Windows File Properties

by JL Beeken on 7-21-2007

Sharon Gayle uses Windows File Properties for annotating her files. (Organizing Documents on your pc with software you already have.) Whether you’re using the MRIN Filing System or not, there’s some ideas here for you.

If you’re still looking for a filing system you might want to have a look at hers. If you’re already filing by MRINs this is a different system altogether, but there is one aspect of it that can expand on what you’re already doing. If you’re not using any kind of filing system this is also for you.

In Windows folders, in the Details view, we have a choice of what other information to arrange across the page next to our file names. I’ve known that forever, of course, but do I ever use it? Rarely. As default, it’s set for file size, file type and date modified. On the My Pictures and My Music folders the defaults are a little different.

Windows File Properties

This can all be changed. At the top of any Windows folder is:

Windows File Properties

If you choose “Choose Details” you get this:

Windows File Properties

Windows File Properties

There are many other details that can be added to any file and then displayed in your folders. If you read Sharon’s article she explains how she uses the File Properties box. Most simply here, if you want to add information to your files, without altering anything else you already have, you can.

Right-click on any file, and click Properties. Then go into the Summary box and add whatever you like.

Windows File Properties

Then choose in the “Choose Details” box, as shown above, to have these properties (Category and Comments) displayed in your folder.

Windows File Properties

That’s just one example. As Sharon says in her article, there’s nothing about this that’s set in cement. It’s just there to be adapted to your own purposes.

In the case of the MRIN Filing System it could be useful to add comments to some of the files for those times you’re searching for something and aren’t necessarily coming from your database first with the MRIN+extension in your mind. I have this covered in a basic way by putting a short description on the documents along with the MRINs but sometimes it could be good to have a few more details.

If an alphabetical and multi-folder approach is more to your liking, Sharon’s system might be the thing. It would still be possible to include the MRINs in one of the Summary lines. “Keywords” seems the most obvious, but that one won’t display in the folder. No idea why.

If you want to be able to search File Properties, you’ll need to enable the Windows Indexing Service, and wait for it to index your files. Of course, to be useful, you’ll first have to add file properties to anything you want to be able to search this way. Add as much information as you want. The more the merrier. I figure if I spend 2 hours a day it will take me 3 months to get everything genealogical ready for searching. The upside of this is that once it’s done, it’s done, and it will make a fantastically comprehensive index. My very own searchable database.

You can find it here: Control Panel / Performance and Maintenance / Admistrative Tools /
Computer Management / Services and Applications / Indexing Service. Click on Indexing Service and under Action, click Start. From that point on it will run automatically in the background, best when the computer is idling.

I also like this idea for photographs. Such as:

Windows File Properties

Caveat: You cannot add file properties to BMPs, GIFs or PNGs. So if you want to use this feature, these types of graphics will have to be changed to a different file format. JPGs and TIFFs seem to work fine.

Once you’re all indexed you can search using “A word or phrase in the file”.

Windows Search

The Comments shown here do not, for instance, show up in the Comments section of FastStone Viewer, although it will show up in FastStone Viewer under File Properties which opens the Windows File Properties box. Windows seems to be a world unto itself in this respect. It would be handy if this information would translate directly into our genealogy databases in the description boxes of the photo imports. It would save doing it twice.

A major concern is whether the information will stay with the files when burned to CD or during a re-installation of your operating system. I doubt it. If you can’t back it up, at some point you’re going to lose it.

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