Document Storage

HELP! I am in desperate need of something to help me organize my PDFs, Word and Pages. I have files everywhere, and the best that I can come up with are smart searches in the Finder… but that is kind of a catch all. Thoughts? I’ve looked at Devon and Tinderbox, but the learning curve frightens me off…

What is the use case?
Why are they scattered so much?
Do you need the same document in multiple “projects”? Or asked differently: Why do folders not suffice?

Perhaps you can expand on this a bit?

Well, Tinderbox is not for organizing files. So strike that one off your risk list.

You don’t need DEVONthink to organize files. The file system you already own, and Finder to manage it, are just fine.

Don’t try to organize all at once, and don’t try to come up with some grand organizational scheme and try to impose it on your digital life.

Start small. Move all the “disorganized files and folders” to a discrete parent and over time work through it. Renaming things that are not clearly named. Creating folders with useful names (“usefulness” depends on you and no one else) and over time move files into the folders.

Make getting organized a hobby instead of a job. Do it a little bit at a time – if it takes a year to get where you’re going that’s fine – just allow yourself some small successes along the way.

Just remember – it’s your stuff in your digital closet, no one is watching, and no one is judging your progress. Don’t judge yourself. Also, you already have Spotlight which can find things for you very well, so “disorganization” is not necessarily a bad thing.


Also - come up with a consistent file naming system.

Ideally one where useful info. is contained in the file name itself as well as reflected in the location.


/20spring/course/2020-02-26 author - course - essay2.docx

or the like.

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Eagle Filer may be the shorter learning curve app that can tie everything together without forcing you into a rigid way of working.

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I agree with @hmurchison, Eaglefiler is a great solution. EF will deduplicate your files on import and store them in standard folders. So there is no lock in like with some other programs.


Thank you! I appreciate your answer… and yes, with the Finder I can see all of my documents… it is just naming them (or, naming them properly) and/or tagging them that needs to be done…

As usual, @anon41602260 has a great answer. In terms of strategy, though, you probably want to decide whether you want to organize using tags or folders. Of course you can do both, but in large part, based on other threads on this forum, one usually chooses one or the other.

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I’m not a big tagger, but when I use tags with a particular mental model I find them useful. The model imagines a matrix, with the folder hierarchy represented by the rows of the matrix, and tags represented by the columns. The documents fit into the matrix cells. So, a document can be in one place according to the row it’s in (the folder) and “be” in another place (or multiple other places" depending on the tag columns.

Gives other options for organizing. The downside is that 2D hierarchies are harder to manage than 1D hierarchies.

Just a thought.

There is no one-size fits all system. (Not even Tiago Forte’s PARA system – but that’s going to be a rant for another day… :grin:)
I would recommend you to heavily think about what you need for your organisation to work, depending on what you want it to accomplish.

  • How do you want to store things, in a quick and easy way?
  • What do you need to retrieve, and what would be the easiest way to accomplish that?

Then get a big mind-mapping application and draft your own personal system. And refine, refine, refine :slight_smile:

So… tags OR folders? not multiple ways of searching? I have managed, at this point, to put my PDFs, Word docs, Pages, TextEdit, etc. in different folders, and then I had started tagging them… inefficient?

No, I wouldn’t necessarily say this is inefficient. What you don’t want is unnecessary duplication, for example, all of the files in folder "Foo” being tagged “foo”. @anon41602260 outlined a possible use of combining folders and tags earlier.

I’m a fan of nested folders. I start with a broad category and narrow it down from there. I title things based on common sense. Keep it simple. Being consistent works well and Hazel is useful. Of course there are always some catch all folders. I have one called “fun stuff”.

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Sometimes there are just too many choices of which software to use and trying to find the right workflow becomes more of a project than becoming paperless…

I feel your pain. I’ve had numerous consolidated hard drives from various computers and they are still partly in a state of disarray. Like any other project though, starting it is the hardest part, because of the “huge” task ahead of you. Also like any other project, it gets easier once you clean up the current mess and commit to it. My main work system is fairly well organized in the old-school nested folders style. I’ve tried out a couple of the popular organizational software titles, but like you and others have mentioned, the ROI doesn’t pay off for me.

I just accumulate all the noted work files/folders into one big bucket (not for the computer’s sake - it doesn’t care where the files are “located” - this is just for my own simpleton comprehension) if they’re not already in the Documents folder, and run a duplicate finder first and delete those unnecessary copies (I use MacPaw’s Gemini 2 right now, but I’ve also used Tidy Up with great success). Then I’d just roll up my sleeves and start creating general folders, and try to divvy up the files that way first. Then go into each general folder and start making more subfolders down to the level of your preference (like put all the investment related docs in one big folder called “Investments” for example, then create one called “stocks” and move all the stock related files into that, and inside of there have one for “APPL” or “FORD” or whatever. Pretty simple, but easy for me to wrap my head around.

I’ve scanned many, many thousands of documents and I use exclusively the basic method described here. I’ve been meaning to try out Hazel as mentioned above (and often on MPU) to automate some of that process for me. Now if there was only a kind of “guide” for me to learn how to use it… :thinking:

I wanted to follow up on this… I have/had been using the combination of folders and tags, but I did find a really good way of seeing everything in one application… Yep 4. I purchased the bundle recently, and am really digging this… It helps me organize all of my documents in a much easier way…