a directory, and a folder within a folder is analogous to a subdirectory.

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