Wayne State College

File Organization Tips


Recycle Unused and Duplicate files

The longer you have your PC, the more unnecessary or duplicate files will accumulate on your disk. These files take up space that may cause your PC to run slower or take up space on your hard drive. By recycling unused and duplicate files you can easily boost your PC's performance and open up room for new files. To recycle a file, select all of the items. On your keyboard, tap the "Delete key". Click "Yes", to moving these items to the Recycle bin. Click the "X" in the upper right corner to close the Window.

Organize By Category

One way to organize your folders and files is by category, or type. For instance, let’s say you have documents for school, work, personal and professional (separate from work), as well as music, photos and movies. Obviously music, photos, videos and documents should all be kept separate, but organizing goes a step further. For example, you should also organize the types of documents that you have. There’s a couple ways to do this.

You could organize by file type, which I don’t recommend very much. Sure it’s better, but it’s not ideal. It’s mostly used for mass-organizing and “quick fixing” although there’s not much “fix” involved. This method could mostly be helpful if you’re going through things you no longer need at the moment and/or don’t care to get too detailed. It does have its place, and I have some files which I’ve organized this way, but it always leaves you knowing that you need to organize “those files”. For this reason, it’s not a method that I highly recommend — there are better ways. You could also organize by what category the file is most relevant to. For instance, a school document should go into a school folder.

Organize By Date

Organizing by date is also helpful, but shouldn’t be used solely by itself. The reason being, if you ever perform a search for a file, you might find it in a folder labeled “04-11-2006”. If that’s all you have to go by, you will likely have to open the folder to look at its contents to see what is in it. It can get worse if you file all files this way and have all kinds of types intermingled with each other. Again, this isn’t very organized and perhaps worse than nothing at all.

If you feel adding a date is necessary (which I’ll often do for time sensitive files or files which are updated often, such as a resume), add a description with the date at the end or beginning, depending on your preference.


Naming Files And Folders: Short, But Precise

It is important to consider when you’re organizing your files to be as brief as possible, but also as detailed as possible. For many cases, you might be the only one using the folders or files, but if you do decide to share something with someone, either on a personal or professional basis, you want it to be clear to them, as well as to you. You don’t want to have to think about what you were trying to describe in a folder title. Don’t name a folder “school stuff” name it “School” — notice the emphasis on capitalizing things, which also makes things look nicer.

Then under your school folder you can organize things by school (if there’s more than one). If you don’t have more than one school which you’ve attended you might name your folder “School: [Name of School].” If you want to abbreviate your school’s initials, that should be fine as you’ll likely know what they mean. However, be careful to not go overboard with abbreviations. Although they can be handy in keeping names short, the most important thing is that you understand what is in that file or folder.


Don’t Overdo The Subfolders

Subfolders are a necessity to organizing files. It’s one of the great perks that a computer has over traditional filing cabinets. An example of a good use of subfolders would be having your Work folder in My Documents, a Projects folder in the Work folder, “[Name of Project and Date] folder” in the Projects folder, and so on (if additional folders are needed).

However, be conscious of the number of folders within folders that you have because it can be a daunting task opening folder after folder looking for your files. If there are files that you know you need to quickly access, try to keep them only a folder or two away. Part of this has to do with the system that you are creating, have created or are just the most comfortable with, but it also must do with practicality and ease of access.

Change Your View

In Windows Explorer there are numerous ways to view files. Along with viewing files in various icon sizes, there’s also a preview pane to see what the file looks like before opening it. You’re also able to sort your files by date, name, etc. This doesn’t directly correlate with managing files per say, but it allows for an overall better experience. What we’re aiming for is less work and more efficiency and how you view your files can do just that.

Don’t Make Copies, Make Shortcuts

To prevent future copies of files, it’s important to make shortcuts of files and folders, not copies. The difference between the two is that a copy is an exact replica of the first file or folder, whereas a shortcut simply leads to the file in the original location. Aside from not aiding in clutter as much, shortcuts also take up less space.

To make a shortcut, right click on the folder or file and click “Create Shortcut“. This will create a shortcut within that same location that the file is in. You can then take that shortcut, move it to whatever location you want and even rename it if you so desire. To create a shortcut of something on the desktop, right click and hover over “Send To” then click “Desktop“.

Create an “Inbox” Folder

Create yourself a folder where you store all files that you’re currently working on, or that you haven’t gotten around to filing yet.  You can think of this folder as your “to-do” list.  You can call it “Inbox” (making it the same metaphor as your email system), or “Work”, or “To-Do”, or “Scratch”, or whatever name makes sense to you.  It doesn’t matter what you call it – just make sure you have one! Once you have finished working on a file, you then move it from the “Inbox” to its correct location within your organizational structure.

You may want to use your Desktop as this “Inbox” folder.  Rightly or wrongly, most people do.  It’s not a bad place to put such files, but be careful:  If you do decide that your Desktop represents your “to-do” list, then make sure that no other files find their way there.  In other words, make sure that your “Inbox”, wherever it is, Desktop or otherwise, is kept free of junk – stray files that don’t belong there.

So where should you put this folder, which, almost by definition, lives outside the structure of the rest of your filing system? Well, first and foremost, it has to be somewhere handy.  This will be one of your most-visited folders, so convenience is key.  Putting it on the Desktop is a great option – especially if you don’t have any other folders on your Desktop:  the folder then becomes supremely easy to find in Windows Explorer.


Customize Your Folder Icons

This is not strictly speaking an organizational tip, but having unique icons for each folder does allow you to more quickly visually identify which folder is which, and thus saves you time when you’re finding files. To change your folder icons, right-click on a folder you want to customize and select "Properties." In the "Customize" tab, go to the "Folder icons" section and click the "Change Icon" button. Choose one of the many icons listed in the box then click OK.

Stay Consistent & Prompt

This is one of the most important things to do. Once you start the process, you must continue it diligently otherwise it’s all for nothing and you will end up with a semi-organized-file-system. That’s not only non-productive, but it also reminds you that you never finished.

The key to this is to be prompt. The moment you need to save or create a file, you put it in the right spot and if there isn’t a spot for it yet, create one. Whether you do this in the cloud or locally, you need to remember all of the previous tips such as being brief, but detailed, refraining from making duplicates, and paying attention to folder hierarchy by organizing what makes sense, but not overdoing it by adding too many folders.


Last Updated: 9/11/2019