Are You a Searcher or a Browser?

Are You a Searcher or a Browser?

Do you search through your digital files or are you a browser? When it comes to scrapbooking, I’m definitely a browser. I love to see all my things laid out in front of me, paper or digital, so I can pick and choose exactly what I want to add to my layout. You’re right there with me, aren’t you…?

As I try continue to work on my family’s LifeStory book, I’m pulling together all my photos (jpeg’s), research documents (PDF’s) and family stories (Word Documents.) I keep trying to find the perfect organizing format, but it has been elusive; so much so, that I always find myself starting to organize and then realize that it is just overwhelming. I mean, what am I supposed to do with a heritage photo or a census record that might include three generations of family members in it? Do I put it in the file for the oldest generation? Do I put it in the youngest generation’s folder or just give up and duplicate it in three places? Do I add everyone’s name that is in the photo or record into the filename? How will I find them if I don’t? I’ve tried all of those, believe me. And then you add in the fact that I’m not just dealing with photos, but PDF’s and Word documents as well, so this makes using a photo library organizer just not that helpful.


I think that I might have stumbled upon the answer to my organization quandary that you might be able to use yourself. It’s working so well, that I just feel like it needs to be shared — so here we are! With just a bit of tweaking to the File Explorer/Search tools, I’m getting to that browsing experience I crave and you might find that it can help you as well in all sorts of ways!



It all goes back to that Metadata that keeps popping up everywhere, but stick with me, once you get this done, I promise it will bring some true peace into your life. I’m not even overstating this because it feels amazing to finally have a solution that can work for all my needs.


Basically, you can right-click on any file name and see the Properties option available in the pop-up menu. Once you have clicked Properties and you click on the Details tab you are now in the “gold” area of the Metadata.

These “gold” areas include fields that are editable like the title, subject, tags, categories, comments and author’s fields as well as the date. Yes, I know it sounds a bit tedious, but as I just proved to myself with a quick search in my own genealogy folders, it takes browsing to a whole new level. You can pretty much add as many tags as you would like so if you would like to search on a particular county or person or even event, that would make it really easy.


Tags are Our Friends

Now we need to make the tags as searchable as they can be by brainstorming the types of tags that might be helpful down the road. Here’s a list of some general tag naming categories that I will think about for my own family:


  • First names (of everyone in the photo)
  • Surnames
  • City
  • State
  • Year
  • Event or Activity
  • Special Item that brings a memory such as cars, toys, and animals (pets with or without their names)
  • Period in life such as Child, Adult, Military, Family, Work, Retired, Organization
  • Addresses


Not convinced that this will help? I was a little unsure myself until I started to do some tagging and searching of my own. What it did was nothing short of amazing. First of all, I had to bring my File Explorer up. The left side of the screen is a tree view of how our computers are set up. Try clicking on a folder and then look at the Search box in the top right hand side of the File Explorer window. It will tell you in gray that it is going to “Search My Pictures” or whatever folder you clicked on.


This means that you can pick where to do your Search in as broad or as narrow of terms as you would like. So, if I want to Search for a particular photo of my dad when he was a child, I would click on “My Genealogy” library so that it will only Search this folder and then enter, “Max child” into the Search box and up comes photos that I have tagged with “Max” and “child.” If I had just entered, “Max” into the Search box, then literally every photo with his name tagged in it would show up.


As I started to really get into my Tagging project, I ran into a tiny problem — literally. Some of the people in the photos were a bit too small to see very easily, even when I had changed my View to “Extra Large Icons.” So, how could I make the picture larger so I could see all the people that needed to be tagged?


That was fixed by looking at the options for my Panes, which I found at the top left section of the File Explorer window and choosing the Preview Pane.  This really helps because when you are tagging people in a photo, it’s really nice to get everyone’s name entered.


Does the preview picture still seem small?


Now Maximize that Preview

One more step — and it gets really good at this point. Hover your cursor over the Scrolling ribbon that sits between the folder contents and your preview until you see a double-headed arrow. Click and drag your Preview Pane over to the left and wow… isn’t it really fantastic to be able to see that photo up close? Who knew you could adjust the size of the Preview Pane?



Now, you can right-click on your photo and dive into entering those tags onto your photos.  With the Preview Pane nice and big, you can even take the size of the View Icons down to Medium or Large so that you can see more of your folder full of photos.


I received a gift of photos taken of my grandmother when she was young by a distant cousin and it would have made it so much easier to reciprocate with pictures of my grandmother’s sister back to her if I would have had my photos tagged.  That way I could have simply searched on her name instead of having to poke around in all my folders to find what pictures I had of her to send off.


Group Tagging? Yes, Please…

Oh, I hear some of you groaning that this all has to be done individually, but guess what! I have one more surprise that makes this project even more enjoyable. You can tag photos in groups as well – yes, right within File Explorer. Who knew?  Simply CTRL-click and highlight all the photos that will contain the same tag and you can then right-click, go to the Details tab in Properties and enter that group-wide tag. You’re welcome!



Now I can simply have two main folders: one for my family and one for my husband’s family. How much simpler can it get? I’ve gone from 27 folders to just a few.  So now, when I am getting ready to work on my grandparent’s generation, I can do my searches depending on an ancestor that I’m working on. What fun it will be to simply enter a few search terms and see everything pop up that is available for a particular generation.


Browsing is the New Searching

Now I can enter my search terms and with everything right at the top of the list, I can pick and choose what I need or even see where I have holes in my research. And the beauty is that if I find that I need another tag added later, I don’t have to start over, I can just simply go back into the Properties and add it. It’s kind of like paper scrapbooking… I can see everything all at my fingertips to pick and choose which photos or story to add to my layouts. Oh, that gives me that serene “take me away Calgon” feeling that makes me no longer dread the organization process!


And if you think about this on a broader level, what a fantastic way to organize your scrapbooking digital items. Just think about it… You could tag by designer, color, type of elements and then do a search to see what all pops up. I had this all set up in Picasa many moons ago and now I am on a different computer where I can’t download Picasa anymore, so guess what has happened to all my wonderful tags?  Well, no more. Once tagged in the Metadata, it will stay tagged because that information stays with the file wherever it goes. So, now when I’m looking for just the right frame, I can simply click on my Scrapbooking folder and search for “frame.” Or… for those that purchase a class/tutorial video, wouldn’t it be wonderful to simply tag all the downloadable items with the name of the class so that you can put all those files into your regular scrapbooking folder? Mmmm… I’m seeing the cogs rolling… so many uses! (Just a note: PNG’s cannot be tagged so adding the tag info into the filename would be helpful.)


And that my friends is a double-yay in my book.


Another page towards my LifeStory book and this layout featuring my Grandma and Grandpa Julian is made from the Wallflower kit by Paislee Press. I just love everything about it!

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  • Barbara June 26, 2017   Reply →

    Fabulous tutorial Michele! Thanks for sharing your process.
    I always search for my stuff (photos & digistash) through either LR or Picasa. Thanks for the reminder that I can do it through the Finder window as well!
    I’ve changed my tagging platforms so many times over the years. It drives me nuts! Now while I still use LR and Picasa for my searches, I do like you suggested and add the main search terms to the file names (since I can’t write to PNG metadata). It drives me nuts when I lose my tagging and like you mentioned, changing the file names makes the searches “stick” regardless of the program I use. That’s a big thumbs up in my book.
    Reading your posts is making me want to get involved with genealogy! What a wonderful gift you are giving your family. TFS!

    • Michele Kerr July 7, 2017   Reply →

      Thanks Barbara! I use LR and Picasa as well, but I started to focus on LR knowing that Picasa was nearing it’s end (sadly.) The problem I have always had is the same one you shared: if you don’t have the tags added to the photos or files, then they get lost when going into another app or program. It has happened to me more than I would want to admit (especially since my background is in computers!)

      I have to say that out of anything I have done so far, this file tagging/naming has changed my enjoyment level from mid-range to feeling a bit like the old days when I had all my physical scrapbooking items all layed out before me and I could pick and choose! That to me, makes all the difference. I dislike the feeling that I know I have either a picture, paper, or element and can’t remember where I put it or worse yet, purchase the same kit twice! As I replied to Judith, I keep a notebook in my OneNote program that I keep the names of the kits that I purchase in the title, then a screenshot of the kit with it’s elements and papers, and lastly screenshots of layouts that drew my attention to that kit in the first place.

      Now that I have entered the kit names (if they weren’t already in the titles) to the file names, I can easily do a Search and pull up the kit. As a surprise, I had bought a kit that had two artists working together. The kits came in two separate folders so, when I searched on the kit name, they both showed up and I could literally browse through them both. It was a delight!

  • Judith McEntyre June 26, 2017   Reply →

    What a great suggestion!! Use what the technology gods gave us!! Got to try this

    • Michele Kerr July 7, 2017   Reply →

      Love your response! I’ll have to remember that phrase, “technology gods!” Let me know if you get the chance to start tagging. I have found that I enjoy using my digital supplies even more as well, so it has been a double-win for me! I keep a screenshot of whatever kit I purchase in OneNote and also screenshot any layouts that I love as well. That way, I can see what brought me to fall in love with the kit in the first place!

  • Kay June 27, 2017   Reply →

    Michele, this is really helpful. I use a Mac & the process is very similar. Also, you can tag a .png on a Mac! I have tagged some things, but mostly have neglected it. I’m always good at doing it in Evernote, but I have an extensive genealogy library & now I’m inspired to tag those items. Thanks!

    • Michele Kerr July 7, 2017   Reply →

      Kay, I’m pretty excited to hear that I’ve helped someone. As I have begun my “quest” to bring all my family research, stories and photos into one place I found myself searching around for things for too long. This has made such a dramatic change in how I can pull things together for whatever I am working on at the moment. It takes a bit of time to get the tagging done, but I’m such a picture person, so going through the family heritage photos ends up leaving me with such a good feeling and I actually look forward to heading back in and entering those tags!

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