ORGANIZING COMPUTER FILES, FINDING STRAYS, AND ELIMINATING DUPLICATES

©2016 Donald R. Snow
This page was last updated 2016-11-13.  Return to the  Utah Valley Technology and Genealogy Group Home Page  or  Don Snow's Class Listings Page .
Abstract:  A big problem when using computers for family history or anything else is file maintenance. We all have lots of lost, duplicated, old versions, and ill-named files on our computers, but we seldom talk about how to deal with them. This is a large task that many of us never get around to working on and they just fill up our hard drives until we run out of space. This class will show ideas using freeware programs to find, relabel, organize, and eliminate duplicates of such files. The notes for this class and related articles in Don's Freeware Corner are posted on  http://uvtagg.org/classes/dons/dons-classes.html .

    WELCOME AND INTRODUCTION

  1. Instructor is Donald R. Snow (snowd@math.byu.edu) of Provo and St. George, Utah.
  2. These notes and related additional information in other articles is posted at  http://uvtagg.org/classes/dons/dons-classes.html , all with active Internet links.
  3. Tips:  (1)  To put an icon on your desktop for these notes, or any webpage, just drag the icon from in front of the address in your browser onto your desktop.  (2)  To open a link, but keep your place in these notes, hold down the Control key while clicking the link.
  4. The problem for today:  Finding and organizing files, lost, duplicated, and to be eliminated, using helpful freeware programs.  
  5. FILES AND NAMING

  6. Most of us have files scattered all over our computers, some duplicated, and others lost because of
    1. Not taking time to check things when first working with them
    2. Working on the same thing at different times   
    3. Same file saved with different names
    4. Same file with same name, but in different folders   
  7. The addage, "Handle it once.", is good advice for computer work as well as paper files, but no one does it all the time 
  8. Suggestion -- Decide on a file naming system that suits the way you think; here we will discuss the method I have developed over several years; when you see the pattern, you can use any parts that will help you with your computer 
  9. Examples of my naming system
    1. People files -- so they sort in timeline order for each person -- ManwaringDiane(Snow)(1934-2012)-2012-10-13-Obituary-SaltLakeDeseretNews-Ancestry-com--2014-04-10.pdf
    2. Photos -- so they sort in chronological order --
      PHT-2004-01-20-10h23m16s--ManwaringDiane(Snow)(1934-2012)&SnowDonaldRay(1960-)InBarbadosArchives--P1200004.JPG
    3. Other types of files -- I use prefixes, e.g. LTR- , ORDER- , etc.
    4. More details about this in other notes and articles on my website
  10. Many files on my computers are not in this system yet; I use it for new files and when I find old ones that need it  or when I get really ambitious about cleaning up
  11. First problem is finding the files, strays, lost, and duplicated files -- use EVERYTHING and search using various key words

    THE PROGRAM EVERYTHING

  12. Best program I have found to find files from anything in the titles is EVERYTHING -- freeware from  https://www.voidtools.com/
  13. Finds all files anywhere on your computer that have the search terms you enter 
  14. Downloading and setting up EVERYTHING
  15. Can sort the search results on any column, i.e. by name, path, size, date created or modified, etc., and each helps for some things
  16. Examples of searching with EVERYTHING
  17. ORGANIZING AND ELIMINATING DUPLICATES WITH EVERYTHING

  18. Duplicate files, but in different folders, show up in the search results in alphabetical order, since it finds them regardless of folder; can check the date, size, etc., to be sure they are dups, and rename or delete them right in EVERYTHING
  19. If only a few files need work, I do it in EVERYTHING; if many files need work, I make a note to do it later
  20. For many files to work on later I sometimes highlight them in EVERYTHING and drag and drop them into a working folder -- The Windows property of clicking on the top file, then holding down the Shift key while clicking on the bottom file, highlights everything in between so you can drag-and-drop them all.
  21. When moving files to a new folder, if the new folder already contains a file with that name, it stops and asks whether to overwrite it or save both; check the properties to see if it is the same file and then overwrite it or save both; when saving both, it adds a number like _1 or _2 at end of name for new one coming in; other programs can be used later to check for duplicate content in that folder, regardless of name
  22. When files are deleted or renamed, they disappear from EVERYTHING, unless the search terms are still in the file names
  23. Files that are moved, but not renamed, are still in the EVERYTHING results list, but with their new paths shown
  24. By sorting on the path in EVERYTHING you see which files are not in the new folder and can highlight those to move
  25. DUPLICATE CLEANER FREE

  26. Free program available from  http://www.digitalvolcano.co.uk/duplicatecleaner.html -- there are many duplicate file finders, but this one has features I particularly like.
  27. Can be set to search through any part of your hard drive; I usually run it on just one large folder and subfolders
  28. Has settings to find duplicates in various ways, e.g. same file content regardless of name, same size, etc. 
  29. When started, it gathers all the files and starts comparing for duplicates; works quite fast
  30. When finished, you see the duplicates in groups 
  31. Has ways to select which files to delete, e.g. first in each group, those with the latest date, those with shortest names, etc., or you can just check them manually to delete
  32. When done selecting, click button at top to see if you have inadvertently checked all files in some group; this is a safeguard so you don't delete all in a group, unless you want to
  33. With files to delete checked it has several delete methods, e.g. moving them to the Recycle bin or moving them to a different folder
  34. Program has some nice safeguards, so you don't delete things you didn't want to; e.g. all in a group (as mentioned above) or all in a particular path that you don't want to
  35. DUPLICATE CLEANER FREE could be run on your entire hard drive, but would take a long time and would find so many duplicates you would have a hard time working with them all; I just use it on particular folders or groups of folders and don't try to do everything at once 
  36. Will discuss finding and eliminating duplicate photos below
  37. BULK RENAME UTILITY

  38. After eliminating the duplicates in a folder BULK RENAME UTILITY can be used to help rename the rest -- free program from  http://www.bulkrenameutility.co.uk/Main_Intro.php
  39. Examples -- add a prefix to every file in the folder or change specific words in all titles to other words; has many ways to rename files and looks complicated, but isn't hard to begin using it for simple renaming projects
  40. Once you have files named in a uniform manner, you can change your system later very easily since you can change words, etc., for many files at once with BULK RENAME UTILITY -- the key is getting things named uniformly in the first place.
  41. Suggestions for using BULK RENAME UTILITY
    1. May need to add leading zero's so numbers sort in order, e.g. the numbers 1, 2, 3, 12, 13, 14 may not sort chronologically, so they need to be written as 01, 02, 03, 12, 13, 14, or 001, 002, 003, 012, 013, 014, if some contain 3 digits
    2. For files that are letters I add the prefix  LTR-  at the start of file names so I can find all letters on the hard drive by searching for  LTR-  in EVERYTHING
    3. Writing dates in International Date format, YYYY-MM-DD, makes them sort chronologically.

    AWESOME PHOTO DUPLICATE FINDER

  42. Free program available from  http://www.duplicate-finder.com/photo.html
  43. Finding and deleting duplicate photos deserves a class by itself
  44. With this program you select the folder to check and it finds all "similar" photos and shows you the list with percent similar
  45. Can sort the list by percent similar with the 100% similar at top
  46. It shows you the photos side-by-side and you select which to delete or keep both
  47. Takes time to look at each pair, but you see all pairs and can decide which to delete 

    THE PREVIEW PANE IN FILE EXPLORER TO HELP WITH FILE RENAMING

  48. FILE EXPLORER in Windows 10 has a helpful Preview Pane; program was called WINDOWS EXPLORER in earlier versions of Windows
  49. Preview Pane allows you to see what's in a file and you can rename it without having to open it
  50. Default has Preview Pane turned off; to turn it on, click on the icon in the middle of the top
  51. With Preview Pane turned on, as your cursor passes over the title, you see what's in the file; e.g. for doc's you see the text, for jpg's you see the picture; can even scroll down through all pages of a multi-page file
  52. But it allows renaming the file without having to open it and trying to remember what's in it; saves countless mouse clicks
  53. Old WINDOWS EXPLORER in previous versions of Windows had a bug that Preview Pane sometimes couldn't be turned on

    FINAL STEP - MOVING THE FILES TO WHERE YOU WANT THEM

  54. With the files named so they are findable they show up in EVERYTHING regardless of where they are, but it's easy to move them to separate folders for better organization
  55. With files named uniformly, you can easily change any words to any other words in bulk -- hard part is getting the names uniform in the first place
  56. Your files are probably "all over the place", like mine; I use this system for new files and change old ones as I come across or need them, and occasionally I get hooked on finding and organizing old files; it's fun, but it's too big a job to do all at once.

    SOME THINGS TO BE CAREFUL OF

  57. Don't delete system files that your computer needs to work correctly.  To help prevent this EVERYTHING has an option NOT show system files.
  58. Some files, usually small ones, with the same name are needed in different locations, since certain programs need to find them in there; if you are unsure of a file, don't delete it.  As a rule of thumb, if you named the file originally or you know it's not needed for the system, you are probably safe in deleting it.
  59. You may want to keep duplicate copies of some files, e.g. your journal or photos, even though they are exactly the same with the same names; I have two complete copies of my daily journal with exactly the same names, but on two different hard drives; can tell EVERYTHING not to index certain folders, so those files never show up in EVERYTHING; they are still there and can be found with FILE EXPLORER
  60. CONCLUSIONS

  61. File maintenance is a major task and takes time, but helps you get organized and saves time in the long run.
  62. I hope you got a few ideas from this that will help with your files.

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