November 1992

The DOS PATH Command

In the last issue we began a discussion of hard disk organization. For DOS users, we recommended that you keep the PATH command in your AUTOEXEC.BAT file very simple:


The PROGS directory should contain a batch file to start each of your applications.

For example, the batch file to start WordPerfect 5.1 might be named WP.BAT and look like this:

CD \WP51

You can create this file in \PROGS with the DOS EDIT command. Whenever you type WP, DOS will run this batch file, which will change to the WordPerfect directory and run the program. You can add other commands to the batch file, such as a MODE command to switch to a particular printer, and you can add command-line switches to the WP.EXE line. See "Startup Options" in the WordPerfect manual for details.

Storing Data Files

Most programs create data files to hold the work you do with that program. A word processing program creates documents, a spreadsheet program creates spreadsheets, and so on.

Keeping track of the files you create can be a constant battle. Just creating unique names for each file can be difficult if you have many files of the same type -- many letters to the same client, for example.

One guiding principle for storing data files is to keep each directory from becoming too big. The root directory of the hard disk has a limit of 512 files and directories. But you should never let a directory have that many entries. The DOS manual suggests no more than about 150 files or directories in one directory. Directories with more entries than this are searched more slowly, which will slow down your programs when they look for a file. A better goal, to make directories easy for people to search, is a maximum of 50 files.

WordPerfect users often put their documents in \WP51\DOCS. This is a bad idea for two reasons. First, when you upgrade to WordPerfect 6.0 (coming next year) it will probably be stored in \WP60 and your documents will be in the wrong place. But more serious is the fact that the standard WordPerfect installation puts a large number of files in \WP51 and the computer will need to search that directory every time you look for a document (in order to find the DOCS directory). It is better to create a directory \DOCS in the root directory.

An alternative is to create one directory in the root directory to hold all your data files, whether they are spreadsheets or word processing documents, and use subdirectories for each kind of data. Following the lead of the UNIX operating system, you could create a directory \USR for all "user files" and put word processing documents in \USR\DOCS.

Organizing Documents

Let's assume your primary application is word processing and your documents are stored in \DOCS. Since you anticipate having hundreds or even thousands of documents, you certainly don't want them all in one directory. How can you organize subdirectories within the DOCS directory?

If you do work for different clients, create a directory for each client or project. Store documents for client ABCD in directory \DOCS\ABCD. This method keeps all the documents for the client together, which can be useful when there are many documents for each client. You won't need to squeeze the client name into the file name because the location of the document identifies the client.

Another way to organize your documents is by type. You can keep letters in \DOCS\LETTERS, memos in \DOCS\MEMOS, and agreements in \DOCS\AGREE. If you create each document by editing the previous one of that type, this works well.

Yet another method of organizing documents is by date. Create a directory for each month: \DOCS\1192, \DOCS\1292, and so on. This works well when the time period of its creation is a useful way to locate a document. It also makes sense if you work on a given document for days, rather than weeks or months.

Generally some combination of these methods works best. If you store documents by client, you can subdivide them by document type or date. If you store documents by type, you can subdivide them by date. For instance, if you write a lot of letters to different people, create a directory for letters and subdirectories for each month, like this:


Document Management Programs

Software can organize your documents automatically. Typically, each document is assigned a unique number and you must fill out a "profile" to describe the document. The profile contains the document number, the author, a descriptive title (not just DOS's 8-character name and 3-character extension), the document type, the date of creation, the document location, and other information.

The document management program lets you search profiles to find documents. After a search you see a list of document titles and choose the correct document. Then the software starts your program (such as WordPerfect) to work on that document.

Document management programs are usually not worthwhile for a single user. But they are very useful on a network with many users and thousands of documents.

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