Organizing Your Digital Files

Think about the old metal file cabinets. There were separate drawers with hanging file folders and then subfolders. A good organizational strategy allowed you to find the documents stored in there.

Without a good strategy, many people may just stuff papers into any drawer in no particular order. Later, they need to find the information but end up having to look haphazardly through the drawers and file folders to find that information. The papers are in there, but are not easily retrievable.

How do you organize your digital files on your computer? Are they scattered all over your hard drive? Are they kept in many different folders? By not keeping your files more centralized, and in searchable folders, they will not be easy to find, nor can you be assured that they are being backed up.

There are many different strategies that can be used. I have included a couple of examples below, one for photos, and one for documents.

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This is a "folder view" as seen on a Mac, but the folder system is very similar to that seen in the Windows Explorer. Why I chose this form of organization is that we started our family together in PROVO Utah in 1975. As we moved to different locations for college, medical school, and then multiple times with the Navy until we settled in Idaho Falls, it provided a nice way for us to remember our life events by where we lived.

You may not have lived anywhere but in Idaho Falls, and so your folders may only reflect the different years. By using YEARS as folders, the folders are automatically sorted in order by the computer. Putting the NUMBER of the month first (followed by a parenthesis), the events during the year are also sorted numerically. There may be multiple events in the same month, but that is okay, since the event names are different.

Again, this is only way way of organizing photos. The general idea is that all your family photos are organized under ONE MAIN FOLDER with different subfolders. This allows you to easily backup all your family photos — because you know they are all located under that MAIN folder and not scattered across your hard drive! :)

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This is a "folder view" as seen on a Mac, but the folder system is very similar to that seen in the Windows Explorer. I have arranged my individuals by SURNAMES. The specific individuals are then placed in a folder under their surname with their birth year noted first in the folder title. For example, if there are three individuals with a name "John Smith", I can easily find the one I want by the birth year.

For the specific digital documents, if you put the year for the document before the document name, all your documents will be sorted into a "timeline" for you. Some documents may have a month, so one option is to put the month in parenthesis after the year. Ex: 1902(8) - name of document.

Again, this is only one way of organizing your digital documents, but at least all the documents are under one folder, individual, and events.

What can you do with a digital file that pertains to several different people, such as a photo that has three people in it? There are again many different options, but one is to simply duplicate that file into each of the file folders for those individuals. Does this create "duplicate files"? Yes, but hard drive space is SO inexpensive today that it really does not use up a lot of space. Another option is to keep the primary file in one individual's folder, and then create "shortcuts" to that file and place the shortcuts into the other individual's folders. We can show you how this works if you like.

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