You work with documents, presentations, graphics, and other files all day. And then how much time do you spend looking for files that you worked on? A couple minutes here and a couple minutes there. On a daily basis, it can all add up.
There is a better way to stop the clutter: manage your files more effectively. Managing files on your computer is a lot like managing paper files. They can be organized using folders and then stored in specific locations for when you need them. And just like paper files and folders, if you don't have a way to organize them, things can get lost.
Use these tips to help manage your files:
1) Use My Documents.
For many reasons, it's smart to take advantage of My Documents feature in Microsoft Windows. To open My Documents in Windows, click Start, and then click My Documents. My Documents provides an easy way for you to store your personal documents. By using My Documents, you will be better able to find files, back up files, and 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 names produce cluttered displays. Brevity promotes clarity.
Let your folders do some of the naming.
4) Separate ongoing and completed work.
To keep the My Documents folder from becoming too unwieldy, use it only for files you're working on. This reduces 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—preferably not in My Documents.
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.
Published on Microsoft.com: June 30, 2004