Organize Digital Files and Folders…and find your stuff

Tell me if this sounds familiar: a super-cluttered desktop. It is the undeniable proof that users are joggling multiple projects, at the same time, and need all their information to be in one spot. Unfortunately, flooding the desktop with files and folders does not help with accessing the proper information. Most likely, the data disorganization can confuse the brain, and productivity will be greatly reduced. It is for this reason that I recommend that people organize their data in a more intuitive way.

To put into context, most companies have physical cabinets that are designed to store away important documents. These storage units are (we hope) organized for the sake of simplicity in extracting important information that has been printed on paper.

In a generic office setting, cabinets are labeled in an alpha-numeric format, or categorized by department. Likewise, inside the cabinets, you will find that folders are logically placed, depending on their letter or number placement, and / or departments. So, whenever a company member needs to obtain any documents that are in physical format, that member can just go to the assigned cabinet, and get what is needed. All of this can be done thanks to the organization of the documents. The same concept can be applied to digital data.

It is very straining on the mind when computer files are scattered all over a hard drive. The best way to deal with such a situation is to plan how they should be organized. For that, you should take into consideration what projects you are working on, and prioritize the related data. Then, think of the rest of the files, and bring them to the folders that were created by your operating system, such as this illustration:

In this example, Ubuntu (the operating system) has created folders labeled as, “Home”, “Desktop”, “Documents”, “Downloads”, “Music”, “Pictures”, and “Videos”. They are self-explanatory, and should be useful in categorizing file formats. For example, you should put mp3 files in the “Music” folder. The “Videos” folder should contain related files, such as AVI and MP4.

For better organization of data, related sub-folders should be created. For example, you should not dump an mp3 file of a song directly into the “Music” folder. Instead, create a series of folders inside folders, and categorize them. For example:

As you can see from the illustration, the music files go into the “Album” folder, which goes into the “Artist” folder, which goes into the “Genre” folder, which goes (finally) into the “Music” folder. This is a perfect example on how organization can help with the management of digital files for easier retrieval.

Besides organizing digital files and folders, another thing that I stress is to assign proper labels to your data. You should create a standard naming convention that will make it easy for you to identify your files. For example, if you are working on daily reports, and these reports are created on different files, they should be named as REPORT NAME (DASH) REPORT NUMBER. You could, also, use a date for identification, such as REPORT NAME (DASH) DATE (YYYYMMDD). Lastly, to be more precise, you could add the time, in 24-hour format, as HH:MM:SS.

Digital file-management is a very complex issue. There should be more thought into how data is to be labeled, and organized. However, when all the necessary steps are taken, it can save people from a lot of headaches in the extraction of information.

Author: Nicolas Payano

CompTIA A+ CompTIA Network+ CompTIA Security+ ITIL

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