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I am an organizational nut case. My desk has nothing on it except what I am working on right at the moment. Likewise, my computing is clutter-free. I have my desktop, my browser, the ‘My Documents’ folder, and my drives organized and efficient.

My desktop has only the documents that I am working on today, plus the shortcuts I use each and every day. If I don’t use it within 48 hours, I create a folder and file it. Much like the situation with my desk, keeping my computer organized improves productivity. It also helps my less organized co-workers. The moment they can’t find an important email or paper, they ask me for it. I find it – quickly.

Let’s look at some simple and basic tips to organize Windows that you may be overlooking and won’t cost you a nickel.

Folder Structure

Many people go through their day to day computing work not even realizing they can create a new folder practically anywhere by right-clicking and then selecting New ““> Folder. You can then rename the folder to whatever you would like. Your desktop, in Outlook Mail, within My Documents, within My Music, and in your browser’s “Favorites” or “Bookmarks” are all places you can create new folders.

If you have all your pictures grouped into one huge folder labeled “Pictures” and you have to spend an inordinate amount of time hunting a specific picture taken on the beach in 2007, you may need to organize your Windows folders a bit. Having a folder within the Picture folder that is labeled “Beach pics 2007″ might save you time.

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The key to organize Windows folders is to do a little planning first with pencil and paper. I have a strong preference for the “drill down“ method when it comes to organizing. For example, you may use a folder that is generically named “Music” or “MP3s”. Inside are 857 different songs from various artists and albums. I like it much more organized. Inside my “Music” folder, I have different folders for different genres of music – say “Alternative”, “Hard Rock”, “Classic Rock”, “Country”, and well, you get the drift. Inside the genre folders, I have individual folders for each band. Within the band folders, I have individual folders for the albums. Finally, inside these folders are the actual MP3 files. This seems like a lot of work, and it can be, but doing the background work of building the framework secures your organization for a long time to come.

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When it comes to free applications out there to help you get organized, there are very few. Fortunately, Windows builds many of these functions right into your operating system. There are plenty of free resources for icons and color templates to organize Windows and dress up your folders, but when I fill up my screen with neat icons and pictures on my folders I find them distracting.

Program Launcher

Enhancements that you don’t want to miss for organization, convenience and productivity include Launchy, which allows you to have files, folders, shortcuts, etc. at your fingertips with a simple Alt+Spacebar hotkey combo. This free utility has previously been reviewed on MUO (See Launchy How To Be More Productive with Launchy Program Launcher How To Be More Productive with Launchy Program Launcher Read More ).

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Bulk File Renaming

You may also want to consider any one of many bulk renaming utilities available. These allow you to seek and destroy those nutty “DCIM002354″ file names faster than right-clicking and renaming each one manually. They also give you various capabilities such as changing file names to all caps, all lowercase, capitalize words and many other nifty things. Check out MUO reviews of D-FileMU and Renamer Batch Rename Files in Windows With Style Using ReNamer Batch Rename Files in Windows With Style Using ReNamer Read More .

File Comparator

Finally, if you do use a lot of folders to keep organized, you need to make use of a file comparator. These normally lightweight utilities allow you to basically replace Windows Explorer with a program that has added functionality of comparing files, swapping directories, and oftentimes renaming. You can find multiple copies of your files that have been hidden away in numerous different directories and consolidate your files, deleting unneeded multiples. I used to love the old Windows File Manager, but now that I am using Commander, it feels like File Manager on steroids.

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How do you keep your computer organized? How do you find files fast? What free utilities do you use to organize Windows? Share your ideas.

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