MANIPULATING FILES ON THE NETWORK
DRAG FILES BETWEEN COMPUTERS
I needed to copy a bunch of files from a shared
folder on a remote computer to the computer I was working on. I got
really annoyed by all the folder-opening and right-clicking
involved in copying and pasting from one computer to the other. Is
there a faster way?
It's a dragI mean the solution, not my
sympathetic response to your annoyance.
both folders and drag
between them. You can also use Windows Explorer to drag files
between the right pane of the shared folder to the left pane of the
local folder (or the other way around).
WINDOWS EXPLORER DISPLAY IS
It's annoying that the Windows Explorer program
listing moved to the Accessories menu,
an extra step to
open it. But that pales compared to the real annoyancethe display
in the left pane. It takes several mouse clicks to get
to Drive C and expand it. This is where Windows Explorer used to
open, and where I almost always want to start.
Microsoft introduced the changes to Windows
Explorer in Windows 2000, and kept them in Windows XP. I hate it,
too. You can force Windows Explorer to open with Drive C selected
and expanded. To do so, you have to change the properties of the
shortcut to the program. The listing on the Accessories menu is a
shortcut (all menu listings are shortcuts), so you could do it
right on the submenu, but you might as well create a more
shortcut to the program and change that.
To create the more convenient shortcut,
right-drag the listing on the Accessories submenu to your desktop
(or to your Quick Launch toolbar). When you release the right mouse
button, choose Copy Here. Now you've eliminated one annoyanceyou no
longer have to move to the Accessories submenu to open the
Right-click the icon for the shortcut you just
created and choose Properties. In the Target text box, add the
following parameter to the existing
. Be sure
to leave a space between the end of the current path and the new
parameter (see Figure 4-3).
Figure 4-3. Change the command for
opening Windows Explorer to alter the way that it displays the left
MOVING VERSUS COPYING
When I'm working on a computer that isn't my
"home base," I like to move the files I want to work on to the
current computer, and then move them back when I'm done. When I
drag the files back, Windows always asks me if I want to replace
the files that currently exist. Dragging files moves them, it
doesn't copy them, so why are the original files still there?
Dragging files between folders on the same
computer moves those files. However, when you cross disks, dragging
files results in a copy action, not a move. Dragging files between
computers is, of course, a drag across different disks. The Cut and
Paste functions are the simplest way to accomplish what you
USE THE SEND TO COMMAND TO COPY FILES
I think the Send To command on the right-click
menu is nifty; I use it all the time to copy files to floppy disks.
However, it's annoying that the Send To command doesn't include
remote computers for fast transfers of files across the
The Send To command is niftier than you think.
You can use it to copy files or folders to any shared folder on the
networkyou just need to know how. You merely add the target to the
Send To command, which is quite easy to do. In Windows 2000 and XP,
you can create discrete Send To targets for each
. In Windows
98SE and Me, you can only create global Send To targets for all
Add Send To targets in Windows
To add a target to the Send To menu in Windows
2000 and XP, expand Windows Explorer or My Computer to display your
profile in the left pane. One of the folders in your profile is
named SendTo, and selecting it displays the current targets of the
Send To command in the right pane (see Figure 4-4).
Figure 4-4. The submenu of the Send To
command is a list of items in a folder.
Shortcut to open the
Create Shortcut Wizard. Either use the Location text box to enter
the path to the remote folder or click the Browse button to
navigate to the remote folder.
To enter text in
the Location text box, use one of the following
If the remote folder is a mapped drive, enter
the drive letter followed by a
If the remote folder is not a mapped drive,
enter its path in the format
(the path is
technically called the UNC, for Universal Naming Convention).
You can learn about mapped
in Chapter 3.
If you don't know the path, or don't want to
bother typing it, click the Browse button to open the Browse for
Folder dialog box. Expand My Network Places and expand the remote
computer to display its shares (see Figure 4-5).
Figure 4-5. Expand any computer on the
network to display and select a folder.
Select the share you want to use as the target
of your Send To command, and click OK to enter the UNC in the
Location text box.
and enter the
for this shortcut
(which will be the text on the Send To submenu).
Click Finish. The new shortcut shows up on the
Send To command's submenu (see Figure 4-6).
Figure 4-6. One click copies a file to a
folder on a remote computer.
When you expand My Network
Places, you'll see shortcuts to network places you've previously
visited. You can select one of those items instead of expanding the
remote computer's object, but you face the risk of a nonexistent
share. Windows doesn't track the listings for network places you've
previously visited to make sure they still exist. When you expand
the listing for a remote computer, the shares listed for that
computer are currently valid.
If the target folder you want
to use isn't shared, but is a subfolder of a shared folder, expand
the shared folder to select it.
Add Send To targets in Windows
To add another target to the Send To command in
Windows 98 and Me:
Open Windows Explorer and expand the Windows
Select the Send To subfolder and choose File
Shortcut to open the
Create Shortcut Wizard.
Enter the UNC to
the remote shared folder, or enter the drive letter if the share is
mapped to a drive. For reasons known only to the folks who designed
it, the Browse button in the Windows 98SE and Me Create Shortcut
only files, not folders, so it's useless for this
task. After you enter the UNC or mapped drive letter, click
Enter the name for the shortcut and click
Finish. All users of the computer see this target on their Send To
MY SEND TO FOLDER IS MISSING
When I expand the folder for my username under
Documents and Settings, I don't see a Send To folder.
You've been victimized by one of the most
annoying features in Windows. The Send To folder is a hidden
folder, and by default, Windows doesn't display hidden folders. To
correct this annoying "feature," open Windows Explorer or My
Network Places. Choose Tools
Folder Options, click the View tab, and choose the
"Show hidden files and folders option (see Figure 4-7).
Figure 4-7. Change the default display
settings, so you can see the files and folders that Windows
THE WEIRDNESS OF THE RECYCLE BIN
When I work at a computer other than my own, I
occasionally need to access the Recycle Bin of my regular computer.
I shared the drive, so it's easy to see the Recycle Bin. However,
if I want to restore a file I just realized I shouldn't have
deleted, I can't find it.
You're not looking at the Recycle Bin of the
remote computer. Instead, you're looking at the local Recycle Bin.
Even though you're looking at a Recycle Bin that appears under the
shared drive of a remote computer in Windows Explorer or My
Computer (see Figure 4-8), you're not really looking at the remote
computer's Recycle Bin. If you don't believe me (and I wouldn't
blame you because there's not much logic to what I'm saying),
double-click the desktop icon for your local Recycle Bin. Compare
the contents to the one under the shared drive of the remote
Figure 4-8. Don't believe your
USE REMOTE FILES IN SOFTWARE
When I open a software application and want to
work on the files I created and stashed on a different computer,
it's annoying to have to copy the files to the computer I'm
currently using and then copy them back when I'm finished.
You don't have to copy the files you want to use
in a software application because you can open them right from the
In the software window, choose File
Select My Network
Places and navigate to the file you need.
The Windows "feature" of not displaying hidden
files and folders is annoying, but it doesn't begin to match the
stupidity and annoyance level of another Windows "feature"the
default setting that suppresses the display of filename extensions.
Open Windows Explorer or My Network Places. Choose Tools
Folder Options, click the
View tab, and
This setting probably launches more
viruses than we'll ever know. Viruses usually travel in executable
files, so when you receive an email attachment named
, you'll think it's a safe file.
However, because you can't see file extensions, you can't tell that
the real name is
The executable extension is at least a clue that the file could be
dangerous, but with the default view settings set to hide
extensions, you'll never see it. Even if you keep your antivirus
software up to date, you can get a new virus before a detection
method is available from your antivirus software vendor, so your
antivirus software doesn't automatically take care of the
CAN'T SAVE FILES ON THE REMOTE
While using a software application, I opened a
file from my own My Documents folder on a remote computer and made
changes. When I tried to save the file, I received an error
You didn't change the default permission
settings when you shared the folder. When you share a folder, all
versions of Windows except Windows 2000 set a folder's permissions
to Read Only by default. Change the setting as
In Windows XP, right-click the folder and choose
Properties, click the Sharing tab, and check the "Allow network
users to change my files" box (see Figure 4-9).
Figure 4-9. By default, Windows XP
doesn't let a remote user save files in a shared folder.
In Windows 98SE and Me, right-click the folder
and choose Properties, click the Sharing tab, and select the Full
option (see Figure 4-10).
In Windows 98SE and Me, if
you're sharing your own My Documents folder, you can
password-protect it. If you don't give the password to
you'll have a private, remote folder.
Figure 4-10. Change the Access Type to
Full to be able to save files in a shared folder in Windows 98SE
FILE CONTENTS CHANGE MYSTERIOUSLY
Sometimes I add or change contents of a file,
and when I open the file later, the contents don't match what I
entered. Then I find out that while I was working on the file,
somebody else was working on the same file from a different
computer. This is truly annoying.
It sure is annoying, and unless the software is
designed to manage simultaneous users, there's nothing you can do
about it. Two annoying things are going on:
"The last save wins" rule is in effect.
Each user's copy of the file is static except
for the changes that user is making. As each user makes changes and
saves them, the other user's file doesn't update with the changes
being saved to the disk.
When you save and close the file and then reopen
it, everything might look finethe last save wins! However, if
you're the user who saved the file earlier than the last save,
you're probably rather surprised by the contents.
Two software applications
that can't manage simultaneous users, and therefore cause this
problem, are WordPad and Notepad.
USE SOFTWARE THAT PERMITS SIMULTANEOUS
USERS OF THE SAME FILE
Sometimes I open a file in a software
application and I'm told that someone else is using the file. The
message that appears explains the Notify option, but what's the
Read Only button for?
You'll see this message if you use software
designed to manage multiple users opening the same file (e.g.,
Microsoft Word). And you're right, the message only explains what
happens if you click the Notify button (see Figure 4-11).
Figure 4-11. The message explains the
Notify button, and assumes you understand the Read Only
The Read Only button lets you open the file as
read-only, which means you can't save the file under its original
filename (you can't click the Save button on the toolbar or select
you want to save your work, you must choose File
Save As and save the file
under a different name.
When you save the file with a
different name, pick a name that connects the file to the original,
real filename for
If you click the Notify button, the file opens
with the contents it had the last time it was saved by the user
currently working on the file. You can begin working on the file,
but if you want to save your work before you're notified that the
other user has closed the file, you must use a different filename
(you're working in read-only mode and creating a separate file,
which won't merge its contents with the original file).
Windows tracks the other open copy of the file,
and when it's closed, you're notified that the file is available
for editing (see Figure 4-12), which means you can save it using
the original filename. The file, of course, now contains any new or
changed material inserted by the user who was working on it.
Figure 4-12. Choose Read-Write so you
can save the file with its original filename.
The next time the "other"
user opens the file, your changes are there, which might be a
surprise, and a surprising annoyance. You should tell the other
user what you did, or make changes in a way that's suitable for
collaboration (see "Collaborating on Files").
COLLABORATING ON FILES
We have several files on our network that
multiple users work on. We keep shopping lists, calendars, and
other family notes in those files. Everyone puts text in front of
or behind their changes, such as "Mom, I changed the previous
from xxx to yyy." This makes it more difficult to read the
files, and it's a rather complex task to create a final file.
Most software designed for Windows offers a way
to track each person's contribution to a document, and to accept or
reject changes easily (to create a finished document). When the
tracking feature is enabled, as each person opens the document and
types, that person's
appear in a different
text is deleted, it remains on the screen with a special character
that the document was changed by that deletion. You can
accept or reject each person's work, one change at a time, or all
at once. See the Help files for your software to learn how to use
this nifty feature.
After you've accepted or
rejected all the changes and saved the document, turn off the
collaboration features. Be sure to turn off the ability to see
changes in the screen or print document, then test it by opening
the document again and turning on the feature that shows changes
(not the one that tracks changes). If you see any original text
that was changed or deleted, delete it without the tracking feature
to make sure it's permanently deleted. Otherwise, if you send the
document to anyone, they'll be able to
on the feature that
shows the changes and see all the contributions, notes, and
comments. This could be embarrassing to you and extremely
interesting to the recipient. I've received documents from major
corporations (including Microsoft) in which I was able to see
notes, comments, and rejected text, at least some of which I'm sure
they didn't want me to see.
CREATE A FILE SERVER
We keep a number of files on our network for
everyone in the family to access. As the number of files grows, we
constantly lose track of where they are. At work, we have a file
server that holds all the files that multiple
use, but at home we have a peer-to-peer network with no file
You can add the services of a file server to
your network simply by assigning one computer to that role:
Choose a computer with plenty of disk space, and
make sure it's a computer that's either on all the time or easy to
get to if you need to turn it on (a computer you keep in a locked
room on the third floor isn't a good choice). Create a user for
that computer named Family, and share the My Documents folder for
Family with full access (which lets other users change files).
Make sure the folder is shared on the
Don't name a user
Everybody, because Windows XP and 2000 have an Everybody user built
into the system for permissions purposes.
MAP LOCAL FOLDERS TO DRIVE
Some of the files I create need to go into a
folder other than My Documents. Most of the software I use opens
the My Documents folder by default when I want to save or open a
file. It's annoying to go through all the mouse clicks needed to
change the folder. Is there a faster way?
When you're working in software, it's much
easier to change the drive letter in the Save or Open dialog box
than to click your way through the computer's hierarchy. If you
have a specific folder on your drive that holds certain files, you
can map a drive letter to that folder on the local computer. If
you're working remotely, share the folder and map a drive on the
remote computer. If you use this folder often, save your
using the same drive letter for the local and remote mappings.
Mapping a local folder is different from mapping
a remote folder (read Chapter 3 for detailed instructions on
mapping drives to remote folders). There's no way to do this in the
graphical Windows interface; you must use the command line. The
format (the technical
) of the command is:
If you have a folder named Project-1 on Drive C
of your computer, and you want to substitute the drive letter P,
enter the following command:
subst p: c:\project-1
can use a longer path if the folder to which you want to assign a
drive letter is a subfolder, or even a subfolder of a subfolder.
subst p: c:\project-1\budget\2005
If any folders in the path
have a space in the name, enclose the entire path in quotation
marks. For example:
Alternatively, you could keep
these files in your Favorites list and fetch them from the
Favorites folder available in the Open dialog box.
SAVING DATABASE DATAFILES
We have a database program to track our family
budget and spending. Two of the computers on the network have a
copy of the program. If each user saves the data to his or her own
computer, we don't have a complete record on either computer. This
can't be the way it's supposed to work.
isn't the way it's supposed to
work. Most database software for small businesses or home users is
designed to hold all the data, from all computers, in one location.
These database applications don't have "merge" features that let
you save multiple copies in different locations, then later merge
the data. Larger, more robust databases usually have a merge
feature that puts all the information into one file and checks for
The way to resolve this problem depends on the
database application's design. If the program you're using is
designed for multiuser access (e.g., QuickBooks), you must decide
which computer holds the datafile, and then configure the software
on all computers to use that datafile.
If the program isn't designed for multiuser
access (e.g., Quicken), you have two choices:
Designate one computer as the database computer
and stop using the other computer.
Designate one computer as the database computer,
and then configure the other computer to use the file on the first
computer (use a mapped drive). Make sure only one computer at a
the database file.
DATABASE FILE LOCKING
We use a multiuser database program to track our
finances. Sometimes a user enters data and sees a message such as
" or "file is locked." We purchased this database
because it can handle multiple users, so what's the deal?
The database file-lock feature is kicking in.
The solution is to wait a few seconds, then enter the data again.
All databases have "file-lock" features to prevent users from
entering different data in the same place
on the way the database is designed (programmed), the locking
feature can kick in at any level of the hierarchy. The general
hierarchy of a database (presented in an oversimplified manner) is
The database datafile.
A particular record, such as a bank account or
A particular field, such as the check number or
the invoice number for a vendor's bill.
The general rule of thumb is that the more
robust (and expensive) a database, the lower the level of the lock.
The only databases that lock the entire file are those that don't
permit simultaneous access by multiple users.
If your database locks at the record level, when
any user is accessing a record, other users are locked out until
the first user moves on to a different record. For example, if
you're using a vendor record to enter a bill, write a check, or
change the vendor's address, no other user can create a transaction
involving that record.
If your database locks at the field level, when
one user is entering a check for a particular vendor using the
vendor's invoice number, the other users are locked out of the
field until the first user has moved on. For example, if you and
someone else are both entering checks in the Check Number field,
the first person to save the data (usually by pressing the Tab key
or clicking the next field) wins. The second user is locked out for
the few seconds it takes for the first user to move on before the
Check Number field becomes available again.
TEMPORARY FILE LOCKING OF DATABASE
We have a financial database program designed
for multiple simultaneous users. Every once in a while, no remote
users can get into the file, and the error message says the file is
not available for multiple users. This problem is sporadic, and it
always goes away eventually, but it's annoying to have an error
that seems to occur
Most databases designed for multiple
simultaneous users lock out remote users when certain activities
are taking place, such as
, major configuration changes,
software updates, and other processes that involve the entire file.
When the task ends, the database is once again available.
Some database programs
(QuickBooks, for example) require the user who
file-locking task to manually put the file back into multiuser
mode. If your database doesn't automatically return the file to
remote users, train everyone in the household to go back to
multiuser mode manually after performing a file-locking
BACK UP DATABASE FILES TO REMOTE
We run our family financial software on a
Windows 98SE computer. We don't want to reinstall the software on
our new Windows XP computer, but we'd like to take advantage of the
ability to burn CDs on the new computer. Is there a way to back up
the datafile across the network?
I know this is possible in Quicken, Money, and
QuickBooks (and surely in other financial software as well). Here
are some guidelines:
Make sure you share the folder that will hold
the backup; configure the share for network users and allow them to
change the files.
Quicken and QuickBooks will both work with a
network path, but your life will be easier if you map a drive to
the remote shared folder before you make your backup.
Money will not work with a network path, so you
have no choice but to map a drive to the remote shared folder
before backing up the drive.
Chapter 3 has detailed
instructions on mapping drives to shared folders.
USING SOFTWARE ON A REMOTE
I have a software application installed on a
computer, and I usually use a different computer to do my work (so
that all my files are on that computer). Can I run the software
remotely, from my usual computer, by double-clicking the software's
Almost certainly not. Software installations are
rather complicated, and in addition to the executable file that
launches the software, there are probably close to 100
around the hard drive of the computer that holds
the software. In addition, there are registry entries that control
and manage the software on the registry of the computer that holds
the software. Even all the old DOS software I still use on my
Windows machine won't run from a remote computer. DOS software
doesn't have an installation routine and doesn't write to the
registry, but it is hardcoded to use the local drive and doesn't
understand network pathsif it's not launched from its own drive
(usually C), it won't run.
However, you do have some ways to accomplish
this, all of which are much more complicated and expensive than
getting up and moving to the computer that holds the software. You
can subscribe to an Internet software sharing service, such as
WebEx (http://www.webex.com/). Search the Internet (and magazine
stories with reviews of services) for Internet support and training
services. You can also buy remote computing software, which lets
you enter a remote computer on the network and take over its
screen, keyboard, and mouse controls and open software.