I got a large amount of work done yesterday, although it isn’t very exciting to write (or read) about. In preparation for my back up, I wanted to organize my computer and get everything where it belongs. I do this every month or so, but when I am really doing a lot of work it is very easy to have lots of files out of place.
The biggest culprit is my “New Pictures” file. This is where I initially collect my reference photos for drawing. I usually use several photos at once when drawing a design and I have accumulated thousands over time. Many times I use an element from one for one part and an element from another for a different part or look at something just for the basic shape and pretty much draw on my own. I may like a background tree from one photograph or a rock from another and use them that way too. I am sure you get the idea.
Several years ago, when Adobe advanced to their Creative Suite series, they added in a program called “Adobe Bridge”. This was a great little mini program that organized all the folders on your computer, including your picture files. Instead of searching one folder for say a “tiger” it would scan any number of folders – even on different drives and bring up all the files with the word “tiger” in the name. It even brought up text files and documents. I quickly saw the value of this, as I had so many pictures and it seemed that they were scattered all over my computer. I knew I had to tag all of my files to get them in order.
Long story short, I spent literally months tagging every photo and picture on my computer. For those of you who aren’t familiar with computers, it means giving a name to the file that I can call up in a search by using key words. Many had more than one appropriate tag. For instance, a cute kitten in a Christmas stocking could have both the name “cat” and “Christmas”. In this case I would label them with both. I spent a couple hours a night just tagging them and filing them into place. It was a huge amount of work, but has proven to be well worth it.
In windows you cannot have two files in a folder with the same name. You can see that it would be a problem. My “tiger” folder has something like 400 tiger pictures in it. I figured a way to add a number after the word tiger that would make it unique from all the other tiger pictures. The number is actually useless except it gives the file a different name from all the other files. I found if I put the date after the picture, and then a sequential number, I can literally go on forever and have different file names no matter how many pictures of the same subject I acquire. For instance the tiger picture would be “tiger 0216111” because it is February 16 2011. The next tiger picture would be tiger 021620112” and so on. This works great for me.
When I am looking for pictures or find something I like, I often don’t take the time to tag it right away. I find that tagging all at once is much better and keeps me focused on the task at hand at the moment. For that reason, I set up a “New Pictures” folder on my download drive. (I have a separate drive just for downloads where anything I download goes. This keeps downloads off of my “C” drive, which holds all my systems files and reduces the risk of viruses. It also makes it very easy to locate what I download. I usually scan all the .exe files before I open them too and it helps keep my computer clean.) When the “New Pictures” folder gets a lot of pictures in it, I know it is time to tag and file the pictures and put them in their proper folders. When the “New Pictures” folder is empty, it is a good feeling, as I know everything is where it belongs.
I know it sounds like a lot, but for someone like me who uses pictures so much as reference, it is really important to have a good filing system. I don’t use Adobe Bridge anymore, as Windows 7 has its own search system built right in. The work of tagging really paid off because now if I want to see all my tiger pictures, I just type “tiger” at the top of the window in Windows Explorer and any file or picture with “tiger” in the name will come up. It is fast and easy and makes things a breeze.
I have learned that staying on top of things really does help in the long run. It allows me to focus on what I want to do and not be distracted by looking for things that are out of place. I know that this may not particularly pertain to woodworking, but I do think in the long run it is an important part of any business.
Now with that done, I am going to move on to some ‘hands on’ woodworking today. I finished my drawing on the next tray and I will be able to spend some time cutting today. It will be a fine way to spend the day. :)
-- Designer/Artist/Teacher. Owner of Sheila Landry Designs (http://www.sheilalandrydesigns.com) Scroll saw, wood working and painting patterns and surfaces. "Knowledge is Power"