Once you've shared folders on the network, they're not going to do much good unless you can actually access these resources. You have several options for accessing shared folders.
My Network Places is probably the most intuitive. And, it's easily accessible from the default XP Start Menu. Just choose Start | My Network Places, and you're on your way with a list of places your computer can reach. Double-click one of the network objects, and you'll get a list of resources available in that network place.
The drawback of My Network Places is that it doesn't read your mind; it just makes guesses about what you need based on what you've recently accessed. Thus, you might want to add a place to the My Network Places dialog box for convenient access. Here's what to do:
From the My Network Places window, click the "Add a Network Place" task.
The Add Network Place Wizard launches. Click Next, and then choose from a list of service providers. Most commonly, you'll select "another network location" rather than "add a Web location."
From the next dialog box, you can either enter the name of the network place to which you want to connect or click Browse to search for it. You have several options here: a URL path to a Web folder, a File Transfer Protocol (FTP) path to an FTP site, or a Universal Naming Convention (UNC) pathname. When you browse for a shared folder and select it, the UNC pathname will be entered for your convenience, as shown in Figure 11-8.
Figure 11-8. Enter the path to the new network location.
Give the new Network Place a name that will be help you identify it (you don't have to accept the default Network Place name) and then click Next and Finish when you're done. You will now see the new location in the My Network Places dialog box, as shown in Figure 11-9.
Figure 11-9. Prentice Hall is a newly added Network Place.
What's a UNC?
It's very important to understand the Universal Naming Convention syntax because it's used so often to specify XP network resources. The UNC syntax is as follows:
where servername is the name of the computer, or server, to which you would like to connect, and sharename is the name of the share on that specific computer. For example, to access the Writing share on the XP system called beanlake, you could use this UNC path: \\beanlake\writing.
It is important that you not confuse this syntax with the MS-DOS pathname, which will look like this: C:\folder\subfolder1\subfolder2. The UNC path is used to access the resource over the network, while the MS-DOS path designates how the same resource is addressed locally. Notice that the UNC syntax makes no reference to a drive letter, or to how deep in the folder hierarchy the resource might reside.