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.

Comments: 21 Responses to “How To Organize the Files On Your Mac”

    3 years 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.

    3 years 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
    3 years 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.

    3 years ago

    Paul: That's pretty much the main feature of iCloud Drive, yes.

    Malcolm James
    3 years 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
    3 years 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.

    Eleonore Sylla
    3 years 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,

    3 years 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.

    3 years 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

    3 years 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
    3 years 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?

    3 years 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).

    3 years 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.

    3 years 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
    3 years 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

    3 years 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.

    3 years ago

    Claude Giguere: Neither your local drive or iCloud Drive cares about that. The folders are for you to organize things.

    Bert Mullemeister
    3 years 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?

    3 years 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
    3 years 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.

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