Janie insisted that I share this with everyone: I keep a lot of files in WordPad. By using the options for underlining, bold-face, italics, and colors, I can use one WordPad file for each family. Depending on the particular file, perhaps direct lines are italicized or underlined (or both); maternal lines, paternal, or data from different sources are in different colors (such as census, obits, wills, etc., which allows a personal archive of all info pertaining to that family to be kept in one place); or keeping surnames in bold-face to find them easily; or using a different color for odd names (such as witnesses or baptismal sponsors) who may or may not be related. (If the same names keep showing up as sponsors or witnesses to marriages, they likely are a family connection, and then they may rate their own file.) I keep a separate file for each person who shares information with me, naming the file something like "George" to hold all info George has shared. This allows me to refer back when I find a familiar name. With the convenience of "copy and paste", you can easily put the same piece of info into several files without a lot of typing. These WordPad files are saved in "My Documents" folder on the desktop, are readily available, and with one click they are even alphabetized! I open a new WordPad page when I visit new websites. Then any interesting info can be pasted directly onto the page, moved to other files if necessary, and the hyper-links stay clickable.
Also, I scan all pictures and documents into the computer (as jpg or jpeg files to save space, bitmp files are too large), naming them something like "Smith, Jane& John, 1863, M", meaning the marriage certificate of Jane & John Smith from 1863. Then you can save all the photo and document copies from each family to a cd or diskette for easy reference while properly storing all paper documents safely away, with a WordPad document listing of the contents of each. This saves a lot of wear and tear on the paper copies, while allowing use of the information. (Very fragile or rare documents or photos can even be put in a safety-deposit box at the bank.) Because of the way a computer can enhance copies of pictures or documents, they are frequently easier to see or read on the computer than from the original. You can also "copy and paste" relevant portions of the documents to each family's file, cross-referencing for maiden names. After spending $$ and time getting your documentation, it can be maddening to spill coffee on those certificates, having the dog eat them, or just misplacing them on a disorganized desk! Murphy's law demands that the one paper you need right now is nowhere to be found!
The data you put in a WordPad document, or the photo you save as a jpg file can easily be put into a Word program, printed or emailed. I put together a small book on my family very easily, writing the story of each branch in WordPad, then pasting the words and inserting some photos from my files.
ALWAYS keep a back-up of your info, whether on cd or diskette. I learned that the hard way when my hard drive died (on a 3-month-old computer) and I had to re-enter over 1000 names, dates and pertinent information in my genealogy program! Every time I add a new batch of data, I burn a cd with all data, photos, etc., and date them, keeping them in a cd holder, and I periodically snail-mail a cd to a trusted relative-----just in case of fire or flood!
Sorry this is so long, but I hope it will help someone who is having difficulty organizing all that data we work so hard to locate! Ruth