How to Keep Your Word Documents Organized

A little organization goes a long way when you are looking for files

Business manager with question marks over head

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If you spend more time looking for Microsoft Word files than you do working on your documents, take advantage of the organizational features Word and your computer have to offer.

Instructions in this article apply to Microsoft Word for Office 365, Word 2019, Word 2016, Word 2013, and Word 2010.

Save All Word Files With Thumbnails

Saving Word files with a preview image or thumbnail makes it easier to identify the document you need without opening it.

To save all Word documents with a preview or thumbnail image:

  1. In Microsoft Word, open a blank or existing document, then go to the File tab.

    A Word document with the File menu highlighted
  2. Select Info.

    File menu in Word with the Info tab highlighted
  3. Select the Properties drop-down arrow and choose Advanced Properties.

    Word's Info menu with the Properties tab highlighted
  4. In the Properties dialog box, go to the Summary tab.

    Advanced Properties menu in Word with the Summary tab highlighted
  5. Select the Save Thumbnails for All Word Documents check box.

    Advanced Properties tab in Word with the Save Thumbnails box highlighted
  6. Select OK.

    Advanced Properties in Word with the OK button highlighted

Update Word Document Properties

If you work with several Word documents that have similar names and locations, use the Word document properties feature.

  1. Open the document to which you want to add descriptive properties, then go to the File tab.

    A Word document with the File menu highlighted
  2. Select Info.

    File menu in Word with the Info tab highlighted
  3. Select the Properties drop-down arrow and choose Advanced Properties.

    Word's Info menu with the Properties tab highlighted
  4. In the Properties dialog box, go to the Summary tab.

    Advanced Properties menu in Word with the Summary tab highlighted
  5. Enter comments, keywords, categories, a title, and subject information to help you distinguish your files.

    Screenshot of descriptive Word Document Properties
  6. Select OK to apply the changes and close the dialog box. When it comes time to do a search, Word can find exactly what you need.

Make Folders on Your Computer and Use Them

Set up one folder for your Word documents and name it something you won't forget, such as MyWordDocs. Populate it with folders named in a way that makes sense to you, and use these folders to save and sort your Word files. If you produce weekly meeting notes, for example, make a folder for those notes and include additional folders inside it for months or years.

Screenshot of subfolders in primary Word document folder

If you have years of Word documents on your computer and don't have time to open each one and decide whether to keep it or not, make a folder for each year and move documents to those folders. This is a good way to store older files until you have time to organize the files in a way that works for you.

Use a Consistent File Naming System

Establish a naming system to quickly find the files you want. There are many ways to name your files. Choose a naming system and use it consistently.

Here are a few suggestions:

  • Include the type of document in the file name, for example, contract, lease, or newsletter. This way, you can look at the file name to find a file.
  • Begin the file name with the client's name (or the recipient's last name if the documents are letters).
  • Include the date in the file name.

Take Your Time

If your computer hard drive is low on storage space, don't tackle your organizational tasks all at once. Break the job into manageable pieces and spend 15 minutes a day working on it.

As you organize Word files on your computer, put each file in one of the folders that you made, make a new folder, or delete files you no longer need. If you're not sure what to do with a file, put it in a folder entitled HoldUntilDate and choose a date in the future that if you haven't opened the folder by then, you'll feel comfortable deleting it.

Whatever types of folders you make, put these folder in your main Word folder, so you'll know where to look.