Dos and Don’ts for Organizing Your Digital Files

Dos and Don’ts for Organizing Your Digital Files

These days, everyone has millions of digital files stored across multiple devices. Music files, photos, work or school documents, financial files, you name it -- we have tons of stuff to sort through. You might try using the “Search” or “Find” function on your computer or tablet to get to the file you want, but that usually turns up a huge list of possible matches instead of the exact file you wanted. Searching relies on both descriptive file names and useful keywords within the file. You need a system to organize files as you create and store them if you want to find them fast later.

Digital organization systems can be a matter of personal style, but a few essential truths can help anyone get their files in order.

  • Don’t save every file, and do delete old files ruthlessly — If you don’t save it, you don’t need to organize it. Delete duplicates, get rid of ancient files you never use, and don’t download every email attachment. For example: When you take photos, delete the blurry, photo-bombed, and otherwise bad shots before or as you import the pictures to the computer. 
  • Do name files in a detailed and consistent fashion — Say you’re on the job hunt, and you need to send out your current resume. But all you can find on your laptop are files named “resume.doc,” “resume1.docx,” and “resume2.docx.” Instead of wasting time opening each file to figure out which one is the most recent and relevant, name them distinctively. Use dates and keywords in the file names to sort documents, such as “resume-2014-01-05.docx” or “resume-2014-compsci.doc.” This will make file searching more efficient too.
  • Don’t create an overly complicated folder system — You don’t need a million folders and sub-folders to stay organized. As long as all your files aren’t floating loose in one giant “Documents” directory, you’re probably a step ahead with digital storage. Create folders for each of your major file types or by the project you work on most frequently, whatever makes sense for your data.
  • Do put new files in the right place immediately — Use the system you set up with every file, all the time! Make sure to put your new music, photos, and documents in the appropriate folders as soon as you click “Save” or “Download.” Get into this habit, so you’ll stay organized.
  • Do use intelligent shortcuts — Is there a budget spreadsheet you access frequently? Do you always download music to the same directory on a backup drive? Make a shortcut or alias of that specific file or folder, and place it on your computer’s desktop. Then you can keep the original file or folder organized by date or keyword in one place, but still get to it immediately with one click.

Once your files are better organized, you can more easily search and view them through any device and with tools like the Seagate Media App. This software automatically organizes your files by type, so you can play movies, see photos, listen to music, or view documents.

—By Trystan L. Bass