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  • How to organize your computer folders and files?

    How do you organize your folders and files on your computer? I don't really need to file much actual paper in my work, I just have a simple accordion file for my personal papers like my birth certificate, and a folder for manuals and warranties.

    But I have multiple hard-drives full of computer files that I need to get control of.

    What's the best system that works for you? (I use a Mac, by the way, if there's any software that helps. But mostly I'm looking for a structure.)

  • #2
    Some things to consider:
    • Do you really need a structure (for pure reference)? Spotlight will find anything...
    • Several sorting criteria: authorship, topic, 10k-project, age, 20k-area, client, sdmb/ current/ done, activity (reading, vieweing, studying, working through)
    • project support materials vs general reference
    • privacy
    • make it easy to backup
    • how will your structure look like in 5, 10, 25 years?

    Comment


    • #3
      The answer to "How" is "Yes."

      What system makes sense to you? What criterion do you use when trying to locate something?

      Comment


      • #4
        Dtpo

        Originally posted by trishacupra View Post
        How do you organize your folders and files on your computer?

        What's the best system that works for you? (I use a Mac, by the way, if there's any software that helps. But mostly I'm looking for a structure.)
        I now use DevonThink Pro Office (DTPO) to organise files on my Mac. It copes with a heck of a lot of the files - it doesn't cope at all with some, such as Excel or Pages. I generally make PDF versions of files that I want to store in DTPO to get over this limitation.

        Before DTPO I used an Alphabetic system just as I did for my physical files - if I had a physical folder for Self, I also had a computer folder for Self. I do much the same in DTPO as I have both physical and electronic files for the work I do.

        Comment


        • #5
          I generally structure my files like so:

          /Documents
          :: this folder contains files that I, or someone on my team, created. I try to keep the root folder empty except for the following subfolders:


          /Documents/Clients (each client gets their own folder under this one)
          :: for context, I am a software consultant; each clients folder looks like this:
          ./docs/requirements
          ./docs/design
          ./code
          ./status (project management stuff -- status reports, etc)


          /Documents/Personal
          :: Stuff that I keep for myself - each major project usually gets its own folder, then depending on the type of project, those subfolders might be further subdivided. For example, if it is a software project, it will have subfolders for requirements, source code, binaries, 3rd-party libraries, etc; whereas, my "Writing" folder is flat.


          /Documents/MyCompany
          :: Stuff that I do for work, but is not specific to a client. This is flat, with the exception of I have a 'Team' folder which contains a subfolder for each person that reports to me.


          /eBooks
          :: Usually PDF's; information downloaded from external sources


          /Downloads
          /Music
          /Videos
          /Pictures
          :: self-explanatory


          This is probably a lot more folder-happy than a lot of people will recommend.

          I've tried it both ways, but I've discovered that I am much more efficient when I am not dependent on a search tool to find everything. Also, for certain things (software projects, for example), a well-defined folder hierarchy is crucial. Finally, a flat folder structure might get you in trouble with file naming if you don't pay careful attention to that "Do you want to overwrite that file?" dialog.

          Windows Vista apparently has a new "Smart Folders" feature where you can save your searches as if they were actual folders on your hard drive, but I have not played with it yet. I imagine Mac has something similar (Apple seems to always be ahead of Microsoft in regard to this kind of stuff). This might be a useful way to simulate a folder structure without actually having to create and manage one; a possible downside would be that you have less fine-grained control over the contents.

          Since OS X was built on top of unix, you should also have the capability of creating symbolic links to your files (similar to windows shortcuts, but WAY better). This would allow you to keep your files wherever you want, then you can create folders than just contain links to the files. When you finish the project, you can delete the folders but the original files will stay where they were.

          Hope something here helps.

          Comment


          • #6
            Twc

            Michael Linenbergers book, Total Workday Control has some great tips for MS Outlook users on filing. Its the best book on Outlook use I've found.

            Comment


            • #7
              I happen to have just written an article about this. I try, as best as possible, to follow DA's recommendation for physical files and just maintain an A-Z folder system. It's really amazing how much spotlight takes away your need to organize files into folders that are 10 levels deep. The only think I do differently is that I group the folders into two, broad categories: projects and reference.

              Hope that helps,

              -Grey

              Comment


              • #8
                re: Getting Control of the File System

                I felt exactly the same way which is why I eventually developed the Ready-Set-Do! file-system approach to GTD for the mac. I just got sick and tired of having a paper-based GTD setup in order when my digital system lacked those same clean edges. I'm obviously biased toward my own approach but what I like most about it is that it helps me process every file on my computer, defining each one on the front end, giving each one a name that more clearly designates what it is (e.g. tax form f8863.pdf --> 2008 Form 8863 Tax Form.pdf), and filing them in appropriate places on my desktop (e.g. Actionable, Projects, Read-Review, etc.). Ready-Set-Do! just walks me through this each day.

                It took me awhile to go through everything on my computer but my email inbox stays at zero every day now and my file system now more appropriately matches what these files mean to me. There are other great programs out there but this is the only approach I know that actually coaches a user through it all—and that specifically focuses on the file-system. Give it a shot and let me know what the results are. Even after a day or two of use I guarantee you'll start feeling better about the stuff on your computer. It may even create new ways of thinking about how you use your file system.
                Last edited by Todd V; 07-01-2011, 11:24 PM.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by Brent View Post
                  The answer to "How" is "Yes."

                  What system makes sense to you? What criterion do you use when trying to locate something?
                  I have to agree with Brent here, the main thing is to pick a system that works for you.

                  A few tips that make my system work:

                  (1) I use google desktop, so that if i can't find something, google usually can.

                  (2) My default sort criterion for folders is reverse date so that the newest stuff is at the top.

                  (3) I try to have each folder at the same level in the structure start with a different letter. This way I can drill down quickly with the keyboard instead of using the mouse.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Computer Files

                    I think the key to organizing files on the computer (or otherwise) is thinking about how you think.

                    For example, I run 3 different websites (Christian Ecommerce) and I start out by having a different folder for each website. I do this because when I'm working on a project, I first identify which website I'm working on. Then I create folders within these folders for each thing I think I may need to file.

                    IE (main folder with subfolders)

                    Christian Gifts.com
                    ---->images
                    ------->braclets
                    ------->necklaces
                    ------->charms
                    ------->pictures
                    ------->(etc.)
                    ---->product info
                    ------->braclets
                    ------->necklaces
                    ------->charms
                    ------->pictures
                    ------->(etc.)
                    ---->Next Title, etc.


                    This may not work for everyone, but this is how I organize my massive amount of files. This is how I think. Just stop and think about your thought process.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Todd V View Post
                      I felt exactly the same way which is why I eventually developed the Ready-Set-Do! file-system approach to GTD for the mac. I just got sick and tired of having a paper-based GTD setup in order when my digital system lacked those same clean edges. I'm obviously biased toward my own approach but what I like most about it is that it helps me process every file on my computer, defining each one on the front end, giving each one a name that more clearly designates what it is (e.g. tax form f8863.pdf --> 2008 Form 8863 Tax Form.pdf), and filing them in appropriate places on my desktop (e.g. Actionable, Projects, Read-Review, etc.). Ready-Set-Do! just walks me through this each day.

                      It took me awhile to go through everything on my computer but my email inbox stays at zero every day now and my file system now more appropriately matches what these files mean to me. There are other great programs out there but this is the only approach I know that actually coaches a user through it all—and that specifically focuses on the file-system. Give it a shot and let me know what the results are. Even after a day or two of use I guarantee you'll start feeling better about the stuff on your computer. It may even create new ways of thinking about how you use your file system.
                      Have you adapted your system for use on a PC?

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        re: RSD on the PC

                        Great question. To-date I have not adapted Ready-Set-Do! for the PC and I'm not so sure it would be as easy to do. Part of what makes it work so well on the Mac is that Mac OS X supports long file names -- up to 250 characters in length -- and the Applescript programming language. Something similar on the PC may be possible but it would have to be done through the more traditional programming languages on the PC and it would have to be possible to access and change filenames frequently. As long as that is possible I'm sure it could be done. Right now I have so many other things going on I just don't have the time to explore this possibility.

                        I am, however, working on a feature for RSD that allows PC users, iPhone users, Blackberry users, etc. (anything with email access) to interact with their RSD system on their home Mac via email.
                        Last edited by Todd V; 07-01-2011, 11:42 PM.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          I use A-Z and Subjects

                          I use an A-Z system for my Research folder that includes a lot of information, but I also have separate folders for categories that I reference frequently:

                          Here are a few:

                          -Door 41 Solutions (my business)
                          -Family Reunion
                          -Green Folder (finances)
                          -Labels
                          -Recipes
                          -Someday-Maybe
                          -Stationary

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