Criteria for Picking a Digital Filing Cabinet

Reference items are non-actionable pieces of information that you want to hang on to. Everyone has plenty of reference items!

In my experience, digital reference items tend to come in three different forms: emails, webpage URLs, and documents (e.g. PDFs, Word documents).

For storing emails, email folders are a logical choice. For webpage URLs, many people favor web-based tools like Delicious. For documents, the My Documents folder or a network drive are common destinations, with Dropbox being a popular web-based alternative.

But I find that consolidating my reference items into a single tool works best for most of my items. (The exceptions are things like my music and picture files, which are fine in their current My Music and My Pictures folders). Too many storage locations leads to items becoming "out of sight, out of mind" and the reference items lose their value.

Instead, I prefer a single "digital filing cabinet" that I can put everything in and see it all in one place. Here's some of my criteria for picking a digital filing cabinet:

  • Stores any kind of file or media
  • New entries are easily created
  • Entries can be assigned to multiple categories
  • Allows an unlimited number of categories
  • Provides full-text search for finding items quickly
  • Accessible across different computers and mobile devices
  • Integrates with email

For these reasons, I'm not bashful in saying I favor the eProductivity Reference Database (available as a free download). It fits my criteria well and most importantly, it integrates well with my Lotus Notes email system. This is critical because I find most of my reference information comes via email, and I can simply drag-and-drop the email into my Reference Database to create a new entry - very slick!

The bottom-line is, I have a place that I store everything in, so stuff isn't scattered across my computer.

Another popular reference system I hear mentioned is Evernote, although I've never personally used it.

Do you have other reference tools that you use? Any tips on choosing a reference tool? Please share them in the comments!

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