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Organizing Files
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How to record progress

  • When recording daily events, I don't need to write a thesis every day to describe what happened. The file LOG in today's folder holds brief notes on what I did, files that I downloaded or changed, and the like. I can also join those files together at the end of the month to make a summary.
  • When doing a project for a person, I use the person's full name or email address for the filename, such as jane-doe-login to describe a persistent login problem that Jane is having.
  • When doing a project for a place, I use the place name plus a tag for the filename, like charleston-webpage. The locate command lets me find any other files with similar tags as part of the filename (Figure 9).

    Finding a project by place
    Figure 9. Finding a project by place

  • When doing something on a given day, if I need to finish something by next Wednesday, I put the file there. The first thing I do each morning is type today and see what's waiting.
  • Accessing notebook files from a browser is easy. The Apache web server let you roam around your notebook files:

    Alias /home /home/your-userid
    <Directory /home/your-userid>
       Options Indexes
       Order deny,allow
       deny from all
       allow from
       allow from

    Here's a calendar web page and a calendar style sheet with which to display a year's worth of folders in your notebook. Notice the second week in September; the style sheet lets you highlight any days you like.

Search, Don't Categorize

It's a lot easier to break up my workstation text files by frequency of updates, and then set up searching appropriately:

  • home--files under my home directory
  • logs--files with a base name of LOG, all over the place
  • unread mail--mail that has arrived that I haven't read yet
  • notebook--files under $HOME/notebook
  • root--files on the / (root) filesystem
  • saved mail--messages I've actually read
  • usr--files on the /usr filesystem
  • web--anything provided by my workstation web server

I installed SWISH-E to index anything in text format. That plus one or two shell scripts handles my search needs.

Other Things That Help

That's not all; I've developed several other tricks.

A good shell

I used tcsh and Bash for several years. They're fine programs, but I haven't found anything to match the flexibility of the Z shell:

  • Completion--zsh is very good at completing command lines. You're not limited to filenames; you can complete hostnames, user IDs, additional options for the command you're typing, and more.
  • Shortcuts--It's nice to be able to use single characters to do the work of programs such as which (Figure 10).

    Using zsh shortcuts
    Figure 10. Using zsh shortcuts

  • Easy navigation--You can move to a directory just by typing the name (Figure 11). My zsh setup files are $HOME/.zfunc, $HOME/.zlogin, $HOME/.zlogout, $HOME/.zshcomp, $HOME/.zshenv, and $HOME/.zshrc.

    Directory navigation in zsh
    Figure 11. Directory navigation in zsh

A good window manager

I started using the FVWM window manager in 1999, and really liked it when configured using Eric Raymond's Big Blue-Steel Desktop. However, I wanted to make better use of the open desktop space I had, so I moved to the IceWM window manager a few months ago.

I have four virtual desktops for my basic work environment:

  • Desktop 1 holds two xterms side by side, one of which is usually for remote SSH connections to servers.
  • Desktop 2 holds the Mozilla web browser, which I have configured to use the entire screen.
  • Desktop 3 runs Xpdf, which I use for viewing PDF files.
  • Desktop 4 is usually empty, but it's a good place to start Leo if I have the urge to do some outlining.

The function keys F1-F4 take me to desktops 1-4, respectively. F5 locks my keyboard. F6 lets me either restart IceWM or log out.

IceWM takes up very little screen real estate. I have one toolbar at the bottom of my screen that is barely 3/8 inch high, so I have plenty of room for applications (Figure 12).

My IceWM toolbar
Figure 12. My IceWM toolbar

The leftmost button (the IceWM logo) brings up a programs menu. Button 2 (which looks like an underscore) dismisses all the applications on your current desktop. It's a toggle; click it again and they all come back. Button 3 (which looks like overlapping windows) gives a one-click menu to get to any open application on any workspace. Button 4 (which looks like a monitor) opens a tiny Xterm window. Button 5 (Web) starts Mozilla in workspace 2; button 6 (Xpdf) starts Xpdf in workspace 3; button 7 (Lock) runs xlock; button 8 (Leo) runs the Leo outliner in the current workspace; and button 9 (PrtScrn) uses the ImageMagick program import to save a screenshot to the file $HOME/prn/screendump.png. Finally, the buttons containing numbers take me directly to a respective workspace.

My IceWM setup files are $HOME/.icewm/keys, $HOME/.icewm/menu, $HOME/.icewm/preferences, $HOME/.icewm/theme, $HOME/.icewm/toolbar, and $HOME/.icewm/winoptions.

My general X-windows setup files are $HOME/.Xdefaults, $HOME/.xinitrc, $HOME/.xmodmaprc, and $HOME/.xsession.

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