7 Tips to Manage Your Files Better

You work with documents, presentations, graphics, and other files all day—and chances are, you have a lot of them. And that means it takes time to find the documents you need. Even if it’s just a couple of minutes here, and a couple of minutes there, it all adds up.

But there is a better way to stop the file clutter—by managing your files more effectively. Digital files are no different than paper files, and if you don’t have a good method of organisation, things get lost.

Whether you save your files on your computer’s hard drive or a shared network location, these tips will help you save the time and headache of searching for files. And if you haven’t already familiarised yourself with the search features in Windows Vista, this is the perfect time to learn more.

7 tips for managing your files

Use these tips to help manage your files.

  1. Use Documents. For many reasons, it’s smart to take advantage of the Documents feature (called My Documents in Windows XP and earlier versions) in Microsoft Windows. To open Documents in Windows, click Start, and then click Documents. Documents provides an easy way for you to store your personal documents.

    By using Documents, you will be better able to:

    • Find files. Windows provides easy access to the Documents folder (and its subfolders) in many places: through the Start menu, the task pane in Windows Explorer, common File Open and File Save dialog boxes, and other places.

    • Back up files. You should back up files regularly—and keeping all your files in one place helps make backup a snap.

    • Keep files separate from programs. By separating document files and program files you reduce the risk of accidentally deleting your documents when you install or upgrade programs.

  2. Adopt consistent methods for file and folder naming. Develop a naming scheme for the kinds of files you create most often and then stick to it.

  3. Keep names short. Even though Windows allows you to use long file names, it does not necessarily mean you should. Long file names are harder to read.

    Let your folder structure do some of the naming. For example, rather than create a file called Great American Novel Chapter One First Effort.doc, you can build a structure like:

    Image of a folder tree.

  4. Separate ongoing and completed work. To keep the Documents folder from becoming too unwieldy, use it only for files you’re actively working on. As a result, you can reduce the number of files you need to search through and the amount of data you need to back up. Every month or so, move the files you’re no longer working on to a different folder or location, such as a folder on your desktop, a special Archive folder, flash drive, external hard drive, or even on a CD.

  5. Store like with like. Restricting folders to a single document type (or predominantly one type) allows you to take advantage of folder templates in Windows Explorer. This makes it easier for you to find files. For example, with all your graphics in a single folder, it’s easy to use the Filmstrip view and slide show feature in Windows Explorer to find the right picture for your newsletter.

  6. Avoid big folder structures. If you need to put so many subfolders in a folder that you can’t see all of them at a glance, consider creating an alphabetic menu.

  7. Use shortcuts and shortcut links instead of multiple copies. If you need to get to the same file from multiple locations, don’t create copies of the file. Create shortcuts to it instead. To create a shortcut, right-click on the file and click Create Shortcut. You can drop and drag the shortcut to other locations.

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