2/4/219:00 am How To Organize the Files On Your Mac It important to come up with an organization system for your files on your Mac that meets your needs. Here are some examples of how you can do it. Your system doesn't have to start out perfect and you should always be looking for ways to improve it. Check out How To Organize the Files On Your Mac at YouTube for closed captioning and more options. Video Transcript: Hi, this is Gary with MacMost.com. Today let's talk about organizing the files on your Mac. MacMost is brought to you thanks to a great group of more than 800 supporters. Go to MacMost.com/patreon. There you can read more about the Patreon Campaign. Join us and get exclusive content and course discounts. Now how you organize your files on your Mac is a very personal thing. There's no one right answer. But often I'm asked by people how they should go about doing it or somebody confesses to me that their files are just jumbled about everywhere in their documents folder or, even worse, on the desktop. So let me give you some ideas about how you may want to organize the files on your Mac. These examples may not apply directly to you but they may give you some clarity and maybe some guidance on creating your own system for organizing your files. So in all these examples I'm going to show you a User Home Folder on the Mac. Now here we've got Documents and Desktop. For most people I would think you would have Documents and Desktop actually stored on iCloud Drive. It makes no difference in terms of organization. I'll show these two folders here in the Home folder just so we can see everything together. But you probably have those as part of iCloud Drive. Now the first thing I'm going to preach is you shouldn't have anything on your Desktop. Your Desktop, at most, should be used just for quick temporary storage for awhile before you put it somewhere else, say in your Documents folder. So all the Desktop folders in all my examples are going to be empty. The main place you want to put all your files and organize everything you've got is in your Documents folder. In this example I'm going to pretend I'm a freelance graphic designer. In my Documents folder I have a whole bunch of subfolders. I've got one for Business. Here you could see I've got Spreadsheets for things like expenses, income, even a Numbers spreadsheet that allows me to create invoices. All this stuff I put together in a Business folder. But the main place I usually work is in my Clients folder. In there I've got folders for each client that I do work for. Inside each one of these folders I may have a variety of different files. For instance, for this company here I've got an invoice for the work I did for them, I've got an Adobe Illustrator file, a pdf that they sent me with a description of what they needed, and also a Photoshop file. I've also created subfolders that I'm going to use for just about every different folder in Clients. So I've got Assets and Ideas. So Ideas is where I might throw some sketches and some different things that I'm using in the planning stages of a project. Assets may be graphics and things that they send me or I download and I'm going to use in these larger files like the Photoshop and Illustrator files. Now in this next Client's folder they're a client that's coming back to me for several projects. So I have subfolders for each project. Inside each one of those is where I've got various files that look a lot like what was in this folder including Assets and Ideas folders. Another client may actually be coming back to me all the time for updates to the work. So I've decided to create folders using months. So I've got the year dash the month. You can use any system you want. I usually prefer to do something like 2020 zero four for a month but here I've shown it with a dash. The ideas is that each one of these I may have various different files. It basically comes down to whatever is easiest for you to find things. You don't have to stick to a system. Just because you have one of these client's folders setup one way doesn't mean you have to setup the same way for another folder. So in addition to Clients I also have a folder for Misc files. I've got on for Personal stuff. I've got one for Personal Projects. So maybe things I'm working on that aren't for clients but are for myself. Even a folder here for my Portfolio. Now being a graphic artist I may also have lots of different assets that I use. Some ClipArt, some stock photography and such. Now these may be huge libraries of assets. I may not want to put them in my Documents folder because then they'll sync to iCloud and I don't want to have, say, hundreds of GB worth of that stuff in iCloud. So it makes sense to use one of the other folders here. Pictures is where it makes sense to put things like ClipArt and stock photos. The Pictures folder is stored on my local hard drive whereas I probably have my Documents folder stored in iCloud Drive. So here's an example of a Home folder maybe for a writer. The Documents folder holds everything. There's a Business folder for business documents. There's an Ideas folder for maybe some documents of things being worked on but they're not full projects yet. Let's say this writer works on news articles for a newspaper but also magazine articles. So these are kind of separated up and since there are a lot of different articles, and usually they are just a single document apiece, there are just subfolders for each month here for newspaper articles. But for magazine articles perhaps it's broken up into a folder for each project which includes different assets and different things associated with that magazine article that the writer has to work on over days and weeks. Another way to organize might be by publication. If the writer works for several different magazines doing articles then there might be a subfolder here for each magazine. Then inside that subfolders for each project they're working on. Now how about a college student. So a college student may organize things in the Documents folder by classes. So it might make sense to have a folder with the Current Classes. So classes in the current semester they are taking right now. In there there might be a folder for each class. But at the top level there might also be something like a PDF of their schedule. In each class there might be things like Study Guide and a Syllabus and also different documents with class notes. Notice how that even though this study guide PDF is inside the E66 folder I've used E66 in the name. That makes it easier to search for it. I don't want to search for Study Guide and then come up with a bunch of different files named Study Guide. I want to be able to search for Study Guide and then be able to see E66 clearly when people select that Study Guide instantly without having to even worry about where it is. Now in addition to that there might also be Previous Semesters. When you're finished with classes you're going to want to store all those things. So there might be folders in there for all the previous semesters. Basically what happens is when you go to a new semester you move the Current Classes folder into Previous Semesters. Rename the year and semester and then create a new Current Classes folder. Then, in addition, there might be other folders dealing with basic school business. You know invoices for tuition and things like that. Maybe a folder having to do with work during internships or looking for internships and a folder for keeping personal files that have nothing to do with school. Alright, how about a home user. Somebody that maybe is retired or doesn't use their Mac for work or school at all. So it could be a lot simpler. I know people that use their Mac for this and literally have no files at all. They use their Mac completely for email, surfing the web. They have plenty of Bookmarks. They have plenty of stuff going on in the Mail app. But they don't have any files. But a typical user might have a small selection of files. Maybe in the Documents folder you would have a folder for Equipment Manuals. You know when you buy something, a washing machine or a new camera, you might download a PDF and you might stick it in there. You might have a folder for health documents. All the things that have to do with healthcare, health insurance, and all of that. You might have a folder where you put all of your receipts and then maybe organize your receipts while using good file names with the date and the name of the company on the receipt so you can find everything. It seems like everybody has a folder for taxes, right. You put all your documents having to do with taxes in there. Then travel plans, you may have that as well with folders for future trips. Then every time you're finished with a trip you don't want to delete all that information that you so carefully gathered for the trip. You may put it in a folder called Previous Trips. Now it's important to realize that you can also use these other folders for things. So, for instance, the Movies folder here for this user I put a folder called Vacation Videos in there. The idea being that videos take up a lot of space. So instead of storing them in the Photos Library this user may actually store them as files in a Vacation Videos folder. Then it makes sense to put them in the Movies folder instead of Documents. Now how about how I sort things. So here's a look at how I organize all my stuff. In my Documents folder I've got a lot of folders. I do several different things for work. For instance I've got MacMost here and in MacMost I've got a folder for each video I'm working on. So you can see I have an episode number and also a short title for each one. So this episode was 2359 MailPhotosTips. Inside of that I've got all these files that basically look the same no matter which one of these you're looking into. It's got the same name and then there's the screenflow document. Also two exports. One for the podcast and one for YouTube uploading. Then I've got the thumbnail which is a Pixelmatr Pro document and then the exported thumbnails at jpg. I also have a file here that uses that same name but .txt which has all the extra information. Things like the description, the title, keywords, and other information that has to do with this episode. But usually I also have a Notes.txt in here with all the notes that I compiled before making the video to make sure that I touch on different points. Then I have various different files here. Like I always take a frame from the video to use in the thumbnail and also another frame to use as the background of the thumbnail and I store those here as well. If you look in just about anyone of these other folders the structure looks a lot like this. So you may ask, what about episodes before 2359. Where do those go? Well, I archive those to an external drive. So I have an external drive just for holding these and after awhile I take groups of episodes that are from weeks ago and I simply move them to that external drive. Chances are I won't need those files ever again. But it is nice to have that archive there just in case. Now I also make mobile games. So I have a Mobile Games folder here. In it I have folders for most of the different games that I make. But I also have other folders. For instance there's App Store Docs for certificates and other bits of information from the Apple App Store that I need. There are Developer Tools. There are extensions and Libraries that I use for all of these games. There's an Ideas folder for writing small text documents for ideas for games I have. Also an Experiments folder where I'll start a new game, experiment with it and I'll stick it in here. It doesn't get to have its own folder until it's actually going to be a game that I publish in the App Store. Then I have a Retired folder for when an app is old and I've removed it from the App Store and I want to kind of archive it. I'll have it here. I'll take that folder and I'll stick it in there. Notice how I could simply create a folder here called Current Games and put all the current games in that folder. That would make more sense. Everything would be kind of at an even level. But instead I've decided that it's good enough to just simply have all my games here at the same level as things like Experiments, Ideas, and Retired. In my Personal Folder I've got folders for all sorts of things that don't have to do with my business. So documents having to do with our Cars for instance. Financial documents. There's that Taxes folder. There's one for PDF's for Manuals and such. Anything having to do with the house, mortgage, all of that kind of thing. Miscellaneous writing. I've got a Travel folder here as well. I also have a folder for Scans. So instead of having to be meticulous about scanning something either with my iPhone or my Scanner and then placing it in just the right location, I basically will scan something, give it a good file name, and dump it in this Scans folder. Then I find searching is good enough to find anything that I scan. Also note in my Movies folder here I've got a couple of iMovie Libraries. I've got a personal one where I actually use for real iMovie projects just like you do. But I also have one that I use for MacMost demos. Then in addition to that I've got Vacation videos and Miscellaneous videos. So I don't like to store videos in my Photos Library. I have Vacation Videos with subfolders in there for each trip so I can easily find a video that I've taken on that trip. But I also have other videos. Things that I've shot around my neighborhood or different events and things like that. I'll stick that in here rather than vacation videos so I don't confuse the two. In my Music folder I've got my regular music folder, like you do, but I also have an Audio Library of audio clips and things that I've purchased for use in both MacMost and my games. I decided to store them here in Music rather than in my Documents folder. Kind of makes more sense and then they are not in iCloud Drive taking up space. Also in Pictures I've got my regular Photos Library but I also have a Stock Photos folder for stock photos that I've purchased and collections I've purchased and a ClipArt folder for large ClipArt collections I've purchased that I use when developing games. So a few more tips. First, you can also use Tags to help you organize. So, for instance, here we are back with the Freelance Graphics Designer. In the Documents folder there are Clients. Clients often have invoices like that. Sometimes clients have invoices inside of projects. Sometimes they've got them inside of Dates for instance like this. But for each one of these invoices what I've done is I've assigned a Tag to it. So if I click here for Tags I can see the tag Invoice has been applied to this file. I've very carefully applied that invoice tag to all the invoices. So as a result I can simply go to Tags in the left sidebar, look for Invoice tags, and I'll see all of the files tagged with invoice. So I can see all my invoices in one place. Now I also can create a Smart Folder for this. So under Business I've created a Smart Folder, a saved search, and that shows me everything tagged with invoice. Either way it shows me the same files. All I need to do is, every time I create a new invoice make sure I tag it Invoice and it will show up. Another thing to remember is that nothing is set in stone. You can try an organizational structure. If you find that it's not working for you, you can make adjustments. All to often I see people struggling to try to come up with the perfect system right off the bat. That's never going to happen. Try to come up with something you think maybe good and then keep working and adjusting it. Maybe at some point scrap it and reorganize all your files in a completely new system. My system has elements that date back twenty years. But it's always a work in progress. I'm always adjusting and improving how I organize my files. So now that you've seen how I organize my files, and also some examples of how others may do it, I'd love to hear how you organize your files on your Mac. Let me know in the Comments below.Related Subjects: Finder (242 videos) Related Video Tutorials: Automatically Organize Files With an Automator Folder Action Shell Script Comments: 21 Responses to “How To Organize the Files On Your Mac” nick 1 year ago hey Gary, is there a use for tagging files with colours any more? My folders are well organized and originally I had started using the colour tag as well, but I find that if the folders are well organized, the colour tags are redundant. I learned a long time ago that putting time up front to have well-organized files pays off by orders of magnitude. I would say a general rule for setting up a system is to determine what your usual workflow looks like. Cheers. Gary Rosenzweig 1 year ago Nick: That's up to you. If you find it useful to tag something as red, then do it. I think most people would find it more useful to use real tags, like "work" or "home" or "projectX" and such and not color names as tags. That's kind of a holdover from when macOS only had a few select color tags and not keywords. Paul Reynolds 1 year ago Thanks Gary, I do more work on my iPad than I do on my MacBook so I could set up your structure in iCloud then work on projects like in Pages and changes would be available to both? Also like your idea for storing videos outside photos and I may do that with albums too because photos are so hard to sort and keep albums updated on Mac. Gary Rosenzweig 1 year ago Paul: That's pretty much the main feature of iCloud Drive, yes. Malcolm James 1 year ago I write music using Logic Pro. I use a combination of real and colour tags to track my projects. Each of the project folders is tagged with short hand names for plugins that are used to create the music in that folder. I also tag projects with key signatures and similar musical info to help with searches. I use colour tags to identify collections of files or projects with a temporary connection and to apply a rating system. Red is good. Gray is unfinished. Tom Gonser 1 year ago Appreciate the focus on what goes to iCloud, and what stays in that computer's own storage. This is truly simple, but some readers (like me!) don't fully understand how to know whether something's going to iCloud or staying local. Possible topic for future "basic tips" presentation. Gary Rosenzweig 1 year ago Tom: Check out this video: https://macmost.com/understanding-icloud-drive-and-the-optimize-mac-storage-option.html Eleonore Sylla 1 year ago Basically I organise my files the way you described. My question: Why should I store my document folder in iCloud as you mentioned? Is it not safer on the local laptop? Looking forward to your answer. Thank and best regards, Eleonore Will 1 year ago Gary, thank for another great video. I try to store my stuff logically but find that if I put photos in iCloud then I can access them from my iPhone or iPad. If I just stored photos on my iMac wouldn't the photos be inaccessible to other devices? Second, like you I have folders dating back 20 years. I do reorganise them from time to time but realise indexing and Time Machine have to work hard to catch up with the new structure. I only reorganise rarely, therefore. Gary Rosenzweig 1 year ago Eleonore: "Safer?" How so? If you have your files stored only on your local drive, then they are in one place. Unless you have a backup, it could be easy to lose those files if your computer fails or is stolen. Even with a backup, a disaster could easily wipe out the computer and the backup drive at the same location. But with iCloud Drive, you would just get a new Mac and log into iCloud and there are all of your files. Plus. if you store use iCloud Drive then you have the huge benefit of having those files on any other Macs you may have, iPad, iPhone and on the web if you log into iCloud.com. Gary Rosenzweig 1 year ago Will: Right. Use iCloud Photos so you can access your Photos everywhere. It is one of my most favorite features of the Apple ecosystem. I wouldn't worry about Time Machine and indexing "catching up" as that would take place in the background and should be all caught up while your Mac sleeps at night at the most. David Boucher 1 year ago Gary, Very helpful video. However, how do you set up the filing system initially. For example your page is headed "Gary" - how did you do that? Gary Rosenzweig 1 year ago David: "Gary" just represents my home folder. Your Home folder would have your name or whatever you chose as your user name. Then in your Home folder you automatically get things like Movies, Pictures, etc. If you use iCloud Drive your Documents and Desktop folders would be under that (I mention that at the beginning of the video). Kevin 1 year ago Hi Gary - Great video as per usual. I utilize a single "Document Library" and then use Tags to organize. I have gone this route because of never remember how I previously filed a document. Also, but utilizing Tags I can classify documents more than 1 way for later retrieval - Example A December 2020 Invoice for A Client. I have the following tags assigned: Client Name, Month, Year, Invoice, Taxes 2020. That way I can hit the document from various directions based upon need. scott 1 year ago Thanks Gary for another helpful video! Also, thanks to your community :) It really helps to hear different takes on this. @Malcom James, your method sounds detailed and interesting. I also write music on my mac (Logic & Ableton Live), and find it a real challenge to stay organized. Especially with different apps, projects and sample libraries, back-ups... I'm rethinking my organizational structure (again) and all of this helps. Cheers everyone! Claude Giguere 1 year ago I have 550 files in the finders duly tagged. Can I place them loose in the document folder without any folder structure? Is there any harm in putting a large number of loose files in the cloud? Thanks Gary Jean-Claude 1 year ago Whatever the organization method, I find CONSISTENCY is the crucial ingredient to make it work. This can be the hardest thing for us humans. For instance, if you’re naming files « Letter_Smith », « Letter_Jones » etc… don’t sometimes use « Smith_Letter » or « Letter Jones ». Inconsistencies cause files to not show up where they should. Consistency is also being very attentive when typing. Accidentally adding a space or misspelling words will mess up the sort order, leading to confusion. Gary Rosenzweig 1 year ago Claude Giguere: Neither your local drive or iCloud Drive cares about that. The folders are for you to organize things. Bert Mullemeister 1 year ago Hi Gary,thanks for your video. I have deleted all my photos and videos and rely on my photo library to save space on my hard drive. I do however export these from the photo app on my Mac on an external hard drive Your opinion? Gary Rosenzweig 1 year ago Bert: So you use iCloud Photos, but keep a second copy of each photo on an external drive also? That's fine. More backups are always good. Dan Macdonald 1 year ago In 10 minutes time, you organized my life. I had a desktop full of folders. Now, there is nothing there but the wallpaper depicting a snowy street in Edinburgh, Scotland. My newly formed home business is totally organized. Files are all in one place. While I am a longtime email subscriber and have learned much from your videos, this one is a life changer. Comments Closed.