Your thoughts on: "Students don't know what files and folders are, professors say" (PC Gamer Article)

ZedClampet

Community Contributor
Check the article on PC Gamer called Students don't know what files and folders are, professors say

So it isn't very surprising to find that the average user just uses the Windows search feature to find things on their computer, but any sort of advanced user, like most PC gamers, is going to have to understand files and folders. What I find interesting is that looking at some of the downvotes in the comment section makes it clear that some people are offended by the very idea that they can't just use Search to do everything. But how are you going to find files that you don't know the name of? There are a lot of situations where I can't see you using Search, and this comes from someone who uses it quite a lot.

But what are your thoughts on the article? How often do you use File Manager? Search?
 
I don't really find it that surprising since the majority of students nowadays know more about navigating through apps and using them on a high level, because that is what they used growing up. I grew up with MS-D0S, and we used to edit config files, make bat files, and type in a command to run/set up the game. So we needed to know exactly where the folder was/make one ourselves.

I mainly use search if there is some weird file name I need to copy/paste and find location to, easy access programs, or when I need to type in Dxdiag because I am too lazy to make a shortcut. Other programs I find through my folders, on desktop, or through applications. I have one of my drives organized for application, games, downloads, mods, captures that I do not need to have on the main drive and it helps me feel a little more organized. I need to have some kind of structure or it will be hell when I want to clean up, find or edit files. Windirstat is also something I use whenever I want to check out if there is something old and dusty hiding somewhere.
 
Last edited:
I rarely actually go through folders any more except when working. Using Visual Studio's search function is often still slower than just finding the file myself, in large part because a lot of file names are very similar. And if I need a specific program.cs file I'll just find it myself instead of using the search function and then going through the two dozen results.

Then again, I rarely open any program or file that isn't pinned to my taskbar, has a tray icon or has just been downloaded.

Though I did recently have a problem where the start menu search suddenly only showed the installer for the update, but not the actual program any more. I had to delete the installer first before it worked again.
 

Alm

Jan 17, 2020
957
2,184
10,270
I'm getting old to the point where I'm starting to feel disconnected with the youth. I can imagine that they don't know about using folders (I never got too familiar with DOS back in the day) but I don't know what would be a right or wrong assumption on what to expect them to know.

Personally I think that knowing about folder trees etc helps with using a computer for work, so it's probably a disadvantage for them but I don't know if there are alternative ways of working that are equally as good.
 
I use File Explorer, which is pinned to my task bar, pretty much on a daily basis, for anything I want to find or check on, for moving files like photos, screenshots, saved games to a backup directory on my D: drive (which I have organized to my liking so it's easy to find all the stuff that I move around).

And when it comes to modding a game, it's critical I think for anyone to be able to manage files/folders especially for mods that require manual installation (as well as script extenders). Mod managers are great and they make modding relatively painless, but they don't cover everything. One sentence from that article that I found funny was: The Verge asked, "Your Steam games all live in a folder called 'steamapps'—when was the last time you clicked on that?
I'm in there all the time, mostly for the reason's I've already listed. I'd be lost if I couldn't move files around from folder to folder, or drive to drive.

I have used the search bar on occasion, but it's very rare, and only when I'm trying to find something a bit obscure, I ignore it otherwise.
 
any sort of advanced user, like most PC gamers, is going to have to understand files and folders
Hmm, dunno if most PC gamers are in that 'advanced user' bracket anymore. What I see in communities like Steam, GOG and sometimes here leads me to think otherwise.

I could launch every game I have from Galaxy or Playnite, plus the BigFish manager. The retailers will auto-update the game, or offer me an update. I can uninstall same way.

As consoles have become more PC-like in last 3 gens, so PC players have become more console player-like too—ie mostly uninterested in the tech. And that's the way it should be as each human gen makes progress—how many of y'all can milk a cow and save a meadow of hay?

how are you going to find files that you don't know the name of?
The question for a gamer only is probably more like, why would you need to? I think you'd need to be an advanced gamer, eg using mods or messing with save or config files, to need folder-file knowledge. That's a small percentage of gamers I imagine.

How often do you use File Manager? Search?
As I use my PC for work also, every day I use an advanced FM called Directory Opus. ~$100, which I've bought 3 times over the decades, and worth its weight in gold to me.

I use Windows search for finding Settings & such—for which it works very well—but not for file searching. One of DOpus' great features is you can setup views for different tasks, which are accessible via r-click on its Taskbar icon, and provide a bunch of folders in tabs all open at the desired local & remote locations, logged in if necessary.
 
Last edited:
  • Like
Reactions: Pifanjr
I don't know if there are alternative ways of working that are equally as good
Depends on the work. I remember a guy in to 90s, he thought Excel was the computer. They'd set him up so it booted into open Excel, where he did all his PC work. I can relate, I have various software for 1-2 specific purposes, and am blissfully unaware of all the other capabilities of it.

I've setup PCs for people who needed only say WordPad and Quicken. A couple of desktop program icons, a few desktop shortcuts to the files they used—these were the days desktop could crash occasionally, so not a place for the files themselves—and they were off and running.

'steamapps'—when was the last time you clicked on that? … I'm in there all the time
Last night as it happens, tweaking a mod for game I'm currently playing. But generally, not often—probably not even weekly.

My setup

C: 256GB SSD for Win10 OS & a lot of software—82GB free.
This is deliberately small to make my monthly disk images—just before the monthly MS OS updates—quick and easy, with a verified image in 30 minutes. These images mean if Windows or SSD crash n burn, I can be back up & running in ~30 minutes—proven twice back in '16 when Win10 was still a bit flaky. I recommend Macrium Reflect for this.

D: 4TB HDD for data—2.26TB free.
Most personal & work files go here into an organized folder structure. When it got fullish, I moved media files off it onto the external. C:'s images live here too.

G: 1TB SSD for games—189GB free.
I don't do much with this drive, no backup because it's not a big deal if it goes bust—just download & install current games again and start afresh, or resume if there's an online save.

External 4TB USB backup drive for minding D:'s data files and latest C: image.
Rarely accessed files—which are over 80% of all data files—are zipped to save a lot of space.

S: 64GB USB in router for our network needs.
Very handy, since we leave the router on all the time but switch our PCs off—no space consumed, no need to leave other PC on so other person can have access to shared files.
No need to backup since we both have copies of its contents for working on.

Biz server holds backup of vital data—upload speed is too slow for any more—but I'll probably move to using OneDrive 'sometime' soon, since I have it as part of our biz software.

First PC without an optical drive since '90!
 

Zloth

Community Contributor
For modding, I don't start in File Explorer! I start in Steam or GOG, then look up local files from there.

Screenshots are the most painful things to find. I know the game (hopefully), so I can get to the folder likely to have it fast. Beyond that, though... it depends. If it's a game with just a few screenshots, I can simply set File Explorer to show large icons and find it fast. For a game with a lot of shots, though, I need to use the search option. Like looking up 'that picture with Big Ben in Watch Dogs: Legion' - there's a couple of file names that start with "Big Ben" but "Distant Big Ben" is down in the D's and could be easily missed. Sometimes, even that can't help and I have* to just bring up the first shot and go through them one by one.

(* OK, 'have to' is really too strong. I enjoy looking through them quite a bit, actually. It is rather inefficient, however.)

I rarely use search for much else, though. Maybe changing my default browser at work. Maybe looking up some file that I've completely lost.

Oh, and it's windows-key-E to start File Explorer now. Though I just noticed that right clicking on F.E. in the task bar shows my game album folder as an option - might need to start using that! (I set the folder up as a library.)

As for how often gamers know about folders and whatnot, that depends on the game. I bet a lot of Skyrim owners know them. Games that are popular with older gamers will be in the same boat. The ones that only care to play two or three different games over the course of years, probably not so much.
 
For a game with a lot of shots, though, I need to use the search option
Make life easier for yourself and get an image viewer—there are a number of excellent free ones.

My fav is FastStone Image Viewer, but others I've used and liked are Zoner Photo Studio, IrfanView, and XnView. You can also do basic editing with 'em.

PS if you want to somewhat-advanced edit them, Paint.net doesn't bury you under a forest of very advanced unnecessary stuff.

(I set the folder up as a library.)
Oh yes, should have mentioned above: for file navigation, 'Libraries' and 'Jump Lists' are a major time saver. Plus of course pinning to Taskbar, and pinning within Taskbar icon.
 
  • Like
Reactions: Pifanjr
I bet a lot of Skyrim owners know them.

Since Skyrim has such a broad appeal, I'm willing to bet the majority of Skyrim owners does not know much about files or folders.

In fact, this post claims 86% of all Skyrim sales was on a console: https://gamefaqs.gamespot.com/boards/615805-the-elder-scrolls-v-skyrim/64542105

And in this article, Valve says only 8% of Skyrim players mod the game: https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.wired.com/2015/04/steam-skyrim-paid-mods/amp

Considering you can add mods directly from the Steam Workshop without ever going into files or folders, even the 8% who has modded the game might not know anything about them.
 
  • Like
Reactions: Brian Boru
Jan 22, 2020
379
944
2,770
I was very briefly scandalised by the article in question, but once my fainting spell had passed and my housemaid finished fanning my brow and loosening my corsets, I got over it.

Modern smart devices make a habit of obscuring their file storage and structure, Apple devices seeming particularly unwilling to allow any granular control of files. As strange as it seems to those of us who remember navigating through nested subfolders in the CUI of our 386 or Amiga 500, a standard smartphone user who handles all their documents, images and videos with the software already on the device just doesn't need to know where each file lives, that's what the gallery app is for, or that's why they use Google's suite of office software.

I have to imagine that the dragging and dropping of icons in early GUIs like Windows would have seemed like pre-schooler friendly tech to proper old-timers used to handling it all via command lines.
 
Last edited:
old-timers used to handling it all via command lines
Eh, some of us old-timers used XTree Gold, a wonderful program and file interface which sat comfortably on top of DOS. I went back to it from Windows 3.0 due to constant Win crashing.

XTG was sort of a halfway house between DOS and Windows—a UI, just not GUI.


86% of all Skyrim sales was on a console
I am amazed. If ever a game was made for PC, surely Skyrim was.
 
  • Like
Reactions: Mazer and mainer
Aug 26, 2021
26
39
70
There's a clear divide between the way PC usage was taught to students ten years ago versus now. The ways in which Windows and other OS's have "streamlined" the process of computer usage is the real core here. If a kid grew up on OSX and then switched to Windows 10 - or mainly used Android or iOS before switching to a computer that requires real usage of folder structure, I think it could be incredibly challenging.

If they want to get and maintain a job, however, it'll pretty much come with the turf that they'll have to at least somewhat understand folder structure. However, what might be second nature to anyone here might be totally foreign to someone depending on their first OS, upbringing, and experience. Couple that with the "streamlining" of the OS experience being currently implemented, and it'd be easy to see why that's happening.

Very glad I cut my teeth as an early tween importing MUGEN characters, lol.
 

Zloth

Community Contributor
Incredibly challenging?? I think it's maybe 5 minutes of learning, tops. The concept isn't hard, it's the question of whether the person sees a need to learn it. Give them a reason, and they'll learn it in no time. If they see no reason, though, then it will be like trying to teach me how to clean a spark plug.
 
  • Like
Reactions: Pifanjr
For modding, I don't start in File Explorer!

When modding a game I don't start in File Explorer either. The majority of the time I use a mod manager like Vortex or ME3Tweaks while getting my mods from the Nexus, especially when doing a lengthy mod list. For some games that I only use 1 or 2 mods, I might use the Steam Workshop (if they have the mods I'm looking for), click the "subscribe" button and done. Easy Peasy.

When manually installing mods, which is a bit rare for me to do, I do use File Explorer to navigate the various folders to install files, and in some cases, overwrite files. I also find File Explorer handy if I have to troubleshoot a mod and check to see if it's installed correctly. File Explorer is just a tool for me, when modding, much like Loot is a tool; I only use it in specific circumstances.

The whole point of me mentioning modding was because I feel that it's important to understand the structure of files & folders when modding, relating to the original article about students not understanding that structure, and was the topic of this post. There are times when I don't communicate what I'm thinking with enough clarity to express what I'm actually thinking, so apologies for any misunderstanding.

And in this article, Valve says only 8% of Skyrim players mod the game: https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.wired.com/2015/04/steam-skyrim-paid-mods/amp

Looking at that article, I notice it was written on 4/27/2015, a bit over 6 years old. Considering that on the Nexus, that Skyrim has over 66.5 thousand mods with over 1,8 billion downloads; and Skyrim SE has over 39.8 thousand mods with over 933.2 million downloads, that the chances pretty good that the percent of players modding Skyrim now is much higher.
 
Super loving that we're sharing and discussing PCG articles here now :)

I read the other day that zoomers don't know what the save icon refers to, because they don't know what floppy disks are and it made me feel REALLY old :D

I can remember back when floppy disks were really floppy. Like the 5 1/4" size that wobbled when you tried to insert them in the floppy drive.
PbUqLH6.jpg
 
There are times when I don't communicate what I'm thinking with enough clarity to express what I'm actually thinking
I don't understand, what do you mean? :unsure:

When modding a game I don't start in File Explorer either
My cautious nature usually means I'll pop into DOpus first and make a copy of whatever main files the mod will update. Maybe a leftover of an accident ~20 years ago, which left a damaged modding psyche—therapist didn't have a mod for that :(

Skyrim has over 66.5 thousand mods
I'm quite happy if I see over 10 mods for a game, excluding cosmetic ones, while 30-50 lets the good times roll. 66K is crazy! Imagine being a Completionist, where you have to install them all…

floppy disks were really floppy
I never used the 8" one in your pic, but I was so delighted to upgrade my 5¼s from 360K to 720K!
 

Zloth

Community Contributor
... but I was so delighted to upgrade my 5¼s from 360K to 720K!
Was this "upgrade" accomplished with a hole punch? ;)

I read the other day that zoomers don't know what the save icon refers to, because they don't know what floppy disks are and it made me feel REALLY old :D
"Zoomers"? Is that official? Microsoft Teams ain't gonna be happy about that.
 
I feel it is overlooking one thing, not all students are young. I was a student 6 years ago and I know all about this stuff having lived through it. True, not all old people were interested in computers as much as I was/am, but I just felt it needed to be said.
Also I assume IT students know all about files.

If you only use a phone you may not know about the file system but even my mum who doesn't understand computers knows about them.
 
I don't understand, what do you mean? :unsure:
Ha!:D

My cautious nature usually means I'll pop into DOpus
What's a DOpus?

I never used the 8" one in your pic, but I was so delighted to upgrade my 5¼s from 360K to 720K!
I never used the 8" disks either, though I remember seeing them. I do remember a couple of my first PCs had the 5 1/4 disk drives. What a pain those disks were, I ruined a few by accidently bending them.
 
  • Like
Reactions: Brian Boru

TRENDING THREADS