General Question

kfingerman's avatar

How should I organize my files on a Mac?

Asked by kfingerman (992points) October 23rd, 2008

Just made the switch and am bringing over all of my files. Don’t really know my way around the OS X interfaces – my brain is still running windows (?). Most of my files are organized in about ten main folders. Where do I put them? On the macintosh HD? on what shows up as the little house in finder (how is that different from the HD?)? I don’t want them to sit on the desktop sucking memory, but I do want access to them. Also, I’ll want to be able to access them from a virtual PC in parallels if that changes anything…

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17 Answers

PupnTaco's avatar

In your Home folder, you’ll see a series of preset folders – Documents, Pictures, Music, Videos, etc. – put your stuff where it logically belongs using these folders.

Load your music into iTunes and tell it “keep my music folder organized.”

Load your pix into iPhoto and it will keep them locked up in the iPhoto Library in the Pictures folder.

Feel free to make a set of subfolders inside Documents for logical groupings.

You can set your Home folder to share in Parallels.

And keep your Desktop clean!

Anaphase's avatar

PupnTaco beat me to it.

PupnTaco's avatar

Also note no matter where you put them (Desktop or otherwise), they’ll take up the same amount of storage space on your hard drive (different from ‘memory’, which is RAM).

gailcalled's avatar

So. my huge desktop folder that is labeled “Gail Stuff” and is stuffed with everything is not a good idea?

PupnTaco's avatar

If you can find things quickly and easily, then that works for you. If you find yourself scrolling through hundreds of files trying to find something, consider breaking the mass into cohesive groups.

Also don’t be fooled into thinking the Desktop is “free space”, separate from your hard drive and incapable of running out of room. It’s just another folder on your hard drive, simply viewed in a unique way.

gailcalled's avatar

Dave: I can find almost everything; that’s because I invent clever labels (other than “Gail Stuff” of course.

wenbert's avatar

… and install Quick Silver

windex's avatar



I was gonna give you a list of x Free Must have Mac apps but half the fun is actually discovering them (imho) :P

jrpowell's avatar

OS X is a user based system. Things at the root level of the hard drive can be used by anyone that uses the computer. pic

Inside of that you will find the Users folder. That lists all of the individual accounts on the computer. I have three: one for myself, one for Zoe, and one for guest. You probably only have the one for yourself. pic

Now lets pay a visit to my User account. This is where I keep all the stuff that can only be seen by me. Like music, pictures, and movies. pic *See that folder called Desktop? That is the folder that has everything on your Desktop in it.

So in the end it ends up looking like this

richardhenry's avatar

Great answers from PupnTaco and johnpowell. I’d also recommend taking a look at Apple’s “Find Out How” videos, which actually do a fantastic job of explaining how to do things.

This video explains where’s best to keep everything like photos, movies, documents, which is what you’re looking for:

It also covers how to transfer the files from your old computer onto your Mac. Hope this helps.

richardhenry's avatar


This video walks you through the interface of Mac OS X:

And there’s many many more for things like adding new photos:

Organising them:

And editing them:

Hope you find them useful, it’s a really fantastic resource.

wilhel1812's avatar

lol, i have this big folde called stuff. I just use spotlight to get things. And i also name things sso i can easily filter what i need. Like “math – chapter 4”

queenzboulevard's avatar

The only things I have on my desktop are screenshots that I take of interesting quotes or paragraphs from articles, and documents that I haven’t finished yet. Inside my documents folder I have another folder called misc. that I keep things that I don’t think are documents, but don’t fit anywhere else either. Also I agree with wenbert about quicksilver. Download it and watch all the tutorials from The Apple Blog—it’s the best thing you’ll ever have on your mac.

asmonet's avatar

Whatever you do, don’t listen to anyone who tells you to put all the file extensions in their own folders.

My friend did that once.

It was hilarious.

chromaBYTE's avatar

The folder with the house icon is called your “Home” folder, which is the storage place for all of your personal files. This is the mac equivalent of “My Documents”. Many new windows-to-mac switchers are tripped up by this, because the home folder also includes a “Documents” folder.
Just try and organise as many of your files into the preset folders you’re given (“Music”, “Pictures”, “Movies”, etc.) and then organise the rest of your files into your “Documents” folder, using subfolders as needed.

Here is my current setup of the “Documents” folder on my laptop, as an example. You’ll notice I like using coloured labels for my school work. Another useful organisational tool.

Bri_L's avatar

@ whenbert – why Quicksilver over Butler?

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