aaron's picture

Hard to clean spots, No. 6: My Documents folder

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Okay, (small rant to follow) does it bother anyone else that app-makers interpret Apple's guidelines of limiting the locations of application-written files etc. to 'Application Support,' 'Preferences,' or 'Documents' as 'put everything in the damn Documents folder?'

Its just kind of anti-social behavior on the part of developers makes it hard for users to keep documents in their Documents folder. I, for one, have done my best to keep non-documents out of my Documents folder. Microsoft apple division, I hate you for putting 'Microsoft User Data' in my Documents folder. you suck. Keep your nasty data files where they belong. And you know who you are. Shape up.

Seriously, guys, if something is a database app, like DevonThink or Delicious Library, what is documenty about the database file itself?!? (More, and more serious stuff, after the break..)

Now, granted, if the database application like DevonThink, which can maintain files in a Finder-accessible directory structure rather than a proprietary binary DB somewhere, it becomes somewhat more understandable why you might want your DevonThink documents in the Documents folder.

(But as far as the Operating System and its User are concerned, the only thing that really distinguishes these DevonThink-managed documents is ... that DevonThink is managing them. And that may not be the most salient dimension along which to organize your documents: those inside DevonThink; and those outside.)

To my mind, this minor gripe foregrounds the old chicken & egg question:

All 'things' on a computer (from a users' perspective) are 'files,' so naturally any 'documents' on a computer must be files.

But are all files documents? My answer is no. In the sense of the term I am using, Documents are broadly both readable and editable files; and particularly are those typically read and edited by the typical user. Of course source code and preferences can be 'documents' to programmers or hackers, but to most folk, they are just files.

And even if I (the everyday average typical joe) figure out how to read all the source code or preference files for my operating system or applications, does not mean I will be moving them to my Documents folder now. (That is if I, average joe, have any modicum of sense.)

In any case, I have done my damnedest to move all non-document stuff out of my Documents folder, though sadly I have been unable to remove Microsoft User Data or Adobe Digital Editions. Factual correction: I was able to move the Microsoft User Data to ~User/Library/Application Support/Microsoft User Data, but the way Microsoft has Office set up, you need an alias to the new location in order for any Office Applications to function. So Im stuck with an alias in my Documents folder that I really dont want there. And Adobe's digital editions software (for reading eBooks) wont allow itself to be moved at all.

Mindful Media Management. Documents Folder

To compensate & relocate nearly all other application-specific folders created by applications for their own 'data,' I have create a couple extra folders in my home folder. (Data, Databases, and Tags)

Mindful Media Management. Home Folder

My document management strategy is to keep no files in any of my the top-most folders. This includes all of the folders in my Home folder: Documents, Pictures, Movies etc. Each of these contains only the major top-level folders that I have specified for each type of media.

This helps me keep my 'schema' for each media type in mind and easily accessible. This way I just have to open up my Documents folder (or my Images folder, or...) to see how I organize those types of media. Most of the time, this works.

All of my documents (and various multimedia files) are organized by media type or, for Work-relate documents, by personal context. This means that inside my Documents folder I have a folder for eArticles, eBooks, eChapters, eJournals, [concept] maps, [note taking] notebooks, scripts, scrivenings, [interaction design] sketchbooks and work.

So, in most regards, the story of keeping my Documents folder organized is really the story of keeping certain of its most-used subfolders tidy.   bookmark tuals 0.1 on

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