My digital files are made up of two general categories:  word files which I write myself (covered in a different post), and all other files.  The broad “other” category consists of faxed documents, scanned documents, and emailed documents, among others.

It’s fairly evident what to do with documents you write yourself.  If not, see the (File and Smile!) post.  If your intention is to go completely digital, you’ll want a way to manage all things mailed, faxed, and emailed to you (as well as handed to you by, say, a client).  Ideally, everything follows the same storage system you’ve set up in order to store the documents you compose yourself.

I receive my faxed documents with my Brother All-In-One (copier, fax, scanner) which converts them directly to digital files.  You will receive them with whatever fax you own, which may differ from mine a bit, but the information I offer should be universal to all machines.  When you receive a file, right click on the name, rename it (using the File! protocol mentioned above) and drag and drop it into the file in which it belongs.  For a demonstration, click on this link:  (video under construction–My boyfriend Dana’s expertise; please check back)

Scanned documents will open in a window after you’ve completed the scan.  Right click on the document name, and rename it.  Then drag and drop it into it’s “destination” folder.

My All-In-One comes with software called Scansoft, which offers more flexibility in naming and moving files than those I’ve used in the past. The software packaged with any fax/scanner varies between machines.  I mention Brother in this blog because I had to trade up from the less workable HP all-in-one I owned previously in order to get the features which allowed me to work more efficiently.  Brother doesn’t pay for this plug (though I wish they did).

Client’s sometimes use email either to update me on recent events or to send completed homework assignments ahead of their session.  I like to convert those emails to pdf files (a more versatile file type) before storing them in a client’s folder.  When I convert them, I change the name, using the protocol described in my File! post.

You can convert emails in a couple of ways.  You may already have a pdf converter app installed in your system as part of another software package.  To test this, find a print icon somewhere in or around an open email and click on it.  A window should open which will allow you to choose the “destination” (the printer).  If there is a “print to pdf” option, or anything that says “pdf”, click on it and click print.  Choose the destination; if you’re just learning, “desktop” is a safe choice, because the file will end up on your desktop where you can find it easily.  Once you get good at this, you can select the correct client folder for the document; using this single procedure you can then convert, rename, and store your file.

If no pdf converter appears to be installed on your system, you can download PDF Creator (freeware) from pdfforge.  Download the link, install it, and then try again to print your document.  This time you should see a pdf convert option when you hit print.

As a therapist I digitally store (and need to be able to easily find) a number of intake documents which have been filled out, read, and signed by my clients.  You may work with deeds, bonds, contracts, wills, or other legal instruments.  Scanning works for most signed documents, unless a copied signature will not suffice.  But scanning is not a favorite part of my daily routine–not nearly as rewarding as face-to-face client time, reading current research, or other inspirational and creative pursuits.  So a new Adobe web-based tool called EchoSign has me calculating the time I’ll save when scanning intake documents is no longer a part of my routine.  I used EchoSign to create, send, and sign some test documents.  I created a beautiful (in my eyes, anyway) client information sheet by dragging “form fields” (boxes to type stuff into) onto an existing form and then emailed it (to myself via a second email account) in encrypted form with a code I selected.  Once received, I clicked on a window, entered the code, filled out and signed the document, and emailed it back.  I easily downloaded the returned, signed document.  Test it out with any of your digital documents, and I’ll keep you posted as I begin to use in in my practice.

Teaching the nuts and bolts of a digital storage system is new to me.  Mastering a skill over many hours spent in “isolation” doesn’t necessarily translate to teaching it skillfully.  Your comments are part of the collaboration–write and let me know if you get stumped, or if you like what I’ve written.

File! (and Smile)

January 14, 2012

Ready to convert to digital record keeping?  The first step is to develop a naming protocol for your computer files.  (Just so you know, files are the computer counterpart of paper documents.)  Once you develop and master a standardized way of naming your files, you will easily be able to find any document among hundreds, even thousands, of files in a single folder.

You may be tempted to just follow a workable system you’ve already set up.  But not every part of your current paper system will translate well to digital storage.  Open the cabinet (or box, or whatever) in which you store current  paper files, and note what you see there.  You probably have a way of subdividing the storage with manila folders within green hanging folders.  The good part:  subdividing can help you when searching for a particular document–it quickly narrows the space to scan so that you can find it in a hurry.  (If you’re like me, hurried searching is the norm.)  But in a computer, that kind of subdividing (folders within folders) is not as helpful, because you have to open one folder, then find another folder inside of it, open that folder, then search for another folder…and so on.  By the time you’ve clicked to open 2 or 3 folders, you’ve lost track of what you’re looking for.  Better to limit clicks to get to any eventual document to just 2 clicks at the most.  The naming protocol will take care of the rest.

The naming system I “invented” to store client folders lets me find everything I need quickly while the client and I set together and chat.  I can find things we worked on weeks before in an instant, allowing me to tie together seemingly disjointed ideas and mini-discoveries.  (Sessions can take many directions, but they are always interconnected, it seems.)  I name each file as follows:  Last Name (First letter in caps), First Initial(s) (caps), abbreviation of file type in lower case, and the date in year-month-day format:  Driscoll J pn 12.1.14

This naming protocol can be applied to any kind of file, not just my files.  If you’re a musician, you might want to store tracks or variations (called the “mix” Dana tells me) for a single song in a client folder.  Your ideal file name would then be the client’s name, the abbreviated song name, an abbreviation indicating “track” or “mix”, and the date.  Same thing if you’re an antiques dealer–you can name digital photos of each piece with first the antique category which you can abbreviate (uph, acc), followed by the name of the antique (1965 chair green stripe), and the date purchased.

As a general rule, each file name is built upon categories you would use to sort paper files, going from general to specific.  That way, when you open a folder, the wealth of information is all there; document types ordered alphabetically, and documents of a type (like, say, psychotherapy notes) neatly organized by date.  If you have a great number of documents and are looking for something recent, you can click on “date modified” near the top of the window, and the most recent document will appear at the top of the list.

A word of caution:  although naming documents the way I describe will save you time in the long run–careless naming will not.  A document with even a single letter or digit missing will put it out of order because your computer can’t generalize the way you can.  Remember the old saw:   “garbage in, garbage out”.

I’d like to give you all the fine points, but why don’t you give it a try first?  Then under comments, let me know where you get stuck.  If I can, I’ll help you out.  With any luck, others will write and share what works for them, too.  I envision a community of readers with perfectly organized digital files and lots of free time for things you find exciting!

New Year, New Resolutions

January 1, 2012

I’m not a writer. I’ve never written, except for writing case notes for my work as a psychotherapist.  Yet I want to test out a couple of ideas.  One is Gretchen Rubin’s assertion (in The Happiness Project) that “Happiness doesn’t always make you feel happy.”  You can gain happiness over the long haul by doing things that, at first, make you feel the opposite of happy–uncomfortable, crabby, or downright miserable.  I’m one of those people who wishes I could get my ideas across by osmosis.  Even when I’m face to face with someone, I find the task of forming words and sentences using my right-brained wiring an arduous task.

The second idea is the call to action inherent in any desire.  Current manifestation techniques include two parts:  imagining clearly and unhesitatingly that what you want to create is already present in a tangible way; and acting as if this newly imagined reality is your current actual reality.  My desire (See #6, #7, #10, #12, and #14 of my 2012 affirmation list–to be surrounded by others who share, value, and support who I am as a person, is creating this call.  The call to write a blog isn’t necessarily comfortable, but to make it so I have to write as if I’m comfortable with it.

And you know what?  Having just completed my first two paragraphs, I have to say–this isn’t nearly as arduous as I imagined it would be.  It’s actually kind of fun!