Files across multiple platforms

I’m struggling with the “files across multiple platforms” issue. There’s some related discussion at he beginning of the thread here, but no definitive answer. Is this discussed somewhere I haven’t been able to find?

I’m thinking of a JD system with files mostly in my laptop (MacOS), but some of the stuff also in Google Drive, Dropbox and external hard drive. Maybe a hundred IDs or so in total. I (think I) get the idea of an index file and I can use it as a reference for finding the stuff, but since there’s more than just a few folders in different external platforms, it doesn’t feel right to just leave/dump them there without some sort of structure?

I guess using aliases/links is an option… but this would mean I need to keep them all in sync in three places - index, file system and external platform. Also, when I would migrate from one external provider to another, existing aliases/links would likely be broken.

What would be the best way to tackle this?

My perspective on this problem (which I think is fairly standard JD) is to use my areas and categories as top level organisation for all the different apps that fall into my system.

Area 1
Category A
Category B
Area 2
Category C

Then I store data in the most appropriate app, accepting that these folders will be empty for many of my apps. For example, to keep track of family birthdays, I keep a separate note for each under a different ID (reused year to year) in my 15 Events category. As I share these with my wife I use Apple Notes for this task. I also have a 15 Events project in Reminders to place any associated tasks. Therefore, my Index for these IDs will record their location as:

Notes, Reminders

They’ll be an empty 10-19 Personal / 15 Events folder in my iCloud Drive ready if I ever needed it.

I try and keep the app I use for different IDs in one category the same to easily remember where to look. For example, I won’t use obsidian for my wife’s birthday planning even though I won’t be sharing that specific note with her, but I will use obsidian for my exercise records as it is better suited to that particular task. If I forget where something should be I can check the index, but realistically I can learn the half dozen commonly used categories quite easily.

I hope that is helpful, what specific issues are you running into?

I’m mostly concerned about files. And it might be important that on my Mac I’m using Dropbox and Google Drive standalone applications, so whatever files I have in “cloud”, on Mac they just look like a regular files on a mounted drive.

I could be wrong, but my reasoning has been following:

  • laptop - that’s where i prefer keeping large and static files. Stuff i don’t need to have access from either phone or remotely. E.g. a photo archive
  • Dropbox - stuff that I might need to use ad-hoc and/or from my phone, even if I’m not sitting behind laptop. E.g. what’s that chicken recipe for dinner, what’s my best 10k result, that sort of thing.
  • Google Drive - spreadsheets, documents, photos - things I want to share or have access over the internet
  • External HDD - backups, archive and other stuff I don’t need often

So, I don’t think I have a situation where the whole area or category can fit neatly into one app; contents can be from multiple sources. And same is true for areas as well. For example, let’s say there’s a trip to Paris with files from multiple sources, e.g. like this:


	30-39 Hobbies
	  31 Travels
	    31.12 Trip to Paris 2020
	    	- some static file in HDD


	30-39 Hobbies
	  31 Travels
	    31.12 Trip to Paris 2020
	    	- some relevant file I want to keep in Dropbox


	30-39 Hobbies
	  31 Travels
	    31.12 Trip to Paris 2020
	    	- Google Spreadsheet with shared expenses

So how would you create the directories in Dropbox/Google in this case? Just folder name 31.12? Or the parent folders as well?

Personally I would use the same folder hierarchy in all the different apps:

30-39 Hobbies
31 Travels
31.12 Trip to Paris 2020

Then save each different type of file in the app that makes the most sense to me (doesn’t have to make sense to anyone else in a one-person system).

You could even save the same thing in multiple locations; for example, a flight confirmation email in an email folder and as a PDF in Dropbox and a notes app. This would be fine for a document that you’re not going to edit in future but maximises the chance of you finding something in the most convenient place at any given time.

If you’re unsure where to find a file then that’s what the index is for!

To be clear, I wasn’t saying before that all IDs in a given category have to be the same app, but in the specific example I gave it made sense to me to maintain continuity.

For me, the ability for a JD system to rise above lots of different apps and provide a universal framework is its great strength.

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This is the whole problem with digital life in 2024 — it’s just really fragmented.

I guess ideally you’d try to consolidate some of this stuff. For example, iCloud Drive does all that Dropbox does. I pay for the extra storage and my Mac syncs my Documents folder there. So it’s available from everywhere.

But then Google Drive for Sheets is a totally legitimate, probably-unavoidable use of yet another place your stuff can be.

No personal criticism in my italics there. Just emphasising the nature of the problem.

So, what to do? Your goal here is to be able to find stuff again. Secondary is to make it neat, because that’s just nice and will reduce stress.

If you’ve only got a handful of items in a place, I’d say just name them by ID. Don’t worry about creating a structure if it’s mostly empty.

Or go half way. Just create category folders, perhaps? I used to do this in Outlook, so the left pane was just a long list of category folders. I just didn’t need the overhead of clicking in to areas when trying to find mail folders, and the flat view worked well in that horizontally-challenged space.

This post talks about how I use this approach in the iCloud app folders.

But be really strict with yourself when using the index. Everything must be in there.

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