How to Manage Electronic Files at Work

Most workplaces have reduced the reliance on paper-based information and files in normal business processes. Those that haven’t are likely working to do so.

While there are many benefits to paper-light workplaces, the transition to primarily electronic filing tools is not without issues. Going electronic is not a cure for disorganization of information – for some, it has simply transformed a problem from one format into another.

We’ll start with the array of options for storage of electronic files. In a paper file world, your storage options include: drawers, racks, piles, buckets, boxes, and stands.

In the electronic world, your primary options include:

  • Your computer’s hard drive – C-drive, My Documents, My Computer, This PC, etc.
  • The cloud – Password-protected internet-based platforms such as Dropbox, Google Drive, OneDrive, etc.
  • Portable storage – Hardware that you plug into your computer such as external hard drives and USB flash/thumb drives.
  • Your company network drive(s) – Usually, these are mapped on your computer, behave like a hard drive, are backed up, and are labeled with letters of the alphabet (e.g., G-drive, L-drive).
  • Your firm’s document management system (DMS) – Similar to a network drive but with more features such as document profiles that attach metadata to files and often connect them to clients.
  • Browser-based collaboration tools – Some companies purchase systems like Microsoft SharePoint or Basecamp to promote electronic collaboration on files, projects, and more.

With all of these options, what should you do? Pick a default save location.

Many people have their files scattered across the locations above and file duplication – and disorganization – results. The first step to conquering this decentralized boondoggle is to choose one place to be your default location where you save your electronic files.


How do you choose your default save location? Consider the following:

  • Is it backed up? If you lost or damaged your computer or device, would you also lose the files? If so, then this location is not a good option. The good news is that almost everything is or can be backed up. Carbonite and Mozy are good cloud options to back up your hard drive.
  • Is it available to me when I need it? Although you cannot beat cloud storage for accessibility, you may have company policies that prohibit files being saved there. You may also need to be able to access your files offline.
  • Does it allow me to share my files appropriately? Who needs access to the files you create? Don’t hoard files that need to be shared – that’s a recipe for duplication of effort.
  • Does it address my needs for confidentiality? Not everything you create is confidential, but some of it sure is.

Assess the options that are available to you and choose one that you think fits the bill at least 80% of the time. That is your default save location. Try not to duplicate files saved here in other places, or if you do, delete them from the ancillary location as soon as possible.

If you use the Microsoft Office suite of products, you can change the spot where Word, Excel, and PowerPoint go automatically when you select File ~ Save As.  Instructions follow…


How to Change the Default Save Locations in Office

Start in Word:

  1. Click the File tab, click Options
  2. In the window that appears, click Save
  3. Next to “Default file location:” click the Browse button
  4. Navigate to the location you want
  5. Click OK to select that folder/location
  6. Highlight the new file path in the Default Save location
  7. R-click on the highlighted text and click Copy (you’ll need it for Excel and PowerPoint)
  8. Click OK in the Options window


To change the default save location in Excel and PowerPoint, follow the first two steps above, but be aware that there is no Browse button like there is in Word. Paste the file path that you copied in Word into the Default File Location fields in Excel and PowerPoint and click OK.

What are your struggles and best practices with managing electronic files?  I can help.


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Dr. Melissa GratiasMelissa Gratias (pronounced “Gracious”) used to think that productivity was a result of working long hours. And, she worked a lot of hours. Then, she learned that productivity is a skill set, not a personality trait. Now, Melissa is a productivity expert who coaches and trains other businesspeople to be more focused, balanced, and effective. She is a prolific writer and speaker who travels the world helping people change how they work and improve how they live. Contact her at or 912-417-2505. Sign up to receive her productivity tips via email.

1 Comment

  1. Janet Barclay

    This is valuable information! It may seem basic to some, but it seems that every program and app has its own default save location, and many people don’t realize they can change it and can’t find their saved files as a result.


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