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Chapter 3. Office File Management for Ex... > Setting Up Office File Storage Locat...

Setting Up Office File Storage Locations

Office 2003 works especially well in the typical well-connected office, making it easy to store and retrieve Office files in a wide 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's Windows SharePoint Services installed. In an environment this complex, having a well-thought-out storage system is the only way to stay organized.

Choosing a Default Local Storage Location

Long ago, in an early version of Office, Microsoft introduced the My Documents folder. 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 simply 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 hard-wired to one of the large icons on the Places Bar in those dialog boxes.


Although the common dialog boxes in Office 2003 look exactly like their counterparts in other Windows programs, they use their own code and do not share the Windows code. If you customize the Places bar using Microsoft's very cool but unsupported Tweak UI Power Toy, your changes do not extend to the Places bar in Office programs.

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.

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. (Oh, and if the name bugs you, just change it.)


To move the My Documents folder to a new location, right-click the My Documents icon, click Move, and then click OK or Apply. If you want to leave all your documents in their current location and point the My Documents folder to a new location, enter the full path to that folder in the Target box and click OK. To rename the My Documents folder, open Windows Explorer, right-click the My Documents icon, and choose Rename from the shortcut menu. Renaming the shortcut doesn't change the actual name of the folder that it points to.

Finally, you can change the default working folder for any individual Office application (with the exception of FrontPage), 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:

Choose Tools, Options, and click the File Locations tab. The dialog box shown in Figure 3.1 lets you specify a wide range of system folders.

Figure 3.1. Use the Options dialog box to adjust the default working folder for any Office program.

In the File Types list, select the Documents entry.

Click the Modify button; then use the Modify Location dialog box to browse through drives and folders. Select the correct folder and click OK.

Click OK to close the Options dialog box and save your change.

Follow the same basic procedure for Excel, PowerPoint, Publisher, and Access, with the following exceptions: In Excel, Publisher, and Access, click the General tab; in PowerPoint, click the Save tab. In the box labeled Default File Location, enter the full name and path of the folder that you want to specify as the new default. Only Word and Publisher allow you to browse through drives and folders to find the one you want; with other Office programs, you must enter the full directory path manually.

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.


Curiously, several other settings in Word's File Locations dialog box apply across the board to all Office applications. If you change the location of the Templates or Workgroup Templates folder in Word, that change applies to Excel and PowerPoint as well. Specifying the Workgroup Templates folder here is an ideal way to make sure that individual users always have access to the most current corporate templates in the three main Office applications. Users can continue to save and open personal templates in their own folders, but any Word, Excel, or PowerPoint template in the Workgroup Templates folder will “automagically” appear in the New dialog box of all three applications.

Behind the scenes, Office creates and uses an additional group of subfolders in the Application Data folder within the user's personal profile. These subfolders represent standard locations where Office stores customization data, such as your Excel Personal macro workbook, any custom templates that you create in any program (stored in the Templates folder), custom dictionaries (in the Proof folder), and Word startup templates (in the \Word\STARTUP folder). On a default Office installation, these subfolders are typically located within the %appdata%\Microsoft folder. Office maintains separate subfolders for each application, special-purpose folders for use by all Office programs, and a folder for Office itself.


In the previous paragraph, %appdata% refers to an environment variable that uniquely identifies a system folder on a computer running Windows 2000 or Windows XP. Typing this variable, complete with the surrounding percent signs, opens the target folder. Besides saving keystrokes, this shortcut allows you to create shortcuts that work for different users without modification and without having to worry about the exact drive or folder location. You can use environment variables in the Run dialog box, in an Open or Save dialog box, or in the Target box of a file or program shortcut, for instance. Other useful Windows environment variables that we use in this book include %programfiles% (which opens the Program Files folder) and %userprofile% (which goes directly to the personal profile of the currently logged-on user). To see a full list of environment variables, open Control Panel's System option and click the Advanced tab.

Finally, Office stores a small number of data files in a second Application Data folder. This subfolder is stored in the hidden Local Settings folder within each user's profile. Most notably, this is the default storage location for Outlook Personal Store (PST) files.

Opening and Saving Files over a Network

Office 2003 lets you work with files over a network or on the Web in much the same way that you access files and folders on a standalone PC. If you are connected to a network, contact your network administrator to find locations on the network where you're permitted to read or write files. You should get a network share address for the location, using UNC syntax (\\Server_name\Share_Name\). Unless the network administrator has restricted your rights, you can create and manage your own subfolders in this location.

Although you can type UNC-style network addresses directly from within Open or Save As dialog boxes, doing so is usually more trouble than it's worth. For easier access, browse to the My Network Places folder and navigate to the correct server, share, and folder.

Aside from the additional navigation steps, there is no difference between using network shares and using local drives, assuming that you have proper authorization from your network administrator.

Storing Files on the Web or an Intranet

Storing files on the Web—whether to a Web server or to an FTP server—is almost as simple as working with files on a local network. You can usually open a Web-based file by copying the URL from your Web browser's Address box and pasting it into the File Name box on the Office program's Open dialog box. On servers that support the Web-based Distributed Authoring and Versioning (WebDAV) standard, you need only the URL for the location (for example, http://www.example.com/someplace or ftp://example.com/incoming) and logon credentials (a username and password) to save files to that location. In Windows Explorer, collections of documents on a WebDAV-compatible server appear as folder icons in the My Network Places folder. (In previous Windows and Office versions, this feature was known as Web folders.)


For more information about the WebDAV standard, including technical information and lists of compatible servers and applications, visit Greg Stein's superb WebDAV Resources site at http://www.webdav.org.

To save a file to a Web server or an FTP site on the Internet or an intranet, choose File, Save As and click the My Network Places icon in the Places Bar. If the list of available network places includes the location you want to use, double-click it and then enter a filename. If the location does not have an icon in the My Network Places folder, enter the full URL for the location and then fill in your logon credentials when prompted.

By default, Windows automatically populates the My Network Places folder with the names of all available WebDAV-enabled servers and shared network folders on the local network. You can manually add, remove, or rename a network place—on a local network, on a remote server, or on the Internet—by opening the My Network Places folder in Windows Explorer and clicking the Add Network Place shortcut.


From a technical standpoint, there are almost no differences between publishing to an intranet Web server and publishing to one on the Internet. The format of the URL that you use likely will be different—intranet servers are typically identified with a one-word name (such as http://marketing) rather than a fully qualified domain name (such as http://www.example.com). You'll likely encounter different security issues, including password-protected logons and possibly disk quotas (which limit the amount of disk space that a user can fill with Web content) on both types of server.

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