How is your system setup and organized?


From about a year and a half of using Tiger as well as changing some focus on the sort of things I work on (doing more development than I was back then), I’ve got all sorts of files spread all over the place and really want to get everything organized in some sort of logical manner.

So how is your system setup? What is your folder structure for things? How do you handle getting different development environments setup (PHP, Rails, etc)? Where are those sorts of things located?

I’m basically trying to get ideas for better ways to organize everything.

The main things I use my machine for are design (mainly web), development (xhtml, css, php, ruby/rails), and business in general (clients, many different jobs for clients, documents, etc).

So, I’d love some feedback on how you do (or would) set everything up and keep it organized.



What an interesting question and a worthy one at that.

Years ago I created a consulting firm in NYC to help individuals and small companies better work with their computers. The idea was to help them use technology to their best advantage. In the middle of the hyped wave of using automated tasks to do just about everything, my hardest quest was to get people to think things through.

When it comes to organization, no software will do until you’ve thought it through. In other words, how do YOU function? Don’t know? Take a look around you. How is your desk, your closet, kitchen, laundry room, tool box arranged and this will give you a pretty good clue. Mostly there are two types of person each organized in their own ways. The messy organized person who will find anything in their mess and the very organized person who neatly puts everything away.

The only good “software” to help you organize yourself, I believe is an easy to use and look at file browser with basic functions such as create, copy, paste and link files with notes, which I am sorry to say our Mac sorely lacks in basic functions with Finder. I’ve tried programs like Project but they take to long to learn and you eventually learn another system on arranging your work.

Work with files and foiders. Learn to create a folder when more than a few file lie around a folder with the same relevancy. Create a tree infrastructure that makes innate sense to you.

That’s what I do.

I’m sure these types of program that help us use our own sense of organization will flourish soon. The ones that force us to use a specific system and relearn another type of organization will only make us miserable.


Spotlight is the center of my project organization – I use it to tie everything together. Most of my work is web and FileMaker Pro development with a bit of general Mac support.

Folder organization:

-Current Projects
-Inactive Projects

I keep the desktop super clean… usually totally empty. Current Projects and Downloads folders both in my dock for quick access. Every new client gets a folder in the Current Projects folder. Top level of this client folder are actual project files .html or whatever. Within this folder is a files folder in which I keep raw images and graphics before processing as well as a notes.txt file for general project notes. When the project is completed I print the invoice and move the folder to the Inactive Projects Folder.

Because Spotlight is my primary method of organization keyword tagging is essential. I have a Automator plugin as a folder action set for each project folder and the same for each sub-folder. Any time a new file goes in via save or drag and drop the Automator action opens and prompts me to enter a Spotlight comment for the file. I use the same comment for everything related to that project. Every file, event, todo, contact, and email (via MailTags) gets the same keyword tag. At any moment I can enter this keyword in the Spotlight search menu and within seconds I have everything I need. It works perfectly for me.

At the moment I create all invoices with Pages using a template stored within the application. Hours are tracked via iCal and a simple text file in the Client folder. I’ve thought of moving this to a FileMaker Pro database but have not yet primarily because FileMaker Pro data is not accessible via Spotlight.

For anyone wondering, I do use iChat to discuss projects with clients so I have it set to save transcripts which often come in very useful! And one other note, I use iPhoto and Keyword all images primarily for the Spotlight tie-in.

I think I’m fairly organized and generally can pretty quickly find any file in the Finder and often do. But, as I’m sure is clear, I’m a fan of Spotlight. I’m surprised how many people don’t seem to use it and I can’t help but think they are missing out.


I’ve also been wondering how other people are dealing with folder organization. While my system isnt’ perfect, here’s what I’m doing:

– Master work folder
– Archived Projects
– Active Clients
– [Client Name] folder
– Code (various code snippets and edits not published to site)
– Content (text files for content)
– Docs (notes, copies of project receipts, and misc. client files)
– Graphics
– Source files (logos and other misc. client submitted artwork)
– Working (comps and edits)
– Photos (client submitted photos)
– Video and Misc. Media
– Company
– Contracts
– Financial
– Graphics (logos, business cards, etc.)
– Invoices
– Marketing
– Office Docs
– Vendors
– Resources
– Fonts
– Stock art and photos
– Scripts/Utilities

Actual site files are stored in Users/Me/Sites folder.

I use Daylite ( w/Mail integration to track all communication and project scheudling/progress.

I also use Basecamp for client uploads, etc. I’m also using Apple Backup to a 160GB firewire drive on a bi-weekly basis.

A bit drawn out, but it seems to be working for me. I’m always looking for ways to improve my system.


Jason Terhorst

I learned early on in my discovery of the Mac OS, the wonderful power of aliases. Windows’ “shortcuts” are a weak imitation, so I was amazed at what I could do with aliases.

Basically, I set up three key folders in my home folder subdirectories: inside of “Documents” we have “school” (for homework, with subfolders for each class of the current semester, and “old” for previous ones), “personal” for personal taxes, hobbies, etc., and “work” for the daily grind. Each of the work and personal folders is divided by the type of task – “design”, “bookmarks”, etc. In some ways, they may overlap, so I just guess the one that it’s more closely related to.

I also make sure that my home folder is arranged and filled only with the files and folders that I want in it. Some apps like to create stupid little log files or other pointless folders in my home folder, like “Applications”. Irregardless of their purpose, into the trash they go. The home folder is my domain, and only I choose what goes there. Developers, put your App’s support files crap in “Library”, where it belongs!

I can use aliases in the situation where I want to have movie files, but my boot drive (with my user folder) is only 80 gigs, so the larger movie files that would normally be in the movies folder go in a folder on my Mac’s second drive, and I make an alias within the movies folder for them. It’s like they’re there, but yet, they aren’t. FrontRow treats them as if they’re within the same folder, so that works great.

The “sites” folder in my home folder is a little bit different. It’s given folders for the month that I’m currently in, and I sort projects into those folders by month (the projects stay in the folder of the month in which they were created).

I also have a “Cocoa Programming” folder for all of my Mac development. I tend to make sure all of the files that I create on my computer are where I want them to be, and not in random locations. Apple likes to think that Spotlight is something awesome, but it’s too slow for my uses, so I just try to stay organized.

Brandon Eley

I have a large number of directories in under my Documents directory. Here are a few of them:
Projects (client work)
A folder for each major business I own
Articles (broken down by site/publisher)
Receipts (PDF prints – I don’t waste paper anymore)
Forms & Documents (blank forms, contracts, templates, etc)
Rails (where my RoR projects live)
Wallpapers (broken down by category)

Of course there are about a hundred or so misc. folders in my Documents directory too… those are just the big ones.

In my individual client folders, I have sub-directories for original artwork/logos, stock photography, website files, documents/contracts, etc. Keeps things relatively organized.


I have a Core directory which contains all my work files, which is handy for backups. In there I have a finance directory, client information directory. Also have an omniOutliner file in there with a To Do list. And most importantly I have Projects, ProjectsPending, ProjectsCompleted directories which works for me.
I have an omniOutliner file to keep track of all my projects too and tasks to complete. So I can easily jump back and forth between them.
Each one of my projects has it’s own development environment and is setup as a TextMate project, so all the files related to the project can be accessed from there which is useful. Also each project has Design, Development and Research folders. Handy for web development. I hope the post wasn’t too lengthy! just my two cents.


I use EasyEclipse for all my web development, which is mostly PHP. My workspace (Eclipse “root”) resides in ~/Documents/workspace/, and all project related files are there as well, all kept in CVS. Although, I am really curious how others organise fluff as well.

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