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Definition: folder

The logical subdivision of a storage device, which gives the user the illusion of a paper file folder with endless capacity (the shape of a folder icon is a paper folder). Folders are created by both software and users, and all of storage is a hierarchy of folders. Each folder contains files (documents, songs, photos, etc.) and other folders (subfolders), all of which expand to accommodate content, limited generally only by the capacity of the drive.

The operating system creates default folders (documents, music, photos, etc.) upon installation, and applications create folders for their own operations. Users can create folders ad infinitum.

Most applications save to the default folders; however, with extended use, the folder can contain many files, all of which are presented to the user in a single list. If the files are broken up into folders, it is easier to keep track of things. In addition, business users need to organize in hierarchies. Knowing how to create, delete, move and copy files and folders is essential to master the computer.

Folder Terminology (Directories)
The folder metaphor was introduced on the Xerox Star in 1981; later popularized by the Mac and Windows. In the Unix, Linux and DOS environments, a folder is a "directory," and the terms "folder" and "directory" are used synonymously. It is not uncommon for people to interchange the two terms in the same sentence. See files vs. folders, file and Win Folder organization.

Folders on the Desktop
The file folder is the analogy. This excerpt from a Mac desktop shows two files (top) and two folders (bottom).

The Manila Folder Metaphor
The manila-colored paper file folder is the icon used to represent folders in Windows.