How do you use folders?

Haha, agreed… I use the folder at ~/OneDrive/Documents because of this.

This entire thread reminds me of this verge article….

Not going to tell everyone to post their age, but I would guess how one sees files and folders aligns a lot to that answer. I am 42 and I am very big on keeping everything in perfect folders. Starts in my documents folder… then goes into categories which then goes into years and months. Have been doing this since the last 90s. Also my desktop always has to be empty!


Let’s hope that your files tend to behave more like plants than sheep and stay where they’re placed :grin:


I had read that Verge article, too.

This farmer is 47.

By the way, when I started out, programs regularly saved your files by default in some directory that was part of that program’s file hierarchy. If you deleted the program, you lost your files. if you had to re-install the program, you lost your files. You had to actually intervene to make sure your files were saved somewhere that you could find them and back them up. So we were kind of reared up on folders and files.

The new system seems to be back to the old, files are stored where the app defaults.

I also walked to and from school ten miles up hill in the snow. And I understood what it meant when Clark Kent went into a phone booth.


I am both a farmer and a hunter. I often use search to find folders, and when I name folders I try to include words and phrases that I will later using search to find that folder.

My work generally requires me to write about products and companies, so I make sure to put the name of the product or the company in the name of the folder. Sometimes I write about public figures, and I will put that person’s name in the folder when I do it.

In email, I just search. I don’t use folders at all. If I need to save something to a folder, I save it out of email.

And yes to meaningful subject lines. I try to make them both meaningful for the recipient, and something that will turn up in search later on. When I finish an article and submit it to my editor, I always start the email subject line with the word “here’s,” followed by an article identifier.

Part of my job is to write up the text for a weekly newsletter, and when I’m done with that I submit it with the subject line “here’s the [newsletter name] for [newsletter date].” The date is unnecessary that week, but I refer back to those emails in future weeks.


For me it varies. Some of my projects have lots of folders, some have very few. The ones that tend to have lots of folders are code projects though where framework/convention dictates the structure and I don’t go against that.

Most personal things are quite flat - I tend not too nest too deep, instead relying on search and good naming to get me by (and it works!).


I do use folders though, as I say above I fit into the hunter metaphor with a vengeance. In the case you mention I would use folders. Though I have found that you still find things via search and, of course, to get a bit meta, the folder itself for a particular project would be found usually by search. In my case likely outside of DEVONthink 3 altogether via Houdah Spot. You would be surprised how much it trawls up.
So the question is. If you find your folders via search and AI, does that make you a hunter?


I back up and save filwa as far back as when I started making electronic documents or saving them that way. Since nearly everything I have is text I hardly need any space to do that. I rebuild and so on as you suggest. I have tons of stuff that it doesn’t matter much if I lose it.

Well I have to say my files on occasion do multiply. I am still having to weed out a few duplicates. Usually Scientific papers I have downloaded and filed in folders before I had my whole Zotero Bibliographic system figured out. When I find them again as I reference those folders I link into the Zotero system and eliminate the duplicate copies.

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Folder complexity is emergent for me as I learn more about the subject, the use case and the people with which I’m sharing the files. While I don’t rely much on folder structure to find things, I do like to review similar files together, especially when I’m trying to understand what I still need to gather or learn.

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I’m a little under half your age but also gravitate towards a nicely structured folder system. Maybe I’m an anomaly? Or maybe it’s because I’m a dev. Interesting that files/folders seem to be either very intuitive or not at all intuitive for most people though.


Yes I understand and if that’s important for you, that seems perfectly logical, … in my case, with projects I group them as required using a smart folder, and this could be by tag and filename “code” or in some cases I have used alias’s to keep a disparate group of files together … so for me projects come and go but of course for some users Projects might be the number one organising principle … and I could be one of those people under certain circumstances, …


I use iCloud for both Personal and Work Folders. I also have folders for local community groups that I am a member/organiser of. Using iCloud means I can have documents available on my MacBook at work; my Mac Mini at home and also on my iPhones (one for work and one for Personal).

I’m 71. Back in “my” day, computers hadn’t been invented but we did have filing cabinets, so folders were the solution. Sometimes shoe boxes in the loft for “Archive”.
Nowadays, retired, my use-case is more mundane than most here. If I’m doing research, I even use the printer and then shred the results, probably.
I’ve played with DEVONthink, but to be honest it is no more effective for me than a basic file structure.
Email all gets exported to folders as pdfs, via a ToDo folder and Hazel, which adds yyyymmdd to every file. All are OCR’d for searches. I wish I used keywords/tags more which would help Bob the Hunter.
Everything is in a @paperless top level folder, with folders in there. So a route to a file might be @paperless>family>Bob>medical.
Which reminds me - I also have @paperless>family>Medical>Bob which I need to sort out :grinning:
All paper is scanned and OCR’d then dumped/shredded. (Work in progress).


The whole topic of how to organize files and folders is just incredible complex and variable, and I think everyone just has to figure out a solution that works for them.

I have gone to a relatively “flat” structure (suggested in a thread some time ago by @OogieM - thank you!) in which at any level I have a lot of folders, but the depth is relatively shallow. Before than I had a very deep hierarchy with a lot of structure, but it was too hard to figure out where to put things and where they were afterward.

I do use Spotlight a lot to search for things, which really cuts down on the manual searching.

In terms of grouping files that are related in a given project, Hook is an app that endeavors to solve, or at least, address this problem. I bought the app, but I have yet to figure out how to integrate it into my workflow, so I haven’t really played with it to any extent.

This is an interesting blog post: The idea here is encode a specific text string into file names, or into file content, and have a mechanism to pop up all of these files in Finder windows at their individual locations, so that the files are logically connected and can all be easily accessed but live in disparate locations. I thought this was interesting; I haven’t yet added it to my organization structure though. Still contemplating.

Tags can be helpful for certain organization aspects, but I don’t find them helpful in grouping files into projects. It’s fine to tax all documents relative to taxes with a “tax” tag, but I don’t usually want to accumulate every file that has any relation to tax when I am doing my income taxes for a given year, and having a huge number of tags to groups all kinds of different things creates an overhead level that kind of makes tags unusable, at least for me. That’s why I like the “Finder Catalog” idea as a way of creating yet another orthogonal organization structure for the purpose of grouping files into specific projects or tasks, while folders group files by type (eg American Express credit card bills, or Medical Records), and tags are another axis that groups things by content types - eg taxes, everything related to a particular family member, etc.

SmartFolders are another way of handling organizing files / folders into projects, but depend on some search criteria that will incorporate them into the SmartFolder but exclude similar but unrelated files. One example use: any documents I create, download, scan, etc for my 2021 taxes could get three tags: “tax,” “2021”, and “personal.” Now I can find anything tax related by searching for “tax”, but I can create a SmartFolder for all of my 2021 taxes by making the search criteria for a smart folder be that all three of these tags are present. A similar smart folder requiring tags “tax,”, “2021”, and “business” would get files for a business return, and so forth.

Another option is to create a folder Projects, and in that folder store folders for each project, and in the project folders, put aliases to relevant files. This allows the “real” file to remain in its proper place in your file system but be accessible from the project folder as well. In contrast to symlinks in the Unix/Linus file system, aliases are “smart” and if you move the underlying file the alias retains its link. I have not used aliases extensively myself, so I don’t know how reliable they are, whether they work across physical hard drives, and so forth.

Hope this stream of consciousness was in some way useful.

Houdah Spot, an app, can find anything! I cannot recommend it enough.


You ought to see my desktop. Looks like Einstein’s or Al Gore’s. I just straightened it up and it still looks rather cluttered.

Houdah Spot is included with a set app subscription which is $10/ month. I hardly ever even use spotlight on my Mac anymore. I can find exactly what I am looking for and find out lots of interesting things along the way. For folders I tend to jam as much info as I can when naming them.