How I organize my archived files for easy retrieval.

I’ve never had an organized way to figure out “Where’s that random file that I downloaded or wrote a while ago ?” until recently. I have some random academia articles, short video clips (You had to download them before Youtube, folks !), ebooks, web pages that were really interesting (because the page may go down one day), funny and/or digitally edited (gimp’ed/photoshopped) pictures, and music (ripped from my CD collection, of course).

There’s a myriad of methods to backup your things. (just go to a search engine, type in “howto backup archive” and you’ll get a lot of results. I’m not going to point out all the caveats or advantages for each method.

Here’s mine: I just archive them on writable DVD’s.

So, how do I find the file once I archive them on DVD’s ?

I use the concept of creating a text file that lists of all the files on the DVD and then keep these lists on my computer for reference.

How I do this concept on a Mac OS X ((Mac OS X specific section)

After burning the DVD (or dvd), I open up textwrangler (spiffy text editor for OS X, free).

To create the list in Textwrangler :

  1. Have the dvd/cd that you want to list already in the disk drive.
  2. With textwrangler open, go to the top toolbar, select edit, and then insert (see picture)
  3. textwranglerexample.jpg

  4. Use either folder listing or file/folder paths to your liking. Folder listing will create a list all of the files and subfolders in the directory that you chose.
    If you don’t want to go into subdirectories, choose file/folder paths and while in the directory that you want to list, hit (apple command, you know the button left of the space bar) and the letter A. All of the files/folders will be highlighted, click ok, and just the paths of the folders and files that you selected will be listed.
    (end of mac specific section)

Then save this file in wherever you like [probably on your home hard drive]. I created a directory called storage in my Documents folder. Give this file the same name that you gave the CD or another way that you can identify the CD for reference later. I name mine backup-[year]-[month]-[day]. For an archive that I made on Dec. 4, 2006, it’s named backup-2006-12-04.

If you keep your backed up dvds in different locations you can group all of the lists into separate folders, based on geographic location.Here’s an example: (not my actual list, mine has different folder names, but same format as show in the picture)


For Windows or Linux users, this concept can work for you too. Very briefly: Windows Users – This appears to be a sufficient, free program to create the directory listings. Linux users (this works for Mac OS X users choosing the command line) – the command ls would easily work and better yet, use: ls -a -R -F [pathname]

(remove the brackets when using the command and for pathname, put the name of the directory that you are attempting to list). As with anything else in life, directions are a good starting points and you can customize/tweak this as you gain experience.

(Uninterrupted, I spent about 45 minutes on this post, I thought that I wrote pretty quick on it as well. I think that I have trouble articulating my thoughts.)

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