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Weekly Computer Tip # 168
1 September 2006

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printable list of your files and/or folders (Microsoft Windows commands)

Hope you all had a nice Bank Holiday Weekend. (For our non-UK-resident subscribers ... Monday, 28 August was a so-called Bank Holiday which is a public holiday in the UK. Bank holidays are so called because they are days upon which banks are (or were) shut and therefore (traditionally) no other businesses could operate.) Anyway, I had a few days off, which is why I didn't send a tip last week, but I'm back with a vengeance so on with this week's tip about finding electronic files.

Finding files on your computer, USB stick or CD-ROM can be an absolute nightmare. Apparently, the average person loses up to six weeks every year searching for misplaced information at work! Getting an overview of your folder structure and its content can be a great help. But how do you get what you see in Windows Explorer printed out, so you can mull it over and decide what to keep or move elsewhere?

Well, some of Windows' useful tools don't have desktop icons. They're not even listed on the Start menu, or available from the Control Panel. They're so-called "command lines" and something anyone old enough to have worked with DOS in the pre-Windows era (like myself) will remember.

Anyway, one of these Windows command lines can create a list of folders and/or files located in any directory.

Here's how: (In Windows 2000 and XP)

  1. Click on the Start button on the Windows taskbar
  2. Click on Run
  3. In the "Run" dialog window type the following: cmd
  4. Press ENTER
  5. In the command line window type, for example: tree c:\ > tree.doc

This command has created a file called "tree.doc", displaying the folder structure of your C:\ drive and is located in the directory you were in when you typed the command, listed as a path in the command line window. (For example, F:\Documents and Settings\Karen\.)

The list of folders or files depends on the parameters you specified. If you did not specify a drive (like c:\ in my example), the file contains the tree structure beginning with the directory you were in when you typed the command.

If you also want to display the names of the files in each folder type:

tree c:\ /f > tree.doc

If you want to edit or print the file structure, simply locate the newly created file in the relevant directory and double-click it to open in Microsoft Word. If/when prompted, tick the MS-DOS radio button to make your text readable.

OK, there are lots of packages on the market that can do something similar for you. And they are probably more user-friendly to use. But, hey, this feature comes with Windows and - more importantly - is free! Perhaps you've heard about national stereotypes? You know, the Germans don't have a sense of humour. The Russians are drunk most of the time. The French eat frogs. And the Dutch ... well, suffice to say that they make the same jokes about us as you do about the Scotsmen. Supposedly we're mean. Tight fisted. So now you know.

Until next week.

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PS I’m committed to sharing the best of what I know with others so please don’t keep me a secret. If you enjoyed today’s tip, please forward it to anyone you feel may benefit. Alternatively, feel free to reprint it (with full copyright and subscription information) in your newsletters and message boards.

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September 2006