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How to access the Desktop and Network Paths in Windows
Last updated at 3:54 pm UTC on 14 January 2006
Question How to access the Desktop and Network Paths in Windows February 05, 2004: Is there an (easy) way in Windows to

Answer Andreas Raab: [To refer to the Desktop (or the user document folder)?]
HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Explorer\Shell Folders
Just grab the Desktop or Personal entry from there.

[To enumerate network paths?] Not unless they're mapped to drives.

Answer David Lewis: Network paths would just be mapped to drive letters, which from Squeak are:
 (FileDirectory on: '') directoryNames
An agreed naming convention for the the drive letter assignments and directory names may be all that's needed in many situations

Question Bert Freudenberg: I thought drive letters are a thing of the past now? Isn't the Explorer structure mapped to the file system? On MacOSX, for example, the desktop folder is simply "$(HOME)/Desktop". Network shares can be found at "/Network" (which is managed by the automounter). That means I can access the shared folder on a remote Windows machine by simply pointing my Squeak file list to "/Network/WORKGROUP/MACHINE/SharedDocs".

In case MS didn't make it so simple, maybe the Win32 directory primitives could be extended to return the current list of available network shares when given the directory "\\"? Because you can then browse a remote machine by opening "\\MACHINE", right?

Answer Yes, you're probably right. My Windows system here at home is pretty old. But network shares still do get mapped to drive letters, and it's common in multi-user situations to have people understand that "the departmental shared files are on the Y drive" and so forth. So I'm just guessing that for a setup like a classroom, it might be easy to adopt a naming convention with a "drive letter" for the shared files.

If the machines in the classroom are reasonably up to date, the "/Network/..." naming convention is certainly easier to understand and would be a better way to go. I'm assuming that the original questions were based on setting up a classroom for kids, so the simpler it is, the better.

Interesting off topic question: which naming convention is actually easier for a kid to understand quickly, a "drive letter," or a location in a directory tree? I have a hunch that the directory tree concept makes sense to someone who has been using computers for years, but might not be intuitive for someone using a computer for the first time. And even further off topic, it's really interesting to me to see how we tend to get so accustomed to ideas like "files" and "directories" that we end up thinking that these are real things that naturally occur in the world, rather than historical artifacts of early attempts at designing operating systems. We get these ideas so deeply burned into our brains that we end up expecting (for example) that there should be a good cross-platform interface to file systems on all operating systems, because in the back of our minds we think that the files are real things that just happen to be connected to different operating systems. My own brain is pretty well burned in by this point, so it takes me a long time to recognize these preconceptions (Squeak helps a lot with this). But I'll bet that a kid will encounter these things with a much different set of perceptions, for which my familiar metaphors of "files" and "directories" would not be helpful.