02 October 2007

Organise files on your hard disk

Keeping your files organised is very important... but hard. Some people argue that in our age of desktop search we don't need to worry about folder structures. I disagree.

Many times, when I ask people for a copy of a file, they cannot find it. They realise that they aren't organised. They swear that they will go through and organise their files asap. Of course, when I ask them for another file a few months later, they cannot find it. Keeping you files organised is hard.

So, here is my guide to file organisation.

Keep your desktop clean

The desktop should only contain a few shortcuts to often used programs and the recycled bin. No files should be permanently stored on your desktop. None. Think of the desktop as your workspace. You cannot work efficiently if it is cluttered. As your workspace, the desktop should temporarily house files that you are currently working on. When you are done with the files, they should be archived - moved off the desktop to another folder for permanent storage.

To My Documents or not to My Documents, that is the question
Some people do not like the My Documents folder, usually located here: C:\Documents and settings\YourUsername\My Documents\
There are a few problems with the default path. The spaces in the pathname can be problematic for scripts. It is a silly design choice by Microsoft. If you are going to use the default path, put double quotation marks around the pathname to ensure that your scripts will work. Another problem with the default My Documents location is that (by definition) it is a well known storage area and is often targeted by malicious programs, such as viruses and trojans.

You may change the location of the My Documents folder by right-clicking on it, selecting Properties, and changing the Target Folder Location. My advice is to create a folder called Docs (C:\docs\), and to use this as your My Documents folder.

One Folder to Rule them All
Placing all important documents and files in one folder:
1. makes backing up files easy - just sync one folder and you're done
2. makes files easy to find
3. makes archiving easy

I name my top level folder according to the year, eg., 2006, 2007 etc. All documents to do with work go into this folder (not audio or video files). My 2007 folder currently contains the subfolders DMDX, ERC, Experiment, Greece Trip, MMM, NCN, PDF library, Praat scripts, Reading group, Thesis, UWS Ethics. Of course, your subfolders will differ depending on your purpose. Every day before I go home, I sync the 2007 folder on my laptop with the 2007 folder on my USB flash drive. When I get home, I sync the 2007 folder on my USB flash drive with the 2007 folder on my home PC.

A Year folder allows you to archive files that are no longer being used - for e.g., when 2008 begins, create a new, empty 2008 folder and start organising yourself again. From this point on, sync the 2008 folder every day. There will be some files from 2007 that you will need to keep working on, such as thesis.doc. Simply, use file versioning and create a new file (e.g. thesis02.doc) in your new 2008\Thesis\ folder. Leave your 2007 files where they are.

Using a Year folder has the added bonus of archiving your important documents in an intuitive, chronological order. This folder structure allows you to see which experiments were conducted, pdf files read, documents written, MMMs given, presentations prepared, ethics amendments approved, and so on, during which year.

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Ruby said...

Just like in the old office setup, you have to make sure that things are organized so that it will be easier for you to track important information and urgent documents. For software and documents kept online, organizing your hard disk can help you manage all your confidential information easier. When you know what files are to be given priority, you can easily locate them on your hard disk.


Clayton Steadham said...

Organizing files will make it easier for you to determine which files are to be kept and which ones can be deleted after a certain period. Most especially for offices, they must have organized files and documents so that it will become easier to classify and locate important files. Their PC's must be connected properly so that they can also monitor those who’ll be using the stored documents. :)