Tips for Organizing Files & Folders

Use Windows' folders

Have you ever remembered uploading a particular photograph, only to find it's vanished? Or downloaded a file from the web that’s nowhere to be found?

Hard disks contain hundreds of thousands of files, and trying to find a specific one can be frustrating, particularly if your folders are badly organized. It's tempting and convenient to keep files on the Desktop, but it clutters up the work space and there's no organization.

Windows creates folders specifically for Documents, Music, Videos, Pictures and Downloads. These are designed to help organize your files and this is where you should store them. Open an Explorer window and d rag your files and folders off the Desktop and into the appropriate folder, so that documents are moved to the Documents folder and photos get put in the Pictures folder.

Naming Sub-folders

A folder can contain more than a thousand files, so trying to find one particular photo in the Pictures folder, when the camera has named it something like IMG002534.JPG, is not easy.

Every Explorer window has a New Folder menu option, so make sure you use it. Our favorite way to organize photos is to create a folder for each year, called 2011, 2010, 2009 and so on. Each of these can have subfolders named after events, such as Christmas, Mary's Wedding and Spain Holiday. So if you want to find Mary's wedding photos, you simply go to Pictures, 2010, Mary's Wedding, or instead of events, you could create a subfolder for each month. If you name the folders using the month numbers (01 through to 12), they can be kept in chronological order. You can even combine both systems, so if your Spanish holiday was in August, then name the subfolder Spain Holiday, Aug or Spain Holiday, 08.

Files in the Documents folder can be named in a similar way, with subfolders called Work and Personal. The Work folder could contain a subfolder for each year, or for particular projects (as long as you don't have too many), or for categories of files, such as Reports and Spreadsheets. If you were writing a book, for example, you could have a folder named after the book title, then subfolders for each chapter, all within the Documents folder.

Change the icon

Folders all look the same, which doesn't help when you are browsing the disk looking for something specific. But if you change the folder's icon, it will be easier to spot.

Right-click the Desktop and select New Folder. Right-click the folder, select Properties, click the Customize tab and then Change Icon. A range of alternative icons will appear. Or you can click the Browse button to select an icon file from elsewhere. Free icons for all versions of Windows can be downloaded from websites such as Find Icons ( and lconArchive (

You can't change the icon of a folder while it's in a special Windows folders, such as Documents, so you'll have to drag the folder onto the Desktop first, then change the icon as above, then drag it back to its main folder again.

Folder Marker ( is a free tool for Windows XP that lets you assign a color, icon and priority to a folder. After installing it, right-click a folder and select Mark Folder. The versions for Vista and 7 are paid-for only. To change the color of folders in later versions of Windows for free, try Rainbow Folders (

Windows 7 Libraries

Windows 7's Libraries pull together (in a virtual sense) folders that are stored separately. So, for example, you may have some photos in the Pictures folder and some relating to work in the Documents folder, but they can all be kept in the Pictures library. Right-click the folder in an Explorer window and select ' Include in library', then Pictures. Both sets of photos will now be displayed alongside each other. The same can be done with videos, documents and music.

You can create and name your own libraries by right-clicking Libraries in an Explorer window.

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