Sunday, November 25, 2012

Organizing Embroidery Files - Part 1

Today's post is the first of a two-part series about working with machine embroidery files.  If you're here for the sewing, I recommend skipping this post. 

Series Introduction

I'm going to pack a bunch of information into 2 parts.

Part 1 - Extracting files & Eliminating extra "nested" folders
This will highlight the 2 free programs I use and show a few screenshots on how to use them

Part 2 - Removing unnecessary file formats and My File Organization
This involves using built in Windows Explorer tools and my preference for directory and file structure

I know there are lots of ways to tackle unzipping and organizing your embroidery files, and that there are even tools you can buy to help.  I'm going to share the methods I prefer to use.  They're free, fairly efficient and should work on Windows XP/Vista/7.  If you have other methods or tips, please share your comments!  Also, it is tough to add enough details to be helpful without getting too in the weeds.  If there's anything you have a question about, please feel free to ask.

Disclaimer: There is potentially a risk to your computer when you download files and programs.  Please be responsible and make sure you use trusted sources, have an antivirus program installed, and scan any executable files before opening them.  Additionally, I have no vested interested in, or responsibility for, any tool I mention.

Extracting multiple zipped files

Since I tend to buy more than one file at a time, often from more than one site, my downloads folder ends up looking like this:

As you can see, there are multiple files, from multiple designers, all zipped.  My operating system automatically stores all my downloads into a single folder (named "Embroidery Downloads" for this post).  I used to right click on each zipped folder and select the "Extract All" option, choosing to extract it into the same folder it was originally downloaded to.  I got tired of doing this, especially when I had--literally--hundreds of files to unzip.  I knew there had to be a way to unzip them more easily.

Enter my solution:  a free program called "Extract Now".  I've been using it for a few months and love it.  I use it for more than just my embroidery files too.  It allows me to drag and drop all the files I want to extract, and outputs them to wherever I specify (though I still have them extracted back to my download folder). 

If you don't want to try this program, or read about it, skip ahead to the next section.  Otherwise, here is a quick demonstration of how to use it (after downloading and installing it).  First, double click on the shortcut to open up the program.  A window will open up that looks like this:

I like my folders to be unzipped back to the Downloads folder, so I change the settings to allow for that.  Click on the "Settings" button, and select the "Destination" tab.  Select the second option, "Automatically extract archives to:" and click "OK".  You don't have to change the information in the box (where it says {ArchiveFolder}\{ArchiveName}), just leave that.

Next, open up your download folder, and position it so that you can see both the ExtractNow program, and your zipped files.  Select all the files you want to unzip (you can use CTRL + A to select all the files in the folder or hold down Shift while selecting multiple files with your mouse).  Drag them over to the ExtractNow window and let go of your mouse button and you should see something like this:

The files to be unzipped are all displayed now in ExtractNow.  Click on the "Extract" button in the bottom right.

The program will show you the status as the files are unzipped and let you know if there are any errors.  If you realize you have more files to unzip, select the "Clear" button and drag more files over.  Otherwise, you can go ahead and close ExtractNow.

I like to verify the folders have been unzipped before I delete them.  It may be a bit tough to see in this picture, but I highlighted the unzipped folders, looked at the bottom left to see how many items were selected, then highlighted the zipped folders and made sure it was the same number.  If so, a quick press of the delete key and those extra zipped folders are removed to the Recycle Bin.

Eliminating "Nested" Folders

Once you have your folder unzipped, it's time to pull out the good stuff.  I'll cover deleting unnecessary formats (both the files and folder) next week.  This section shows how I use another free program to remove extra, "nested" folders.  If you're not sure what I mean by this, here are a couple pictures to illustrate.  When I open up one of the folders that I just unzipped, like this cute Pocahontas design from LynniePinnie, I don't see the design files.

Nope, I see another folder.  Hmm, double-clicking on that folder brings up these results:

There they are (in the folders for each size).  If you look at the file path at the top of the window, you can see it shows:
Embroidery Downloads > LP-Pocahontas > LP-Pocahontas

The designs are in a folder that's nested inside another folder with the same name.  This happens with files from several of my favorite digitizers and I don't want to click through extra folders each time I go to open a design.  My solution was to download a free program called Level Zap.  This will move all the files up one level, and remove the extra folder name.

After downloading and installing it, it's easy to use.  You just right-click on the extra folder (in this case, the second LP-Pocahontas folder), and select "Move content up and Zap"

It's the same effect as copying all the subfolders, navigating up one level, pasting them, and deleting the now-empty folder.  I prefer this method, and there's a confirmation before "zapping".

The end results:

Looking at the file path, you can see that there is one less folder and all is right with the world once again.

I hope this helped at least one person (it sure does take an awful lot of time to make these step by steps!).  Don't forget to tune in next Sunday for the second half--it'll be a good one, with an awesome, time-saving tip or three.  Or sometime before then if you want to see the pretty stuff I make :)

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