Computer Files

Finding computer files has always been a challenge. Back before I owned my first hard drive I spent an inordinate amount of time searching through stacks of floppy disks. Thirty-some years later the floppies are gone, but the searching goes on.

We are all starting to accumulate a great number of files. (I have 755,501 files on my desktop computer alone!) There are two problems created by this surfeit of files: ensuring they don’t get lost, and finding specific files. The first problem I’ve covered on several occasions. It’s solved primarily through having separate copies (i.e. backups). In this column I’ll talk about some strategies and tools to solve the latter.

First and foremost, try and make your life easier for yourself. Use good naming conventions for your files. Saving your resume as document6.docx will not help you. And here’s the thing, what is foremost in your mind right now may not be later. So, name things well.

I deal with a fair number of documents for a variety of things. In order to keep them separate and organized I follow some conventions. For example, for documents related to Wapiti Music Festival I name all documents, regardless of what kind they are, “2018 Wapiti _______.____” I always put the year first. It lets me keep year to year issues separate, but it also automatically sorts properly in a directory listing. I always include the word Wapiti. Then depending on what it relates to I’ll usually add a couple more title/keywords such as “Vendors” or “Merchandise” or “Volunteers”. Then I add the more specific title after that. It’s a bit longer, but it’s all about keywords for searching.

Keywords and sorting go a long ways. So does putting things in a natural location. The next time you’re searching for a file do this: when you do finally find it move it to the location that you searched first. That’s where your brain thought it should be anyway. Trust your brain.

To find files I use a combination of Windows Explorer and a program called Everything (http://www.voidtools.com)

Windows Explorer is not as quick as Everything, but since you often have it open already using the search bar in the top right will search the directory you’re in. And Explorer has another neat trick. You can search the contents of files. So, if you can’t remember which file has the Blue Ribbon winning crab apple jelly recipe in it, you can type “content: crabapple jelly” in the search bar and explorer will search the contents of files for the term ‘crab apple jelly’. The “content:” at the beginning is the key.

Now, on to Everything. After installing this lightweight app it will scan all your hard drives and create quick indices to everything. Hence the name. You can assign a hot-key to it. I use <CTRL><ALT>E. Then whenever you need to find a file you press the hot-key and up pops a window. You start typing keywords and it displays every file on your system with those keywords.

It has a bunch of little extras like filtering for kinds of files. Such as when you are searching for a music track. And it supports things like regular expressions in case you want to search for a variety of spellings at once.

It’s blindingly fast and constantly running in the background updating so even your newest files will appear almost right away.

Everything is one of my most used tools on my computer. And it’s free!

That’s it for this month. Hope you found what you were looking for!