How to clean up thousands of misplaced files and best practice file structure guidelines?

Discussion in 'macOS' started by cmm, Jan 11, 2016.

  1. cmm macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    Apr 30, 2006
    Location:
    Manhattan & Zürich
    #1
    I wanted to get people’s opinions on best practices for managing your files. I used to do a pretty good job at this but over the past year it has gotten out of control. I currently now have thousands of files in ~/Downloads and my ~/Documents folder has gone out of control as well. On ~/Desktop I have the three folders that are very well organized and I use this info the most (everything in ~/Documents is older stuff or stuff not related to work. For instance, in ~/Desktop, I have the folders: "SCHOOL" " WORK" "RESEARCH". Inside "RESEARCH", there are subfolders separated by research areas that I’m interested in and then I throw everything in there. The "SCHOOL" folder is separated by classes I teach and sometimes I have subfolders that say student papers, handouts, etc, other times, I just have no further subfolders inside "SCHOOL". For "WORK" I separate by the project name.

    In ~/Documents there are various folders on different topics and they are decently organized. They could be better but I’m not going to bother. I’m also diff’ing my home directory to find duplicates and get rid of them to make things more manageable.


    When I get a journal article, I try to rename following this format: Last, First name. Year. Title of Article. However, all the journal articles in ~/Downloads are not properly titled as I haven’t gotten to them yet (although with search, I do utilize the files.

    I’m curious if I should just move all the PDFs from ~/Downloads into a folder and properly titled it and then move into the proper folder on ~/Desktop and for everything else I’ve collected over the years in ~/Downloads if I should just create an ARCHIVE folder with the date and leave it in there. I just don’t think I have the patience to go through all the files and really drill down what they and where they go. But it leads to the question, for the future, what do I do? And how often do I try to clean up the files inside ~/Downloads.

    I’m really curious how other people manage their filesystems. I’m an academic researcher so I have thousands of journal articles (I’m looking into the app called Papers 3 to better manage these articles—I hope that helps), countless C/C++ and python files, various text docs, LaTeX docs etc. I don’t think it’s practical or necessary to drill down to subfields of what the research articles are, so long as they are searchable and titled properly.

    Any other ideas? I’m hoping someone has a better system out there. Thanks!

    PS: ~/Music is organized however iTunes organizes music when you import to an iTunes library. Same with Adobe Lightroom, my photos sit in its catalogue. As for TV and movies, that sits on my NAS and follows an auto file path (e.g., for movies NAME YEAR VIDEO-QUALITY AUDIO-QUALITY.$filename) that I set up as it gets added to the Plex library.
     
  2. Gregg2 macrumors 603

    Joined:
    May 22, 2008
    Location:
    Milwaukee, WI
    #2
    Quick answer: Storing important files on the Desktop (even within folders) is a bad idea. You're asking for trouble, data loss that is.

    Documents (files) should be organized in the Documents folder. Downloads can be deleted if they are things you've installed.
     
  3. cmm thread starter macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    Apr 30, 2006
    Location:
    Manhattan & Zürich
    #3
    Uh, what is special about ~/Desktop that would cause an inordinate amount of data loss?
     
  4. Fishrrman macrumors G3

    Joined:
    Feb 20, 2009
    #4
    A good compromise would be to move the folders (that have much inside them) from the Desktop folder to somewhere else (could be the Documents folder).

    Then, create aliases of the folders in question, and put the aliases on the Desktop instead.
     
  5. Gregg2 macrumors 603

    Joined:
    May 22, 2008
    Location:
    Milwaukee, WI
    #5
    The Desktop is much more likely to become corrupt, and many a user has posted on forums like this lamenting the loss of files stored on the Desktop. Leave them there at your own risk. One day, you will regret it, I promise.
     
  6. iRock1 macrumors 6502a

    iRock1

    Joined:
    Apr 23, 2011
    #6
    I'd say that has more to do with the own user's negligence than anything else — which is the reason why everybody recommends all the time not using the desktop to store important files: simply because it's easier to screw it up as it's at hand.

    However, I don't see anything inherently dangerous about the desktop, if you are “organized” and careful enough. It's not like the desktop is technically more prone to fail just because.

    @OP I recommend you using Hazel. Do you know it? With the right rules it might be a bless, specially considering how much files you download and the mess you have :).
     
  7. cmm thread starter macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    Apr 30, 2006
    Location:
    Manhattan & Zürich
    #7
    I have heard of Hazel but I haven't looked into it too much. I will check it out today. Thanks. What do you mean it is "easier to screw [the Desktop files] up as it's at hand"?

    @Gregg2 I would love to see one of said threads that says they lost files on their Desktop. It makes no sense, it is just a directory inside ~/ using the same file system as every other ~/ dir.
     
  8. noreply, Jan 17, 2016
    Last edited: Jan 17, 2016

    noreply macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Jun 26, 2010
    #8
    I've been having this problem since I started studying in college 10 years ago. I still find it horribly complicated to organize my files, though I've seen some of my friend's macs and mine seems to be the most organized one.

    For the downloads folder, I think there's simply no hope. It's just a huge mess. Yes, I also use the everything-inside-a-new-folder lazy-ass trick every time I get tired. But other than this, everything stays the same. For instance, whenever an important file gets downloaded to the downloads folder, I immediately drag it out and drop it on the desktop. The same applies for every new thing that gets inside my computer, from the web, external drives, mail, CDs/DVDs, etc., that still have no apparent place to reside yet (or I simply feel to lazy to organize them right away). So my desktop becomes the hub where all the important (or somehow important) NEW files reside TEMPORARILY from the huge flow of new data that comes in everyday. To help myself with this, what I do is having the desktop icons show as big as possible (128 px) and automatically organized by time, this way I feel the urge of cleaning it pretty often, since with just 40-50 files my screen starts to look like hell and my pretty wallpaper is imposible to be seen (ha!). Huge icons also helps me a lot since my work is super related to visual things (design/architecture).

    After all these masochist mind tricks, everything else seems pretty tidy.
    The way I organize my files is related to the cloud services I use. I don't understand why a lot of people have a hard time deciding which service to use, I simply use them all, and each of them has an specific role. For example, I use Dropbox to store files related to business, Google Drive for freelance work, research, personal projects, iCloud for personal non-work related files like pictures, drawings, notes, etc. Then, inside of certain key folders, I have like an "inbox" subfolder, which is also located in the dock, where I first throw everything in before it gets to it's final place (external source -> desktop -> specific "inbox"-like subfolder -> final destination). So, for example, right now I'm working with 5 different projects at the same time. Each of them have it's own folder located inside it's corresponding cloud inside my home directory (where all the clouds are located). Then, each of these project folders have an "inbox" subfolder which I copy to the dock as a stack. Then, I start working and every single new file I create/get/download, goes directly to the desktop, and whenever my desktop fills or looks too nasty, I simply drag the files to it's corresponding stack, which gets naturally copied to it's own cloud. And finally, once every never, I move my files from my "inboxes" to it's corresponding final destination, which is just 1 or 2 folders away.

    And that's it.

    I'm also thinking about buying Hazel. It seems it would be perfect for this.
     
  9. cmm thread starter macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    Apr 30, 2006
    Location:
    Manhattan & Zürich
    #9
    Just reading your workflow has me confused hah, I can't believe it makes sense for you :p
     
  10. cincygolfgrrl macrumors 6502

    cincygolfgrrl

    Joined:
    Apr 2, 2012
    Location:
    Somewhere In Time
    #10
    Please, please, please have a backup of your data. Maybe two backups.

    I'm really anal about having nested folders two, three, four, or more, layers deep in my Documents directory, but that's just me. If you're backed up and can find what you're looking for when you need it, who cares what your file structure looks like.
     
  11. colourfastt macrumors 6502a

    colourfastt

    Joined:
    Apr 7, 2009
    #11
    Being an old-time computer user (I started with punch cards in the 70s) I used to be .. well ... ummm .. anal .. about my folder structure. Then I started using OS X and using keywords. Now I could care less where a file is; Spotlight (or Alfred) and keywords are your friend.
     
  12. Gregg2 macrumors 603

    Joined:
    May 22, 2008
    Location:
    Milwaukee, WI
    #12
    I've seen them from time to time over several years. I cannot tell you how recently I saw one. Search here and on the Mac Forums website, and I'm fairly certain you'll find some, if your searching skills are better than mine. I never seem to find the right "key word" to use. Haven't tried on this one, I'm not the curious one, I'm just reporting what I've read.
     
  13. grahamperrin macrumors 601

    grahamperrin

    Joined:
    Jun 8, 2007
    #13
    No matter how many: for Mac OS X, it's pure nonsense. Desktop is no more prone to corruption than any other directory.

    Technically, Desktop is a directory file.
     
  14. Gregg2 macrumors 603

    Joined:
    May 22, 2008
    Location:
    Milwaukee, WI
    #14
    Good to know. I guess that means a lot of misinformation has been spread around on this forum and others like it.
     
  15. Weaselboy Moderator

    Weaselboy

    Staff Member

    Joined:
    Jan 23, 2005
    Location:
    California
    #15
    I've seen this posted before also and researched the heck out of it. Best I could find was this was supposedly a problem on pre OS X versions... like perhaps System 8 or System 9. I believe it had something to do with the way icons were cached on the desktop that could cause problems. But I have never found anything credible showing this is an issue on OS X.
     
  16. T'hain Esh Kelch macrumors 601

    T'hain Esh Kelch

    Joined:
    Aug 5, 2001
    Location:
    Denmark
    #16
    Papers 3 will definitely help you out with your research organization.
     
  17. grahamperrin macrumors 601

    grahamperrin

    Joined:
    Jun 8, 2007
    #17
    @Weaselboy thanks for researching, time to feed the weasel!

    My reference to 'Mac OS X' was slightly misleading. In Apple open source for Mac OS X 10.0.4:

    http://opensource.apple.com//source/files/files-363.1/.hidden and when you see these two entries, I expect the penny will drop:

    Desktop DB
    Desktop DF

    Earlier, in 1997: The Essential Mac - Troubleshooting – Rebuild your desktop and so on, and there might be a relevant Apple HT (how to) somewhere in the Internet Archive Wayback Machine but that's not on my to-do list :)

    Credit to CNET for noting the overlap with Mac OS X. I would never had remembered.
     
  18. Weaselboy Moderator

    Weaselboy

    Staff Member

    Joined:
    Jan 23, 2005
    Location:
    California
    #18
    Thanks... yes.... I believe that is what I was thinking of. I found some info from Apple here.
     
  19. grahamperrin macrumors 601

    grahamperrin

    Joined:
    Jun 8, 2007
    #19
    Great. And interesting to note, no mention of the 'Desktop Folder' (directory), although AFAIR the two database files did include some information about on-screen positioning of desktop items.

    A wee ramble. https://diigo.com/08tdcp attention to the yellow and pink highlights (in particular the word overextended). In the same way that we can view those improvements as archaic, we might also view the HFS Plus attributes and catalog B-Trees as archaic and somewhat overextended for modern use cases. That's one of the reasons why I'm always prepared to argue with assertions that there's never value in optimising HFS Plus file layouts (or B-tree contents) on solid state storage. And recent http://www.macworld.co.uk/how-to/mac/how-defrag-speed-up-mac-os-x-2016-3600241/ from Macworld makes a frustratingly poor point of reference
     

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