Quick Tip: Keep Your Computer Files Decluttered

Today's Quick Tip features a two-for-one suggestion from Doug and innowen.

Are you a computer pack-rat, with a tonne of files cluttering your computer's desktop? Afraid to delete them because you might need them later?

Doug recommends: On the first of every month, move the files you need into the correct directories. Anything that's left, put them into a directory named "Driftwood March 2009" (or somesuch). Create a new one every month. Delete them once they're a year old, since you'll likely never need their contents again.

innowen recommends: Create an "inbox" on your desktop and put files that you download/accumulate from the internet here. Then, once a week (or follow Doug's advice above) go through all the files and sort them into permanent homes or trash them.

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This is great...

I don't know why I didn't think of it. Especially downloaded files! This way, I won't be backing up files that I don't need. Thanks!

Here's what I do ...

My default download location is my desktop
On my desktop is a folder named "Clean Desktop"

When the desktop gets cluttered, I sweep all non-essentials into "Clean Desktop"
Consider it to be a first step to organization.
-----------------------------------
"I think the surest sign that there is intelligent life out there in the universe is that none of it has tried to contact us." (Calvin and Hobbes/Bill Waterson)

Pack Rat Filing

I used to do the same thing with my "to file," stack. I would wait a month before filing, and during that time much of the "stuff" I would have on that filing stack would have proven to be unnecessary to file at all.

I do something similar

I have been doing more or less the same with my desktop and email, but adding a month separation never occurred to me, will see if that helps, especially software downloads that get outdated regularly. Reference and pdf information is harder to judge as to whether it is outdated.

For file pack rats, to keep

For file pack rats, to keep a squeaky clean desktop:

  1. file miscellaneous things by date unless a it's very large file or project related - dates are generally easier to remember and don't rely on having the perfect filename
  2. set up a directory called something like /DesktopTBF/
  3. anytime the desktop gets cluttered throw everything in a folder named by date as in /2009Jun4desktop/ and move it to /DesktopTBF/
  4. sort through items in desktop-by-date-folders when you have to find something or if you just need to be soothed by a repetitive task

That's it. You've saved tons of time making individual decisions about where the detritus of your day and and anything without an obvious home should go. The secret: it's amazing how infrequently you need to find the files stored this way. Also works for media files.

Dating Files

I'm terrible at organization, but was taught to date or number everything... that has saved my b*tt often.

Numbering- I use Windows File Manager much, so when I'm working on a project I'll make/name a Folder. To ensure I can find it in all the clutter (why can't we have colored folders?) of the others I'll call it "1 Budget" Putting the 1 makes Windows sort it to the top of the folder list. I can have "1 Budget" "1 Meeting" etc. All the 1s will be together Alphabetical. I can do 2s, 3s. Don't go over 9 as the sorting goes off.

For dating, I again use Windows sorting rules and use the English method of dating... yymmdd, today is 090605. Don't bother with dashes/slashes, just more typing. Mostly use this as I revise a document.. "081113 EOY Estimate", "081114 EOY Estimate". In the clutter I can find the file I need. You can also do a search on "081113" and find all the various files you produced that day. Putting the date first makes it easier to find and to group a day's work together regardless of file type.

Projects aren't my problem

When I'm working on a specific project I organise myself; set up folders and use consistent naming conventions. Though for multi-machine projects I might put things on the wrong system.

My problems are 1) ad hoc stuff I download in the many moments of serendipity I get and 2) the use of a single directory for "My Documents" (on Windows) or "Documents" (on Mac OS X); not a problem eleswhere (on Linux). Having these defaults is a hinderance to good housekeeping. Everything gets lumped in there without thought. Recently I purchased an external hard drive to serve as my network file server; it provided the opportunity to impose some structure on my information. Now those (archived) files are each saved in appropriate folders and more recently additions can be saved in there too. Problem of the default document directory still remains but now only a few documents are saved there.

You do know that "[My

You do know that "[My ]Documents" is, like the linux version of /home/[user] is only a starting place for your organisation of things? Nothing stops you on either system from creating subfolders/directories and, if it's lack of disk space on that drive both Windows and Linux (can't speak for Mac, never used it) can move your home/documents folder elsewhere.

Now, under windows some applications don't always obey where you've requested the new location to be, but the vast majority do. Try searching for tweakui (for windows). Under linux is should be just a matter of altering the mount table.

(Windows specific) it is also possible to 'mount' a partition as either or both a drive 'letter' or as directory but I can't tell you how off hand - I've not got a windows machine here.

Good luck/enjoy!

J.

Rearrange well known phrase or saying ...

You do know that "[My ]Documents" is, like the linux version of /home/[user] is only a starting place for your organisation of things?

Ah yes, as a computing scientist of some 35 years standing (including periods hacking operating systems) I know that. The problem is not of epistimological but of implementation. Will this document that I'm creating be the only one on this issue or is it going to be one of hundreds? If the former then using ~ is sufficient (or on Mac OS X's Documents) but if the latter then some later fix up will be necessary. How many is too many to retain them in ~ I wonder? Two, twenty?

Nothing stops you on either system from creating subfolders/directories and, if it's lack of disk space on that drive both Windows and Linux (can't speak for Mac, never used it) can move your home/documents folder elsewhere.

My original reply mentioned creating many sub-directories. So yes nothing stopped me ... except for the a priori knowledge that I would need to create a structure. And even if I have that knowledge the specific structure is a posteori.

As to Windows I try not to use it. Only when forced to by clients. But I have a USB drive with PortableApps.com stuff installed on it so that I'm not beholden to the imposed ethos of Windows. (And portableapps.com is all about open source so I have the same software on there that I use on my Macs and my Linux systems.)

Now, under windows some applications don't always obey where you've requested the new location to be, but the vast majority do. Try searching for tweakui (for windows). Under linux is should be just a matter of altering the mount table.

When using Windows (blah) it seems to me that programmers are becoming lazy and hard coding the defaults (like My Documents) as absolutes. This is a design feature inherited from Windows itself with its central registry.

(Windows specific) it is also possible to 'mount' a partition as either or both a drive 'letter' or as directory but I can't tell you how off hand - I've not got a windows machine here.

Sadly I can tell me how to do that. But I've not got a windows machine here period.

windows file manger

I really like what you said. I have so many downloaded files, pdfs, and they are all pretty much hanging around in my document file unsorted. I have just never gave much thought to sorting into like item file folders. Probably, a little laziness on my part. When I need something printed I just go through the whole process of trying to find what I know is there somewhere.

Folders

I don't know how other browsers work, but in Omniweb, I have DIYPlanner set to download everything from this site into its own, special folder. ;-) I have a couple other sites I tend to download files from, and they get their own folders too. That helps keep things organized without my having to manually interfere. I wonder if other browsers have site-specific preferences like this. I've used Omniweb for so long, I forget what other browsers can and can't do...

-Jon

Hm.

Hi.

I guess I do the opposite. I put all my files in project related folders, then periodically review the folders that get the most traffic to remove unneeded stuff.

For example, for my biggest project I have an 'extracts' folder for data extracted from the system. The stuff tends to be date-sensitive, so I sort by date in that folder. But I save the downloads for quite a while in case I need to refer back. After about 6 months, though, I know I'm not going to refer back again so they're safe to delete. For other project-related stuff, I have folders by topic and the stuff gets kept essentially forever (until the project is done).

On ordinary household downloads, I download things with a purpose or project in mind, so I make folders for those too. Occasionally I go through my project folders and decide whether to keep the folder or ditch it completely. If keep, then I review the files to see if there's any files to ditch.

So I guess I do essentially the reverse of this tip. Date is the secondary sort for me, primary being topic. Right now I have about 20 project folders at home, only 4 or 5 of which are 'active' at any given moment. At work I have 3 active projects and a folder containing about 10 more that are completed. The project folders are subdivided so I can find stuff by subtopic.

I don't really have any space issues at the moment, so this system seems to work for me. I can find all my stuff in a flash, which is my main goal with filing anything.

shris