Organizing your files:

Before you use my Arachnophilia additions (or any program for that matter) to create stationery, there is one thing you should do - organize your stationery files.  Why?   Well as those with large stationery collections already know - there can be a lot of files involved and a good organizational structure can make working with these files far easier.

Below, I'll cover three different organizational structures - each has it's advantages and disadvantages - you should read through this entire page to decide which is the method for you.  Which ever method you end up choosing, you will in all likelihood want to make at least some changes to your organizational structure.

By default, Outlook Express installs its stationery in C:\Program Files\Common Files\Microsoft Shared\Stationery with every file in that one directory. Even if you find this "all in one" organizational structure appealing, you will most likely find navigating to this location to be a huge pain - therefore no matter which organizational structure you choose you will probably want to move the location of your stationery folder.

Unfortunately - Outlook Express contains no provision for actually doing this, so to let OE know where the new stationery folder is we'll have to make a quick trip into the registry.  Now, don’t get nervous - I know the registry can be an intimidating place, but we’re only going to make one very small change and I’ll walk you through it.   If you are really uncomfortable working in the registry - you can just ignore this section and leave the Stationery folder where it is - it'll just be a little more work to get at sometimes.

For this example, we're going to assume that you want to create a new stationery folder at C:\Stationery - that's certainly easier to get at than the old location.  If you are creating the stationery folder in a different place, please substitute the actual path in the appropriate places below.

To make the change: Start Regedit (Start | Run | Type "regedit"). Note: It is a good idea before making any changes to the registry to back it up first just in case. To make a backup copy of your registry, in Regedit go to File | Export then export the entire thing. Once that is done, navigate down to

HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE \ SOFTWARE \ Microsoft \ Shared Tools \ Stationery

In this branch of the registry, you will see two items: Backgrounds Folder, and Stationery Folder. By default, both are set to C:\Program Files\Common Files\Microsoft Shared\Stationery. Double click on the Stationery Folder entry and change it to represent the location of your new stationery folder (i.e., C:\Stationery).   Now, Double Click on the entry for Backgrounds Folder - once again change this to the location of you new stationery folder. Close Regedit and you’re done. Note, be sure to have Outlook Express closed when you make this change.

So why did we do that?  We moved the stationery folder to make it much easier to get at and we told the registry where that new location was so that Outlook Express knows where to look when it loads stationery.

If you actually use any of the stationery currently located in the old Stationery folder - you may be wondering how to use it now.  Just go to the old stationery folder, select everything and then move it all into the new folder. I'd recommend just copying the contents of that folder to the new location rather than moving the entire folder itself to a new location - this is just in case any future upgrades to OE that you may download still expect to find the stationery folder in the default location, the last thing you need is an install error because it can't find a folder.

Organizing the files

All in one:

The way the stationery folder is organized by default puts every file into the one folder.  Every HTML file, graphics file or music file goes into the single folder.   As you might imagine, manually locating any specific files in this folder can be a huge pain - especially when you have a large stationery collection.

However, this organizational structure does have it's advantages also.  For starters, everything is in one place - making your stationery collection easy to manage as a whole.  You know where everything is - it's in that folder.  If you distribute your stationery, by uploading to a website for instance, having all the files in one folder makes the task of zipping them for uploading much easier than some of the other organizational structures.

As well, Outlook Express seems to prefer this method.  There are several cases where doing certain things in OE require that either the file being referenced by a certain bit of code reside in the stationery folder itself or you need to do a bit of extra coding.  Although this extra coding (to produce a full path to let OE know where the file in question actually is) is quite easy in Arach - if you organize your files in this method you generally don't need to worry about it.

All in one approach:



Easy to find files as a group Extremely Difficult to find individual files
Easy to zip up files for uploading Difficult to work with
OE's default organization - already done Nearly impossible to use with large collections
Recommendation:  For those with very small stationery collections


Sub-folders by file type:

The next major way to organize your files is to divide them into subfolders organized by file type.  With this structure you have all the Stationery HTML files in one folder, the Graphics in another and the Music in a third.  In Explorer, this would look something like:

C: -
     | - Stationery
                 | - Graphics
                 | - Music
                 | - Et Cetera

When your files are organized in this manner, they become much easier to work with.   It allows you to quickly locate any specific files.  Unlike the "all in one" method - if you need to find a particular image file with this structure, you know right away that it will be located in the Graphics folder - thus eliminating up to 2/3rds of the files you'd otherwise have to look through.

Again,  there are some disadvantages to this method as well.  If you save a large quantity of stationery from Newsgroups or email - the graphics of the saved stationery ends up in the "stationery" folder rather than the Graphics folder - this is because of some peculiarities in the Save as Stationery option - see my site for more information.   If you plan on uploading your stationery to a website, or just zipping it for storage, this organizational structure will make that task much more difficult as you may need to make changes to the paths saved in the stationery file. Finally, if you have a very large stationery collection, these folders can still become overly large making it difficult to locate individual files.

This is the organizational structure that I use personally. 

Subfolders by file type approach:



Highly structured -  easy to find specific files More difficult to zip for uploading
Relatively easy to use and maintain Large collections can still become unwieldy
Saving stationery doesn't sort to proper folders
Recommendation:  For those with small to medium stationery collections who do not wish to upload to a website


Subfolders by theme:

The final organizational structure discussed here is one where the stationery files are divided by theme into subfolders below the main stationery folder.  All the files pertaining to a certain stationery are in the specific subfolder.  In Explorer, this structure will look something like this:

C: -
     | - Stationery
                 | - Theme 1
                 | - Theme 2
                 | - Et Cetera

The advantage of this structure is that all the needed files for each stationery are kept together.  As well it makes it very easy to locate a stationery for a particular event (ie: Christmas).  This structure is probably the easiest to use and maintain for those with large stationery collections, or those who intend to zip and upload their stationery.

The disadvantage of this is that once again it can be difficult to locate a certain file - particularly images or music: if you can't remember what stationery you used them with, you won't know which folder to look in.

Subfolders by theme approach:



Highly structured - easy to find specific stationery Sometimes difficult to locate specific files
Relatively easy to use and maintain Possible problem with sound in OE5
Very easy to zip files for uploading
Recommendation:  For those with large collections or anyone who intends to upload stationery to the web



As you can see, there is no one "proper" way to organize your files, and this page only scratches the surface of possible organizational structures - there are as many different ways of organizing stationery files as there are people who use stationery.   For instance, you may wish to "mix & match" some of the above structures and organize your HTML files by theme but keep a central location for all music and graphics files - that's fine too.  The main thing is to think about your stationery goals ahead of time and organize your files in a way which will help you accomplish that.  Believe me, it's a lot easier to come up with a new organizational structure ahead of time then it is to try to change once you already have a large collection.

One important thing to keep in mind is that the way you choose to organize your files may impact on the way you work with Arach and my toolbars. For starters, if you keep your graphics and/or sounds in a separate folder from the actual stationery files, they must be located on the same drive as your stationery folder. You cannot, for example, have your Stationery folder on drive C: and your Graphics folder on Drive D.

Why? When you save a file in Arachnophilia, the folder where it is saved becomes the default folder for that piece of stationery.  This, however, does not extend to saving drive letters. As far as Arachnophilia is concerned, you only have one drive, thus when you insert a graphic or sound from a different drive, the proper path does not get saved and as a result, OE doesn't know where to look to find your file.

The only other major impact of your organizational structure will be the way you use one of Arach's built in features - Auto-Copy.  Please see the page on this feature for more information.