Managing Computer File Clutter

Computer ClutterFrequent readers of this site know about all the most clutter-prone areas of the home. Closets, flat surfaces, and spare bedrooms are magnets for clutter, but there’s another area that doesn’t get quite as much attention — your computer. Additional digital storage space is clutter-enablingly cheap these days, and it’s easy to thoughtlessly drag ‘n drop your way to a mess of disorganization. Nobody will ever know about it except you, but it can be costly in terms of productivity, and sanity.

If this sounds like you, I’ve got a few tips that will help. I use a Mac, but these tips will work for you on any modern operating system.

Digital Bankruptcy

If things are really out of control, start over. Take all those random files strewn about your desktop and My Documents folder, and put them all in a folder called Archive. It’s a good way to get a fresh start without losing any data. The files are still there if you need them, but they’re out of the way.

“Delete”: The Ultimate Productivity Tool

The internet revolutionized the way that data moves in the world, and made an incredible amount of information available just a mouse click away. Resist the temptation to archive all of it on your computer. If you found out that a friend was saving every newspaper they bought for the last 25 years, you’d be very worried. Just because the bits on your laptop aren’t going to squeeze you out of your living room, doesn’t mean they can’t sap your productivity. Delete anything that you don’t have a good reason for keeping, and cannot find somewhere else if you need it again.

If you find that you download a lot of articles and reference materials that you need to keep, there are some really great personal database programs that will help you keep those organized (more on that in a couple weeks).

If you’re maintaining your own personal archive of LOLcats, well I finx we can’t halp U, kthxbai.

Folders That Mirror Your Life

There are files that you cannot delete. I typically save files that I create, pay software that isn’t readily available for download, and information sent to me by clients. In addition to work, I have a number of hobbies that generate large amounts of digital data. I’m into photography and songwriting, and those image and audio files take up a lot of space. It’s important to me that I be able to find what I’m looking for when I need it.

Because I have one computer for work and personal use, I actually divide my Documents directory into WORK and PERSONAL.

WORK contains a file for each client, and each client folder contains a RESOURCES, INCUBATOR and PROJECTS folder. INCUBATOR is for ideas that don’t fit into a particular project. Each folder under PROJECTS is descriptively named and contains RESOURCES, WORKING FILES, and FINAL.

HOME is structured similarly, but rather than a folder for each client, it contains a folder for each interest. But each interest is similarly divided into INCUBATOR and PROJECTS, and so forth. There are a few exceptions, such as finances, that don’t really follow my project-centric model, but for the most part it works for me.

Of course, no organization system is going to be a perfect fit for everyone. All that matters is that you find a folder structure that fits well with your life.

Use Descriptive File Names

If you follow only one of my suggestions, follow this one. The days of eight character file name limits are a distant memory, but I see computers these days filled with nested UNTITLED diretories full of vaguely named NEW DOCUMENTs. If you need a file badly enough to save it, give it a name you’ll remember later. Some people find it useful to include the date, their name (if the file is intended for someone else), or other “meta” data in addition to a descriptive file name. Include whatever will help you identify the file when you need it again.

Temporary Folders

Most of the files that I see cluttering up people’s computers are files that should have been temporary in nature. Let’s say that a coworker sends you a Word document that you need to make some changes to, then send back. You’re only going to use the file for a short time, and you have good reasons to keep it until your coworker has accepted the changes, but after that it should be deleted. Your computer’s operating system has a way of dealing with these types of files, and so should you.

I keep a file in my user directory called TEMPORARY that contains folders named for each week. For example 20080303 contains files for the week that I didn’t immediately file away or delete. At the end of the week I go through the folder and file, delete, or leave each of the files in the folder. If I don’t delete or move everything, I have to repeat the process on that same folder next week. If I do clear everything, I can delete the folder. If I have more than 4 weeks or so of folders in my TEMPORARY folder, I need to reconsider why I’m temporarily keeping it for so long.

Think of this process of churning much like hanging your clothes with the hangers facing out, and putting clothes back with the hangers facing in. It’s a reality check on what you really need to keep.

Shortcuts

Shortcuts, or Aliases, are one of the most useful, yet underused, organizational tools for an uncluttered computer. they’re like magic portals that allow your files to break free from the constraints of spacetime and exist in multiple places simultaneously. Ok, not quite. But they’re tremendously useful. Suppose I have a project that requires the use of a certain variation of a client’s logo. Of course, I have a copy of all the client’s logo treatments in the client’s RESOURCES directory. I could copy the logo from the client RESOURCES directory to the project RESOURCES directory, but then if a change is made, I have to remember to update two files. Instead, I create a shortcut for the logo file and place that shortcut in the projects RESOURCES directory instead. The same file is now effectively in two places at once.

I hope you find these tips useful in your mission to make your digital life as uncluttered as the rest of your life. As always, if you have tips of your own, please post a comment!

51 Comments for “Managing Computer File Clutter”

  1. posted by Melissa A. on

    One thing that makes me scratch my head is why people keep every single email they’ve ever received. Just because you have lots of electronic storage, does not mean it’s practical. I’ve read of people having multiple gmail accounts. That’s ridiculous.

    I think my computer is organized well, but it does need some cleaning up, and backing up of important files.

  2. posted by Tara on

    These are spot-on. I also recommend consolidating folders every month or so. In My Documents I had something like this:

    Company_Name Folder -> Contract File
    Company_Name Folder -> Contract File
    Company_Name Folder -> Contract File

    I made one folder called Contracts and consolidated the files into there. We sometimes forget that, unlike paper, the digital world is very fluid and we can reorganize constantly; breaking out when we need to, consolidating when we don’t.

  3. posted by LivSimpl on

    Melissa – While I agree you shouldn’t keep every e-mail you’ve ever received, I’ve found it beneficial to have multiple Gmail accounts. Not for storage, but for organization. I have a personal one, one for each of my blogs, one for mailing lists/junk mail, etc. It’s been very useful.

    In response to the post, another option for making files easily accessible is to use Spotlight (if you’re a Mac user) or Google Desktop (if you run Windows). Using these features, you’re one keystroke and a couple keywords away from easily locating and opening any file on your machine – regardless of where it’s located.

    http://www.LivSimpl.com

  4. posted by LoveandSalt on

    Now I have to learn how to make folders. I have a hard drive and desktop full of individual documents. Nightmare!

    We also need to sort and delete our bookmarks I think. Thanks for this.

  5. posted by john chandler on

    I am between two jobs/projects, so I just cleaned out most of my documents folder. I created an archives folder and moved most of it in there. My documents folder is going to mainly be for active projects with as few folders as possible. Older files that haven’t been referenced in a while are moved into the archives. I want to see as little as possible.

    I’ll be posting more about how I’m setting this up on my blog in the next week or two. (Sorry for the self promo, but I think it will be relevant to this topic.)

  6. posted by Josephine on

    I cannot stand it when I receive jokes via email. This adds clutter to my inbox and wastes my time because I must weed out this junk. One former colleague began to send me jokes from his personal account, and because I did not recognize the email address I responded that he must have reached the wrong person. He wrote, “It’s me! Jesse!” I asked him not to send me jokes specifically and he has never again sent me ANY email. I have since made it a habit: the minute I receive a joke, I ask the sender to cease. (Would you believe I actually had a colleague plead with me to send me a joke he thought I’d enjoy? Oy!)

    I also read all email via the web client and download only those messages that contain information I will need long term.

  7. posted by Cranky Scotty on

    I have my own domain and usually create an email account for each online retailer/site I deal with. For instance “amazon@mydomain.com” and “netflix@mydomain.com.” A little bit of work, but all of these feed into my email client and are automatically organized.

    It’s a great way of tracking your spam sources, and when I start getting spam from “crappyretailer@mydoamin.com,” I delete the account. One-off transactions from small online businesses go to a standard “junk@mydomain.com.”

    Technically, it’s electronic clutter, but it keeps the mental clutter at bay.

  8. posted by jennifer cranston on

    I recently deleted all of my folders, and placed all of my documents in one “my documents” folder, which I generally sort by “last modified”. This, ironically, has been much smoother and less cluttered feeling than using folders. My recent, most active docs are right at the top. If I need something old, my intuitive guess at the doc name finds it when I sort by alpha. Search finds everything else. It’s faster nine-tenths of the time, which is well worth it the other times.

  9. posted by bittermormon on

    I’m just beginning a de-cluttered lifestyle, but I thought I’d point out one thing. If you are digitally cluttered, Google desktop may be your friend. I have had it help me find many a lost file that Window’s default search couldn’t turn up. Anyone else using it?

  10. posted by E. Slasher on

    I don’t use desktop on windows anymore. In fact I disabled it so that it can’t be used :) This forces me to file stuff right away where it belongs. I used to just put stuff on the desktop, always telling myself I’d do it later. Guess what? I ended with a complete mess later…

  11. posted by J. Lawton on

    Every so often it helps to zip aging files and folders together and move them to an external hard drive or partition. File indexers like Google and Microsoft Desktop Search can scan files within zip archives, enabling quick retrieval of backed up files, all while saving disk space. Even then, after a year or so, it’s worth backing up the zips to DVD for a hard copy and eliminating the bits off the computer.

    It’s liberating to see a multitude of directories disappear from my Documents folder.

  12. posted by Anna on

    Please post soon about database programs to manage your digital articles! I have tons of medical articles, both digital and paper, which desperately need organizing.

  13. posted by Nat on

    I’m glad you covered this. Digital clutter was about all I could think about when I was reading the Zen Desktop post yesterday. Unfortunately, sometimes I do have to look up files that are a couple of years old. The search feature on the Mac makes things a lot better now, but trying to remember what I named something way back when is a pain. I at least take comfort that I am not one of those people who need to ask for the third time for a copy of something that someone emailed me a couple of days ago. (Had a boss that did that constantly. A third of my sent mail must have been devoted to re-sending him stuff.)
    In re to multiple email accounts: I too have three email addresses. One for personal that never gets junk mail. A gmail account for business, which I back up important emails to my hard drive b/c gmail once closed my account for half a day b/c of a system upgrade that went bad. And finally, I have a third for yahoogroup emails and filling out internet forms, such as when shopping, etc. I know that when I’m reading the third account’s emails that I’m doing so to goof off.

  14. posted by Andamom on

    There are some great suggestions here. I will say that my email has definitely been a drain and I haven’t had sufficient time to clean things out and organize them. I get flooded with emails — at work, I may receive 25 or more a day that aren’t spam while at home, I receive 15 or so legit. ones. Further, We have thousands of digital pics that should be catalogued individually in some efficient manner as well — but this takes time. I feel that my regular life is organized well, but my digital life has expanded exponentially.

    The point is that I need to take time to archive and just discard. Finding the time to do that has been difficult and things start to compound. I am just starting to delete a lot of stuff that is just clogging my box — jokes, notices, confirmations, etc. The proliferation of information is truly astounding though… but so much of it isn’t necessary.

  15. posted by whatahelpfulguy on

    I highly recommend Sequoia TreeView for hardrive cleanup.. (windows only). Find where all your bytes went.

  16. posted by tay on

    A question: Any tips for those of us who aren’t necessarily computer ignorant but are not however completely compute literate when it comes to storage, backing up files, completely deleting things off the hard drive,zipping files, hot keys etc.

    Maybe there is a book you recommend or a website I can visit.

  17. posted by Allen on

    A great suggestion i got from a friend of mine is to store OFF your data. Example: I am into digital photography as well. I copy the photos from my card onto my computer. I upload them onto Flickr (using a program that can handle many files at once!), then burn them onto a DVD, or put them onto an external HD, and then delete them from my main PC! They are backed up in two locations, but aren’t getting in my way. It is not that hard to get them off the HD if i need/want to play with them. if you are concerend about being able to get your files from your back-up easily (no easy way to download all your files from flickr last time i checked), you can burn them to disc AND keep them on an external HD still. Keep the discs at work, or some other location that is more then 500ft away from your HD, and you’ll be fine. :D

  18. posted by Charles on

    great post. Although with the easy integration of search from google, MS, and apple, I don’t spend as long naming files. Although, I do keep a solid folder hierarchy.

    Oh, I have also never backed anything up to DVD. Its always either online, or an external hdd. Dont like unneeded physical media.

  19. posted by Niles Gibbs on

    I keep a solid hierarchy in my home folder (My Documents for you WinHeads), and it keeps me a buzzing:

    Active
    Archived
    Backups
    –daily
    –weekly
    Media

    Active has subfolders for any current projects, as they are finished, I move them to a hierarchy under Archived.

    That way, my personal files are in two small folders (besides the hidden program settings folders), all of which I backup daily in the Backups/daily folder. Once a week I copy Backups/daily into Backups/weekly.

    Media is for music, photos, etc, and isn’t backed up except occasionally to DVD or whatever as it’s huge.

    Then, for all of the stuff I get from the internet, downloads and whatever, I throw it on a completely separate “Shit” drive, which I can clean as needed, but that I don’t worry about and don’t let it contaminate my home folder.

  20. posted by allo on

    On Linux you can use symlinks (ln -s sourcefile destinationfile) to create shortcuts, which are handled like real files, not like the .lnk files, windows uses. But beware, a kde/gnome shortcut is a .desktop file, just like the windows ones.

  21. posted by Bill P. on

    @tay:

    You might want to check out http://lifehacker.com, they often publish tips and tricks to help get your digital info organized. In fact, you may also want to check out Gina Trapani’s (of Lifehacker) new book “Upgrade Your Life”, a free preview chapter is available at http://lifehacker.com/366225/d.....-your-life

  22. posted by Aegir on

    This is why I created my website. I’m a designer and typographer, and I found that I was saving useful and inspirational images to my hard drive without keeping a track of where they were from or what prompted me to keep them. I created a blog, essentially, and now I keep the image, link to where I found it, and say exactly what it is that’s good about it. It’s a lot more work, but the resulting data is so much more useful, it’s worth it.

  23. posted by James on

    I have found keeping every email (not spam) is very beneficial because the search in Outlook and GMail is amazing. I have been saved so many times when I kept that one email that I needed (CYA too).

    Also, I have found Microsoft OneNote to be amazing! It helps me keep so organized and is great. It also syncs with my laptop so I always have everything with me. I highly recommend it to anybody to help them stay organized.

  24. posted by Jesse on

    The thought of arranging and deleting digital files is very attractive to me, although I am still confused as to the best method possible. Does anyone have any suggestions for organizing files within the hierarchial folder organizations of Windows or OS X?

    How about online storage? Is there a good website for archiving and storing files online?

  25. posted by fyc on

    I keep my directory hierarchy to a minimum. So my Documents folder basically has all my docs sorted into broad categories (“Academic”, “Writings”, “Work”, etc.). I do this because I rarely go into any of my folders – I just use the search function of whatever OS I’m using (currently Vista, which has a pretty decent built-in search feature) to find my stuff.

    I don’t even use folders like “Audiobooks”, “Music”, “Pictures” and “Videos” anymore – I just have “Audio” and “Visual” folders with ridiculously-broad sub-directories inside.

    With the ‘keeping e-mails’ thing, I must admit that I do that – partially because I can (in Gmail, I have over 6 gigs of storage and I only use half a gig of it) and partially because I find it useful to be able to find, refer to and review past communications.

    After my experience with Gmail, Google Docs and the like, I now feel that directories are fairly archaic and should be replaced by tags and labels (since they’re so much more flexible), but I haven’t found any decent desktop tagging system as yet.

  26. posted by Helen on

    @ Allen – external storage via FlickR, disk etc is a great idea. With the huge quantity of reference photos and artwork, as well as personal photos, I get a lot of clutter going on. Every book and idea I work on has its own collection of research files.

    Those little flash key thinggys are getting really cheap – and a small one will clip onto the ring binder….

  27. posted by Nat on

    I read this post with great interest. Staying on top of my computer clutter is a constant struggle for me, and I shall definitely be instigating some of your ideas.

    I have found that for those using Windows Vista the ‘tagging’ utility is another really useful way of helping organise files (especially images) and find them easily when you want them – especially if you are lazy like me and do not change the names of files when you download them from your camera!

  28. posted by Rajhesh Panchanadhan on

    Hi, I use a similar system. I call my 2 folders WORK and LIFE and under WORK are the folders EMAIL, LEARN, PROJECTS, MISC. and under LIFE are folders MUSIC, PICTURES, BOOKS, BLOG, FINANCE, and STUFF. The folder names are suggestive of the content in them.

  29. posted by Ericsprojects on

    There is a very easy way to avoid the \Program Files and \Documents and Settings folders with windows XP that doesn’t involve JUNCTION or SUBST, TweakUI and is very portable and secure.

    Simply use TrueCrypt. TrueCrypt is an awesome open-source file encryption program from TrueCrypt.org. Not only a great tool for encrypting, it is invaluable as an organization tool.

    I have a 1.5gig file on my hard drive that I keep my applications and documents in. I have a copy of the same file on a USB drive and use TotalCommander to keep the files inside synchronized.

    When I mount the TrueCrypt file, it opens with a new drive letter. On the new Drive letter, I have the following folders \Applications, \Documents, \Pictures, \(my website) and a few others. Everyone will have different ideas about how to organize their files, but I think we can agree that getting the folders closer to the root directory makes them much easier to get to.

    For more information on my TrueCrypt installation, see:
    http://www.ericsprojects.com/?p=248

    And to read about the Applications I carry on my USB see:
    http://www.ericsprojects.com/?p=213

  30. posted by whyioughtta on

    Great post. And the comments are just as interesting …goes to show how everyone approaches information differently.

    I’m a freelance comms/writer person too. My big challenge isn’t so much storing electronic files–I’ve been doing this a long time and have a system that works for me. But where I struggle is in the link between electronic files and hard copy files. You’ll know this as a writer: you can’t escape paper in this business. There are always notes, background content, etc. to keep on file for a project. Unlike the Zen Habits guy, I can’t work solely on a computer screen or my eyes would fall right out of my head and my brain would explode.

    But I’ve never been able to perfect my paper filing system and it’s out of control…I’m curious how you do it…do you make it a mirror of your electronic files? How long do you hang on to paper client files? I’m swimming in old files that I’m afraid to get rid of and don’t have the time to go through.

  31. posted by Brian on

    @whyioughtta,

    I don’t keep many paper files. I used to, but it became difficult to remember if something was in a paper file or on the computer. Gradually, I just adopted a workflow where everything I create ends up on the computer.

    As you point out, one way to integrate your paper file and computer file systems would be to have them mirror each other. But you still have to remember what is located where. You might also think about creating an index file on the computer where you make a notation for anything that you store in a paper file. That way there’s a better chance of having it come up in a search.

    The other option would be to try to get everything you need to save and reference later on the computer where you’re able to search for it. What good is it to save documents if you can’t find them and use them when you need to? Paper files are time consuming to search even if they’re very well organized. And if they’re just sort of jumbled together, well that makes things even worse. Erin posted awhile back about Fujitsu’s ScanSnap paper scanner. It’s a pricy option, but it comes with Adobe Acrobat Pro, which includes very usable OCR (optical character recognition) which helps to make otherwise unsearchable documents into searchable ones.

    Good luck, and we’d love to hear what solution you come up with!

  32. posted by whyioughtta on

    I am loving the scanning idea, and you’re absolutely right: paper files are a messy, difficult-to-search option. If my paper files were all scanned as PDFs I would probably actually use them a lot more. Hmmm…I could even write off the scanner on my taxes :^)

    My filing cabinet is shaking in its boots.

    (The indexing idea is great too…I like that idea for my house files, mortgage and property docs that are more difficult to scan and which you need paper/signed copies of.)

  33. posted by tay on

    @Bill P:
    Thank you!

  34. posted by Emma on

    Great article, I’m in the process of moving to a new laptop and only the necessary files will come with me. I need to set up a system from the word go so my new laptop doesn’t end up like my old one!

    My external harddrive however is beyond hope I think!

  35. posted by Tim Brown on

    Organizing:
    I’ve started naming almost all folders and files with the year-month-date (e.g. “2008-03-15 NewKidPics”, etc). Its a little awkward but it does wonders for sorting everything out nicely, Particularly if you take a ton of pictures or create a bunch of files that you need to go back through later. When everything in all your folders can be sorted by date, it is SOOO much easier to find things. Try it, it will change your life! :)

    Also, I agree with others that banning clutter on your desktop is a crucial step towards organizing your computer.

    Reclaiming Space:
    There is an amazing little PC app called SpaceMonger that simply draws you a map of the contents of any drive or folder by size. It is a wonderful way to find what is really eating your hard drive space and those huge video files you’ve forgotten and don’t need any more.

  36. posted by JKT on

    I totally agree with FYC about tags. Folders are outdated and tags really are more useful. Avoids duplication of having files in more than one place. I have not upgraded to Vista yet so I don’t know what the tag system is like, but I hope it emulates Gmail, which is great!

    I find myself keeping all my gmail because sometimes I like to refer to some information in emails gone past… and gmail’s search function is very easy/accurate. I’d like a search function like that on my computer, because that would make folders almost completely unnecessary.

    Going to check out Google Desktop now.

  37. posted by BlackMacX on

    I recently found Unclutterer and love it; as I use a Mac, I have a free solution as to how to unclutter files and folders (this takes some preparation, but it sound in logic):

    1. in the Finder, setup a new folder for file searches (actually, there is one already available via the Sidebar or at “~/Library/Saved Searches” (the tilde “~” in that means your user folder/directory), this is where you will setup your searches (for example all “PDF” files, or all files/folders with the Spotlight Comment “Woodworking”)
    2. go through your existing folder structures to find all your files/folders that relate to each topic you want to “search” for in the future and take note of them
    3. okay, now go to your Applications Folder and launch Automator; therein under Actions > Library > Files & Folders, select “Label Finder Items” and drag it into the right-hand pane of Automator (then do the same with “Set Spotlight Comments for Finder Items”). Choose a colour and add a descriptive word or short phrase into the Spotlight Comment section (make sure to have the “Append to existing comments” box checked). Now go to the File Menu and save it as a Plug-in (select Finder Plugin from the following window and give it a name). Repeat this for as many “comments” as you want; I have 8 sofar and it’s working well.
    4. now, go into your selected folder (in my case, call it Woodworking) and select a file/folder, then right-click your mouse and under the Automator item, select your “Woodworking” comment action. Once the action has run (check your Menubar for it), go and get information on the file you just changed and check the Spotlight Comments, it should be updated. If it was, things are working properly, so you can now select all files and folders in that directory/folder and apply the new Automator “Woodworking” action.
    4. now save the same comment; but this time as a Folder Action and attach it to the folder you want to (this will add the comment to the and file/folder dropped or added to the folder the action is attached too).

    In essence, this is exactly what meta-tags are, but here, you are building the functions yourself for free (not having to buy some software that mightn’t meet your needs). It’s not for everyone and I might find I hate it in 6 weeks; but it’s fun and a start (and I have about 10 000 files to apply this too (where’s my computer “scuba” gear?!?).

    This will add much more control to your Spotlight searches and I suspect the Windows Vista/XP crowd have a similar functionality that could be equally refined/tweaked.

  38. posted by BlackMacX on

    Sorry, forgot to mention a great application that will help organize the user (takes abit of learning) as well as my free idea above; it’s called
    [url=http://www.noodlesoft.com/}Hazel[/url]; it will add colour, move files around based on various criteria (extension, name, etc., date of creation, days since download…) and this can help automate the whole thing of getting decluttered alot. I use it to organize my download files and then sort based on whether I have viewed then in X number of days (7 in my case); if after 30 days I haven’t looked at them again, they are moved to the Trash and deleted (I set a size limit for the Trash too through Hazel; so it will automatically delete stuff if it goes over X size).

  39. posted by bradyo on

    I used to work so hard to organize everything in well-marked folders, stressing over whether a document belonged in this folder or that. I often compromised by putting the document in one folder and a shortcut to it in another. No more. I throw everything into My Documents and use Google Desktop to retrieve something when I need it. It works, and it’s stress free.

    As Google puts it: “Google Desktop makes searching your computer as easy as searching the web with Google. It’s a desktop search application that provides full text search over your email, files, music, photos, chats, Gmail, web pages that you’ve viewed, and more. By making your computer searchable, Desktop puts your information easily within your reach and frees you from having to manually organize your files, emails and bookmarks.” http://desktop.google.com/features.html

  40. posted by Ninja on

    There are always notes, background content, etc. to keep on file for a project.

  41. posted by hp on

    For my needs, the best way is a document management system (dms). I use Alfresco (OpenSource, http://www.alfresco.org ), but if you are no expert it isn’t easy to install and maintain.

    I also scan every important piece of paper (bills, correspondence, ebay…) and throw it into my dms into a simple folder structure (name of correspondent), put the date in front of the name and throw away the original paper if it is not important (for example bills, letters from someone…) and keep only the really important stuff (insurance…)

    I can categorize every document again, if I need (“bills paid”, “bills unpaid” for example) and the dms makes a full text search if I can’t remember the filename.

    I tried and uninstalled Google Desktop, because I don’t want to have a program on my computer from a company, which earns money with indexing foreign information.
    And Google Desktop reduces the speed of every computer and I can’t exclude certain folders on my harddrive or certain emailaccounts.

    For pictures I recommend iPhoto from Apple or Picasa, which allows you to name one download from the camera (e.g. “travel to Egypt”) and indexes every picture with the time when it was shot. And I can categorize every picture, if I want it.

    I don’t like online-storage, because I don’t have any control what the company, which provides the storage, will do with my data in the future. Many people are way to optimistic. Every company has only one goal: Earn money. Nobody wants to make people happy, thats a lie….

  42. posted by Badger on

    Before I retired, I managed my Outlook file by creating a “DestroyYearMonth” file whenever I read an email that I wanted to destroy but not right away. Important email would go into named subject files. At the end of the particular month, simply drag the “Destroy” file to the wastepaper can. Worked like a charm always.

  43. posted by notwhoiam on

    To Niles Gibbs: Your backup system is simply a duplication system. Your backup/weekly is just as vulnerable as backup/daily which is itself just as vulnerable as your original files!! A setup like that does absolutely *ZIP* if your hard drive fails or a program blocks you from accessing certain partitions/drives/folders on your computer. Rather than “backing up” (ie copying) your files over & over to the SAME drive (even if it’s on a different partition), the only real way to backup & protect your files is to use a 2nd & even a 3rd storage system: an external hard drive, a zip drive (not the same as WinZip or WinRAR!), cds, dvds, online storage, a hard drive or network or friend’s computer that’s kept offsite (eg work–>home), &/or even a usb drive. Ideally you should have 2 or more backups of your MOST important files/folders/programs (+ a ‘bootable’ cd or usb) and these should both be updated monthly, daily or even hourly depending on how often they’re modified, how critical they are to you or your work, and how annoying it would be if you could only access an old copy. Here are the official WinXP instructions/hints (http://www.microsoft.com/windo.....uly14.mspx). I know that MACs have a really good system too and that there are a ton of free & $$ programs that you can use too. After a hd died & I lost 300gb of data, I became a huge fan of Acronis True Image (fantastic!) and feel much more confident that my vital data, program installation files, & operating system’s setup files are 100% safe…

    To hp: I’ too am suspicious of Google Desktop &, sadly, even gmail. Instead of GD or Spotlight, I’ve installed a great open-source (=free) program called ‘Launchy’ which works just as well and isn’t linked to a mega-corp. Plus it learns your frequently used files, drives, bookmarks, & web destinations so that, eventually, you only have to type in a single letter for it to guess where you want to go. Very cool & very fast.

    ps: I check lifehacker.com every day too (via RSS) and find it incredibly useful for simplifying, streamlining, and personalising my computer (not to mention my non-computer life, if there is such a thing…)

  44. posted by BobsSuggests on

    I recomend several great software programs for keeping your computer clutter free.

    ccleaner from http://www.ccleaner.com – Cleans up uneeded and junk files.

    Clutterkiller from http://www.datagoround.com – Cleans up and organizes desktop and file system. Also has a great assortment other clutter tools.

    Evernote from http://www.evernote.com – with this I save important info and emails, you can delete the original file or email once it’s stored in evernote.

  45. posted by philh on

    Google is where it’s at for the future of organization. Gmail + Google Desktop + Google docs = a relief for a compulsive organizer’s head like mine. I rarely even tag files, the search function is so fast (ctrlctrl, bang you’re there).
    Safetywise, it’s all online and redundant. Yes, it’s a mega-corp, but remember that they are very aware that if their users are not feeling safe then usage will drop off and clients won’t pay ad$.
    The only downside is if you go offline, and I see some Beta’s in the works to fend some effects of this off in the future.

  46. posted by JJ on

    For a long time, I had an enormous folder on my desktop called “To Sort,” which bothered me a lot since I knew I’d never actually get around to sorting those hundreds of files and putting them into their proper folders (let alone deleting the outdated ones).

    But I made one simple change which has eased my mind — I just renamed the folder “File Cabinet.” After all, the files in there are searchable, just as if they were all neatly sorted into subfolders.

    So now I just toss files in there (non-work-type things: articles, recipes, misc. PDFs, etc.), and they’re “filed” (at least I can pretend they are), and it doesn’t bother me any more. (I suppose I should really stop saving so many files, but it’s a hard habit to break — and I really do go into that folder to find things.)

  47. posted by David on

    Slightly off topic:

    Speaking of Gmail, Google Desktop and maybe Picasa; maybe you should take the time to investigate and write an article that points out the privacy issues that may be involved.

    E.g. Google scans all your emails for keywords to display related ads. I don’t know how many information from Google Desktop are sent back to google or are processed by Google for whatever reason. I do know, that Picasas new faces feature gets processed by Google servers, which essentially means, Google knows about all the people you name in Picasa, maybe even their Emailadresses.

    There are no known privacy data leaks with google yet, but I’m scared by the thought of how much person related information Google piles.

    Here in Germany the current topic of public interest is Google Street View. Many cities and states are concerned about how to protect people’s privacy. It is demanded that Google removes any faces and on request images of houses from their raw data. Essentially it doesn’t matter what’s online for everyone to see. If Google turns bad only think about linking recognized faces from Picasa with faces on Streetview pictures, emails and desktop search keywords and you get a pretty detailed and precise profile from someon.

    I’m not to suggest any conspiration theorie or scare anyone. I just want to sensitize for the potential risks of personal information in a single hand.

    And while we’re on it: What about an article about GPG encrypted Emails. It’s free, pretty simple and effective, yet not useful until a majority of people use it.

  48. posted by radio controlled aeroplanes on

    I manage several websites my computer which also harbours my personal files and folders and I agree that the only way forward is to be rigours and sometimes callous and destroy unnecessary files/data – it’s hard to set time aside but once a month I find for me it is essential to ‘spring clean’ as it were! I like suggestions about dating folders – I think this approach would suit my way of working and I reckon that is what it is all about! Find a way to work that suits you and fits into you way of working – no complicated systems or duplications – keep it simple and regularly do your filing/organising/housekeeping – because it becomes an absolute nightmare if you leave it 6 months. Excellent advice and thanks to everyone who has commented also – we all can find more efficient ways of working even when we think we have got our systems running efficiently.

  49. posted by radio controlled aeroplanes on

    Have to come back and comment – have just checked out the links recommended by fellow commenters(link repeated again below). I think that they are both great ways to help you keep on top of ‘housework’ and organised. Recommended! I will be using them!

    http://desktop.google.com/features.html
    http://www.ccleaner.com

  50. posted by Living Juicy » I Am So Excited. I Can Not Hide It. : on

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  51. posted by Janet B on

    Hi there. It looks like some of your organizational and filing needs could be solved with the use of some clever software! There are a lot of options for filing software. We do document management and filing for a living with clever twist. The Paper Tiger Filing System is a proven tool and we are ready to help you in any way we can to meet your filing needs!

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