What I Use: Suggestion, File Organization

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I always hear you and others say how particular you are in organizing the files on your computer. I’ve had a computer since 1999 and I still have some of my files since then, documents and pictures. We’re about to step into 2021 and I have so much stuff now since then that it gets overwhelming trying to organize everything. I mean I can spend an entire “cup of coffee” just looking up online how people name their photos and files and why. You have your great scanning photo articles, which I’m hoping for an update on. I think a great series for What I Use would be a file organization series, talking about naming photos, documents, software, folder structure, everything. I think an article series like this would see traffic to the site years down the road. I mean I’ve been looking at file and folder naming articles from early 2000. Just my 2 cents. I’m always interested in reading articles about this subject and from the perspective of someone that has a family, because when you do you start accumulating more digital stuff from places for all the extra humans in your house.

Comments (10)

10 responses to “What I Use: Suggestion, File Organization”

  1. hrlngrv

    With a proper subdirectory hierarchy, much of the need for exacting file name schemes disappears. Harder with photos, much easier with financial documents. For the latter, the big question is year then entity or entity then year. FWLIW, i fudge that with year then entity, but in each entity directory I have shortcuts to previous and following years.


    Spending a minute on average renaming each of 30K photos would mean 500 hours, roughly equivalent to 3 months of workdays. Naming each and every photo may be a losing proposition.

    • wright_is

      In reply to hrlngrv:

      I create a new photos folder for each import I do, which is "PhotosRAWS & Originals2020MMDD - project" I then have the folders under RAW & Originals replicated directly under Photos with the exported final versions of the projects.

      For normal documents, I categorize them, house, work, writing, correspondence etc. and then ISO date prefix the files and give them a meaningful name - E.g. "20201218 - Tax return.pdf" or if the folder gets a lot of files, I'll sub-categorize or split it into years, like you.

      But at the end of the day, it doesn't really matter what method you use, as long as you use it consistently. If you keep using different methods or not using any method for some files, it quickly becomes a mess.

  2. j5

    Dang it, I always do this. I forgot to mention this is for Paul...SMH.

  3. matsan

    My old C64 disks and tapes are decomposing in the basement, but I drag along all files since my Mac SE/30 I used in my high school days. Luckily I started using TeX and C in 1992 at the university so much of the data is still accessible.


    File organization for me = Amazon S3 and Mountain Duck application.

    • bkkcanuck

      In reply to matsan:

      With Catalina change I was forced to relocate some of my directories (I had some off root simply because it was easier when I was in terminal) - the forced change though in some ways have been beneficial for me. The change came with APFS structure - so I have a container that takes on the drive, and then logical volumes for organizing. (I keep the internal drive fairly clean - Downloads - emty, Documents - a few documents I am actively using/working on), and the Desktop is clean. All volumes of course variable sized limited only by the contain size. The Volumes I created are (of course dependent on what is important structurally) for me:

      • Code
      • <company specific code named after company - i.e. code I will not have ownership of>
      • Document (lots of major folders for Invoices, Pictures, Screen Capture (redirected instead of going to desktop), Music, Books, Audio Books, Test Data, Misc etc.)
      • Server (servers like PostgreSQL)
      • Workspace (Workspaces from eclipse)
      • ApplicationData (holding data that applications like to store in their own directory - not document based)
      • VM (VMWare VMs)
      • Videos
      • Design
      • Archive (some things that are less organized but rarely used are archived to get them out of the way).

      The volumes are nice since I can have things like Carbon Copy image them to another disc, or to a file.... which then are rotated depending on importance and necessity (three in rotation - one offsite).


      I won't rely on cloud storage - since it does not act as an important backup (no SLA at a price I am willing to pay).


  4. matsan

    Just "bing" it:

    xkcd 1360


    This is basically how my file organization looks like.

  5. Paul Thurrott

    Sorry for the delay responding. Yes, will write up something about this soon.

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