When the organization bug bites…

Man did I fall hard to the organization bug this week.

It all started innocently enough. I’ve reached that point in photo volume where there’s just too many to keep on my old organization scheme. Actually, there wasn’t much of an organization scheme at all. All my photos are loosely organizaed by year and thrown into folders with arbitrary names. i.e “Fabulousity (Senior Year)” I’m sure this made sense at the time, but at the time I wasn’t taking 200-400 pictures an outing. I also wasn’t running a Post A Day photoblog, or making fairly drastic edits to photos, the way I am now.

So it started out with this thought that maybe I need to organize my photos a bit better. Including actually changing the image names so I can track when/where they were taken, and the number of edits I’ve run on them.

I figured once I got there, I could also start tracking what photos are posted to Branded Lens, so I never double post. Seems simple enough, right?

I actually started out pretty lucky. I found a piece of freeware called Fast Stone, which had great reviews for being a pretty easy to use tool for image organization, and some good basic manipulation and editing capabilities.

Best of all, it had a bulk image rename, which meant I could easily rename my image files anyway I wanted. Which of course led to my first major problem.

I have archives that reach back into 2003. How do I reorganize and rename that many images in a schematic that can remain consistent across so many years? Do I organize by year, person, place, event… how do I get all the important details into each file and folder?

It took me a day or two to come up with a solution, but I eventually landed on generic “main” folder names: Travel2012, Family2012, Holiday2012, etc. From there I put in sub folders with names that follow a system dependent on the main folder it’s in. All my subfolders start with “NY -” “HI -” FL – ” so I can easily find the state it was taken in at least. The images were in some ways the least difficult and other ways the most difficult. All images are labeled by month day (February 12th becomes 0212), a place code (Oahu becomes OAH), and an image number .0001. The problem with images came in two places. (1) A lot of images in a folder span a number of days, so the question became do I label with month and day exactly, or not. In most cases I decided to be exact, just so I could see the chronological order a little better. This led to the abrupt realization that I had never really set my camera date right, and something of a problem in finding the right dates, but I’m taking a “close enough” approach.

The next problem became how to label edited images. First I decided to attach a “e-” to the beginning of the file name. I liked this approach because it lets me see very clearly which images have been edited. I didn’t like it, though, because there’s no way to organize it next to it’s original image, without manually dragging it there. Not a problem in single instances, but time consuming when you have a file with 10 or more edited images in it. Next I decided to to append the file name with a “.1” “.2” etc, to mark the edits. So a file might be “0212OAH.0003.1” I like the approach because it makes organization easy. But again, I don’t like this approach, because it takes a minute of searching to find the edited files.

Which led to my next level of crazy organization. Macs let you color code files. If a Mac can do it, there’s no way someone hasn’t come up with a solution for Windows, right?

Oh boy…

So let me save you the time and effort right now. No, there is no easy, practical and free way to color code file names in Windows. You can download Rainbow Folders for free, which lets you code folders, but not files.

I even looked in to third party file management systems. I thought NexusFile might be the solution, and to be fair the user interface is easy to understand and does color code, but the color coding is automatic based on file type, not something that can be set by user preference.

I haven’t actually given up on NexusFile quite yet. Although it didn’t perform exactly the function I wanted, I’m frustrated enough with the Windows Explorer interface, that I’m willing to give some third party software a try.

A little more research (for anyone who is truly and completely over Windows Explorer) came up with another program called XYplorer. It’s another third party file management program, with great reviews and exactly the functionality I want. Unfortunately it’s not freeware, and I’m not frustrated enough to pay quite yet.

After that I started searching specifically for photo file management programs, wondering if there was something better than Fast Stone out there. The answer was yes, but once again only if you’re willing to pay – which I’m not.

Within this whole process I was also researching new photo editing software. Picasa isn’t quite cutting it for me anymore.

What I think I came up with is I’m at that annoying cusp where I know enough that I want better tools and utility, but I’m not quite at the point where it’s worth buying them yet. At least it’s good to know when I hit the point of actually needing some better photo software, for organization and editing, the tools are out there. And I can almost guarantee my reviews as I continue searching will land on Branded from time to time.

And if anyone has good recommendations, I’m all ears!



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