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Friday, April 12, 2013

Tagging your way to organization

Traditionally documents on computers have been organized in directories, and paper documents have been organized in folders.  If you have a strong organizational scheme this can work well.  When you want to find the office phone bill from the spring of 2003, you know to look in your computer under Office->Utilities->Phone->2003.

But what if you are not so consistent in your organizing scheme?  Was that Office->Utilities->Phone or Phone->Business?  What if the organizational criteria for document does not neatly fit a single category?  Where will you file the receipt for you newest mobile phone?   Under Business->Phone, Warranties, Business->receipts, Warranties->2013, etc?

Tags to the rescue

In that case you need a more flexible solution. Use tags.  You can think of tags as labels or sticky notes you would apply to things in the physical world.  For your mobile phone receipt, at different points you may want to look for it as receipt, mobile phone, warranty, 2013, or business.  You can create a tag for each category and apply all of them to the receipt.
Tags in the physical world.
Image credit: tovovan / 123RF Stock Photo

This would result in chaos in the physical world.  You would have pieces of papers with many labels on them, but you would still never be able to find anything.  Fortunately, things are different in the digital world.  The computer can quickly find all the documents with the 'mobile phone' tag regardless of which folder you happened to place the documents in.

So if you are thinking of your mobile phone receipt in terms of remembering how much you paid for it, you might want to use the 'receipt' tag to look for it.  If you are thinking of your mobile phone receipt in terms of getting the phone replaced because it broke, then you would use the 'warranty' tag to look it up.

Tagging in SafelyFiled

SafelyFiled encourages you to associate tags and other meta data with your documents and folders to ease later searches for documents.  This meta data for the currently selected document or folder is displayed on the right side of the document screen.
Example SafelyFiled document view.  Note the meta data details (including tags) on the right hand side
'Location' and 'Refers To' are tags as well.  Their purpose is specialized to indicate where a document is stored (in the case of Location) and who it refers to (in the case of Refers to).  In the case of this document, I've indicated that the physical copy of the Air Conditioner Warranty is stored in my filing cabinet in the top drawer; it refers to my family in general; and I'm tagging it as a warranty, a house issue, and an appliance.

The best part of tagging comes on the document retrieval.  On the upper left side of the screen there is a search text field.  Next to the search text field, I've selected the "tags+" option.  This means that my search will concentrate on tag, location, and refers to elements.  Later when I want to review all the warranty documents, I can enter the word warranty in the search field.  With a new auto-completion feature we are deploying this weekend, SafelyFiled will prompt me with likely names as I start to type warranty, so I'm covered if I don't remember if it was warranty, Warranty, warranties, or warantee.

Example of the search box auto-completion feature prompting you with the tag named warranty.
 The search will return all the documents that have the tag warranty associated with them regardless of which folder they are filed in.  So if you filed the air conditioner warranty under the "Home" or the "Financial" folders it doesn't matter.  As long as you tagged things correctly, the search will find it.
Search results for "warranty".

Tag away!

Other online services like gmail also offer tags as an organizational mechanism.  One of the advantages of digital storage is being able to classify and retrieve documents using different criteria.  Tags let you do this.  Take advantage of it!
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