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File Management Basics

File Management Basics

Thought file management was only for paper files? Then you better think again! It’s just as important to keep the files on your computer organized and up to date. Just as with paper files, the goal of computer file management is to ensure that you can find what you’re looking for quickly, even if you’re looking for it years after its creation. The file management tips below will help you to keep your files accessible so you’ll never have any trouble with them again in the future. Let’s get started!

1.) Organize by File Types

Make applications easier to find by creating a folder called “Program Files” on your hard drive. Keep all your applications there. For instance, the executables for Word, PowerPoint, Simply Accounting and WinZip would all reside in the Program Files folder. More than likely, a lot of your data will fit into this category, so prepare enough time for yourself to go through everything.

2.) One Place for All

Place all your documents in the My Documents folder and no place else. So, whether it’s a spreadsheet, a letter or a PowerPoint presentation, it can be found here. This will make it a lot easier to find what you’re looking for and to run back ups.

3.) Create Folders in My Documents

These are the drawers of your computer’s filing cabinet, so to speak. Use plain language to name your folders. You don’t want to be looking at this list of folders in the future and wondering what “TFK” (or whatever other interesting abbreviation you invented) means.

4.) Nest Folders Within Folders

Create other folders within these main folders as the need arises. For instance, a folder called “Invoices” might contain folders called “2004,” “2005” and “2006.” A folder named for a client might include the folders of “Customerdata” and “Correspondence.” The goal is to have every one of your files assigned to a specific folder, rather than having a bunch of orphan files lying around.

5.) Follow the File Naming Conventions

Do not use spaces in the file names, keep the file names under 27 characters and use all lower case letters. So, a file named for a client should be “jackdawson,” rather than “Jack Dawson.” If you happen to break any of these rules, at least be consistent about it.

6.) Be Specific

Give files logical, specific names and include dates in the file names if possible. The goal when naming files is to be able to tell what the file is about, without having to open it and look. So, if the document is a letter to a customer, reminding him that payment is overdue, call it something like “overdue081206,” rather than something like “letter.” How will you know who the letter is to without opening it? Well, see the next point to find out.

7.) File As You Go

The best time to file a document is when you first create it. So, get in the habit of using the Save As dialogue box to file your documents, as well as, naming it and putting it in the right place to begin with. This will help you out so much in the long run.

8.) Order Your Files for Your Convenience

If there are folders or files that you use a lot, force them to the top of the file list by renaming them with an “a,” an exclamation point (!) or an “AA” at the beginning of the file name.

9.) Cull Your Files Regularly

Sometimes what’s old is obvious, as in the example of the folder named “Invoices” above. If it’s not, keep your folders uncluttered by clearing out the old files. Do not delete business related files unless you are absolutely certain you will never need them again. Instead, in your main collection of folders under My Documents, create a folder called “Old” or “Inactive” and move old files into it when you come across them.

10.) Back Up Your Files Regularly

Whether you’re copying your files onto another drive or onto tape, it’s important to set up and follow a regular back up regimen.

The search function is a wonderful thing, but it will never match the ease of being able to go directly to a folder or file. If you follow these file management tips consistently, even if you don’t know where something is, you will know where it should be. That’s a huge advantage when it comes to finding what you’re looking for. It doesn’t get any better than that!

~ Ramachandran Kumaraswami