Sunday, 24 November 2013

Finding your stuff - Old-style versus new

In days of old when knights were bold and personal computers had just been invented it was very difficult to find your files into which your thoughts had just been vented so you ended up making the files live in folder after nested sub folder but now there is a new way of doing it and you throw them all in one big bucket with tags, meta data, intelligent search you can get at all your stuff without just being lucky.

Big bucket or folders inside folders?

So there you go, that's the way it was and it took a while to get away from the bad old DOS days when you had to tidy away your computer files just the same as if they were inside paper folders in grey metal cabinets. The more senior members of our world still want to work that way and still have this belief that things are more organised and much better when everything is tidied away inside of those nested folders. Some go for organising by year, month and day with more separation inside of that based on type of file. Some go by project and then do the types of file inside that. I think that doing that these days is just plain silly and hides files more than it makes them accessible. I am a convert to the single big bucket and the use of fantastic search tools and smart searches to get my digital stuff.To a certain extent we are still in a transition period moving on towards just throwing it into one big amorphous glop inside a single folder on the computer and letting search do all of the work for us, but things are moving on.

There are some computer systems and applications setup to put their documents into specific places and keep them away from all of the other dirty files and folders from other applications. Now that we have intelligent searching on computers where the tools that you can use know documents by kind or type, know the data that is contained within the file, has extra metadata to use in some types of document, as well is even possible to use fuzzy logic when searching, then why give ourselves the hassle of having to put certain types of files in certain places.

You could drive yourself crazy looking for stuff if you have organised yourself by date and you can't remember what month or year it was when you created that spreadsheet, text file or whatever sort of document. You also could end up with subfolders within folders that have the same name. Such as a folder called spreadsheets each time you work with a New Year when you have opted for a folder organisation that has a folder for every year and divided again into months and so on. Mind you, you can use intelligent search of such an organisation, but it is a waste of time sorting it like that in the first place.

What about if you organise by project and then you want to find all Keynote presentations and each one is in a different place on the hard drive. Fortunately you can have a mix and put files where they make sense for you and then use a tool like Spotlight in Finder or HoudahSpot which does the same, but a whole lot better. Or you could use Evernote and manually bring files of different types into Notebooks or has links to your stuff all in one place. Then with Mavericks we have Mavericks tags, which are not the same as keywords or open meta tags as used in files saved before Mavericks.

It's all a little bit mixed up

So the way that it kind of works at the moment is that there are folders created by applications and by the system such as one for music, another for pictures, a movies folder and another for documents. If you don't create many files and you know the type of file at your looking for then it can be fairly easy just to go by name of the movie or audio file and just looking inside a particular folder. This doesn't work so well if you have hundreds or even thousands of files or a particular type and you only have a vague recollection of what the file was called. So you need to get into using the better search tools with Boolean operators and smart searches that can look in whatever places you tell the computer to look.

It is a good idea to have all of your document files that you create yourself separated from the computer system files. So that when you are doing a backup or you are moving files from a one computer to another it is easy to know that you have all of the important data taken care or. You can tell the backup application or the application you're using for copying just to look in that one place, the big file bucket with everything in it. For example, with my photographs I know that all of my photographs are in the application Aperture. The files are stored within one single file/folder and I make sure that the files are not scattered around the hard drive and referenced into the application. If I need to do a backup everything is in one place and it is all really very easy.

1 comment:

  1. Let the old fogies put files into a mess of folders and a million nested sub folders. The best way is to use tagging and intelligent searches with all of your files in one folder (two or three folders at most). Get Houdahspot and really get Jiggy with it....!!!