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Saturday, October 15, 2011

Organize your Data with Dropbox

Staying Organized with Dropbox
Dropbox is a great tool for staying organized and accessing your data from anywhere, but it can become difficult to find what you need if it gets cluttered. This post will detail some simple ways in which you can organize your folders and documents. Use this as a chance to start fresh, and save yourself from unnecessary future work and stress.

Note: If you don’t have Dropbox, see my previous post, or visit and download it for free. These tips apply for other Document folders as well.

The first thing to do after installation is to create a subset of folders within your Dropbox folder. You can name these whatever you want, but the general idea is to have 4 to 6 main folders, and not to go too deep into sub-folder territory (folders within folders within folders, etc.). 

This is what my main Dropbox folder looks like:

The “Big 4” Folders:

1) Current Material:
First, you need a folder for current, important materials that you are working on or referring to. This is the Big Kahuna of all the folders. It is where you will spend much of your time, updating it often with new material. This is where you keep all the working files for your current class assignments, papers, syllabi, projects, to-do lists, and so on.
  • Subfolders for Current Material:
    • One folder for each of your current courses
  • Keep 2-3 Subfolders for each Course:
    1. One for class materials, such as the syllabus, additional readings, assignment and project guidelines, etc.
    2. Another folder for the actual assignments, papers, and other homework you are working on or have finished.
    3. Lastly, keep a folder for your class notes and reading notes.
When the quarter or semester is over, you should move all of these folders to the next big folder, The Archive.

2) The Archive:
Here is where you keep all the important materials that you are no longer working on, but which you may want to refer to in the future. After each quarter, you want to purge the “Current Materials” folder and dump most of it in here (Cut and paste the folders). You should make a list of folders organized by Year and Quarter/Semester, like in the picture below:

This makes future referencing easy; this can be very helpful, especially if you take similar classes in the future (which you most certainly will) and want to refer to old notes or papers. 

3) Side Projects:
This folder is for things that you work on in your spare time, but are not currently your top priority. Maybe you are trying to learn to code, you blog in your free time, working on some side research, editing photos, or whatever - these are projects you undertake in your spare time. 

4) Miscellaneous:
Whatever goes in here can be easily separated from your more important or currently relevant school materials. I personally keep a folder in here which I use as a backup for all my photos, and another folder for all of my past online payments and receipts (I use the Snipping Tool on Windows 7 to save them). 

Pro Tip: Make sure to give your files relevant names, and try to keep them as short as possible while making it easy to decipher what is inside. This goes for all material you download as well – pdf’s often come with obscure file names such as “15922330581_Mthly111210.pdf”, and it can be a pain sifting through 20 or more pdf’s just to find an article you wanted to reference.

Summed Up:
In the end, you can make folders for whatever purposes suit your needs, but the general idea is to keep them organized with relation to topic and to current/past, important/not important, materials.