Organizing your digital picture files with Windows Explorer

With the Windows XP you get a folder called “My Pictures.” That's really nice. A folder to put your digital pictures in. But couldn't you put digital pictures in any folder? What makes the “My Pictures” better for that than any other folder? Just the fact that applications which work with pictures offer to save files there. That doesn't go very far toward helping you organize your pictures.

Inside this folder, you can choose to put all your picture files together or you can choose to organize them with subfolders. A subfolder is just another way of saying “a folder inside another folder.” To create a subfolder inside My Pictures (or anywhere else), open My Pictures, right-click and choose “New” then “Folder.” The new folder is created and Windows Explorer waits for you to type in a name for it. If you already have pictures to put in the folder, just drag them from where they are and drop them on the folder. If you want to create a copy of the pictures instead of moving them, then press “ctrl” before you drag the pictures and hold it down until after you drop them. This works for other files besides pictures, by the way.

One habit that I stick to is making the originals of pictures that I copy from my digital camera read-only. Marking them read-only makes Windows ask me before I delete them or modify them. That warning will also show up from any program that might change my pictures. A simple example is this: I take a picture of myself and some friends. I trim it down for one of them because they want to use it for a personal ad. When I click to save the picture, I get a reminder that asks “Are you sure you want to modify this read-only file?” or a dialog that just tells me that I can't modify the file since it's read only. I'll choose “No” or “Okay” then go to File - Save As... This allows me to save my changed copy of the picture somewhere else, while retaining the original image in case I need it later.

If you want to try this making your files read-only, it's not hard. Just pick the files or folders you want to mark as read-only. Right-click on what you have selected and choose “Properties”. This will show you some information about the files. Near the bottom of the information is a check-box marked “Read Only”. Click this box until a check mark appears in it. Next click “Ok”.

Another very important habit is backing up your digital pictures. If you don't know where they are on your computer, find out now. When you upgrade your computer, you'll want to take them with you. Another great thing about making those backups is that it's another way to share your pictures. When you back up your pictures to a CD, you can make a copy of that CD for a friends or family and they can easily see them on their computer or DVD player, or take them to the store to have prints made.