How to structure the digital Reference Filing System

Discussion in 'PUBLIC: Discuss the GTD Methodology' started by Rene, Jan 28, 2016.

  1. Rene

    Rene Registered

    Joined:
    Jan 28, 2016
    Messages:
    1
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    0
    Hello,

    I´m desperately trying to set up a digital Reference Filing System for myself. Some redistrictions I defined for myself

    1. One Alpha System, not multiple ones
    2. file everything by topic, person, project or company
    3. use a defined naming convention

    What is your general approach for organizing a digital Reference Filing System?

    How do you handle?
    1. The maximum directory depth.
    2. How do you place your files inside you Reference Filing System?

    I get the impression that by creating top level folders like Oil inc for my work, i create new alpha systems on the top level. Because everything work related is filed under OOil_inc. How do you handle these things?

    Thanks!

    Best, René
     
  2. Oogiem

    Oogiem Registered

    Joined:
    Jun 3, 2008
    Messages:
    4,230
    Likes Received:
    97
    Trophy Points:
    48
    Gender:
    Female
    I'm in the middle of doing a complete and massive overhaul of my system.

    I have a laptop, desktop, iPhone and iPad that all need some set or subset of my digital files.

    I have 5 digital "file cabinets" as folders on my main computer. They are labeled Active_Projects, File_Cabinet and then 3, one for each organization where I am a current officer. Within those I have a single layer of folders that sort by name. In my system all someday/maybe folders are kept in my main file cabinet folder, not separate. This is a work in progress so I have many more folders than that right now as I am cleaning up the system. For now as I find stuff related to either organization I just dump the file into that organizations' top folder and move on as I am focusing on my personal stuff for now.

    Within each "file cabinet" folder I have a single layer of folders that sort alphabetically automatically. There are a very few of the folders that actually have a second layer but that is in the minority. Everything goes into a folder, even if it's just a single file. The digital equivalent of David Allen's file a single piece of paper.

    I have a very few groupings that I manage by naming their respective folders in a way that makes sense. i.e I have folders like Software-Scapple, Software-Omnifocus, Sheep_Breeding, Sheep-Disease_OPP, Sheep-Disease_Scrapie.

    I have DEVONThink for small bits of reference and that is undergoing a re-org as well. I do separate the DT stuff into that which I need on the portable devices (iPhone or iPad) and that that I only need on the 2 larger computers. I use separate databases for the different types of info. The group names in DEVONThink are the same as the file cabinet and folder names on my main system. One DEVONThink database is an index of my file cabinet folders because I like how I can search in DT better than in Spotlight.

    I also have 2 encrypted sets of files. One is an encrypted partition that has personal or sensitive data in a single layer of folders within a partition called Encrypted_File_Cabinet and the other is a DEVONThink database that is stored in that encrypted partition that holds small bits of sensitive data and an index to the encrypted file cabinet partition.

    I sync the main and laptop computers with my Active Projects and Reference folders. Association folders only live on the main machine. No folders synch to the iPad or iPhone instead I use DEVONThink to sync items I need on the portable devices. The encrypted data stay on my main machine.

    Use standard filenames with no spaces in the filename so that they are readable on all operating systems.

    Use standard file formats that are open source or ubiquitous for my system as much as possible. (ODT, ODS, PNG, TIFF, CSV, SQLITE, JPEG, PDF, ZIP, DMG etc.)

    Dated files are in the format --_.

    Circa dates use -00- in place of any missing data. Dates that are not circa but to a single level just go that far i.e. 2016_. or 2016-01_.

    Range dates use _ between the data ranges i.e 2014-10-05_2015-01-01_.

    My main computer is backed up via Time Machine hourly, plus a monthly backup on a RAID server plus a CD backup of critical files every quarter. Additional backups are kept in a rolling system at 2 separate off-site locations in media rated fire proof safes. I test the validity and readibility of the backups at least once every year.
     
  3. mcogilvie

    mcogilvie Registered

    Joined:
    Jan 2, 2005
    Messages:
    2,088
    Likes Received:
    47
    Trophy Points:
    48
    I file general reference filing by area of focus, then year, then a specific topic. I did this digitally, and have started doing it with paper as well. I find it easy.
     
  4. sesteph6

    sesteph6 Registered

    Joined:
    Feb 18, 2014
    Messages:
    63
    Likes Received:
    6
    Trophy Points:
    8
    Oogiem,

    Do you mind me asking what made you use devonthink vs evernote? I have been a Devonthink Pro Office user. But I am drawn to the ability of Evernote to OCR and be SO mobile, so I have been trying to make it work. Unfortunately the "open structure" of evernote is slowly driving me mad! And I have not been able to effectively organize as well as Id like. Any thoughts on the Evernote vs devonthink debate?
     
  5. Oogiem

    Oogiem Registered

    Joined:
    Jun 3, 2008
    Messages:
    4,230
    Likes Received:
    97
    Trophy Points:
    48
    Gender:
    Female
    I will not use a cloud service. First off, I often am in areas where there is no Internet connectivity at all and Evernote's way of deciding how to store things on the mobile device is hard to manage. Second, Such systems are inherently risky from a security standpoint. So Evernote was never an option although I did buy it and test it out before deciding it wasn't for me.

    I also really like the indexing capability of DEVONThink, something Evernote doesn't even handle at all.
     
  6. redsleaves

    redsleaves Registered

    Joined:
    Feb 13, 2014
    Messages:
    14
    Likes Received:
    3
    Trophy Points:
    3
    Occupation:
    Independent Brand Strategist
    Location:
    Richmond
    Home Page:
    Oogiem,

    Would you mind clarifying what you consider your reference folders, what you consider a file cabinet folder, and whether you separate out your personal from your sheeping?

    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
     
  7. ChristinaSkaskiw

    ChristinaSkaskiw Registered

    Joined:
    May 14, 2008
    Messages:
    206
    Likes Received:
    4
    Trophy Points:
    18
    I have a Documents folder at the sort of top level of my file system structure -- on a Mac, not sure if the Documents folder was “imposed” by the OS or was created when I migrated from Windows -- under which I have created the folders #Checklists, #Projects, #Reference, #Reference IT, #Personal, and #Finance. I used the #-sign to have the sort at the top. #Reference is general, A-Z kind of reference, #Reference IT is work related and has more of a an area of focus sub-division, and #Personal is also A-Z, but things like my own writing, goal setting, and such. #Finances is also reference, but specialized. In Sweden we can get a lot of official paperwork in electronic form, such as tax documentation, receipts, and invoices. Most sub-folders in each #-folder hold no sub-folders, but there are a few, like the recipe folder, where I have folders in folders. Search functionality in the file browser helps with locating info.

    #Projects holds project support material and old, completed projects sometimes get moved to #Reference, if not trashed.

    I use the same main folder structure in e-mail, Web bookmarks, and Evernote, because that’s where reference show up, but it’s a bit crazy with parallel systems.
     
  8. Oogiem

    Oogiem Registered

    Joined:
    Jun 3, 2008
    Messages:
    4,230
    Likes Received:
    97
    Trophy Points:
    48
    Gender:
    Female
    Mac OS has a default top level folder for each user called Documents. Within that I have a folder for my stuff called DWA Data, that's because some programs must put stuff in Documents and it was easier to isolate my stuff from system stuff. This may go away when the file cleanup is finished but for now it's a legacy from about 5 revs of the operating system ago. When I am done cleaning I may be able to eliminate the DWA Data folder and move my top level file cabinet and active project folders up one level because I may be able to get rid of the extraneous system junk that Mac OS likes to put into the Documents folder.

    My file structure as discussed above starts at that level.

    I do not distinguish between pure reference folders (examples: Book-History_of_Agriculture, Chickens, Knitting_Patterns-Socks, Sheep_Guard_Dogs) and folders for currently inactive or someday/maybe projects (examples: Knitting_Patterns-Socks, Rope_Cap_Notes, Pictures_Needs_Work)

    As I move a project off the someday/maybe list and into active work I will move the folder containing all the electronic project support material into my Active_Projects folder for work. When I put a project on hold or into Someday?maybe I move the folder back into my File_Cabinet. I do the same thing for the groups within DEVONThink that have the small bits of project support material and als the paper file fodlers if there are paper project support materials.

    I also do not distinguish between personal and work stuff, it's all in the same big File_Cabinet folder or Active_Projects folder. It's all one life so for me trying to decide whether I put the reference material into work or personal cabinets just doesn't' make sense. If I was working in a secured environment with a need to keep strict compartmentalization of tasks or projects I'd have a different set-up. The only stuff that is separate are the folders for the organizations because I may need to hand over all of that to a new officer at some point so I want it separate.
     
  9. ljmwaugh

    ljmwaugh Registered

    Joined:
    May 24, 2017
    Messages:
    7
    Likes Received:
    1
    Trophy Points:
    3
    Gender:
    Female
    I use a couple of TheBrain databases. One for work, one for personal, two others for non-profits whose boards I am on. I sync all of the databases except for work with their online service. Searching is excellent on TheBrain and I'm not limited to a strict hierarchical structure.
     

Share This Page