Filing 29 GB of Project Materials

I keep around a lot of project and class materials, both paper and electronic. As far as paper goes:

  • 1 lateral file drawer of B.S. and M.S. class materials
  • 1 lateral file drawer of regular work materials
  • 2 lateral file drawers emptied within the last few months. These mostly contained student tests, projects, and records from when I used to teach engineering graphics. I boxed up the projects and tossed the rest.

The volume of the above may not rank compared to the faculty here, but it’s a lot for me. As far as electronic storage goes: it’s down to 28.6GB in 135,336 files and 7,032 folders spanning 12 years or so. These are CAD drawings, solid models, finite element analyses, lecture notes from other classes I’ve taught, lab inventories, image processing code and the images themselves, etc., etc. I never had a good filing system for either. And that’s what I’m talking about now.

The paper filing I did almost a year ago was comparatively easy (basic GTD methodology). Toss lots of it, grab a labeler and a bunch of manila folders, and start tossing the rest of the materials into labeled folders. Lots of folders, lots of labels. The label text isn’t critical — as long as I can find random item X in the first 2-3 folders I check for, I’m happy. It doesn’t matter to me that I have separate folders labeled “CAE Lab”, “CAE Lab Books”, and “CAE Lab Wishlist”, but put the CAE satellite lab under “ChE HPC Lab”. It’s not the Dewey Decimal System, it’s just a way to find stuff quickly. And it works.

The electronic filing was considerably more involved. Over time, due to limited disk space, bad syncs, and a general lack of time and effective strategy, I had managed to collect several copies of my “My Documents” folder, much of which overlapped, but some didn’t. There were copies on the file server, my external drive, my laptop, etc. Ugly. And then there was my ‘research’ folder, my ‘Testing’ folder, my ‘systems’ folder, etc. that were entirely outside the “My Documents” hierarchy.

So after a fatal Windows error on my laptop that forced me to reformat, I decided to slowly start reorganizing my electronic files into something comparable in effectiveness to my physical files. My starting point is pretty well covered on this 43Folders reply, but their changeover to Drupal has screwed the formatting of that post, so here’s a basic reformatting of it. All credit to Enine, not me.

this is where I put everything I create
bank accounts, credit cards, etc. Not under personal since they are all joint with my wife
everything I’m currently working on for clients/work/etc.
all my personal stuff, resume, etc.
all personal bank/creditcard/etc accounts
all personal projects I’m working on (not work/customer related)
all the completed projects, old tax records, etc.
should probably be called reference, all the pdf’s, books, documents, etc. that someone else has created and I have bought, downloaded, etc.
e-mail of course
music ripped from cd
all my pictures, digacam or scanned
vmware images of current testlab
iso’s of trial cds for various trial softare, xp, 2003, etc for when I need to test things.

So, the basic steps:

  1. The Goal. Everything I’m working on right now goes into a Documents/Projects folder, with subfolders for each major client I have. So one job goes into Documents/Projects/Company A/Person B - RP Models 20071002, and another goes into Documents/Projects/TTU/ME4020 - ProE Session 1. Everything I’ve finished goes into an identical hierarchy under Archive instead of Projects. A few other things that are common to several projects (common library of Pro/E models) or are reading material (LabVIEW short course slides and notes) goes in Reference.
  2. Collect. Everything I wasn’t working on right then went into an Inbox folder. The only exceptions to this were system-created folders and my CVS and Subversion roots. We banish the ‘systems’ folder, the ‘research’ folder, the ‘Testing’ folder, and the ‘tmp/tmp’ folder forever.
  3. Cull. Now, let’s get rid of all the duplicated files among all the various “My Documents” folders, plus everything else that was outside that folder hierarchy. For that, we use DoubleKiller to examine each file’s CRC32 checksums and size.
    The nice thing with DoubleKiller is that as I build my permanent copies on the file server’s mapped drive F:\Documents and bring portions of the inbox to the local C: drive, it’s very easy to cull out the duplicates. Just let it scan through both folder trees, and when it’s finished, you can pretty safely click the “Check the First Dupes” button and select every C: entry, leaving the single F: entry alone. Once that’s done, you can quarantine the dupes off somewhere, or else delete them entirely.
  4. Process. With the new set of files on the C: drive, start filing them under the new Documents hierarchy. The easiest way I found for this was to open up four tiled Explorer windows: one each for the Inbox, the new Projects folder, the new Reference folder, and the new Archive folder (thank God for 1600×1200 resolution). Occasionally I’d have to open up the Pictures folder, but almost everything got filed into Projects, Archive, or Reference.

Coming up shortly, how I’m going to sync all this stuff among the file server, my office laptop, an external drive, and my home server. The goal there is to have disaster recovery capabilities for my work stuff and home stuff, and be able to leave the laptop at work more often, since it’s much easier to bike with my external hard drive than the laptop.

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  1. Some of my original folder structure didn’t seem to copy over correctly, specifically:
    +Personal – all my personal stuff, resume, etc
    +Projects – all personal projects I’m working on (not work/customer related)
    +Accounts – all personal bank/creditcard/etc accounts
    +Projects – everything I’m currently working on for clients/work/etc
    +Archive – all the completed projects, old tax records, etc

    The spacing makes it look like there are two projects folders under personal.

    Maybe listing at each level would help, under my home folder is, Accounts, Documents, Personal, Projects, Archive, etc. Those are all the shared or stuff affecting someone else. Then under personal is another folder called projects, accounts, etc. These are the personal projects and bank accounts, etc. Then the same structure is duplicated under archive for completed/closed things. Basically the same structure is repeated under my home folder, then again under personal, then again under archive. This allows me to keep business stuff seperate from personal and move comeleted things to archive. I’m still working on flattening it out some by weeding out anything in Douuments. IMHO thats too general of a folder, most any document I have should relate to a client, project, etc. So they are starting to get moved under what they are associated with, my thought is eventually the “documents” folder can go away.

  2. Yep, that looks beter. Of course I’m always changing things around. For example The personal/accounts structure is pretty much gone since every account I have is shared with my wife. Then I have a folder for each child now which are currently sitting under mine until such time they are old enough to have their own systems.

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