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Setting Up Office File Storage Locations

Office 2007 works especially well in the typical well-connected office, making it easy to store and retrieve Office files in a variety of locations. You might keep some files on your local hard disk, others on a network file server, and still others on a web server with Microsoft Windows SharePoint Services installed. In an environment this complex, having a well-thought-out storage system is the only way to stay organized.

Manage Files Locally

Microsoft introduced the My Documents folder in Windows 95. The idea was simple: to create a default location for personal data files, making it easier for users to find and back up files they create. In practice, however, the first implementations of this idea were poorly thought out, and most expert Office users ignored the My Documents icon on the desktop—or quickly figured out how to delete it.

Since its first appearance in 1995, the My Documents folder has evolved into a standard feature of Windows. In Windows 2000 and Windows XP, the My Documents icon—located near the top of the Windows Explorer hierarchy, just below the desktop—isn't actually a folder at all; instead, it is a system shortcut that points to a standard location in your personal profile. By default, the Open and Save As dialog boxes used throughout Office applications start out in the My Documents folder, and this system shortcut is also hardwired to one of the large icons on the Places bar in those dialog boxes.

The My Documents icon on the desktop, in Windows Explorer windows and on the Windows XP Start menu, is actually a shell extension—a virtual folder like the My Computer and Network Neighborhood or My Network Places icons, not an actual physical location. Opening this shortcut opens the folder that's registered as the current user's My Documents location. The exact physical location of the My 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 2000 and XP, the My Documents folder appears in your user profile, normally C:\Documents and Settings\<username>\My Documents. On computers running Vista, it resides under C:\Users\<username>\Documents.

Advanced Office users might cringe at the name of the My Documents folder, but 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; it's also possible to point the My Documents shortcut to another location. (If the name bugs you, just change it, or you could update to Vista and you might just find that you miss the "My" part. Now you might think, "Well, if they aren't my documents and this isn't "My Computer," then whose is it?)

Figure 3.4

Figure 3.4 Moving the location of the My Documents (Documents) folder.

Finally, you can change the default working folder for any individual Office application, although the exact procedure is slightly different, depending on the program you're working with. Why would you want to reset the default working folder? If you're working on an extended project that requires constant access to files on a shared network folder, for example, you might want to define that location as the default working folder; whenever you choose File, Open or File, Save As, the dialog box will display the contents of this folder. Follow these steps, for example, to adjust the default document folder in Word: go into the Word Options from the Office button. On the Save settings dialog box, notice the Default file location setting. You can choose Browse and find a new location.

Follow the same basic procedure for Excel, PowerPoint, Publisher, and Access, with the following exceptions: Excel and PowerPoint don't have Browse buttons to find the location you want. Access does have the Browse button, but the settings are not on the Save settings dialog box (which doesn't exist in Access) but on the Popular settings dialog box.

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

Logically, you can save your files wherever you like. The default settings may make life easier, but essentially, when you go to save, you are asked where you want to put that document. At that time, you can determine the location. However, especially for larger projects or projects that require collaboration with others, you will want to put these files up on a server and maybe use a special set of services to assist in collaboration.

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