Friday, June 1, 2007

Tablet PC: Organizing Files and Backing Them Up

I have been subtly influenced to post again about Tablet PCs. This time I'll focus on how I organize my files and how I make sure that I don't lose those very important class files that are on my tablet.

How do I keep myself organize? I have several pieces of software that I have to use in order to keep all of my files organized so that I can efficiently function during class and while I do my homework. During class I use OneNote 2007 to take notes and during EAC 201 I use DyKnow to get the class notes. I use Outlook 2003 for my calendar and tasks (although I don't use it for any email). For keeping track of my grades I use Excel. I use other office products for classwork (Word, PowerPoint) when appropriate, but normally not during class. Lastly, I use Windows Journal when I want to do homework in digital ink.

Obviously this is a large amount of files to keep organized and many of them are of different file formats. The first way I have found to keep organized is to make a root folder for each semester that I am in school. Since I've been in school for three semesters I have folders named the following:

  • Louisville 2006 Fall
  • Louisville 2007 Spring
  • Louisville 2007 Summer
These folders each contain sub-folders for each of my classes. I also have additional folders for organizations that I am in. In my case the folder is for Speed School Student Council. Even though I have folders for classes I do have files in the folder for each semester. These include scans of advising sheets, my schedule for classes, and excel sheet of all of my grades, and other random important files dealing with school. The list of sub-folders I have in the Louisville 2007 Summer folder are as follows:
  • EAC 201
  • EG 214
  • HUM 216
  • PHYS 296
  • PHYS 299
  • SSSC
From this point, I change the way I organize files based on the individual class. For EAC 201, we use DyKnow, so I have to save these files in a sub-folder named DyKnow. I also create additional sub-folders in the DyKnow folder for each unit so they are ever further separated. This may seem a little excessive, but I do it just to be on the safe side.

For my physics classes, I do my homework on my tablet so I have a folder named Homework. Since I scan most important documents from class into my computer I use a folder named Scans which keeps them together. Another case where I use folders is for my CECS classes where I need to keep program files for homework, labs, and lecture's organized. In this case I make additional sub-folders to divide lab dates and chapters or units.

Having an organized hierarchy of folders is only part of getting organized. Naming files is important so they can be located quickly. This is more important under Vista than XP because of Vista's wonderful search feature. I recommend putting the course number in the file name as a prefix followed by the descriptive filename. For example my physics 299 chapter 22 homework would be named PHYS 299 - Chapter 22 Homework. Under Vista, if I want to open this file all I type is "PHYS 299 22" or even "299 22" and the file will appear!

Not only are the files important, but having them in a useful form is important. I keep all of my class syllabuses and other class documents in OneNote. I do this by using the OneNote 2007 printer. Basically, I go to file print from any application and print to OneNote where I can keep my important class documents. These files normally come from scans, PDF files, and Word or PowerPoint documents.

As for organizing OneNote, it is nearly identical to the way I organize my files. I use a notebook for each semester, a large division for each class, and one section for the class in general (used for the syllabus and other important things) and an additional section for each unit in the class. This results in almost two identical file structures but keeping them separated is not that big of a deal.

Using OneNote is more of a preference. It would be possible to use a notebook for each individual class. The best part about having notes in OneNote 2007 is the fact they are highly searchable. This is the main benefit of using a tablet PC to take notes in class. Being comfortable using OneNote is by far the most important thing to learn about using a tablet as a student.

As for keeping a schedule organized, I use Outlook 2003. The only reason I don't use Outlook 2007 is because the university will start distributing it to students July 1. I put all of my classes into the calendar. While this may seem redundant, classes are canceled, rescheduled, and sometimes moved. Also, with all of my classes in Outlook it is easier to squeeze meetings into my day. The reminders are useful but I don't rely on them very heavily.

The tasks feature is how I keep track of all of my homework. After I receive my syllabuses for each class I immediately type in every test, quiz, and homework. I tend to rely on the Next Seven Days view in order to know what needs to be done in the coming week. The only major problem is when professors do not assign homework until right before it is due. This requires quite a bit of work keeping up with my tasks, but it helps me stay organized.

Between my school files, OneNote, and Outlook I have over 2GB of files just for class! These files are extremely important and at any given time I will have a handful that will be absolutely devastating if I lost. This is normally a project or my class notes right before a test.

I can't emphasize enough how important it is to back up your files. I've lost many files due to hardware failure before I came to college, and I was determined to be backed up at all times. Since internet is available almost everywhere on campus and is extreamly fast, online backup services are perfect. The one I selected to use was Carbonite (I earlier blogged about Carbonite in my post Software: Carbonite) It costs about $50 a year for unlimited backup. It is basically set it and forget it. Only 10 minutes after I make a file it is backed up to an online server. They update the file every 24 hours. This all happens automatically without any user intervention.

Theoretically, if my laptop batter were to explode I wouldn't lose a single file. While not having my laptop in class would be very difficult, having all my files disappear would be even worse. I spent all this time organizing my files I don't want them to disappear when my hard drive fails.

1 comment:

Travis said...

Hooray Tablet Posts!

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