Dealing With Data Files

Written and published March 22, 1999

In my 4th column, Application Folder Organization, I talked about placing your applications in one folder aptly called Applications. Then I briefly suggested other folders such as specific folders for Utilities or Communications/Net or Games. Not only does this make it easier to locate your documents when you need them; it also makes back up much easier.

Your own documents are the most important files to back up. After all, they can't be replaced. It's not as important to back up the installed versions of your programs. Since you own the applications and have the installation disks, you can just reinstall after a crash. For the most part, your own personal documents are in folders organized by project (if you've chosen to follow my suggestions or were doing that logically anyway). But what about program data files? They're not in your Project folders, but in the Application, Games folder, etc, along with the program they belong to.

Data Files that reside in Application folders

Data files are what I call files that specifically belong to an application and are called on by that program to provide you with your information. For example, Quicken creates a file it calls "Quicken Data" by default and stores it in the Quicken folder along with the Quicken application. Organizer programs tend to do the same thing. When you first use a program that creates such a file, the program makes you aware of the file, presenting a Save dialog box. If you are already using a program like this you probably said OK to the default name and location.

These files don't need to live in the folder of the program that creates them. You can move them. Opening the data file will launch application, just like any file opens the creator app.

I create a folder I happen to call "Deb's Personal files." For these purposes let's say you call it "My Personal files." After you create this folder, whenever a program creates a data file, you can move that data file into the "My Personal files" folder. This not only makes backup easy, but also makes launching easy.

Simply back up "My Personal files" along with your other Project folders. Then, when you crash, just copy that folder back to your repaired or reformatted hard drive. You can reinstall the applications from the original installation disks. This doesn't exactly put you back to where you were, as it doesn't' address preferences, which are likely to be in your System folder. But that's another story we'll address later on. Anyway, you can always reset Preferences. It's the data you really need to worry about and back up.

You an also place an alias of "My Personal files" in the Apple menu or make it into a pop-up tab at the bottom of your screen. That way you can go to it to access your Quicken information, your organizer, etc.

Data Files that reside in the System

Other Data files are automatically stored within the System folder. For example, there is Global Village Fax Software. (I haven't tried taking those files out of the System as I figure they really need to be there.) So what do you do to back up those files?

Personally, I back up my System folder. I don't tend to back it up as often as I back up my personal documents (which live in my Project folders and "My Personal files." This means there is a good chance I'll lose a fax address if I store it in the Global Village interface. However, I don't rely on the Global Village software. Instead, I store my fax numbers in my organizer file -- which is stored and backed up in my Personal files folder.

If any of you have experimented with removing files such as Global Village Fax from the System folder, replacing them with aliases, let us know how the experiment went. I'm not endorsing or suggesting this, just wondering if anyone has tried it. I would be happy to share your experiences. I would also be happy to share any solutions to storing or backing up your data files.

Deb's Personal files folder

Here's what is in my folder, called Deb's Personal files:

  • Deb's Consultant (My Chronos Consultant contact file)
  • Deb's ConsultantBackup
  • Deb's Contacts (Claris Organizer. I keep it around although I am no longer updating that file)
  • Deb's Finances (Quicken)
  • Deb's URL Manager Bookmarks (URL Manager Pro)


This week's column was inspired by this letter from Sten Nachenius who wrote, in part:

"I can see that you have a backup strategy in mind, that is very good, and perhaps you will write about it in future articles. As I understand you don't need to backup the applications so often as the files. That is easy if you organize your computer after your articles. But if you will make it easy to backup (I use a CD-R) I want to put all files in one place, "Never, ever store any files you create in the folder that contains the application you are using". How about, for example, Global FAX files and Eudora files, that are in the system folder? Can you move them to the file folder without problem? And in ClarisWorks (AppleWorks) folder you have a template folder. Perhaps you made your own template. Can you move them from the ClarisWorks (AppleWorks) folder without problem?"

I don't use Eudora so I can't address its files. Hopefully the advice I've given can be applied to Eudora. If not, and someone enlightens me perhaps I can help. Or, if you have a response to that question, feel free to let us know.

Next Week

Next week I'll address the last part of Sten's question - about ClarisWorks (AppleWorks) templates and those of other programs that use templates/stationery. I've owed you that explanation since my first column. And the week after that I hope to be able to share another cool organizational tip from a reader.

PS: When you write to share ideas, I'd love it if you'd let me know whether I can use your name and want your email address and/or URL printed.

Previous Column • • •
Button that takes you to the index.
• • • Next Column