43 Folders

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What is the best way to organize folders on my computer?

I think this counts as a "productivity" question, because I find myself getting bogged down rummaging through my files trying to find what I need.

In the past I have set a directory structure under My Documents like so:

My Documents

This has changed over the years and I've added to it and have so much stuff in certain places that I can't combine similar items. I don't know what I am really trying to ask. What do you think is the proper, most efficient, way to organize your personal files on a computer? Keep in mind that I don't care about where things are installed. This is strictly about data. So in the example above, my software folder keeps backup disc images of software, games, etc. It also contains downloaded software such as drivers, install files, etc. The audio and video keep mp3s, movies, tv shows and various clips.

If you know of a better way, I'm all ears. How do you organize your files?


Berko's picture

The Definitive Digital Filing System to End All Digital Filing S

That's TDDFSEADFS to those of us cool kids in the know.

At this point, I find Mail Act-On sort of system for filing my stuff.

My downloads sort automatically based on the kind of file, and some of them based on where the file came from. For instance, if I print a hint from MOSXH to PDF for archival, I save it to Desktop (CMD+D in the save panel is a lifesaver.) and Hazel looks at it, realizes it contains the url macosxhints.com (It's part of the filename.) and happily shuffles it off to my Reference folder.

Other documents get passed over by Hazel as long as there are no tags (in the Spotlight comments) associated with them. That leaves the files there until such time as I tag them. Then, Hazel moves them to ~/Documents. I keep a series of Smart Folders in Finder that serves the same purpose as some of the above systems. A SF for .xls, a SF for word processing documents (.doc, .rtf, .pages, etc.), for PDF's, and anything else that I can think of. Then I have SFs for my functional areas: Business (for my web design business), Clients (records for each of my clients. Receipts, invoices, contracts, etc.), School, Work. The functional area SFs are powered by Spotlight tags. Then, I use Quicksilver triggers for creating common sets of tags for the files. For instance, if I run my School filing trigger on the selected item, it tags it as school. I would like a more robust rule system (some conditionals perhaps?) similar to what can be done with Act-On. In Act-On, I can have multiple instances of the same AO key with different rules. Depending on which rules match, the rule that runs may be different each time. This would be nice in Finder to look in the filename for a semester, year, professor, etc. to see what other kinds of tags would be appropriate to set.

Another part of my filing setup (as I alluded above) is filenames. I name my files with tags similar to duus above, but with a little more structure. I guess you would call them metatags. For instance, today, I turned in an assignment for class. The filename is Fall 2006 - Professor Name - Lab6 Experiment Answers.pages (with one saved as .pdf for good measure). I think this helps with the chronological thing as well. Although, I am thinking that doing 2006 Fall would probably be a better way to go about it if nothing else than for sorting purposes in Finder.

I don't use the Smart Folders very often. In fact, rarely. Between Spotlight and Quicksilver, I can usually find things very quickly. (I have learned to use Spotlight if I can't remember exactly what something is called or if I am trying to locate a phrase that I know is in some document somewhere and use Quicksilver for launching applications and finding files I know the filenames for, not to mention the myriad other things QS does.)

So, there you have it. I think this works out well. Particularly the Smart Folders bit because it doesn't force you to embrace only one filing system. (Well, it does, but it just happens to be insanely flexible.)

There is one primary limitation to this system that won't rear its ugly head for a long while. I would like to group my Smart Folders into metagroups. I know this is contrary to the concept of Smart Folders, but it would be helpful for me to at least be able to split them into a directory for File Types and one for Tags. I can see the number of Smart Folders I create (for projects, important tags, etc.) becoming insanely large and then, I would be essentially in the same boat, creating Smart Folders of my Smart Folders.

That won't be for a few years though, so this is working out well for me now. Anyway, I hope this diatribe/manifesto/someotherwordforreallylongmessageboardpost is helpful and contributes to this discussion.




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