The cluttered desktops of our computers at home (Macs and PCs) made me think about a better workflow to deal with new files (self created or downloaded from the internet).

My question is:

  • Which workflow do you use to keep your desktop uncluttered and your file system tidy?

I have a hierarchical folder structure for the data of my personal "projects" and for some general things like e. g. finance, photos, etc., but there are lots of incoming files which do not seem to fit in any of the existing categories and therefore clutter the desktop.

I tried to create an "Inbox" directory, which removed clutter from the desktop but on the other hand only moved the problem to another place.

The GTD* method (getting things done, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Getting_Things_Done) has some useful tips and habits for managing tasks and I'm trying to use it, so it would make sense to create a "next action" on my list to "review file xy", or something similar. I could add a link to the file, but the question is where to store those files.
I tried creating a "temporary storage" directory where I put those files, but it filled very quickly.

* I'm currently using iGTD for managing my tasks and personal projects, but I'm considering buying Thingsor OmniFocus, as iGTD is not developed any more and has some [for me] annoying bugs and limitations.

So I would be interested in other ways to manage the electronic "information overload", maybe using tagsor a database like DevonThink Pro or ...?

  • Good question! I've been wireframing a (personal) solution for this for some time — nothing ready to show yet, though. Anyway, I'm eager to see what the possible contenders have come up with ;-) – Jari Keinänen Apr 25 '11 at 13:34
  • thanks for your comment - well, even if the solution is not ready to show, you could explain the approach or idea, IMHO. – MostlyHarmless Apr 25 '11 at 14:05

You might look at Yojimbo from BareBones. File and information manager. Quite powerful. http://www.barebones.com/products/yojimbo/


There is a utility to help deal with automatically organizing incoming files called Hazel.


I use Hazel which you can download with a 14 day trial

Hazel watches whatever folders you tell it to, automatically organizing your files according to the rules you create. It features a rule interface similar to that of Apple Mail so you should feel right at home. Have Hazel move files around based on name, date, type, what site/email address it came from (Safari and Mail only) and much more. Automatically put your music in your Music folder, movies in Movies. Keep your downloads off the desktop and put them where they are supposed to be

My set up is to have file type specific folders on my Desktop.

  1. The Desktop has a rule to move every file to a MISCH folder that is not a folder or an alias file.

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  1. MISCH folder uses a rule to move the files into other folders by type.

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This keeps my desktop uncluttered and I also do this for my Documents folder.

The files that have no type folder are left in the MISCH folder.

For me this is ok.

But you can do things slightly different:

You can do the above for files you drop on the desktop.

But also create a set of folders on the desktop that you may drop files into directly.

for example:

Personal,Projects completed,Projects to complete.

Each of the folders has its own rules and folders like in step 2 above. But for example with the Projects to complete. you can add a rule that looks for tags and moves the files to the Projects completed when the tag contains Completed.

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To initiate the move you just add the Completed tag to the file ( cmd + alt+i for multiple files).

Hazel also has many other rule options you can use.


What you need is DEVONthink. DEVONthink can help you organize your files in its database. When you have a new file in the filesystem, you simply drag it to the “sorter”, the inbox of the database.

After DEVONthink collects the file, it can apply auto classification rules and automatically group the file according to a group you defined. It can also tag the file just like iPhoto organizes photos.

  • I feel really sorry for my poor English. Thank you for edit and improve my answer. @grgarside – Hancock_Xu Nov 30 '14 at 13:35

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