Friday, July 11, 2014

Show those documents who's boss

Continuing from yesterday, on tips for organizing files on your hard drive. I talked a bit about using naming conventions to augment the use of folders. Here are a few more naming tips.


A slightly less structured form of naming, but which can be handy to organize files within a folder, is to use a prefix. In yesterday's example... see each file is prefixed with the book title. This means they will stay together as a group if I drop files from another book into the same folder.

A more subtle technique is to use numbers. I make use of numerical prefixes in two different ways in the following examples.

First, to keep files in sequence while still having a free hand in the rest of the name.

When I draft a novel, I find it hard to work with one large document so I split it up into a dozen or so more manageable files. I give the files names that relate to that section of the novel, but tag on a prefix to sort them into order. I choose to go up in increments of 10 so I can easily slot in new scenes if I need to without renumbering existing files, and I jump up in 100s to show the broad structure of the novel - beginning, middle, and end.

Second, to create a pseudo folder structure when I want a large set of files handy all in one list.

I took this approach in my "Writing planning" folder.
Here I am organizing a mixture of documents of different types in such a way that they can easily be found. I chose ranges of numbers to denote different types of files.
  • The 100s are common and persistent planning documents that relate to my writing business as a whole.
  • The 200s are reserved for specific projects with each project having its own number. These are only relevant for the life of the project, and there is only one showing in this example, but if I were to work on several at once this prefixing would keep them separate.
  • The 300s are research and resources with sub-ranges allocated for different topics. The prefix helps me quickly find, for example, everything related to marketing.

Yes, I could instead have set up sub-folders instead but that would mean another layer to navigate with very few documents in each. Your filing system - your choice.

One added bonus with this concept - it's transferable. I use the same numerical prefix in my mailbox folders, so whenever I see a "202" file or folder anywhere, I know it's a project file that relates to publishing Ghosts.

This example also shows use of a feature on the Mac which allows you to add color to file and folder names. The way I use it here just makes it easier to pick out related blocks of files in the list.


If you have a scheme that works for a particular purpose, you might want to repeat and re-use next time you do something similar. My novel folders all follow the same structure, and have many similarities even down to the file level.

Here are equivalent sections from Ghosts of Innocence...
And from Tiamat's Nest...
The similarities mean that when I move from one to another I feel at home and can find everything easily.


In the examples I've posted here, you may have noticed folders called "Archive" and "Dustbin". I find these useful in keeping my main folders tidy. I create a dustbin for files that I don't need but am reluctant to delete altogether - just in case. Archives are for more deliberate retention, for example I want to keep project documents for future reference while not having them crowd my active folder.

Another housekeeping tip is versioning. I keep back versions of manuscripts, copying the whole set of files into a new folder whenever I embark on a major revision. You can also distinguish versions in your file naming - e.g. "My file v1.doc"

Eventually I'll get around to tidying these up, but these easy tips all help to keep things under control by distinguishing current from old documents.

1 comment:

  1. Wow--timing! I so needed to read this. I'm working backward, so heading to the fist post now. Thanks!


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