Relying on search and metadata alone to keep your files in order is still too messy for my taste. Additionally, on a technological level this seems too fragile to work over the long term.
However, some parts of the system deserve further attention.
How to use tags:
It’s common in webapps to tag things to the nth degree. I prefer to control my tag vocabulary. I despise one-off tags such as blog, blogs, weblog, weblogs – just don’t look at my del.icio.us account – so I’ve adopted the approach of using the singular form of words wherever possible. For instance, ‘letter’, ‘project’, and ‘photo’, but sometimes where the plural is the common term, I’ll use it – such as ‘taxes’.
I use general categories (as you’ve just seen with ‘letter’, ‘project’, and ‘photo’) but I also apply more specific tags where it suits my needs. If I’m working on a large project, I might tag files related to the project with ‘projectName’ and ‘logo’ so that I can find the logo more easily than if I were to start at a higher level of ‘projectName’.
Good suggestion on how to improve the smart folders functionality:
In the future, I’d like Smart Folders created for me and on the fly. Meaning, I’d like something like a Folder Action which watches my Documents folder every time a new file is moved into it. When this Action finds that I’ve got n or more files with the same tag, a Smart Folder is automatically created for them on my desktop. Take that a step further, and match n tags on files that have been touched in the past week, and you’ve got relevant information brought to your attention without having to manually seek it out.
An addmitted downside to this way of sorting files is IMHO an non-issue, because you have to give a file a name anyway and you can use that field for tagging purposes.
The biggest thing to get used to with this process is actually tagging all your files! You just have to make it a routine.