Organizing Digital Media Files

How to store digital media on a computer hard drive (internal or external) or other large capacity removable media



There are many ways to organize digital media files. I propose a standardized method to improve the ease of sharing public domain files.

Classification Schemes

Librarians, curators, doctors, reporters, biologists, engineers and many others are often faced with classifying and storing various forms of information and physical objects. Most disciplines have created their own scheme: naming of species for biologists, CAS registry numbers for chemicals, Universal Product Code for merchants etc.

Microsoft Windows uses the following default folder classification:

  • My Documents

  • My Music

  • My Pictures

  • My Videos

  • Program Files

This may be perfectly adequate and satisfactory for a casual computer user with a reliable internet connection. For people who, for various reasons, wish to store a large amount of knowledge and entertainment offline, a more sophisticated system is more appropriate. After extensive research and testing, I’ve settled upon the Universal Decimal Classification system to store my files on an external hard drive.

Universal Decimal Classification System

The Universal Decimal Classification system is based upon Dewey Decimal Classification with extensions that expand it beyond just ordering books on shelves. It was developed by Paul Otlet and Henri La Fontaine at the end of the 19th century. The system uses up to three Arabic numerals to the left of a decimal point plus many numerals and symbols to the right of the decimal point. Examples:

343(71) Criminal Law Canada

689.621.396 Amateur Radio

784 Music

791.221.100-22 Music Videos

791-21 Cinema Feature Length

820-31 Novels, Full Length Stories

The text above is how I name my subfolders. On my external hard drives, I have two upper level folders: Private and Public. Under these folders are all the numerous subfolders.

The summary is available to use at



The high level Summary of the Universal Decimal Classification system is

Creative Commons Attribution Share Alike 3.0 license

The very detailed Master Reference File database has 68,000 classification numbers and requires payment of fees. The UDC Consortium (UDCC) is a self-funded, non-commercial, organization that maintains the system. Personal use and small group licenses can be purchased for $130 and $260 annually that support the continuing improvement of the system.

Preferred Media Storage Formats

As there are a great many different formats for documents and entertainment files available, selecting the preferred ones is very challenging. The starting point is what formats your devices will work best with. For example, my Sony book reader accepts .txt .rtf .pdf and .epub where .epub is clearly superior and my desired format. Since media files are often not available in your preferred format, conversion programs are required. Preferred formats may be identified from Wikipedia’s Standard(warez) This also means it’s necessary to store the files in multiple formats:

  • original received format

  • possible interim translation format

  • preferred format

  • output format for device 1

  • output format for device 2

Each of these formats should be placed in it’s own subfolder as follows:

Hard drive E: root Classification Sorted? Format/Device Intensity
784 Music
1 Extreme
2 Energetic
3 Hard
4 Lively
5 Moderate
6 Easy
7 Relaxed
8 Slow
9 Soft
791.221.100-22 Music Videos
1920×1080 avi
1 Extreme
2 Energetic
PSP mp4 Format
1 Extreme
2 Energetic
3 Hard

The numbers in the folder titles for the music intensity are to override the usual alphabetic sorting.


The preferred video format is H.264/MPEG-4 AVC

The usual video players to use on a computer are Windows Media Player and VLC Media Player My favorite portable video viewer is a Sony Play Station Portable (PSP). The best program to convert into the mp4 format used by the PSP is PSP Video Converter.


The preferred audio format is MP3″-V2 –vbr-new” although 320 kbit/sec is also fine.My recommended program to convert into mp3 iswinLAME. Lossless formats to preserve all of the original data include .wav and .flac.


The preferred document format is .epub. The primary reason is that portable black and white e-ink book readers like those manufactured by Sony are unable to satisfactorily display .pdf files, but do an impressive job with .epub. .pdf files commonly require screen sizes of at least 25 centimeters (10 inches) along the diagonal.


The preferred image format is .jpeg. Nearly all portable devices will display files of this format. There are two primary source file types: vector and bitmapped. Ensure any vector type images, such as architectural drawings, are preserved in a vector format as converting them to bitmapped (like photographs) is essentially irreversible.

output format for device 1

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