How to Organize Your Excel Files

Are your Excel files carefully organized, so you can find what you need in a few seconds? Or, are things messy, and it takes a miracle to find anything later? If that’s the case, here are a few tips on how to organize your Excel files.

Getting Organized

A couple of weeks ago, someone asked for my advice on organizing Excel files. He was working on several projects, and had a basic system to organize his files, but wondered if there was a better way.

I sent him a couple of tips from my system, then asked my newsletter readers for their ideas. It’s great to see what other people are doing, to get ideas for improving your own system.

My file system is pretty simple. For client work, I created a main folder for each client, with project folders, dated folders, and files with numbers or letters to indicate a version. See more tips below, and add your tips in the comments!


How to Organize Your Excel Files

Reader Tips

The first set of tips below is from Khushnood Viccaji, who has many years of Excel experience. Another reader sent great tips for using versions and prefixes.

My thanks to both of them, and here are their tips, in their own words – I couldn’t improve on them!

Tips From Khushnood Viccaji

Here’s how Khushnood organizes his files into folders, and he sent me a few screen shots too. I’d never heard of the file search utility that he uses, so I’ll have to give it a try!

Client Folders
  • Basically all the files are saved in client-wise folders under one main folder on a separate partition (D:) where all my working files are stored.
  • Within each client's folder, I create project-wise sub-folders with a very brief description of the project name.
  • And under each project there are separate folders for working files and project delivery files (date-wise).
Special Folders
  • If I have used custom VBA modules for the project, I store them in a separate folder under the client's top-level folder.
  • If there are files that are not so relevant to the final workings / deliveries, then I move them to a "ZOLD files" folder, so that they are out of my way (at the bottom of the folder), and yet remain in the client's folder. The screenshots below will give you a better idea about this.

The ZOLD folder in a client folder

how to organize your Excel files

Dated folders inside the ZOLD folder


Code files inside the VBA Code modules folder


File Search

To save time, I use a file-name search utility "Everything" (, which is a lightweight, free utility that indexes the filenames on all disk drives / partitions on the computer.

  • The utility is lightning fast in searching for (and displaying) nearly anything in a filename stored on your disk, and has many powerful features to fine tune your searches.
  • I have been using this utility for more than 7 or 8 years now, and it is an indispensable part of my work toolkit.

The screenshot below shows all files that match the text string "contextur xl" on my disk, including folder paths.


Version Numbers

Another file management tip -- Giving version numbers to files that are sent to clients.

This helps to maintain proper referencing and also for clarity in communication with the client.

The screenshot below shows a flattened view of one of the project folders (also shown above). The files are named with version numbers as a suffix.

Usually things don't go beyond 5 or 6 iterations, but this particular project was an exception where the count went up to v14!

Read Only

And I also make sure to turn on the READ-ONLY file attribute, so that even if I re-open the file at a later date and make any changes in it, I don't accidentally overwrite it. If I must save the file, it will be under a different name.


Reader #2 -- Version Numbers

Another reader sent me his suggestion for organizing files, using versioning and prefixes. It’s good to note those federal requirements, if they affect your company.

  • When naming files use versioning and dating to keep track of the current version (ie 00811 Federal  Requirements Part II v013, 2016-11-25.doc).
  • Also do not delete the old files, simply add a pre-fix letter “z” or “x” to the old file name (ie z00811 Federal  Requirements Part II v012, 2015-08-17.doc) and then that way the file will still be in the same folder as the current version but will sort to the bottom of the list of files (if sorted A to Z (incrementing/ascending) and not Z to A (decrementing/descending) order).

Your Ideas

What tips can you suggest for how to organize your Excel files? Do you have other ideas for saving or finding files?



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