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Order in the house

By Jean-Claude Elias - Sep 11,2014 - Last updated at Sep 11,2014

It is OK to dream of the next spectacular IT innovation, to wait for it to be commercially implemented and to get into your life, as long as you don’t neglect what is already available and make good use of it, putting order in your digital contents.

There’s still a long way to go before driverless cars are commonly seen on the road, though there is little doubt that it is going to happen in the not so distant future. Even the much simpler connected smartwatch or wearable smartphone requires significant fine-tuning and design improvement to get wide public acceptance.

Yes, indeed high-tech is well and alive. Suffice it to watch highly publicised events like Apple’s iPhone 6 this week. However, there are the things to come and then there’s what we’re living at this moment, the kind of down-to-earth tools, if this term can be used to refer to high-tech.

I’m not referring to physical devices and machines but to all the practical software tools and methods that are easily available and that help us put order and manage in the ever growing number of digital files we keep.

My line of work in the field of IT puts me in contact with countless users of various walks of life and allows me to come up with my own statistics. I estimate that some 80 per cent of private users have disorganised filing, waste time managing files in the wrong way and are always at risk of losing their data. Even business users do not always do it right, but the percentage of poor data management here drops to about 30 per cent — still an unacceptable figure by today standards

I will skip the question of data backup that is definitely a critical part of any good file management scheme, for by now I would sound like nagging. Indeed this matter has been covered time and again in this very column.

Putting order in your folders and files, managing them efficiently, it all starts with a basic, almost trivial aspect of living with digital information: It simply consists of better knowing the operating system that fuels your computer or computer-based device. Whether you are a Windows, a MacOS, an iOS or an Android user, learning the essentials of file management under these operating systems is where to start.

Naming in a meaningful way, sorting, grouping, filing, copying, moving, searching, and so forth, these are the main tools that you need to keep your treasure of digital information in good order. And yet, after more than 30 years in the personal computing age, few can claim they know well enough how to use these precious tools. How many times have you searched for a file you are sure to have saved somewhere, without being able to find it?

In addition to the functions and methods that are built in to the operating system, one can find a wealth of additional tools that can bring valuable, added efficiency to file management.

To tag and sort your multimedia files, photos, videos or music, avoid doing it manually, it tends to be frustrating, tedious to the point that you would give up from the start. Instead, use JRiver Media Centre for instance, an excellent, if not the best media player around. For photos only Adobe Bridge is a fantastic tool that comes with powerful batch naming, tagging and sorting functionality.

Better File Rename (BFR) takes out the pain from what is an often-needed task, renaming large numbers of files. The best testimony comes from the authoritative PC World: “Of all the file renaming products we’ve tried, the most versatile and easiest to use is Better File Rename.” It has been around since 1999. An example of its power. You have 300 photos of your last trip to Aqaba. Unfortunately you named them all with the word “Dead Sea” by mistake and already numbered them. Then you have also decided to delete a few not-so-good shots. With BFR you can replace “Dead Sea” with “Aqaba” and create a new numbering order if you wish with a couple of BFR keystrokes.

Last but not least, Macro Express is a fantastic keyboard automation tool that is absolutely spectacular and can save you precious time when doing repetitive keystrokes, a task often associated with tidying up large amounts of data and files. Just let it “memorise” any given series of keystrokes and/or mouse actions, however long or complex it may be, and ask it to repeat it any number of times, whenever you want to. It is so useful and so important that I fail to understand how come it is not included with Windows or MacOS.

By knowing your OS filing tools better and acquiring a few additional ones so as to make a perfect job, you will ensure that your precious digital contents are in good order and well kept. Think of this as “homework first”. Only then you can resume dreaming of the crazy things to come in the realm of IT.

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