Interface Anatomy

In the above screenshot, you see Microsoft’s labels, and then the text:

C:\Users\Kristofer\Documents>

Your text will look a little different. This text is the prompt. The > indicates that Command Prompt is ready (and prompting) for you to type a command. Everything before the > is the name of a directory. A directory is like a folder except without the folder icon. Think of a directory as the behind-the-scenes full name of a folder. Most of the time, we can say “folder” and “directory” interchangeably.

Your folders and files are organized using a file system. The file system keeps track of what directory a folder icon represents, and what directory a file belongs to. Another name for where a folder/file is in the file system is path. We can say my command prompt is pointing to the C:\Users\Kristofer\Documents folder/directory/path. Maybe I have a picture in my documents called “family.png”. If so, then I could say that file’s path is C:\Users\Kristofer\Documents\family.png.

Windows Command Prompt keeps track of a working directory for you to reference all your commands from. Currently my working directory is C:\Users\Kristofer\Documents. If I ran a command to create a file here, it would create that file in my current working directory. If I can a command to show me a list of all files here, it would show me all files in C:\Usrs\Kristofer\Documents.

You’ve probably noticed by now that Windows uses backslashes \\ instead of forward slashes / for the path delimiters. Website URLs and most other operating systems use forward slashes. In Windows, storage drives are given a letter and the file system organizes per drive. Therefore full paths always begin with a drive letter and a colon, such as: C:\X:\.


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