The following is a Plus Edition article, written by and copyright by Dick Eastman.Modern hard drives are wonderful inventions. Capable of storing gigabytes, even terabytes, of information, today's hard drives allow you store the equivalent of multiple four-drawer filing cabinets in only a few cubic inches, all for a cost undreamed of only a few years ago. In fact, today's hard drives are much cheaper than filing cabinets. There is but one problem: how do you find information buried in the tens of thousands of documents you filed on these gargantuan hard drives over the years?
Luckily, there are several solutions that will allow you to find anything on your computer within seconds. I use a combination of file names plus some text files plus some free or low-cost software to find whatever I want within seconds. I thought I would describe what I use. My method may or may not work for you; but, even if you do not copy my methods exactly, this article may provide “food for thought” so that you can invent your own solution that meets your needs.
First, I encourage you to always organize and label your files in such a manner as to quickly identify everything. However, no matter how good your filing system is, file names alone will never allow you to find EVERYTHING. For instance, how do you find that reference to 1848 tax records that you mentioned in a file describing great-great-grandfather Albert's farm? What you need is a method of instantly looking INSIDE every file by looking for specific words of interest. I do not know of a good, reliable piece of software that can quickly look inside photographs to identify people or locations. Instead, I create my own descriptions which can be found within seconds.
Every modern operating system has a built-in search method of finding files. However, the software included with the operating system is usually anemic. You can find better search tools, and I’ll tell you some good ones.
In my mind, the easiest and fastest way to FIND files is to make sure they are FINDABLE when you first create and save the files. A few seconds spent at file creation time can save minutes or even hours when you later need to find that file. This is true whether you are looking for old family photographs, genealogy records, the recipe for barbecue sauce, or hotel room receipts when in the midst of an IRS audit.
My suggestion is to do two things when saving a file, three if saving a digital photograph:
- Use a logical file name
- Use a utility that can find any file name or any text inside a file within seconds
- For a digital photograph, create an accompanying text file that describes that photograph
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