Having assisted quite a few friends, relatives and colleagues with retrieving and organizing their photos, downloads and other computer files, I realize that what some consider to be the simplest of concepts can be completely foreign to others. This is particularly true for those who do not have a technical background or came to use technology later in life. So, while some people may scoff at these elementary tips, I know that there are people out there who can use them.
- Naming – Changing the automatically assigned name of a document or photo to a simple, yet relevant term will make it easier to find later. There is nothing more frustrating than searching for a specific file and having no idea where it is or how it is listed. Use something associated with the file; for an article about Spring fashion trends that was sent to you by your friend Alice, a simple name like Fashion from Alice will help you immediately locate it. Additionally, naming a photo something like ‘Sara Beach 8-15-12’ will help you remember valuable information, such as who, where, and when the photo involves. This is especially helpful if scrapbooking is a hobby of yours.
- Folders – Don’t be the person who saves everything to Documents or Downloads. It only takes a second to add a new folder. Searching through hundreds or thousands of unrelated files that are all stuffed into one folder is what I believe Hell must be like. When you download or otherwise save a file to your computer, select the folder you want it saved to. If you don’t want to be able to find it later, why are you wasting time saving it in the first place?
- Purge – There is really no need to save everything for all eternity. Just like receipts and hard copies of documents, it’s okay to occasionally go through and delete irrelevant or outdated files. This is especially true when you have updated versions of a file. No one is going to ask you to pull all of the previous versions of policy xyz and cite the differences. Oh, and if you thought that all of those files you downloaded for temporary viewing magically disappeared once you closed them, think again. If you open your “documents” folder, you will see a secondary folder labeled “downloads.” If you have never noticed it before, you will find every document, PDF, photo, comic, recipe, etc. you have ever opened. Whether it was sent to you as an attachment to an email, a post on Facebook, or some other download, for as long as you have been using your computer. What makes it worse is that all of those files that you are no longer using and had no idea were still slumming around your computer are slowing it down and eating up your storage space.
- Backup – Contrary to what many believe, computers are not a permanent storage solution. If the hard drive crashes, the computer is stolen or damaged in a fire or flood, or your poor computer becomes infected with a virus, there is a good chance that you are going to lose your financial documents, tax returns, digital photos, and any other files that you had saved. With the technology that is currently available, there is no reason for you to be completely dependent on your computer. Flash drives, backup disks, virtual storage services, and removable hard drives are all great options for storing your irreplaceable data. Additionally, online photo sharing sites are a great place to store your photos and as a bonus, these sites make it easier than ever to share your memories with loved ones or order prints and photo gifts.
While these four things are a great way to start making files easier to find and keeping them safe and available, they are not the only things you can do to make your computer files more user friendly and by no means are these simple suggestions a substitute for common sense or quality anti-virus or spyware programs. Do you have anything to add or tips that might be useful? Leave a comment below.