Naming files seems like an obvious activity and definitely not a rocket science. Yet have you ever tried to find anything you created or saved in 2004?
Perhaps you still hold most of your records in paper format but as we move to paperless style living the need for good filing system will be bigger and bigger.
You could rely on tools like Evernote to hold all your information but I’m not sure how it would handle 10 years worth of data. I’ve already seen on some of the discussion forums that some heavy users had to consider using secondary accounts or even removing some content from the application as the database became too large and unresponsive.
For that and many more reasons I decided to stick with the native formats and keeping files in folders albeit in a small number of them.
To make sure I can find necessary information I’m using a combination of file naming convention, folder location and a program called Everything.
All the files I create follow this format: [YYYYMMDD] + [category] + [Keywords] .
This allows to me to find files based on date, a high level category or one or more different keyword.
To give you example if there is receipt for a pair of shoes that need to keep I would name the file in a following way:
“20130922 receipt brand X running shoes.pdf”
To benefit of this approach is that it’s independent of any application, platform and if I ever move to Linux or Mac OS I will be able to locate my file with out a hassle.
To avoid clutter and storing unrelated files in the same location I also use a fairly simple folder structure to keep a some form of hard edges. This isn’t critical for my filing system but it simply helps to narrow down the focus. If for some reason I want to browse through my receipts I can do that.
I try to keep the number of folders to minimum and avoid nesting as much as possible.
Last piece of the setup is application called Everything. It creates an index of all file names that exist on your computer and then allows for searching those files. Everything does not search through the content of the files hence the importance of proper naming. I have it set up to open when I press Win+S and then I simply type the word I’m after.
One element that I’m yet to fully flesh out is how to find a good Windows replacement for Mac app called Hazel which automated a lot of filing and naming tasks. There a program called Folder Actions but I’m yet to dive into it.
This approach has been very much inspired by series of posts published by Seth Brown (aka Dr. Bunsen) Although he uses Mac it wasn’t that difficult to implement the basics.
Dr. Bunsen / Naming & Searching Files Part 1
Dr. Bunsen / Naming & Searching Files Part 2
Dr. Bunsen / Naming & Searching Files Part 3