Ditch the Documents folder

Last week, I wrote a tip on how to make OS X always use expanded Save dialogs. In the associated forum thread, the conversation got a bit off track, and there was some discussion on saving files in general. A poster complained about the number of applications that are writing files into his Documents folder, making it very hard for him to spot his files within the mass of other entries.

Though this may seem like a minor complaint, it’s definitely an OS X irritant. OS X has a well-organized structure for applications to work with, yet many insist on using the Documents folder to store their data. For instance, the Documents folder on my Dual G5 contains folders named Acrobat, ArcSoft, EvoCam, Goliath Editing Folder, and probably 20 others that I know I didn’t create. Now it very well may be that Apple’s developer documentation tells developers that this is a good thing to do—so I’m not blaming the applications for writing their data into the Documents folder. However, I do blame Apple for then explaining in Mac Help (my emphasis added):

A user’s home folder contains various folders for personal use, including a Desktop folder, a Documents folder, and more.

If it’s for my personal use, what’s all that cruft doing in there? It’s nothing but frustrating, trying to find the handful of folders you created amongst all the rest of the stuff that various applications created. So today’s tip is simple, yet apparently one that not everyone has considered: ditch the Documents folder. That’s right; just stop using it.

I did this long ago, as I realized that the applications had put more stuff into Documents than had I. Since your user owns the entire Users folder, you can create whatever folder structure you like, anywhere within that Users folder. Apple even contradicts itself to support this plan, recommending elsewhere in Mac Help:

Create new folders in your home folder or on your desktop and organize items into categories and subcategories.

On my G5, I created one folder, Rob’s Stuff , at the same level as Documents, Movies, etc. Within that, I then created my usual hierarchy of folders to further organize things. (If you have more than one hard drive or partition, of course, you can create this structure elsewhere.) I then moved all my files out of Documents and into my new structure, and said goodbye to Documents forever. Well, nearly forever. I do visit when I have to use something that some application stored there, but that’s it. To make accessing your new “Documents” folder easy, drag the new folder into your Finder’s Sidebar or toolbar area—access is now but one click away.

This is a battle not worth waging; let the system win this round, and create your own folder structure outside of Documents—I’ve never had any issues using this setup. However, I don’t know how well it would work with an automated tool like Apple’s Migration Assistant (for moving data to a new Mac). If you do use such an app, just make sure it’s copied all your data across before you delete the originals.

  
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