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Organizing Your Files

File Management Tips

Organize the applications:You can make it easier to find applications saved on the computer by creating and maintaining a folder called Program Files on your drive. Keep all your applications there. For instance, the executables for Word, PowerPoint and Simply Accounting can all reside in the Program Files folder.

One place for all documents:Place all important and frequently used documents in the My Documents folder and no where else. Hence it may be a spreadsheet, a letter or a PowerPoint presentation, it should go to My Documents. This will make it easier to find things and to run backups.

Create specific folders in My Documents:The folders (in My Documents) are the virtual drawers of your computer’s filing cabinet. It is wise to use plain language to name the folders. Using short forms like 'PLT' or 'RHK' will only leave you looking at long lists of files in these folders and checking them individually to understand what the folder was about. This is why it is better to use names that are clear and truly self explanatory.

Nest folders within folders:Create sub folders within these main folders as need arises. For instance, a folder called “Invoices” in My Documents might contain more folders such as '2011', '2010' and '2009'. Likewise, a folder named for some client might include sub folders like 'Customer Data' and 'Correspondence'. The objective is to have every file in a folder rather than having a bunch of orphan files listed.

Follow conventions for naming your files:Do not use unnecessary spaces in file names and keep the names under 27 characters. files on a computer should be named using all lower case. So a file named for a client John Wilson should be johnwilson rather than John Wilson. If you do not want to follow these rules and use a customized way to name files, be consistent about it.

Use specific names for files:The files ought to be given logical and specific names along with dates in file names if possible. The purpose while naming official files is to be able to tell what the file is about without having to open it and look. So if a particular document is a letter to a customer reminding them that payment is overdue, you may name it something like 'overdue081210' instead of something very simple like 'letter'.

File as you go:The best time to file a document is when it is first created. So it is good to use the "Save As" dialogue box to file your document as well as name it, putting it in the right place in the first place.

Set the files in order for your convenience:If there are certain folders or files that you use a lot, force them to the top of the file list by renaming them with a! or an AA at the beginning of the file name.

The tips mentioned above pertain to basic file management. But organizing computer files also entails deleting unnecessary files and backing up the important ones.

Clearing out old and unnecessary files:For how long should you keep old files on the hard drive? If you have not used or even referred to a particular file for several months, you can probably delete it or store it somewhere else.

In the folder where the file is stored, rest the mouse pointer over the file name to see when it was last modified. For more information, you can right-click the file name and choose Properties. It will then show all information as to when the file was created, last modified, and most recently accessed. If a file is very old and has not been accessed in more than six months, it might be time to clear it out. If you are not certain, it is advisable to open it and check just to ensure sure that you will not need it soon.

Another quick and easy way to clear out files is to empty the Recycle Bin. All the files that you have deleted still exist on the computer until you empty Recycle Bin. To clear the bin, right-click the Recycle Bin icon on the desktop and then click Empty Recycle Bin. To permanently delete files (without them resting in the Recycle bin), you can also Shift + Delete the files directly.

If you are concerned that in your efforts to clean up your computer, you might delete files that you require later, click Open and then review the files in the bin before you empty it. To get back deleted files that you deleted by mistake, choose those files, and then click Restore to put them back to their original locations.

Clearing out Email:Here are a few easy ways to tame your email inbox and avoid unnecessary email buildup:

  • Create folders where messages can be stored by sender, topic, or date.
  • Create email rules to file and manage the messages automatically.
  • Use Mailbox Cleanup in Outlook to assess, locate, and archive your emails.
  • Go through the Sent folder in Outlook, and delete items that are no longer required (especially the ones with large file attachments).
  • If you know that you no longer need emails that you deleted, permanently delete them all from Outlook by manually or automatically emptying the Deleted Items folder.

Backing up important files:The final step in cleaning up a computer is to copy selected files to another storage medium, such as a writeable CD or DVD or an external hard drive. For most important files, such as project files, key presentations, or large emails, you can rest a lot easier if you have a backup copy stored safely away from your computer—just in case you lose your computer or it fails. To back up files, it is good to have a CD/DVD burner or an external hard disk drive that you can connect to your computer through a USB or FireWire port.

Lastly, do not forget to clear out Internet browsing history as this also helps to get rid of lots of files that unnecessarily occupy space on computer due to web browsing!

About the Author:This article by Frank Johnson is the first in his series on ‘Computer files organization’ Frank is a regular editorial contributor on technology products and services that help small to mid size businesses.  To know more about organizing your files on computers, you may interact with him here

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