When I first got my shiny new iMac everything was neatly organized: I had a nice clean Desktop and Home folder, my Dock was minimal, and my hard disk wasn’t full of crud. A mere week later the Mac was chaos – files everywhere, cluttered Desktop and Dock, and I couldn’t find anything!
I quickly learned that, in order to be productive on my Mac, I was going to have to get organized. Here are some simple techniques that I’ve found helpful for keeping my Mac data ship-shape.
1. Organize your files and folders
I do struggle at times to keep my legions of files and folders organized (in fact only the other day it took me over an hour to find an old document I created 3 years ago!). Here are some tricks that I’ve found helpful:
- Keep your Desktop and Home folders clean. Avoid putting any files or folders on your Desktop – not only is it visual clutter, but it results in a disorganized mess! Similarly, don’t dump files directly in your Home folder. Instead, create subfolders in your Documents folder (or wherever is convenient) and put files in there.
- Tell Firefox to use your Downloads folder. While Safari plays by the Downloads folder rule, Firefox dumps downloaded files on your Desktop by default. Not good. Go to Firefox > Preferences > Main > Save Files To, click Choose, then pick the Downloads folder in your Home folder.
- Organize your Finder sidebar. The left-hand sidebar in each Finder window gives you instant access to files and folders with a single click. Make the most of it by adding the files and folders you use most often. To do this, just drag a file or folder from the main Finder window to the sidebar. While you’re there, remove unwanted files and folders by dragging them away from the sidebar.
- Make important folders stand out. You can assign a colour to a folder by hitting Command-I then clicking a colour in the Label section of the Info dialog. Alternatively, give a folder a custom icon. Find the image you want to use – whether on your Mac or on the Web – and copy it. Now select the folder, hit Command-I, click the folder icon at the top-left of the Info dialog, and hit Command-V to paste your image. (You can also grab ready-made icons off various sites.)
- Use Smart Folders. These work much like Smart Mailboxes in Mail. Smart Folders don’t actually contain any files, but they let you group files and folders together based on specified rules. This is handy if you want to access all documents on a given project in one place, for example. Find out how to create Smart Folders in Leopard.
- Use Spotlight comments. Spotlight does a pretty good job of finding files, but you can make its life easier by tagging files and folders. Select a file, hit Command-I, then add your tags in the Spotlight Comments field at the top of the Info dialog. The file will now come up in Spotlight searches for those tags. Good for grouping files by topic or project. (more…)