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Do I Need Only One Personal Knowbase Data File or More? (Part 1)

New Personal Knowbase users often ask when they would want more than one PK database. Should they put all their notes in one data file? Or have several files? Why create a new file?

The short answer is to start out by putting everything in one file and to wait to split your data into multiple files until you're sure you need to.

There are pros and cons to keeping all your data in one place or spreading it into multiple files.

Start with One File

What most people do (and what I did when I started using Personal Knowbase) is to throw everything into one data file, and then only split it when a category of information clearly needs its own container.

If most of the notes you store are of a miscellaneous or "random" nature, covering many topics not falling into any particular categories, your best bet is to continue using one growing file indefinitely. You may never need more than one. If you're getting started, see our previous post on Using Personal Knowbase for Miscellaneous Notes.

Even if you later decide to use multiple files, you'll always have some miscellaneous notes that don't fit in any simple category, and those are fine in one general file. Even after over 20 years using PK, I still have a catch-all file.

Files for Completely Different Purposes

The main situation when you would want to maintain multiple Knowbase files is if the information serves completely different purposes. As time goes by and you find new uses for Personal Knowbase, you may find separate files useful.

As you add notes to your original file, you may notice that you use certain keywords more frequently, revealing a category of information that you could split out. Consider a separate file when many articles fall into a well-defined category.

data file types

For example, I have a special-purpose database for my quotation collection and another for travel-related references. When I got married, I started a new database just for wedding-related research, since most of that became obsolete shortly after the event. You could keep customer and supplier information separate. If you're cataloguing a collection or your photography, you might give it its own file. Or for recipes. Or contact management. Or school projects. Or a journal. Or gardening notes. Or records related to a hobby.

As you see, each of these categories is used separately, and rarely do these topics cross over.

Another common reason to keep separate files is to keep work and personal information apart. I decided early to isolate personal and business notes. Even so, some notes straddle the line. For example, checklists for doing a task on the Internet might apply to either side. I made an arbitrary decision to put all such notes in the work file, and I stay consistent about that so that I know where to find them.

In Part 2, we'll talk about more advanced issues with moving on from a single file to multiple files, or staying with a single file.