Directory and Folder Structures for Beginners

You've been hearing about directory structures and folder trees for years. Today's your day to start using them. It's far easier than you think, and it will vastly improve your organization. In this article, we'll explain all about these structures and trees in plain English and give you an easy way to put them to use through a piece of software that will vastly simplify the way you interact with your computer files: FileCenter.

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Folder Structure Summary

  • Directory structure definition
  • Is there a difference between a directory and a folder?
  • Why do I need a good folder structure?
  • Coming up with a good folder structure
  • Is there an easier way?

Directory Structure Definition

What is a directory system? What is a directory structure? What is a directory tree? Answer: many names for exactly the same thing. A directory structure/system/tree is simply a layout of directories on your computer.

Taking a big step back, the early computer designers realized that lumping together every single file on your computer would create a massive jumble and make it impossible to find anything. So they wisely created the directory. Think of a directory as a room. That room can hold its own things, but it can also have doors into other rooms. Which in turn have both their own things and, possibly, even more doors into even more rooms. That room layout is a directory structure.

Is There a Difference between a Directory and a Folder?

There is no difference between a directory and a folder.

In the early days of computers, back when users had to type in commands, they would type dir to see a directory of all of the files in their current location. Hence the term "directory" was born.

Then Windows came along and decided to represent these directories with little folder icons. In their minds, the computer's disk was sort of like a filing cabinet, a cabinet with folders and sometimes folders in folders. Hence, the term "folder" was born. And when users saw how incredibly deep and complex these structures sometimes were, they became known as directory trees or, in today's terms, folder trees.

Unfortunately, those complex folder tree structures are pretty easy to get lost in, which has kept many users from adopting them.

Why Do I Need a Good Folder Structure?

If you've ever spent a ridiculous amount of time scrolling through hundreds and hundreds of files trying to find the one you want, then you've experienced the reason that a good folder tree structure makes a difference: it's easier to find things. Let's face it, we're spacial beings. We like structures and hierarchies and visual layouts. The problem is, creating a good folder hierarchy is intimidating. So let's fix that.

Coming up with a Good Folder Structure

The best way to figure out your folder tree layout is to start broad and then get specific. For example, if you're a home user, Windows already gave you a head start by giving you a handful of very broad folders: Documents, Pictures, Music, Videos, etc. These are just folders.

Let's take Pictures as our example. To get your pictures organized, now get one step more specific. Create a few folders for years. To create a folder:

  1. Go into Pictures
  2. Up on the toolbar, click Home > New Folder.  OR ...
  3. Right-click anywhere in white space and select New > Folder
  4. Call the folder 2019
  5. Now take all of the photos from this year and drag/drop them into the new folder

Repeat for any other year that has photos.

Now you can go into your new 2019 folder and create folders for each month, following the same principle, and sort your pictures accordingly.

Let's suppose that during the month of June you went to Cancun. You may want to create a Cancun folder inside of June's folder and put the Cancun pictures there.

The principle is simple: Go from general to specific.

Is there an Easier Way?

Absolutely. You're probably already seeing how easy it is to get lost in a folder tree. That's because, to Windows, everything is a folder. And folders within folders within folders make you lose your bearings very quickly.

FileCenter fixes that. Without taking anything out of Windows, it puts a better face on your folders. It shows them as filing cabinets – cabinets with drawers, folders, and files. With more points of reference, it's much, much easier to keep your bearings.

Let's repeat the Pictures example in FileCenter: In FileCenter, you'll create a filing cabinet just for your pictures. In that cabinet, you'll have a drawer for each year. And within each drawer, a list of folders for each month.

To see cabinets in action, take a look at this video.

FileCenter: Your Easiest Path to Organization

FileCenter gives your Windows folders a clean, intuitive layout. In no time at all, you will come up with your own folder structures that not only give your files excellent organization, they'll also keep your Windows files within easy reach. Download a free trial today!



FileCenter Screenshots

 
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