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I used to wonder how disorganized I am looking at my Downloads folder or the desktop. Even on a fresh install it would only be a matter of days before both of these would get overcrowded and all messed up.

Maintaining an organized computer requires a fair bit of discipline. That said you can use some of the following tips to make the task just a little bit easier. These, coupled with a desire to keep things organized can go a long way in helping you arrange files and folders nicely.

Group Content In An Unorganized Folder

keep windows organized

As one of the first measures, it really doesn’t take more than a right click and you can set the items to display in groups. Grouping lends the folder some organization. You can choose to group by name, size, type etc.

I usually prefer grouping them by type for the simple reason that somehow the type of file sticks with me longer than its name. Its not rare when you download a video file to view later then forget about it, then it comes to your mind but now you don’t remember its name. However, you still know it’s a video file so you can look around for one if you have grouped items in a folder by type.

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Use Libraries

keep windows files organized

It’s one of the greatest additions to Windows 7. Something which perhaps you couldn’t have written on your wish list, but seeing it in action makes you wonder how you managed without it this long.

Libraries let you view content from multiple folders consolidated into a single view which is called – well a library. So you can have things arranged into different folders all neat and tidy, if you want to view them as if they were in one folder create a new library and add those locations to it. The above tip to group items in a folder still applies to the libraries, but now you have an added advantage that the content is already organized into different folders and you don’t have to mess with it only to view them under a single name.

Digital Janitor Or Belvedere

Libraries are all fine and dandy if you have say your music in different folders, you can still maintain the folder structure and view all music as if they were in a single folder. However what about folders like the “Downloads” folder? It just keeps on growing. No matter how hard you try, there comes a time when it gets the better of the cleanliness freak in you. To rescue you from such situations you can use a couple of software solutions:

digjan

Digital Janitor can watch a folder for you and then organize the contents into different folders according to the file extension. Download and run Digital Janitor and it lets you specify the rules that would be used to move and organize the files. Rules are nothing but instructions as to which filetype should end up in which folder. With the rules set you can relax as any file that lands in the monitored folder will be dispatched to its righteous place according to the rules you defined.

Created by the folks over at Lifehacker, Belvedere solves the same problem as Digital Janitor does but offers you finer control over the rules. So if the simple “move files according to extensions” doesn’t cut it for you, give Belvedere a try.

Use A Download Manager

Moving on to organizing the downloads folder, you can use download managers to do some work for you. Leave aside all the acceleration they lend to your download speeds, I am talking of their organizing benefits. Most download managers maintain a history of locations where you have been storing your files. Now in the “Too much mess” situation you would only have a single location in your download manager as well and we would still be at square one. What I have been doing for some time is to create a folder structure (perhaps in the downloads folder) that would keep things nicely organized.

As an example you could create folders like d_setups, d_archives, d_torrents (or anything that suits your need). Now the first time you download a software setup, archive or a torrent file, you would have to tell your download manager to use these locations. However, from the next time, all you have to do is to click on the drop down list and choose the appropriate location according to whatever you are downloading.

Upside: I trust my judgment more than my computer’s.
Downside: Requires two extra clicks which can be two too many for some people!

Manage Archive files Better

Archives are the preferred way to package files for transfer. As a result you find them everywhere – email attachments, source code packages, software bundled inside zip or rar files and what not. A common problem this creates is that the archive file continues to stay on in the folder even after the contents have been extracted. It might be useful to have the archived version in certain cases, but most often that is not the case, so the obvious solution would be that you either delete the archive or the extracted contents. The problem is it can be hard to find which archives have been extracted and which not. In such cases you can either:

  • Delete the archive as soon as you have extracted the contents.

  • or use wildcards in search to find which archive files have already been extracted and then get rid of them. eg searching for organic* would list organic_design folder as well as financial_docs.zip file. So you know that you have already extracted organic_design.zip and you can go ahead and delete it. Linux (Gnome) users can use Ctrl + s inside nautilus and then specify the pattern. Similar files will then be highlighted in the nautilus window. Keep in mind that this assumes that the archive file contained a similarly named folder or file which is the case very often though not always.

Have you got some tips of your own? Share them with us in the comments.

  1. Tina
    January 31, 2010 at 11:05 am

    I'm just starting out with Windows 7 and these tips are very helpful. Thanks Varun!

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