File management

File management is the process of administering a system that correctly handles your digital data. Therefore, an effective file management system improves the overall function of a workflow. It also organizes important data and provides a searchable and browsable database for quick and easy retrieval.
We all know someone whose desktop is so cluttered with many unorganized files and folders that you can’t even see their desktop wallpaper 🙂

No naming convention, whatsoever. Several shortcuts to the same program. Eight empty folders, all named “New folder”.

This might be ok on a shared computer that’s used by a family for social media and games, but if you’re trying to accomplish actual work, this sort of mess is only going to lead to mistakes and frustration.

That’s why having a good system for managing files on your computer is crucial if you want to be more productive and keep on top of things.

We’re going to break down exactly what file management for Windows is and why it’s a must for anyone who uses a Windows machine for any line of work.

Why file management is important

Here’s where things can get a little complicated. Remember the good ol’ days of storing paper documents in those yellow folders and tucking them away inside a trusty file cabinet? Each document was placed in a labeled folder, and each folder was stored in alphabetical order for easy retrieval.

What is File management?

What is file management? A Simple Explanation

Every file on your computer is part of a complex, hierarchical system made up of directories and subdirectories. The process of naming, storing, and retrieving these files in an organized way is the basis of file management and when done efficiently, can save tremendous amounts of time and headaches.

Imagine a large organization with several terabytes of valuable data stored on its servers. Now imagine trying to find one specific file on these servers when you only have minutes to spare.

You’re going to have a pretty hard time if nobody has bothered to properly name and store these files in a way that makes them simple and straightforward to retrieve. According to a survey by SmartFile of over 421 IT administrators in the U.S, more than €18,000 on average is lost in productivity costs every year because of poor file management.
 

Keep your files organized

Now, remember that one time Hank from accounting took out a few documents, put them back in the wrong folder, and randomly tossed them into a drawer?

What seems like a simple mistake can create hours of extra work and unneeded frustration.

Fast forward to 2021 and the same mistakes can be made digitally by failing to properly name a file or by storing documents without having a system in place.
By using good a file management system and keeping a consistent naming and storage convention, you will always know exactly where to find particular files without having to waste time searching.

Best Practices for file management

Using a Hierarchical System
Subfolders are a huge benefit when trying to keep things organized. Within your main folder, you should have multiple categories of folders. And within those categories of folders, there should be more specific categories of folders.
For example: Documents > Design Information > 2015 Designs > W2’s
With this system, you can see your main folder “Documents” contains a subfolder for your design information. Within this folder, you can have multiple folders for each year of designs. Inside these folders, you can easily find your W2 documents or anything else design-related for that specific year.

This is much easier to manage than having one “Document” folder with thousands of random files ranging from design documents to vacation pictures, to recipes.

Following a Consistent Naming Convention
A hierarchical system is great and all, but if your files have random, cryptic names, it’s not going to do much good.
Instead, establish a rule for naming each type of file so you can quickly tell what it contains. Stanford has a great guideline for coming up with naming conventions.

Incorporating elements such as project title, date, version, and some sort of unique identifier makes retrieval a lot easier.

Using metadata

We live in a time when almost everyone is familiar with hashtags. Putting a “#” before a string of characters creates a link that lets you find similar content with a single click.

Metadata works similarly.

You have the option to right-click on your file, go into its properties, and add additional information under the “Details” tab. By adding a title, subject, tag, category, or author, you’re able to quickly search for that specific word or phrase within a particular folder. This is extremely useful if your folders contain hundreds (or even thousands) of files.

Practices That Are Not So Good

Using too many Subfolders

Subfolders are a great way to organize content within other folders, but it is possible to get carried away.
Say you’ve been working on a project for a very long time and have multiple revisions and version numbers. Having the main project folder that goes into a “revision 1” folder, that goes into a “revision 2” folder, that goes into a “revision 3” folder is a huge waste of time. Every time you need to get to your newest version, you have to click through several folders to find what you need.

Having a simple “revisions” folder that contains each version with a date is a much simpler way to go about storing your project updates.

Not Using Enough Subfolders

Inversely, having too many files inside a single subfolder can make things cluttered and take too long to find a specific document.
Using the previous example, say you have the main project folder, and inside is a “revisions” folder that has over 100 revisions of the same document. Sure, everything is organized within a single location, but it’s a lot to look through at once.

Instead, create revision folders based on periods. If you’ve been working on a project for six months, have a revision folder for each month.

Not Deleting or Archiving Unnecessary Files

Manage files by deleting or archiving

At some point in time, you’re just not going to need certain documents anymore. Keeping a file from eight years ago can be beneficial in some cases, but it’s usually just a waste of space.

If you know you’ll never need to access something again, simply delete it. If deleting something is too risky for you, there are plenty of archival programs out there to store old documentation. Using a program like WinZip allows you to compress files you don’t currently use so they take up less space and then store them on another drive.

No encryption and / or File Protection

Security is a major issue facing companies of any size, and having an effective encryption method to protect valuable files is recommended.

Doing complex file management in Windows? Try WinNc!

WinNc is a tabbed file manager for Windows. WinNc will keep track of folders where you’ve worked in the past. You can quickly access those folders by clicking on the Quick Access icon or by pressing the spacebar.

Use a file manager

If you’re dealing with an extremely large amount of data and manually maintaining a functional sorting system is too complex, you can always opt for a file manager that does some of the hard work for you. Try WinNc today!

Manage files with WinNc

Using third-party software as a document repository not only makes it very easy to locate what you need, it also acts as a sort of audit trail. What this means is that when a document is opened from the repository, the user must “check it out”, almost like checking out a book from the library. When the user is finished, they check the document back in and it leaves behind information letting everyone know who touched the file last and what changes were made. This is great for avoiding mistakes that would otherwise take hours to resolve.

Many File management for Windows software options are cloud-based, which means users can access documents from virtually anywhere, so long as they have proper authentication. WinNc is a standalone alternative local solution to manage your files on a Windows machine.