Part Two of Computer Upgrade – Organizing Electronic Files

Continuing my preparation and evaluation before upgrading my laptop, here is Part 2 – Organizing Electronic Files.

As mentioned in my post What did I get myself into? when it comes to my electronic files, THEY ARE A MESS!!  When using my previous computers, I would often copy files from cameras, back up files to CDs, DVDs and flash drives and then just dump them in a random folder on my computer.  This made life very hard when it came to transferring files from an old computer to a new one.  Hard enough that I would get frustrated and decide “I’ll just dump everything here and deal with it later”.

Unfortunately, I also took this approach when I started using cloud storage.  So my cloud folders are a bit messy as well.  I have started reorganizing my cloud and have made a lot of headway on that project but I still have a bunch of files to get through.

Because I know that I can very easily fall into the “I can do this later” philosophy, I’ve decided that I will not purchase a new computer until I deal with the mess I have created.  The new laptop will be my reward for getting organized.

When I first started researching my family in 2002, I jumped in feet first without much consideration of sources and attaching records to my database.  I think that is relatively common.  I downloaded documents that I found, I took pictures of headstones (never correctly recording which cemeteries I took which pictures in), scanned pictures I had.  Most of the time I just accepted the default name that the program or device assigned to the image.  Later, as I realized that I needed to source my stuff and that I could attach records and media to my database, I copied some files from the dumping ground to more organized folders.  SOME FILES.  But which files?  Since the original files are still in the dump folder I know I probably have multiple copies of a lot of files.  This will take weeks to get through.

How am I  organizing my files?

My first step to cleaning up my cloud folders, which I will continue to use for my unsorted files, is developing a folder and file name structure that works for me.
I did some research to try and find a “standard” but there was none that I could find.  I looked at what other people have used and didn’t like anyone’s system in total.  So, since I don’t have enough to do, I am developing my own system.  It is a work in progress but so far I am happy with it and I think it will work.

In order to try and avoid long, drawn out file names I’m trying to use tags in the files.  I know that some programs and sites do not support tags (and also strip out other metadata) so I haven’t gotten deep into this yet, I’m still doing some playing around to see what stays with the files where.
Tagging and metadata can only get better so I think this is the way to go.  This should allow me to do things like add tags for new people that I find on a census page that I didn’t have originally without changing the file name.  I think I can use more generic naming for files other than photos of specific people by tagging the people in the documents instead of including them in the file name.

I have a lot to do, I better get going!

Stay tuned for Part Three – Software Audit…