Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Winter 2010 GeneaBloggers Games - Days 10-11

My quest for the perfect organizing system for my genealogy continues.  Today and Monday I have been testing, learning and experimenting with various things. I am trying to complete a bonus item in the "Organize Your Research" in the Winter 2010 GeneaBlogger Games.

Task F: Create a master list of your files and notify your family members of where it is stored.

Monday, I received an email from Gerhard Ruf, President of the Utah Valley PAF Users Group (UVPAFUG). He invited the board members to share a folder in Dropbox.  That way we could stop sending all our email attachments and just look in Dropbox for the latest documents. The free account holds 2GBs. Of course, I had to read all about Dropbox and complete all the required items to gain an extra 250MB of free storage space.

I pondered on how Dropbox could help me with my personal files. Since I have been moving between my desktop and laptop computer at nights, transferring back and forth with my flashdrive,  I have felt there has to be a better way.  I experimented with adding my RootsMagic and Treepad files into Dropbox and using them on both computers.

Instead of having my programs read/write directly to the file in Dropbox I chose to instead put a current copy into Dropbox.  Then I could retrieve the current file in Dropbox and update my hard drive copy on any computer I was using. When I was finished working on my copy on the hard drive I would copy it back into Dropbox. This way I could always find a current version in Dropbox and maintain my current file structure. It worked beautifully. I give my endorsement of the product.

Now, if I can only get my kids to use Dropbox. I could make sure they have access to my master list of files.  That would ensure they would understand the importance of my various files and where they are located.  This would also cover the last portion of Task F in Organizing.

Several weeks ago I filled out a survey online to see how organized I was. I think my score was about 87%. As a result of the survey I was offered a free consultation by an organizing professional.  Today, I had an hour long discussion with Stephanie Calahan, founder of Calahan Solutions. It was really great to get a fresh pair of eyes to look at what I was trying to accomplish. Here are two of the things I am now going to try.

1. Start using one of my external hard drives as the master document file instead of the C drive in my computer.  I would then make my C drive a backup.  Why, you ask? So I can use Excel to make a spreadsheet of my files and create hyperlinks to them.  Then when I move from my desktop to the laptop, or XP to Vista I don't have to worry about links breaking. I wish I had partitioned the hard drive the last time I reformatted it. Now I need to figure out how to assign a drive letter in Vista.  It's going to be weird at first not saving to My Documents.  If anyone has some insight into doing this, pros and cons, let me know.

2. Actually give The Paper Tiger software a try. There is a 10 day free trial to test it out.  In theory it's the ultimate system I want to organizing everything I own. I just need to confirm that is true.  It's expensive but the search capabilities are far superior to a spreadsheet. Stephanie gave me great examples on how she organizes all different types of things in it, not just papers. My husband could even benefit from it. I just have to find 10 days to really devote to trying out the software.

Well, it's late and it's been a long day, without a nap for me.  If anyone has any advice or insights for me, please share.

See ya tomorrow, for tomorrow is always another genealogy day!


Stephanie LH Calahan (@StephCalahan) said...

Renee -
Thank you for the mention and I'm glad that you benefited from our conversation. I wish you great success and if I can help you in the future, please let me know.
To your success!

PS -- you might also like my blogs


I also give out slews of tips and help on my twitter and facebook accounts

JL said...

Instead of using Excel, I wonder if TiddlyWiki would work, since it opens in a browser and is free-floating in that way.

There's also Zotero which I use extensively. You can attach files there and sync to their server, and it automatically syncs with any other computer you have Firefox and Zotero installed on. I was previously manually moving my Zotero backup but I finally decided to just sync to their server. Now I don't have to think about it when I turn on my laptop.

There's free attachment space up to 100 MB I think and then it's a paid service. The paid service only applies to the attached files, the rest is free.

Dropbox is the best ever. I have several shared folders and it makes life so much easier. I wrote in JLog how I installed PortableApps in My Dropbox and use 35 or so programs in portable versions, automatically synced between my two computers. One of my programs is Portable EverNote, with its Backup folder of databases so it's not only synced to both computers but also lives in the Dropbox. That would be a good place to keep a list because it's easily 'everywhere' as well as on a flash-drive. We all have a different version of a genealogy-filing challenge, so I don't know if any of this would be useful to you.

Renee Zamora said...

Stephanie-your blogs are worth watching. Thanks again for your help!

JL-I discovered at work today that I could install my portable Treepad files into Dropbox and they would work from within. I was so excited. Now that you tell me other portable apps do too, I have a lot of playing around to do.

I will check out your other ideas and play with them too. Thanks!

JL said...


PortableApps has its own platform and a wide range of compatible programs. Just go to PortableApps.com and get started! (Read my blog post first.) You could make a spreadsheet using OpenOffice Portable for that matter. There's a range of other word-processors and note-takers too. You can practically outfit a computer using nothing but portable apps. Not quite, but pretty close.

If it's just a list of your paper files to create, you could do that with just about anything on your computer or do it in something web-based like Google Docs or Zoho. Maybe you need something more complicated. I'll shut up now.