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Computer filing disaster!

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  • Computer filing disaster!


    My files on my computer are a complete mess. Some files are like 6 directories deep or something ridiculous.

    Thanks goodness for the search function in Windows, but this has got to stop!

    How do you organize files properly in a computer?

    And in Outlook - I have so many folders it's crazy.

    What's the magic solution???


  • #2
    Do not trust computers.

    Originally posted by trishacupra
    What's the magic solution???
    1. Reduce the number of files considered critical.
    2. Backup. Make print-outs.
    3. Do not trust computers. They may fail. They may be hacked.
    4. Relax. Enjoy the sun and the blue sky.


    • #3
      A few little ideas

      Hello Trisha,

      Originally posted by trishacupra
      How do you organize files properly in a computer?
      What's the magic solution???
      Nice coincidence, I am fighting with the same issue this days.

      Regarding email, I converted from Outlook to GMail, which completely solved the problem for me. No folders, no pain. I just archive everything and use Search to retrieve older emails.

      Regarding files on my computer, that's another story. I am just in the process of developing my own system, and here are some of my experiences:

      1) At first, I moved all my data folders into the new directory I called "-Archive", so I could start with an "clean" disk. After several weeks, I realised how sparsely I need to go there - it seems that I don't need much of which I stored on my disk previously

      2) I took inspiration from Gmail and GTD, and created a root folder with the name "@Inbox". All downloads, attachments and files I temporarily work on will go to that folder first. The intention is to not impulsively create some sub-sub directory, put the file there and then forget about it. From this @Inbox, I either delete the file or put it somewhere else. If I am not sure where to store the file or if I will ever need it later, I keep it there for a few more days, and more often that not I realize that I don't really need it and delete it.

      3) Another folder that works for me is called "!Projects". Here I create subfolder for each active GTD project I work on, which has some working files.

      4) Regarding reference files and various information from the web, I usually don't save them to my HDD. I just bookmark them with proper tags at .



      • #4
        Let's see....

        Email related to a particular project or client goes into an appropriate folder. Almost all general email gets tossed as I process my Inbox. Attachments that I expect to want after the project is over get saved out to reference files.

        Reference files are sorted by topic, using the broadest possible headings. I would love to have a desktop equivalent to al. Any suggestions?

        My own deliverables and invoices are filed by client. My file tree has folders for Word documents, spreadsheets, etc., but in practice almost everything ends up under the Word tree with the main deliverable for the project.
        (That is, I'll have a folder called Word/ClientName/ProjectName, but it actually contains images and spreadsheets as well as the main Word file.) A reorganization is order the next time I have time for productivity puttering.

        Anything that's readily available online gets tagged and Furled instead. I also use CiteULike, which is a tagging service for technical papers.

        Hope this helps,



        • #5
          Spurl is very good for managing web references and accessing them over the web (similar to and It's for bookmarking and assigning tags and categories to your bookmarks. But it also lets you search the *contents* of the web pages you have bookmarked and to mark a bookmark as private if you like.

          For files on my Mac, I use Quicksilver for searching, quickly appending (or prepending) text to files, etc. Maybe someone knows what the Windows counterpart would be - this is what it does:


          • #6
            I don't bother organizing anymore. I just drop everything into My Documents and use Copernic Desktop to find it.
            Other tools such as X1, Google desktop or Windows Desktop serach will do it as well.
            Why bother filing when you don't have to?


            • #7
              Tagging files with project names

              Ideally, I think there would be a tool for the file system that would allow you to tag files with a project name, like the GTD add-in does for Outlook. Windows does allow you to do this crudely in the Properties tab, but there's no convenient way to view the files by project. Does anyone know of such a utility?

              Copernic, Google Desktop, and the new MacOS allow you to search the whole filesystem, and MacOS even allows you to set up "folders" that shows the results of one of these searches, but this often results in more results than I'm interesed in.

              There's always a kludge, prepending the project name or number on the file, but then it gets complicated wif you're working with others who have their own naming system. Quick tagging with one or more projects would be perfect, since you could keep all of the files for active projects in a single folder, and move them en masse to an archive when the project is complete.

              Looks like there's something new on the Someday/Maybe list (just in time for the weekly review)


              • #8

                Not once has anyone mentioned implementing the 43 folders method on thier computer or some dervative there of. Interesting...
                Last edited by MsftMan; 06-10-2005, 01:48 PM.


                • #9
                  Why implement a 43 Folders system when one can use a computer-based calendar with the appropriate file attached? As I recall, that's what DA recommends.


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Brent
                    Why implement a 43 Folders system when one can use a computer-based calendar with the appropriate file attached? As I recall, that's what DA recommends.
                    I did say derivative... and that's exactly what you suggest. I was just trying to bring to light using GTD (analog or digital) methods in designing a system that works for a person.


                    • #11
                      2 Suggestions

                      Originally posted by ckennedy
                      I don't bother organizing anymore. I just drop everything into My Documents...
                      I understand why a total search application like Google Desktop or QuickSilver is appealing...but I have two reasons why you may still consider organizing your digital files.

                      1) Creating project backups is easy if everything is in a specific directory/folder. If you need to use the material for a future project, it's waiting in one place for you.

                      2) Additionally, if you have a separate partition on your drive that is *only* for the OS and your major applications, you can upgrade your OS without fear of data loss (stored on a second partition). You can even schedule the data partition for regular backups! Nice.

                      Hope this helps,


                      • #12
                        Digital organization

                        This issue is always a challenge and I can sympathize. In the past I've had too many file folders and to many subdirectories in a hierarchy. The fact is that folders and subfolders are not the solution. We quit using hierarchical databases in IT a long time ago (well except for legacy systems) in favor of relational databases. Unfortunately, about the only places we still rely on hierarchical data structuring is in our file systems and in application folders such as those used by outlook.

                        I use a combination of things that help tremendously. I'll start with outlook and the GTD add-in:

                        I have an archive.pst file that has a directory structure that looks like this:

                        @waiting for
                        sent mail

                        Instead of deleting stuff from my completed action lists they get moved to the archive folder. (I know there are people who think this is nuts, but I need an audit trail). Anything that is reference material only goes into refernce, and all sent-mail goes into sent mail.

                        If I need to find e-mail related to a project I either look in the reference folder and search by the project tag, or I use google desktop.

                        For desktop files, I use a combination of file naming conventions and high-level directory structures. Everything I work on stays in My Documents or a top or second level directory under my documents:

                        My Documents
                        MailAttachments {contains files stripped from e-mail by EZDetach}
                        My Archives {archives of last years documents}
                        My Direct Reports {sub-directory for each direct report}
                        My Expense Reports {contains PDF's of all expense reports until paid}
                        My Financials {quicken data, PDF scans of receipts, tax records}
                        My Itineraries {travel itineraries}
                        My io Documents {documents created by logitech digital io pen}
                        My Maps {Mind Manager Maps/Brainstorms}
                        My Music {MP3s}
                        My Outlook {My outlook PST files including annual files}
                        My Pictures {photographs}
                        My Presentations {Powerpoint presentations & speaches}
                        My Projects {1 subdirectory per project}
                        My Reference {Reference files (no subdirectory)}
                        My Software {palm apps, GTD add-in etc. 1 sub directory per}
                        My Status Reports {monthly status reports}
                        Scratch {Temporary directory}

                        Naming conventions:

                        I typically name files as follows:


                        This usually helps me search by project/client/content area as well as document type and date.

                        I've only recently started using google desktop and it has really increased my ability to manage things in this way as it searches both my desktop files and my email folders....

                        hope this helps


                        • #13
                          GTDish Filing

                          I used to put each current projects in its own folder, organized in turn into folders by focus area (20K level of organization). Each focus area folder (I did not think of them that way at the time, but that is what they were) contained both completed and active projects. That did not work well, because the percentage of active projects in each folder continuously decreases. Too much to look at, similar names, et cetera.

                          Now I have a folder for completed projects and for active projects. Completed projects are subdivided into focus areas for easy reference, but active projects are not. I genererally put a reference date in the folder title ("GSC June 05 Review"), which works well for both active and archived projects. I also have a reference folder, which has subfolders. This has all worked well, since it parallels the organization of material on my palm. I will probably start a someday/maybe folder soon, as a place to park materials for future projects, organized by focus area.


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by trishacupra

                            My files on my computer are a complete mess. Some files are like 6 directories deep or something ridiculous.

                            Thanks goodness for the search function in Windows, but this has got to stop!

                            How do you organize files properly in a computer?
                            I used the power of the alphabet. Just like the general reference file for the physical documents i store i've set up 26 alphabatised folders under "My Documents". Inside folder "T" i then have a subfolder for anything relevant ie. "Training". Couldn't be simpler.

                            Related to this i have a GTDtiddlywiki page that i used to store all manner of little bits of information about things (it also contains hyperlinks to very commonly used files). I also use "AppRocket" to search for things.
                            (ALT-Spacebar, type "Purchase orders", [Enter] : and that's me found what i want)


                            • #15
                              I'm fairly sure that on the FAST CD, David recommends your basic paper 43-file-folder setup. That's what I started using after hearing the CD, and I think it works great. Wish I had been doing it years ago.