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Reference filing - electronic documents

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  • Reference filing - electronic documents

    Interesting comments recently on reference filing.

    What do you do about filing of electronic articles? I've got lots of PDF and PS files as well as PPT's, WORD docs, etc.

    Do you set up an A-Z based electronic filing cabinet?



  • #2

    If you have Outlook you can then use Lookout and tell it which folders you want to have indexed. You will then not need the a-z folders because lookout will find them in just a few seconds (this includes office documents and pdfs as well).

    I have my work and personal emails split up - so I can archive to separate disks as I mentioned earlier. I have my MS Office/Photos/PDF's split up similarly for backup purposes as well.

    Lookout will search all of these - which is great if you can get around to giving all your digital photos a meaningful name (huge job for me I'm afraid and it may not happen until I 'retire')

    Finally, you can also have lookout in the taskbar if you are worried about always having Outlook open.

    Some people insist on using Outlook Express and are reluctant to change over to Outlook - however if they could see how fast and effective this 'so far' free add-in is I'm sure they would make the transition.

    I used to put shortcuts of all my office documents into Powermarks and this worked well but have to say that Lookout is the biz now!



    • #3
      I don't file individual articles (Word, PDF, etc.) alphabetically, but I do put documents into category style folders and organize those alphabetically. It's easy for me to go to the right category and then find my document. For me, categories becomes the main part of my organization, at least for computer files.


      • #4
        Eletronic docs

        Thanks for the comments.
        I do not use outlook at work (we're a Lotus Notes shop) or at home (don't like the security risks)

        Although email is certaily a big piece of the prolem, I was thinking more of documents, pdf's, pictures, web site archives, etc.



        • #5
          If I wasn't using Outlook (I also use Notes at the office) then my next choice would be using Powermarks if you needed software to locate files quickly. This essentially is a bookmark manager but you can cut and past links to the documents into powermarks and add keywords, then just enter the keyword and the resulting links to that document will appear quickly. In some ways it is more flexible for documents because of the ability to add the keywords. You can read more at

          If you search on gadgets section of this forum you will find quite a lot of discussion on this topic. There are many other creative suggestions that have come up in the last year/18 months.



          • #6
            Large number of articles


            I am a scientist who has worked in a number of different fields. Because of that I actually keep several hundred articles in pdf format for reference. For that I use an A-Z set of folders and file by the first author's family name. I give the article a title that goes like "LastName Year Journal," e.g "Smith 1999 Nature.pdf." Then I keep a database in EndNote, which is an excellent bibliography database program. That way I can search the database to determine which articles I need to look at. Because of where I work, I can generally access the online databases and download the reference information, so I don't have to enter all the reference information by hand.

            That may be considerably more sophistication than you need, but if you really need to keep a large number of articles, this system has worked well for me for over a decade.



            • #7
              Re: Reference filing - electronic documents

              Originally posted by DaveG
              Interesting comments recently on reference filing.

              What do you do about filing of electronic articles? I've got lots of PDF and PS files as well as PPT's, WORD docs, etc.

              Do you set up an A-Z based electronic filing cabinet?


              I used to file my electronic articles with the Windows A-Z folder model. Unfortunately, the whole hierarchy just becomes too unwieldy to keep up with that I spend more time updating what's in my folders instead of focusing on my work. I've basically done away with the whole traditional electronic filing concept for the most part. Here's how.

              First, I use Personal Brain for associating my files with applications. I drag and drop my PDF's, Word documents, Excel spreadsheets, PowerPoint presentations, etc. into Personal Brain and associate them as I see fit. This is really easy for electronic versions, but what if I have paper-based documents or references? Simple. First, write the current date on this document in the form YYMMDD. Do this for all documents discovered, read, copied, etc. on the current date. For example, if I have documents from Applied Optics, Physics Today and Nature, that I find today, 040825, then each of these will be labeled the same regardless of when the articles first appeared in print or published. Second, I grab a file-folder and label it 'References 040825' and all my references for today are stored in that folder. In Personal Brain, I create a thought of the same label, i.e. 'References 040825', and list all my paper-based references in the Notes section where it can easily be searched. Obviously, this physical folder would be appropriately filed in my A-Z cabinet. Later, when I perform my annual references dump, I can just look at all my 'References' thoughts in Personal Brain and decide whether to keep or chuck my paper references. For me, this is a lot easier than going through each and every folder in my cabinet.

              In conjunction with Personal Brain, I use another software package that searches within documents. Called X1, this application allows me to search within all types of documents, email messages, attachments, etc. Since Personal Brain stores its Notes in RTF, X1 complements its functionality.

              So there you have it. Personal Brain for associating electronic documents with each other, and X1 for searching within these documents. Personally, I think this is a powerful combination to add to the GTD arsenal.



              • #8
                Thanks for all these recommendations.

                Electronic filing has always at some point caused me some frustration. Typically I quickly stash a reference away electronically in Outlook or a file on my hard drive and when I try to find it later it can be challenging and time consuming. I typically sort email/documents by category (not alphabetical) but I have found it is very important to title the document so that it is clear its content as the default titling under "save as" typically only uses the first words/sentence of the document.

                I am also progressively getting a bit frustrated with my Palm's electronic filing. I have almost everything in Documents to Go- separated only by type if document (excel, word, power point etc). Hopefully I can find a better way to organize this ever growing database.

                Please keep the suggestions coming.


                • #9
                  Originally posted by kross1026
                  Thanks for all these recommendations.
                  Please keep the suggestions coming.
                  You might also look at SuperCat.


                  I have over 120 CDs filed in it, and it's been very helpful in finding files, pictures, and software when I need to reinstall something. It will also index any folder you want on your computer.

                  They also make a freeware version of software to print a listing of files in a directory.

                  HTH, Elena


                  • #10
                    A little late but heres my 0.02 worth

                    If you are using Notes at work ask your favourite techhie or Notes developer about document libraries you can create categories and topics (folders) for each project and or general reference then simply attach your image or document or whatever you want.

                    You can also create a blank document and write yourself some notes and leave it in the library

                    The attaching process is exactly the same as an attachment to an email so it will be familiar to you (another bonus)

                    Then if someone asks for a particular document in your library you simply email them the doclink instead of the whole document.

                    Another tool I have found really useful is the archiving facility its a great way to move stuff out of your active Notes into an archive that is very easy to access but doesnt clog up your system or chew up resources, server sppace etc.

                    Just check with your help desk to make sure archiving is permitted and activated.

                    Good luck


                    • #11
                      Reference Filing, Electronic

                      I have my computer files arranged in the same order as my paper files, which works well for me.

                      This was a tip I adopted from the Paper Tiger software that I use, and it's worked well for friends to whom I've recommended it.



                      • #12
                        Filing plus an indexing program

                        I used to spend a lot of time filing both electronic documents (e.g., PDF, Word, etc.) and also Outlook emails into folders.

                        About a year ago I started using an indexing program and found it to be a huge improvement. I use Enfish Pro ( which automatically indexes the content of each of these files for easy searching.

                        Since switching over I can easily find any file that I need by opening up Enfish Find and typing in a few words from the document, no matter where it is located on a local or network drive. Of course, it only handles files that have text content (not JPGs, GIFs, etc.)

                        99% of my emails (after reading them) end up in an @Reference folder in Outlook instead of A-Z files. I can find most of them in a few seconds using Enfish.

                        I've never used X1, but understand that it performs a similar function. Copernic is one that some others recommend.



                        • #13
                          My preference is to keep it simple. If you are using a Windows operating system, your computer has a simple utility program called Windows Explorer. It is often accessed by a "My Computer" button on the desktop. This is all you need for complete and easy electronic filing. Macintosh, etc. will have something similar.

                          Just create a single folder named "general reference" and dump everything in there. I would discourage creating subfolders, but that is always an option. It will sort alphabetically for you and you can perform searches by document name or contents. There is no need to differentiate by file type (Excel, Acrobat, Word, etc.). Let your computer do the work for you. File naming will be the same as with paper files. Think of something meaningful for the name.

                          There may not be any need to index everything with a separate program. The search function works or you can visually scan the filenames. This setup is very similar in concept to the system David Allen recommends for establishing a general reference filing system for paper documents using a filing cabinet and manila folders.