Fog Creek Software
Discussion Board




MS Office - Documents vs. Files

Howdy!

I've been having this argument with my colleague/boss. I prefer viewing MS Word & MS Excel output as files, as in "a file of related documents". Whereas she insists on having a separate 'file' for each document. Her logic, each is a document on its own. Mine - each is a file filled with related documents. This issue crops up when procssing 'Office' data; bills for customers, tax details in excel sheets, customer correspondence (A 'file' for each major customer and all their correspondence goes in there) etc.

How do you 'file' your files and why?

KayJay
Thursday, May 20, 2004

I've always thought of every document as its own file, I guess in the same way every HTML file is usually a single page - you don't have 2 web pages in the same HTML file, so I guess that thinking is the way I look at documents.

Yellow Belly
Thursday, May 20, 2004

But one file can hold multiple pages of information.  I think of a page as a fixed size and a file as zero or more pages of information.


Thursday, May 20, 2004


If you're talking about a "file" as a "histroy of all the transactions with a given client" and a "file" as an "entry on the data storage system", then you're mixing terms.


On my computer, I keep a folder for every single project within a folder called miraculously enough: "Projects".

For hard copies of things, I keep a folder for every single project within my hanging file drawer.  I don't label the drawer "Projects", but the concept is the same.

KC

KC
Thursday, May 20, 2004

I tend to make different documents for different parts that live in a parent directory (like someone said before). So, my client correspondence would be in a folder called ‘Client32’ (for example) and in a particular file. The invoices I send would be in different files (invoice_20-MAY-04.doc etc.).

This sort of issue is why I'd really like to dump the 'file' metaphor and move all applications to a RDBMS for storing information.

Basically your word document is broken up into some rows in a table (or tables) somewhere and then the UI (explorer.exe) would be capable of representing a Word Document in any number of ways.

Not only that but provided the OS makes the RDBMS interface open it would allow *any* application to read anyone else’s information (provided the end-user set permissions to do so) via some sort of query language.

BobRoss
Thursday, May 20, 2004

My folders for documents are called "Correspondence", "Auditor", "Work",  "Personal". Each has files named something like "Customer1", "Customer2", "Tax2003", "Colleague1", "JoS", etc.. Each of those files have pages with the appropriate headings and/or sheet names. So Tax2003 will have a sheet labelled "Trial Balance" among others and "Customer1" will have pages titled "Quotation", "Invoice", "Request for Clarification" among others, either as page titles or as the subject fields of letters. So to locate any information on any individual/topic, my search is more of a Ctrl-F rather than a Win-F.

KayJay
Thursday, May 20, 2004

With Word your boss is 100% right. Each document you send out is a separate entitiy and should be filed as such. Then keep a separate folder for each client. That is the dead tree model - you have separate letters kept together in a folder.

With Excel you have mutlitple worksheets so I would be inclined to have a separate worksheet for each document, but within the same workbook. Tnis again is the dead tree model. Separate pages but within one ledger.

Stephen Jones
Thursday, May 20, 2004

Incidentally there is nothing to stop you keeping one "consolidated" copy of everything in addition to the individual copies.

Stephen Jones
Thursday, May 20, 2004

But then Stephen, is it not inefficient to have N number of  one-page Word .DOC files - invoices/bills  -  in a folder rather they being in one file called, say,  'Bills',  or as I am doing, customer-specific? As I mentioned earlier, I find a File-Start/Scroll Down-Eyeball faster than navigate through the FileSystem.

KayJay
Thursday, May 20, 2004

Keep all the files separate but have another Word Document called "Consolidated" and cut and paste them all in, if that's your worry.

You want an individualized record of each separate document. Your way is a recipe for diisaster. If your single Word doc becomes corrupted or you select all and hit delete or whatever you're in a mess.

Stephen Jones
Thursday, May 20, 2004

I had the hardest time understanding your question, because I was thinking, you can't possibly mean you put everything into one Word document, can you? But that's apparently exactly what you're doing, which is a recipe for disaster. It's also not how Word is supposed to be used. It's a word processor, not a file system.

Martha
Thursday, May 20, 2004

How is having around 50 odd pages in a Word document a recipie for disaster? Does MS Word break with so much in it? None of my correspondence with my customers or my auditor has exceeded that. The max I have is with one customer who has placed orders with us about 5 times this year and their 'file' is 56 pages 'thick'.

KayJay
Thursday, May 20, 2004

So each time you do a new order or whatever you fire up the same word file? You foul up  one time and the whole lot of documents has gone.

Stephen Jones
Thursday, May 20, 2004

Word can handle 50 pages easily. What Stephen's concerned about is constant shuffling of individual pages into and out of a file. I have to agree I think it's asking for trouble. Not necessarily because Word will have an issue, but as he alludes to in his latest post - because users will have issues. Pages will get pasted in the middle of other pages, pages will get deleted wholesale without anyone noticing, one Ctrl-A, delete, close and you may be completely screwed, etc.

Also, don't forget that Word stores metadata regarding changes - think of it like a registry for the document and you can see why *that* might be worrying.

Each file should be an atomic transaction.

Philo

Philo
Thursday, May 20, 2004

KayJay, do you have any bullets or autonumber paragraphs in that document? For if you do... you should really read the two earlier threads on that subject.

I would definitely recommend using a separate directory for each customer, and then a separate file for each letter. Much less chance for Word to destroy your work.

Chris Nahr
Thursday, May 20, 2004

I have to agree with your boss for multiple reasons. 

First, a Word document is not as flexible as the Windows file system.  The Windows file system lets you organize things hiearchically (I always spell that wrong), whereas Word only lets you organize pages in a single flat order.

This is a good example of a nice system of folders:

\\FileServer
    \Clients
        \Client A
            \Invoices
                2004-02-15.doc
                2004-03-19.doc
                2004-05-20.doc
                ...
            \Misc
            \Projects

Second, tracking changes is easier done through a "file per document" system.

Third, as another poster suggested, with your system if you screw up the "Master" document, all is lost.

Fourth, it's just a bad idea...look around you.  Nobody does it.

Fifth, you can't have multiple people editing multiple documents for the same client.

Sixth, if you are having trouble finding things quickly, get a product that can summarize things on your file-system into a nice HTML report like Google's new "local filesystem tool" (not available yet).

Wayne
Thursday, May 20, 2004

By the way, if you add enterprise search capability, it's going to locate terms and return links to files - having 50+ documents in a file means having to search again...

Philo

Philo
Thursday, May 20, 2004

Call me Word challenged, but I could never even get the cover sheet and bibliography pages of papers in school in the same Word document without fouling up the formatting.

Inevitably I would end up undoing all my attempts back to the bare paper, then creating seperate documents for the cover sheet and bibliography.

Not exactly like what the OP is talking about, but I bet I'm not the only one who has done this.

OffMyMeds
Thursday, May 20, 2004

OffMyMeds:

I used to do the same thing!

BobRoss
Thursday, May 20, 2004

OK. Thaks all of you. Since it has been unanimous thus far, I'll switch over.

Cheers.

KayJay
Friday, May 21, 2004

*  Recent Topics

*  Fog Creek Home