Windows ME: Portable tactics

When working on a notebook computer it's often hard to keep track of which changes have been made to which documents, or even to remember which documents need to be printed when you get back to the office. Or, maybe your primary concern is keeping power flowing for as long as you can while you're not in the vicinity of an outlet. Over the next couple of Here's How articles, I'll show you some neat little things you can do to make sure your offline work time is maximised and easily manageable.

SYNCHRONISING FILES

One tool that is frequently overlooked yet provides a convenient way of updating modified files is My Briefcase. It is a good tool to use if you regularly do a lot of work from remote locations yet need to keep your information centrally stored somewhere on a network drive at work. It will save having to keep copying and moving files around - and the best part is that, even if you don't have a notebook computer, you can synchronise Word documents or spreadsheets that are located on a floppy disk. Here's how it works.

My Briefcase relies on Windows Me's clock and date settings to function properly, so make sure that these are accurate (i.e., identical) on both your work PC and your notebook or home PC.

My Briefcase can be found on your Desktop and you can launch it by double-clicking on it. A Welcome screen should appear, which gives a quick overview of how it works; you need to click Finish to get rid of it.

Let's assume you're working on your notebook computer and want to take home word processing files A, B and C, which are located on your network drive. Open Windows Explorer, browse to the appropriate location, select the files and click Edit-Copy. Now go back to the Desktop, open My Briefcase and click Edit-Paste. These files are now ready to be taken away and modified.

VIEW DETAILS

When working in My Briefcase, it is best to have your folder view set to Details, for it contains a very important column heading called 'Status'. It is this column that will keep you apprised of your files' situation. When you come back to work in the morning, dock your notebook and open My Briefcase, and you will see that the Status column of these files displays the message 'Needs updating' (assuming you made changes to any of the files you took home with you). Conversely, if you couldn't be bothered making changes to any of the files because your favourite TV show was on, this column will read 'Up-to-date'.

Note: a file with a status of 'Orphan' does not have any ties and usually means it was either moved instead of copied to My Briefcase, or created in it.

It is important to clarify that if you make any changes to the original files or the files in My Briefcase, the status column will indicate that one of the files is out of sync. To update the files, you can click the Update button found on the left-hand side of the window, or you can individually update the files by selecting them, right-clicking and choosing Update. In FIGURE 1 you can see that this brings forth a dialogue box that displays, by use of an arrow as well as date stamps (comparable file sizes are not shown), which files were changed and need to be updated. The file in My Briefcase was changed and the original file needs to be updated; simply click the Update button if you agree.

TIP

If you decide you no longer need to keep any of the files in My Briefcase in sync with their copies, you can sever their ties by selecting the files, and choosing Briefcase-Split from original. The files will now be independent and classed as Orphans.

To use My Briefcase using a floppy disk, simply follow the above procedure; the only difference is that you will need to move My Briefcase from the Desktop to the removable media.

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