Organizing: Digital Elements

As I’ve started experimenting with digital scrapbooking (mostly for making photo books), I’ve started to accumulate the supplies to go with the new format I’m playing in. At first, there were so few that it was easy to keep track of what I had pretty much in my head and just browse through folders to find things, but now…well, it’s definitely beyond that.

It got to where I had to come up with a new way to find my stuff, and a new way to avoid making duplicate purchases. I had to be able to find what I need! I considered using the photo gallery tool in my Photoshop Elements, and I may still do that, but first I decided to do some basic file organization so my hard drive wasn’t chaos.

My digital elements are stored divided into the following folders:

  • Alphabets
  • Brushes
  • Card Templates
  • Embellishments
  • Kits
  • Papers
  • Templates

I will probably divide out my patterned and solid papers into separate folders soon since they are starting to get a bit crowded.

The next key was coming up with consistent file names that allowed my files to naturally sort themselves into the way I usually look for them. I wanted things sorted by store, then by designer, then by product name, so I came up with the following file name style:


Some of these items are abbreviated, especially store and designer names, to keep file names manageable. But the result is that I can see everything I have within a folder from a single store together, and then see what I have from each designer at that store listed together. Since different stores and designers tend to have distinctive styles, just like in paper design, it helps me to be able to have all of their items together since I tend to use them together. My file list ends up looking like this:

This way, if I’m using a product by a certain designer, it is easy to look for something to use with it that might be a similar style. And it is easy to double-check my files to see if I already bought that item on my wishlist (and forgot to delete it from the list) before I hit “buy” again!

Being able to use the filenames to find my files is especially important to me. I’m on a Mac and Mac OS X doesn’t allow you to set an image for your folder icon the way that you can on Windows. So when I’m looking at a folder, all I have to go on for the contents is the file name.

This method, which is actually similar in many ways to how I arrange my paper scrapping supplies, is working for me for now. I will likely have to use the library in PSE 8 to be able to do more tagging and previewing at some future point, I realize, however. ACDSee is a popular option for doing this on Windows. Currently there is a beta version of the ACDSee Pro software for Mac but since beta usually equals buggy, I’m in no hurry to take that on.

If you would like other ideas on how to organize your digital supplies, check out these resources:

Katie’s system is similar to what I use, only she divides stuff out by type and topic way more than I do and uses numbered folders to keep things in the exact order that she wants.

Just because digital supplies aren’t sitting around in messy piles doesn’t mean we don’t need a way to impose order on them to be able to find what we want when we want it. An orderly hard drive makes for a happy digital scrapper!


13 Responses to Organizing: Digital Elements

  1. Karen June 4, 2010 at 11:35 pm #

    Nancy, you can add an image to a folder on your Mac. Here’s a link I found that explains the steps. It’s not exactly intuitive, but it doesn’t take long to get a rhythm down. I use the preview graphic that most designers include with their digi products.

  2. Karen June 4, 2010 at 11:40 pm #

    Sorry, I forgot to add the link 🙂

  3. Terri Harmon June 5, 2010 at 5:01 am #

    Hi Nancy. Organization is also similarly important for storing digital photos so that we can find them when needed to use for either style of scrapbooking. You may have already talked about this in the past but your article hit home to me. Thanks for always having wonderful topics. Terri

  4. Melinda Wilson June 5, 2010 at 8:48 am #

    Nancy, thanks so much for this article. I have been “collecting” digital freebies for awhile but have not organized them since I haven’t done much with digital scrapbooking yet. They are all in one folder right now so I appreciate your advise and also the other links so I can check them out.

  5. Renee T (italgal on BPS) June 5, 2010 at 7:44 pm #

    Thank you for the detailed suggestions. I am just beginning to dabble in digital…but I am already beginning to see how quickly all the elements accumulate, and how difficult it is going to become to find what I’m looking for, without an organizational system. Your article is much appreciated.

  6. Lisa June 5, 2010 at 10:03 pm #

    Another big ‘key’ for me is to not download something I absolutely LOVE. I have so much junk that I have downloaded for digi scrap that I’ve deleted TONS without even searching the files to see what is there. I have my fave designers and they get their own folders, otherwise, I do keep files like you suggest – and have folders inside them.

    I also try to unzip ASAP after purchase. Otherwise, I can never find a thing.

    Great series – hope to see more.

  7. Tiffany H. June 5, 2010 at 10:55 pm #

    Thanks for the article. Since I’ve gotten into digi scrapping I, too, have found that I need some sort of system for all the supplies. I’ve started using Picasa (it’s free) to organize my stash. So far it’s working well. Like another person said, I only download freebies if I truly love it. I was downloading everything and when going through my stash I realized a lot is not “me” and what I will use so I did a lot of deleting. Keep us updated on your digi organization as I’m always on the lookout for new and useful ideas.

    • Cheryl June 18, 2010 at 9:01 pm #

      Tiffany, I use Picassa for my photos – never thought to use it for digital supplies. Could you elaborate on how you organize your supplies using Picassa? Thanks.

  8. Vicki June 7, 2010 at 1:05 pm #

    It was a process but I too went through my digi stash (hello I am only a slight hybrid scrapper!) and sorted: I choose to sort similar to my paper stash.. Words, embellishments, frames, pattern paper etc.. I also took the first page from each KIT and put it in a folder marked kits. so I could quickly scan the picture to see if there was something I liked. Then I knew the designer name and could easily find the embellishment etc… Totally worth the time it takes!!

  9. Alison June 10, 2010 at 7:51 pm #

    For Mac users, I highly recommend iPhoto Library Manager as an accessory for iPhoto. It allows you to create separate libraries, so you can keep your digital stash separate from your photographs. In iPhoto, you can tag individual elements with keywords, then assign an album to each keyword, allowing you to view all your journaling spots, for example, in one album. I love it. It has made my digiscrapping so much easier!

  10. Lisa June 11, 2010 at 10:45 pm #

    Nancy, this is basically how I organize my “stash” also. As a digital and paper scrapper, I am accumulating a lot of digi supplies very quickly. I like your idea of adding the store to the name because I’ve been starting to look at doing CT work and it’s nice to include items from designers in the store when applying or using items from another designer.

    I think the programs where you can tag and organize like crazy are nice if you really need them, but I find that the “search” function in Finder will find stuff really well (it’s finds layers within a template, for example, that aren’t even in the file name) and not spending hours tagging my supplies leaves me time to USE them!

  11. Anita June 16, 2010 at 11:50 pm #

    I found your information helpful!
    I’m glad someone let you know about how to add an image to your Mac folders. That is an important part of how I find files. The other part is that I add key words to my folder names (i.e. colors, ‘heritage’, things like that), because I use Spotlight (the magnifying glass on the top bar) to find absolutely everything! If you search for something, and want to see what the folders you’ve found look like, do ‘show all’ and then view as icon, and you can preview right there in Spotlight!

  12. Kristin April 4, 2011 at 5:10 pm #

    Hi, I just found your post searching for reviews of ACDsee for mac. The full version is now in store, but I found it way to expensive for using as an organizing tool only. Compared to iPhoto it is very fast and I love the interface…but not the price:)

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