Why folders are no longer the best way to organize your team’s files

minutes to read

We’ve all been there before. Your manager just asked you for a file your predecessor stored in the previous year’s team folder. You try to find the file urgently, rushing through years and years of information only to realize it might take you less time to rewrite the file than try and guess where the file might’ve been stored in the first place. Why? Because organizing files through folders is only intuitive to the person storing them. 

Same file, different folder

File organization systems work when one person is responsible for that system. As teams scale, these systems quickly become hard to navigate and break easily over time. This happens because no two minds think alike. Although a folder and subfolder structure may seem completely logical to you, it will most likely not work as intended for even your closest colleagues. 

When we ask different people to organize the same content into a folder structure that makes sense, more often than not, they will arrive at a totally different result. Take Patricia and Mike as examples. When asked to store a new version of a brochure, each team member stored the file quite differently. 

Patricia might organize the new marketing brochure using the following system:

Category > Drug > Country > Language

Whereas Mike might organize the file using a system outlined more like this:

Drug > Country > Category > Language

Folders and subfolders are difficult to scale

Although neither Patricia or Mike’s filing system are more correct than the other, both of their files are difficult for the other to find. Now add the complexity of team growth on top of the increase in hundreds or hundreds of thousands of documents over time? The result is a tangled web of folders and content that makes finding your information more difficult than ever.

So, what are the most effective ways to organize files?

When we built Papercurve, we knew that using structured ways of organizing files and folders are becoming obsolete. So we looked to industries that were leading unstructured file organization and search experiences best. From flight bookings to apparel, we found these industry experiences leveraged these three key best practices to organize their content:

  1. Filters use metadata as an additional set of data to define what you’re looking for. When searching for a flight, you wouldn’t search by flight number, but rather by date, airlines, and airports to find the perfect flight out of the 50 million flown each year. With Papercurve, we have similar metadata fields to help you find what you’re looking for. Categories, dates, job numbers or anything else you have configured in your workspace can be filtered. 
  1. Tags are a true alternative to folders without any drawbacks. Let’s say you have content you want to use for conferences in Toronto and New York. Using Papercurve, you would simply create tags for both cities and results would appear for either. This is a huge advantage to folders since you’re either duplicating files to be in both folders, or using a clunky “shortcut” or “alias” to link to a single document.
  1. Titles should be the last resort for finding the content you’re looking for, but we use them anyways. While lots of companies have naming conventions, it’s hard to enforce. In Papercurve, it’s really easy to search by title to find your document. 

Screenshot depicting how files can be labeled and organized using Papercurve.
Papercurve filter interface

Gone are the days of file shortcuts and team drive “file naming alignment” meetings. Creating searchable files shouldn’t cost you time or energy. There are ways to future-proof your file organization system with a built-in set of features to help teams structure ways to find content using metadata, or unstructured ways like tags or titles. It’s time to toss folders in the recycle bin and easily find what you’re looking for in seconds, without having to create more work for yourself and your teammates. That’s just content that makes sense!

Discover how Papercurve manages your content, in a secure central repository, by booking a discovery call.