shuffling the archives

After twenty-three years, my personal file organization is finally starting to break down.


Since 2001, I’ve used this method: all my art lives in ~/gfx/working, in folders named with the year, with a lot of aliases in there to help me quickly access large projects that may span across more than one year. All the stuff in the top has a space at the beginning of its name, so it sorts at the front.

And then there’s the yearly directories, which now stretch way past the bottom of my screen on the laptop. Quickly finding work from the last year or two now involves scrolling a good ways down here, and that’s kind of annoying – I want the old stuff to be way in the back of the virtual closet, not the new stuff.

Sorting z-a might fix this, but OSX MacOS doesn’t let me do that in column views. Hmmm.Well, here’s an idea:

A folder full of aliases, organized by prefixing them with Greek letters. Conveniently I have exactly as many old yearly folders as there are letters in the Greek alphabet; English letters and numbers sort above them, so I have twenty-six years of continuing this scheme through English letters before it starts to break down, plus about, oh, another decade or so of “I just have a few un-renamed aliases in alphabetic order before the older stuff and it’s not a real hassle”, which means I can keep adding a new alias to this folder once a year until I’m somewhere in my late eighties. I think that’s enough, if Future Me is still in a situation where she can dextrously manipulate a stylus connected to a functioning computer, then she can spend ten minutes thinking of a new way to do this.

Actually now that I put myself in Future Me’s sandals for a second… what if I organized them by decade? Nah. Leave it to Future Me, I don’t need to try to refine this right now.

In the shower, I came up with this, and thought it might be useful, too. “I know I did that thing when I was living in Boston..”

The lower New Orleans folder is mostly a placeholder for if I ever take up Lewis’ offer to try and see what’s on the VHS tape he has that purports to be a backup of my Amiga circa 1997. I never got around to transferring stuff off the actual computer in the time between when I quit using it in 1999 and when it was destroyed in Katrina.

If you’re reading this post when it’s a year or two old, leave a comment and find out if one of these schemes is still working, or if I’ve come up with something else!

  1. Wow, it has been a *long* time since I used Column View in Finder! The last time was back in the 2000s when I was using a PowerMac G4 running OSX 10.3 for Illustrator stuff at my former workplace. When I got my first personal Mac in 2012 I put it into List View as part of my transition from being a PC user (1992-2012) and never changed it. And I have things sorted *and* grouped by Date Modified, because clearly, I like to torture myself.

    • I started using Column View when I moved from OS9 for good around 10.1 or 10.2. I used to mostly use list views before then, if I recall correctly.

      I actually do use last date modified for some stuff; I have a saved search (“smart folders”) for everything with an “in progress” tag, and another one for everything in progress that’s also tagged “commission”. Those are kept as fairly large icon views, sorted by last modified, so I can quickly look at what I’ve been working on lately. But my experience is that after a few years, dates start breaking – more than once I’ve noticed swathes of files having their created/modified dates set to when I migrated everything to a new computer. Not everything. I’ve got files in the 1999/2000 folder that still clearly says it’s from then. But there’s just enough date corruption that I’m glad I decided on this scheme about two years after abandoning my Amiga for a Mac.

      (There was a previous scheme with folders for “working” and “finished” files but I abandoned that because there was too much hassle with breaking the links to sketches placed in my AI files.)

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