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Saturday, 30 July 2011

Organising Computer Files...

Yesterday I put aside the whole day to organise my arty-crafty files but I didn't get very far....

(I am afraid this is a long and wordy post with no pictures but maybe I can save you some time - it took me a whole day to come to the conclusions I did.)

I have millions of computer files relating to art:  videos, photographs, pictures, ebooks, articles, pdfs.  I have them well organised on my computer and if you were to ask me for a specific file, I could find it pretty quickly.  However, if I need to find information on a specific topic it wouldn't be quite so easy to get all the information together.  Photographs are the biggest problem:  IMG_0016 really doesn't tell you anything about the picture!  There is also no point in printing out many of the files as paper files - just too expensive to print colour. 

So I had to sit down and think about how I could make all this information more searchable.  I realised this is what I needed to do:
  1. Rename photographs easily and in bulk to have meaningful names.
  2. Add keywords or tags to files so that they will be found in a search.
It was clear that the Windows File Manager was not going to be adequate for renaming.  You can do a bulk rename but only if you change the name completely and it adds brackets which I think is odd.  I wanted to keep the last 4 numbers at the end of the filename to maintain the sequence in which I took the pictures.  Also, you can't add tags in Windows XP.  You can in Windows 7 but not all files - specifically pdfs due to jostling between Adobe and Microsoft.

So what about Photoshop Elements?  Well, you can do bulk renames and keep the last 4 digits but you have to maintain the same number of digits.  For example IMG_0160 could be HAMP0160 but this really doesn't make much more sense to me - I want HamptonCourt0160.  You can tag in PE but then only PE recognises them and you can't do a search on files which are not pictures or videos.  I want to do a search on all files at once.  Also moving files to another computer causes problems.

After many hours of googling, I found two main packages which seem to do the job: Powerdesk Pro and Directory Opus.  However, there are complaints about Powerdesk Pro being too slow and Directory Opus becoming too complicated.  What concerns me about using additional software is that if you don't have the software, all the tags etc you put in become meaningless.  Many people solve this by finding software that runs from a memory stick and I think Directory Opus can do this - not sure about Powerdesk.

By the end of the day, I came to the decision that for the moment I would find a workaround.  There is a lot of little freeware packages out there which seem to do a good job. I found a good freeware package called FreeCommander which enables me to do bulk renames easily and the way I want to.  Also, I think it has directory comparisons which would be a real bonus for me.  I am hoping that when I find out more about it, it may well do a lot of what I want.  The one negative is that there isn't a version for Windows 7 but if I get my renaming done in XP I can cross that bridge later.

I have computers with both Windows XP and 7 and I have decided to do most of my tagging in Windows 7.  I tagged some files in Windows 7 and when I took them back into Windows XP, the tags were found when I did a search on file contents.  Excellent.  Bulk tagging looks easy too in 7.  Will have to add a post when I get proficient in this.

The only problem is pdfs.  But to be honest, although searching the contents of a file is slow and may not be accurate it is 'doable'.  I am not about to buy Acrobat to tag pdfs as it costs a small fortune.  There is other software out there which does the job but there are only so many hours in a day!  A workaround that some people use is to create a Word document with the same name as the pdf and add keywords to that and then attach it to the pdf.  Not sure that I want to go that route.  It's going to take me forever to tag the files I can tag!

DISCLAIMER:  software mentioned on this blog is downloaded at your own risk.

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