Need better workflow to organize my files

Discussion in 'Mac Basics and Help' started by Texas_Toast, Jul 6, 2016.

  1. Texas_Toast macrumors 6502a


    Feb 6, 2016
    I am trying to come up with a better way to organize the ZILLIONS of things on my MacBook Pro.

    Here is how I currently organize things...
    Larry > Personal
    Larry > Personal > 10-Entertainment
    Larry > Personal > 10-Entertainment > Music
    Larry > Personal > 10-Entertainment > Music > Radio Capture
    Larry > Personal > 10-Entertainment > Music > Radio Capture > Complete
    Larry > Personal > 10-Entertainment > Music > Radio Capture > Staging
    Larry > Personal > 10-Entertainment > Video
    Larry > Personal > 10-Entertainment > Movies
    Larry > Personal > 20-Learning > Articles
    Larry > Business
    Larry > Business > 10-Finances
    Larry > Business > 20-Taxes
    Larry > Business > 30-Medical > Journals
    The above structure works very well for most things, because it is so organized. However, where it becomes a problem is when I have some directory or file that I need to access regularly that is nested 5-7 layers deep. It is a pain having to navigate endlessly in Finder or navigating in the File > Open/Save As box when I am working with files.

    For example, it takes lots of energy to have to traverse my directory structure going between these tow locations:
    Larry > Personal > Entertainment > Music > Radio Capture > Staging
    Larry > Business > 30-Medical > Journals > Blood_Sugar.xls

    Now, I could move commonly used directories or files up higher in the chain to maybe this...
    Larry > Staging
    Larry > Blood_Sugar.xls
    ...but that would destroy my Generic to Specific filing scheme.

    Any suggestions on how to have things both ways?

    Or do I need a completely new paradigm in how I file things?

  2. CoastalOR macrumors 68020


    Jan 19, 2015
    Oregon, USA
    It looks like you have a very organized system that works for you there is no need to disrupt it.

    For a fast way to find files or folders and access them - take a look at Alfred (it's free) "Search and Browse" features. You could launch Alfred (option + space) and start typing the name of the folder (Staging or Journals), to open the folder's window press return if the desired folder is highlighted or click on the folder/file in the list.
  3. Texas_Toast thread starter macrumors 6502a


    Feb 6, 2016
    The problem is that I have too much information!! (But that issue only continues to grow.)

    One thing that bugs me is when I have to navigate across directories to open and save files. For instance, let's save I am reading a fascinating article on the American Revolution, to save that article in it's proper place, I would likely have to traverse 8-10 directories to save it where I want it.

    Now, when I need to find all articles on "History" or "American Revolution", it is easy to find. But it feels like when your plane lands on one end of the airport, and your connecting flight is on the opposite end and leaves in 30 minutes!

    Is there a way to lessen that pain?

    Could I create "virtual drives" or "shortcuts"?

    At work there is often the same issue. In just my group, you have to navigate 10-15 levels deep to get to where a document is stored. And then to get to another document commonly used with the first one, you have to backup 8 levels and then go down another 6 levels.

    One thing that somewhat helps with that issue is "Mapping Drives" in Windows and/or creating shorcuts.

    It would be nice when I do a File-Save-As in Firefox or Open Office or TextEdit to have a choice that would help spare me from navigating around this enormous filing structure that I have created.
  4. rhett7660 macrumors G4


    Jan 9, 2008
    Sunny, Southern California
    Maybe look at something like DEVONthink to manage your documents. I stepped away from the folder option just like you are currently using because of the exact reason you mention. I went the route of using a third party program to manage all of my notes and use tags for each note that I can quickly search for. I was finding myself going deep into the folder structure that was becoming way to big and cumbersome to navigate through.

    So I currently use Evernote (moving away from them after their last price structure announcement). My current setup revolves around any document that I save within the Root>Top level only system. For instance:

    School>>Class Name 1
    School>>Class Name 2
    Work>>Project Name 1
    Work>>Project Name 2

    That is as far as I go. For any document that resides underneath that folder, I rely heavily on tags for searching. So much so, that each document can be broken down almost like a folder structure based on my tags

    Book - Book Report - American - American Rev - American Revolution - Revolution - 1776 - War - News Clipping - News - Newspaper - etc

    This way, I can either create a narrow or broad search depending on what I am looking for. Some of my files have up to 20 tags, some only have two or three. It all depends on the document.

    I can search via multiple tags or just one.

    Is this the best method, probably not for everyone but it sure has helped me away from the system you are currently using and the system I used to use. I used use the tagging system built within OSX also, however I have since moved away from that since I am now using a third party system to manage all of my documents/notes/clips/etc.

    I have not used DEVONthink, but there has been quite a bit of discussion regarding its use and this might be something that is what you are looking for.
  5. Weaselboy Moderator


    Staff Member

    Jan 23, 2005

    You could use OS X built in "tags" to manage things. Tags can be searched in Spotlight.
  6. Texas_Toast thread starter macrumors 6502a


    Feb 6, 2016
    I asked for a "paradigm shift" and that is what you provided me! :)

    Your new approach has some merits, but I don't believe it would help me with the File>Open/Save As issue.

    If every time you save a new file you have to set up 5, 10, 20 tags to go along with it, then thatw ould take as much time as the old way.

    Also, if you only have a couple of large "buckets", and you have to open a file, I don't see how that would help. If you knew the file name you'd still have to scroll forever to open it, right? And if you were exactly sure what you called something, how would tags help you when you are in an app and trying to open something *quickly*?

    Again, my filing system work except that it take me forever to physically get to stuff.

    What about my idea of creating a shortcut that I could use to quickly get somewhere?

    How would I do that in El Capitan?

    Also, is there a way to apply that to File > Open/Save As?

    Here is what I am talking about...

    Let's say I have this path...
    Larry > Personal > 10-Entertainment > Music > Radio Capture > Complete > Rock > Classic Rock > 1970s> Led Zeppelin
    Could I create a shortcut called "Fav Rock" where I could click on that to get to the long path above, or use that when I do File > Open/Save As?
  7. Toutou macrumors 6502a


    Jan 6, 2015
    Prague, Czech Republic
    Of course, just right-click the desired folder and choose "create shortcut" (not sure about the wording, my system is localized). It makes a shortcut, marked with a tiny black arrow.
    Snímek obrazovky 2016-07-08 v 0.09.22.png

    You can even drag and drop your favorite folder into the Finder sidebar and it will stay there and show in the Save/Load dialogs (the Scripts folder on my screenshot).
    Snímek obrazovky 2016-07-08 v 0.10.44.png

    You could, for example, create a folder named Shortcuts, with a dozen of your most used shortcuts, and then put this single folder into your Finder sidebar as a favorite. No 3rd party software required.

    And don't forget about Spotlight. If you want to open your Classic Rock folder, you can always just fire up Spotlight (Cmd+spacebar), write "C-l-a-s-s-i-c" and boom, the folder should be right there.
  8. Texas_Toast thread starter macrumors 6502a


    Feb 6, 2016
    Thanks for the suggestions everyone.

    I think I will try the shortcuts idea above as a first step.

    What about the one point that no one has commented on yet...

    How can I speed things up when I am in an application and need to Open and Save?

    What you recommend with Spotlight is not the same thing.

    Here is an example...

    Let's say that I find this thread life-changing and I want to save it as an HTML file or PDF. If I did a File > Save As (or File > Print) I would likely have to navigate an enormous amount to get to where I want to save this article...
    Larry > Personal > Computers > Articles > Mac > General Tips >
    It would be nice if I could do something similar to your shortcut idea above, and when I go to File > Save As just choose "Mac Articles" which might dump me off here...
    Larry > Personal > Computers > Articles > Mac >
    Follow what I am saying?

    And can this be done?

  9. catonfire macrumors newbie

    Oct 24, 2013
    PATHFINDER 7: by Cocoatech

    Texas Toast,

    I think you have a good organizational system. What you are looking for is a shortcut. I highly recommend the program "Pathfinder 7" by Cocoatech.


    If you want 1 touch access to any folder, you just mark that folder as a 'favorite' and BAM, it appears in your custom sidebar at all times. Add as many 'favorite' folders as you like. Delete any you no longer use regularly.

    Attached is a screenshot with the sidebar and the list of shortcut icons and places for quickly accessing stuff.

    I hate to admit it but I never really used the Favorites till I read your post and thought about it but the tool has always been there. Plus you can add the usual path bar at the bottom or top of the screen and back out immediately to any folder level without switching folder viewing mode to the usual Mac 'columns' mode.


    Another thing you can do is actually create browser window 'arrays' and save them in your menu tab at the top. So let's say you always have 8 'dinosaur' folders open at once so you can drop in different pictures of dinosaurs you find. Create a window with the 8 (or any number of folder tabs) and then memorize it. Now you can punch it up from the menu tab whenever you want to work in your 'dinosaur' folder mode and all your designated folders in any amount, any order, and any combination will open right back up. If you want to change the folder selection or number, change it and rememorize it. Memorize as many arrays as you want.


    If you check out the site you will see many other great organizational features. I love the double pane function which allows me to move or copy files from any number of folder tabs on one side to any folder tab on the other side by hitting F5 or F6. F5 if you want to make an additional copy in the new folder. F6 if you want to just move it. 1 touch file transfers. F2 if you decide you want the folders on the left to switch to the right or vice versa.


    It is filled with customization features that give you control of the interface look: colors, fonts, toolbar icons, etc. It hides the regular Finder system but you can jump in and out of it.

    You also get the colored tabs back, not just dots, if you are on the later Mac OS versions.


    Occasionally it has some wackiness but it is pretty robust. Recently I have had a bug in this version where the trash won't empty unless I reboot sometimes. This didn't happen before but is happening now. But overall it is a great expedient. I couldn't operate efficiently without it.

    $40 regularly but on sale sometimes I think. The usual free 30 day trial.

    Hope this is of some use. I wonder if Mac OS already has a 'Favorite' feature hidden in it. I don't know since I am using Pathfinder but maybe they've added it. So you might search for it first. But Pathfinder certainly has it. Good luck with whatever solution you choose!
    --- Post Merged, Jul 7, 2016 ---
    Texas Toast,

    RE: Post 7: Favorites
    TouTou has a good cheap solution for the favorites. Only issue I sometimes have with shortcuts is broken links but small matter.

    RE: Post 8: HTML threads
    Don't know if this is what you mean re: 'being in an application and wanting to open and save.'

    But as far as quick access to an internet forum thread, I'd probably just save the pathbar from the webbrowser into my bookmarks folder. I think it would take you back to the spot in the thread, hopefully. Anyway, a lightweight solution so long as you are online. You can also save the pathbar heading into your folder system if you want to group it with other associated data.

    If you must archive and preserve the thread, then you probably have to print it in PDF. But then you could always bookmark the PDF pages that are most relevant to you for later quick access.

    Would that help?

    Attached Files:

  10. Toutou macrumors 6502a


    Jan 6, 2015
    Prague, Czech Republic
    Your Finder sidebar shows in the Save/Load dialogs, so anything you drop there will be available easily. You can put your Mac Articles folder directly in the sidebar, or you can create a folder named Shortcuts (that you put in your sidebar), that contains, among others, the Mac Articles shortcut.

    That would look like this:
    Snímek obrazovky 2016-07-08 v 10.38.13.png (my save dialog if I try to save this page)
  11. rhett7660 macrumors G4


    Jan 9, 2008
    Sunny, Southern California
    That is where the tagging comes into play. You can have the general tags, but say for instance you are looking for something about a certain camera piece, I would have the common tags: camera - cannon - lens - etc. But if the article or document in question deals with a canon F5.6 zoom lens, that is part of my tags. camera - cannon - lens - canon F5.6 - F5.6 - zoom - zoom lens - F5.6 zoom lens - F5-6 lens

    For me tagging does not take up anytime at all really. Once you start typing out the tags that have been used before, you are prompted.

    Again, this has worked extremely well for me over the past four or so years. It isn't for every one. Sure I can have a document with 15 or so tags, but the amount of time it takes me to tag is pretty trivial.

    I can see what you mean by working documents, this system that I use is for my final documents. My working documents that I am updating prior to finalizing are kept in a different folder with tags etc for that document. I have have a set of tags that are used to keep my version in check along with my naming convention such as ver 1.1 1.2 1.3 2.0 etc. I also have a set of tags that can be used in this particular "folder" so I can quickly look through all the documents.

    Again, this isn't for everyone.

    Good luck and let us know how the short cuts work out!
  12. Texas_Toast thread starter macrumors 6502a


    Feb 6, 2016
    Lots of good ideas. Let me chew on these suggestions for a while and experiment...
  13. catonfire, Jul 8, 2016
    Last edited: Jul 8, 2016

    catonfire macrumors newbie

    Oct 24, 2013
    Texas Toast,

    The Devonthink app as suggested might be the best tool for collating web browser stuff.

    Regarding the Save As dialogue box endless navigation, I have added an image demonstrating the 'dual pane' function of Pathfinder. This is how I get around endless navigation: I simply assemble the folder tabs I use frequently in any given task, memorize them, reopen and go to work.

    After I've set up and arranged my folder tabs, the only navigation left is to just click on the tab of a particular folder I need. So I am basically never more than 1 click away from any frequently used folder.

    Another important aspect of productivity I find is having a large monitor. The more real estate you have, the more folders you can see side by side at once. And of course, using spaces helps as well to multiply your working desktop.

    Pathfinder allows you to save multiple 'sidebars' with different items displayed. However, foolishly, you can't seem to create a custom Favorites list for each custom sidebar. That would be a very useful feature but it doesn't work this way as of yet. They need to add that feature.

    You can get around this by adding unique Short Cuts Folder to each custom sidebar but this is inelegant as it is a 2 step solution not a 1 step solution. But it is an option.

    Attached Files:

  14. Texas_Toast thread starter macrumors 6502a


    Feb 6, 2016
    What is the difference between dragging a folder into the sidebar versus creating a shortcut of a folder and then dragging the shortcut to the sidebar?

    Are they the same thing?

    And in either case, I would hope that I am not moving or duplicating the folder/files, but merely creating a pointer back to the original, right?
    --- Post Merged, Jul 8, 2016 ---
    Not sure what you mean by "memorize them"?

    It sounds like you just open several Pathfinder windows each pointing to where you commonly go. If that is the case, I do the same thing with Finder - I open about 6-8 Finder instances each pointing to common areas that I go. Then I just have to do a quick Command+Tab to get to where I need to be. (Of course this doesn't fix the issue when I go to File > Save As in an application.

    All I have is my MBP!

    How do you set that up?

    Actually I have PathFinder installed - bought it when I got my Mac so I could "CUT and Paste" (i.e. Move) folder/files!!

    Ironically I settled in using Finder and never really took advantage of PathFinder.

    If you care to share how you do some of these things then I'd love to learn.

    BTW, if you attach screenshots, make them full-sized, because I cannot see anything in what you have posted so far!
  15. catonfire, Jul 9, 2016
    Last edited: Jul 9, 2016

    catonfire macrumors newbie

    Oct 24, 2013
    Texas Toast,

    Just click on the screenshots and they will blow up so you can see them.

    By memorize, I mean, save them in the menu so I can recall them in the exact layout I created.

    I'm not sure what kind of 'Save As' operations you are doing. Are you just versioning up? If so, you can avoid the Save As dialog box by duplicating the file in the finder window, then making the change. But usually, the Save As dialog box opens up in the last folder you were in or offers a drop down of the last few folders you were in and you can choose from there. Though not always, I know.

    Custom Pathfinder Sidebars: Just right click and select 'new sidebar.' Then customize it. I amended the post because I realized that the Pathfinder Favorites doesn't allow you to create different selections for each custom sidebar. Kind of dumb. I emailed them to add that as a feature. But you can do the usual Folder with shortcuts in each custom sidebar, if you want to restrict the number of folder links you have to look at at one time. But this is not a simple solution. They need to make the Favorites folder customizable to each sidebar you create.

    But click on my screen shot links and I think it will make sense, as far as navigating files into multiple folders simultaneously. The real key is that you can save those window layouts and recall them. You don't have to keep recreating them every time you turn on your computer. I also have numerous deep folder levels and Pathfinder really allows you to bypass the drill down process entirely for frequently used folders.
    --- Post Merged, Jul 9, 2016 ---
    How to Create Custom Browser Window Layout in Pathfinder.

    File >New Browser
    View >Dual Browser
    Open up as many tabs as you need, open up as many folders as you need. (This step you have to do manually but you only have to do it once)
    Arrange all your folder as you like.
    File >New Browser >Save browser. Give your browser layout a meaningful name.


    To reopen that browser window layout:
    File > New Browser > Select your custom browser from the menu list.

    Start to play with this browser layout technique and in conjunction with the Sidebar, and tags if need be, you should be able to greatly expedite much of the finder process.

    I also make frequent use of the 'recent folders' menu. I'm trying to create a custom Hot Key for that or add it to the 'right click' contextual menu but haven't been able to do that. But that takes more clicks than just saving frequent folders to the Sidebar Favorites or creating the custom browser panes.
  16. catonfire macrumors newbie

    Oct 24, 2013
    How I avoid the Save As Dialog Box:

    I don't know if this method will work for your workflow, but basically what I am doing to avoid endless navigation in the Save As Dialog Box is to first save everything to a single 'Holding' folder on the desktop.

    The second step is where I use those custom Browser Window Layouts to then distribute the various files from my one 'Holding' folder on the left, to all my distribution folders on the right side of the dual pane system. I just F6 each file from the holding folder into the selected folder tab on the right. That is how I use Pathfinder, and I find this the most efficient method that I have found thus far.

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