Organize your Mac's Graphics Files, Project Files, and Artwork

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How to Get Started

If you’re like most Mac users I know, you probably use your Mac to create or use graphics files and artwork. Because of the size of these files, they can really clutter up your Mac. If you use your Mac to create publications, newsletters, brochures, and so on, you probably have a lot of images (and possibly duplicate ones) that you use with applications like InDesign to compose final documents. In creating projects like publications and brochures, it’s easy to get yourself into the situation of having your art files spread all over your hard drive. This can make them difficult to find, use, and archive, and it might even cause you to delete the wrong files when you go about removing files after you finish a big project.

Getting your graphics and project files organized can be quite time consuming. You might have applications that save your files in strange places, or you might have project files that you’ve saved to network drives. You might also have files you’ve linked into other files so the information will be up-to-date each time you access it but you have no control over where these files are saved. Because of these things, you can’t just go about randomly moving project files into “Art” or “Project” folders. If a file you need is moved and the application, document, or presentation can’t find it, you’ll get an error about that missing file.

Tip: Linked files are those that are used in a document but that aren’t actually part of the document and are located elsewhere on the hard drive. One such example is an Excel file in a PowerPoint presentation. Linked files are used so that when the document is opened and the linked file is accessed, the latest version of the file is obtained.

So how do you go about getting these types of issues resolved? The best way to start is to get all of a project’s files into a single folder. Then, you’ll want to do the same with other projects and their files. Once you’ve done that, you’ll have everything together and you can access, share, and archive the project easily.

Look at one of your projects, such as a brochure you created in InDesign or Photoshop. It likely consists of various images, text, and marketing information. Open the main project file and look at its contents. Is there a linked spreadsheet? Is there an image that was obtained from and is stored on a network drive? Is the original project file stored in some weird folder you’ve never heard of? Is there text that is linked from a document that is changed daily or weekly? If so, you have to decide what you can and can’t move and if it’s worth the time and effort to try to consolidate it. Linked files will give you the most grief, especially if they’re out of your control.

Steps and Tips

Here’s a general outline for organizing a project that has files stored all over the drive:

  1. Open the main project and take inventory of the files that are linked and the location of the original files. If those files are on your hard drive, you can move them; if they’re on a network drive and out of your control, you may be out of luck.

  2. Use Get Info to find out where the image files are stored.

  3. Use the application’s Preferences, Options, or Custom choices to find out where files created in that program are saved.

  4. Locate and make a copy of any static file saved on a network drive.

  5. Create a folder on your hard drive with a name that represents the project.

  1. Move all of the files, linked files, images, any music files, and copies of networked documents to this folder.

  2. Open the main project and look for missing files. Locate and copy or move these files to the new folder.

  3. Change the default location for saving files in the application’s Preferences, Options, or Custom menus.

If you have all of your files on your own hard drive, it is possible to move them all to one folder. You might have to relink linked objects, and you might have to make copies of certain images, but it can be done. For all future project files, start off right by saving the files all in a single folder and avoid much of the mess that comes with disorganization.

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Improve Your Mac’s Performance – Get Rid of Unnecessary Files

This post is part of the series: Good Mac: Clean Up your Digital Files

If you’ve had your Mac for a few years, you can bet you have a lot of digital data you don’t need or want. Clean it up to get better performance from your Mac.

  1. Get Rid of Unwanted Digital Files
  2. Organize Movies and Video Project Files on Your Mac
  3. How to Use iTunes to Organize the Music on Your Mac
  4. Organize your Mac: Graphics Files and Artwork
  5. Get Rid of Unwanted Digital Files in the Music folder