Desperate for reference filing suggestions. Longing for 1 system that can actually hold everything ánd has nice features.

YuriDaniel

Registered
Hi! For the past three days I have probably spent about 10 hours thinking about how to give shape to my reference filing system. I really want to stick to 1 system only, but I'm getting the feeling that this is virtually impossible to reach when using the various software tools that are available. Let me explain why:

My reference filing system will contain notes, but also tons of materials in an external file format such as .docx, .xlsx, .pdf, .epub, .rar, .winzip, .jpg, .mp4 and so on. I could file all of this information in a neat A-Z system using folders and subfolders on my Windows OS, without using any additional software tool. But what I am then missing out on are the great features that tools like Evernote or OneNote offer, such as tagging files with several tags for cross-reference purposes.

On the other hand, when using Evernote (which I don't dare in the first place because of security issues and the inability to make back-ups in a format that is compatible with software other than Evernote), or OneNote, I can use neat features like tags etcetera, and can also embed / refer to all those file formats that I mentioned before. However, as far as I understand, these systems will not actually store the files I am embedding, but they are simply linking to those files, meaning that I still need to organize those files somewhere else, and need to make sure that the location of those files does not change as otherwise the links will be broken.

If some of you could share their approach for or opinion on broad based reference filing, I would be very grateful!
 
Hi. I use Apple, for desktop and mobile. There are at least two apps available for the Apple eco-system which meet your ideal criteria (DEVONthink and Keep It). But I guess switching away from Microsoft may not be realistic for you or even possible. I think a neat A to Z system on Windows would be a whole lot better than no system, even if it lacked tags and other extra features which the other programmes offer. You will find quite a lot of discussion about digital general reference filing on the forums, so have a dig around.
 

mcogilvie

Registered
Hi. I use Apple, for desktop and mobile. There are at least two apps available for the Apple eco-system which meet your ideal criteria (DEVONthink and Keep It). But I guess switching away from Microsoft may not be realistic for you or even possible. I think a neat A to Z system on Windows would be a whole lot better than no system, even if it lacked tags and other extra features which the other programmes offer. You will find quite a lot of discussion about digital general reference filing on the forums, so have a dig around.
Yes, I also immediately thought of Keep It and DevonThink. With macs, you can also do a bit of tagging and decent searching on the native file system. I know there are utilities that extend those capabilities. I left windows behind long ago, so I don’t know what’s available there. But I agree that a simple but imperfect filing system that you use is better than a complicated one that you don’t or can’t.
 

RS356

Practicing GTD since 2005
If I had one bit of advice, it’s to simplify using the native file system wherever possible. This is particularly true if you want access to your data many years from now.
 

mcogilvie

Registered
If I had one bit of advice, it’s to simplify using the native file system wherever possible. This is particularly true if you want access to your data many years from now.
Yes. Keep It, for example, puts files in the native file system and hides any extra metadata it uses. I am slowly getting completely out of Evernote because it is the elephant graveyard of data.
 

RS356

Practicing GTD since 2005
Yes. Keep It, for example, puts files in the native file system and hides any extra metadata it uses. I am slowly getting completely out of Evernote because it is the elephant graveyard of data.
I haven’t tried Keep It (now in Windows by necessity), but using the native file system is a prerequisite for me. I’m glad to see more external programs relying on it.

I was an early user of Evernote, back in 2006 when it had a blue theme, the innovative “tape” of notes, and could be run from a thumb drive. Over the years, it became less and less useful, particularly with the lack of data export and the advent of native desktop search.

I require many of my files to be readily available to other researchers (in my role as a historian) and in case of emergency, my spouse/attorney/executor (as a somewhat responsible human). Keeping things in Evernote or other proprietary format doesn’t meet that criteria.
 

YuriDaniel

Registered
Thanks a lot everyone for your responses.

By now I have come across a tool that operates on top of my native system, so I am ensured of compatibility for a lifetime, but can still use linking of files, tags, etc. It is Obsidian. I can imagine this to be a good tool for you as well RS356!
 

GTDengineer

Registered
The Windows file system does support tagging for certain document types including MS Office files and jpeg picture formats. Just right click the file and select Properties-> Details->Tags to view and assign tags. You can add several tags separated by semicolons, and you can select multiple files to tag a bunch of files at once.

When you want to search for these tagged files, simply type tags:xxx in the file manager search bar (where xxx is the tag name.)
 

TruthWK

Registered
I have tried using google drive for a reference system that can hold anything but then i realized that the limitations of any file system windows or cloud are that my ability to quickly take a note about a task or otherwise was impaired. For me, the majority of things i need readily available are just my own thoughts and notes so I am currently using Notion as a task manager and reference system. That freedom to just take a note anywhere on a task or by itself that is quick and easy and move things around to the right lists and organization gets me 95% and I realized too that even if i did use a file system, i still would have email not integrated which ends up needing its own reference system. I chose to focus on what worked best for that 95% use case and be okay with the 5% being in a file system or email, etc.
 

Jared Caron

Healthcare Quality & Safety pro; GTD enthusiast
I would say that your reference system will likely be an aggregate of a few different systems. While I would love to be completely paperless, I've still got some... so a well-indexed file cabinet is still useful.

As for digital, it depends on what it is. Most documents and photos I just store in OneDrive using a flat folder structure (e.g. no nesting) as described in the GTD book.
Emails I keep in my email system, also using a flat folder structure.
For general reference info, I just jumped ship from Evernote into OneNote and I am finding it much better.

The important thing is to be consistent across your filing "buckets" (esp re: nomenclature), and to keep the structure as simple as possible.
 

Xavier BOEMARE

Registered
Hi! For the past three days I have probably spent about 10 hours thinking about how to give shape to my reference filing system. I really want to stick to 1 system only, but I'm getting the feeling that this is virtually impossible to reach when using the various software tools that are available. Let me explain why:

My reference filing system will contain notes, but also tons of materials in an external file format such as .docx, .xlsx, .pdf, .epub, .rar, .winzip, .jpg, .mp4 and so on. I could file all of this information in a neat A-Z system using folders and subfolders on my Windows OS, without using any additional software tool. But what I am then missing out on are the great features that tools like Evernote or OneNote offer, such as tagging files with several tags for cross-reference purposes.

On the other hand, when using Evernote (which I don't dare in the first place because of security issues and the inability to make back-ups in a format that is compatible with software other than Evernote), or OneNote, I can use neat features like tags etcetera, and can also embed / refer to all those file formats that I mentioned before. However, as far as I understand, these systems will not actually store the files I am embedding, but they are simply linking to those files, meaning that I still need to organize those files somewhere else, and need to make sure that the location of those files does not change as otherwise the links will be broken.

If some of you could share their approach for or opinion on broad based reference filing, I would be very grateful!
Hi,
Did the same brainstorm for hours, months ago, and finally landed on Obsidian (https://obsidian.md)
- Markdown files (no priority system)
- Stored on you file system (Mac, PC, etc)
- Can reference and link topics/ideas/etc internally AND external files
- ZettelKasten compliant if you want to go there

I now use it as my "second brain", but also as entry point for all my references.

I did try quickly some other systems (Notion, RemNote, DEVONthink for instance), and I find those too complex, and "captive" -> I don't want to re-write my all reference system If I want to change or switch from Windows to Mac or the opposite.

Bon courage ;-)

Regards
 
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