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I have created a tree of collections that mimics my folder structure:

2000
|- 2000-01 Trip to ABC
|- 2000-01 Misc
|- 2000-02 X's Birthday Party
2001
|- 2001-01 Nightshots in LA
|- 2001-05 Picknick
2002
etc.

Now, I'd like to recreate it as a set of smart collections: each year to be a collection set, and the subfolders must be smart collections (containing all pictures rated above 3-stars, for example)

Do you know a way (maybe a plugin) that can help me do this?

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The best approach I can think of for this is to use keywords. The advantage would be that when you do that and switch to smart collections, you could then star using AND and OR logic to combine or exclude images automatically. I'm not entirely sure I see why you think switching to Smart Collections would be an improvement, but I think it would allow you to easily also create subset smart collections based on star ratings and multiple-keyword collections.

For what it's worth, that's more or less what I do: I use collections primarily for shot-lived sets of things I'm working on or organizing, and I use smart collections for most permanent collections where I attach a specific keyword to images and then create a smart collection to pull that keyword into it. You can prevent these "meta" keywords from exporting by disabling that by right-clicking on a keyword in the right sidebar and turning off the export option.

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I use a lot of place specific filters in smart collections. When you geotag your photos (preferably, in an automatic way when you capture it) creating collections based on location is simple. You can divide by country, or city and other options.

Perfect for trips and such.

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