5 Tips for Setting Up An Organized Folder Structure

Based on our experience with digital asset management systems that often use folder structures, we’ve put together some tips on setting up folder structures that can help you and your team work more efficiently. These tips are helpful whether or not you’re using digital asset management software.

Use our folder structure tips to get started with new folder hierarchies or when cleaning up existing messes:

1. Understand the consequences of spaces and underscores at the beginning of folder names.

Placing a space, underscore, or other special characters at the beginning of a folder name will force the folder to “float” to the top of alphabetically sorted lists. However this trick can lead to problems since the folder does not appear in its usual place. For example, someone browsing for the “Projects” folder may miss the “_Projects” folder at the top of the list expecting to see it between the “Marketing” and “Research” folders, and end up creating a duplicate “Projects” folder without the underscore in front.

2. Use folders as a way of applying keywords.

Some DAM systems and search tools will generate keywords based on the folders where files are stored. When setting up your folder structure think about keywords that would be applied based on folder names. For example, a file in a folder called “Holiday Party” inside the “Events” folder will appear in search results for “holiday”, “party”, or “events”.

3. Avoid ambiguous and potentially redundant folders.

Try not to create folders with overlapping categories. If you have a top level folder called “Pictures” and another top level folder called “People” you probably don’t want to copy a picture of a person into both folders. Instead eliminate one folder or the other, or place one folder inside of the other. For example, the “Pictures” folder could go inside the “People” folder.

4. Create a “template” of empty subfolders.

Create an empty group of folders and subfolders as a template if the same subfolders will be used throughout the folder structure, or if you anticipate creating folders in the future that need a common group of subfolders. This will allow you to quickly copy and paste the template of subfolders into new folders instead of manually creating each subfolder. For example, every folder created inside the “Projects” folder could use a template of “Artwork”, “Layout”, “Fonts” and “Text” subfolders.

5. Consider replacing extremely disorganized folder structures.

Start fresh with a new, clean, and well planned folder structure if your existing folder structure is too disorganized. This can be done by moving existing items into the correct place within the new structure, or by choosing a cutoff date at which point the old location becomes a read-only archive where any changes must be copied to the new location.

About Edward Smith

Edward Smith has a background as a Mac OS X and Windows system engineer, technical trainer, and DAM consultant. In his current position at Extensis, Smith is the in-house expert for all things digital asset management related and contributor to the DAM Learning Center. Edward often conducts customer training sessions, including product implementation tutorials and presentations at relevant conferences including Macworld Expo and the Extensis DAM conferences. You can contact Edward via Twitter or his Google+ profile.