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The Guide to Working Smarter, Faster and Better


Chapter 2

Organize Your Data

Although there are infinite ways to organize data into complex, multitiered systems, you're going to take the smart and lazy approach to organization: You'll arrange stuff only as much as is needed to make that data useful to you.

Hack 11
Organize Your Documents Folder

Level: Easy
Platform: All

If you've had a computer for any length of time you know that your documents folder gets disorganized really fast. If your current file organization system works for you, congratulations. But if you frequently find yourself letting files clutter your computer's desktop, or if you spend time arranging files in a deep, complicated hierarchy of folders, it's time for a revamp.

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Hack 12
Instantly Retrieve Files Stored on Your Hard Drive

Level: Medium
Platform: Windows, Mac OS X

Every minute you spend on your computer, you're collecting more and more data, documents, and information to do your job and get on with your life. Instant retrieval of the bit or byte that you need right this very second is an essential requirement in the digital age.

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Hack 13
Overhaul Your Filing Cabinet

Level: Easy
Platform: All

One of the main clutter culprits in most offices is the To File pile. Often this heap spontaneously appears right on top of or next to the filing cabinet, which is pretty silly. Instead of adding stuff to the pile, why wouldn't you just file it? The reason is generally an unworkable, messy, overflowing file cabinet.

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Hack 14
Instantly Recall Any Number of Different Passwords

Level: Easy
Platform: All

Remembering a unique password for the dozens of logins you have may sound impossible, but it's not. You don't need to remember 100 passwords if you have one rule set for generating them.

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Hack 15
Securely Track Your Passwords

Level: Advanced
Platform: All

Sometimes you just have to write down a password to remember it. Don't do it where others can read it, like on a Post-It note or in an easy-to-read text file or Word document. You can keep a secure and searchable database of those hard-to-remember passwords using free password management tool LastPass.

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Hack 16
Tag Your Bookmarks

Level: Medium
Platform: Web

The web gets bigger every day, and so does your bookmark list. Stores your bookmarks online and associate keywords (called tags) to each for easy retrieval.

Hack 17
Organize Your Digital Photos

Level: Easy
Platform: Windows, Mac OS X

After even just a few months of taking photos, it's easy to wind up with a hard drive cluttered with a bunch of folders filled with images named things like IMG_8394.jpg. Pictures don't mean anything unless someone sees them, and no one will see the photos buried on your computer if you can't find the best ones.

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Hack 18
Corral Media Across Folders and Drives (New in 3rd Edition!)

Level: Easy
Platform: Windows 7

It's not always practical to store all your files in your Documents folder, which is why Microsoft introduced a new Libraries feature in Windows 7 that enables you to corral folders in different locations (and on different hard drives). Here's how it works.

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Hack 19
Create Saved Search Folders

Level: Easy
Platform: Windows, Mac OS X

As you begin to file your documents less and depend on searches more, it only makes sense to combine the folder paradigm and search capabilities with saved search folders.

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Hack 20
Create a Password-Protected Disk on Your PC

Level: Advanced
Platform: Windows, Linux

Everyone has some files the person would like to protect from intruders or others who have access to one's computer.

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Hack 21
Create a Password-Protected Disk on Your Mac

Level: Medium
Platform: Mac OS X

If you have files and folders you'd like to keep private and secure on your Mac, you can use Mac OS X's built-in Disk Utility to encrypt a disk image.

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Hack 22
Encrypt Your Entire Windows Operating System (New in 3rd Edition!)

Level: Advanced
Platform: Windows

Encrypting groups of sensitive files is a good start, but if you have a lot of sensitive material on your PC and don't want to hassle with picking and choosing which belong in your encrypted volume and which don't, you can use TrueCrypt to encrypt your entire system drive so that every file on your computer is encrypted by default.

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Hack 23
Set Up 2-Step Verification for Your Google Account (New in 3rd Edition!)

Level: Medium
Platform: All (Web)

The only thing standing between a hacker and your Google account — and more important, your sensitive information — is your password. Even if you have the strongest password you can possibly randomly generate, if people were to discover that password, they'd have access to all the information in your account.

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Hack 24
Design Your Own Planner

Level: Easy
Platform: All

There are lots of good reasons to ditch your expensive, electronic PDA for a paper-based planner system: cost, portability, and maintenance, to name a few. Paper-based planners never run out of battery juice or memory; they never crash or refuse to work the way you expect.

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