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OS X Businesses Operating Systems Apple

The Death of Folders? 607

Posted by Zonk
from the croak dept.
saintlupus writes "There's an interesting article on Wired about the interface changes in Tiger being a precursor to the demise of the classic folder-browsing Finder." From the article: "Users type search queries more or less as they did pre-Tiger, but 'the quality, scope and presentation of the results are significantly better, so users get good benefits without having to change their behavior.'"
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The Death of Folders?

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  • by Novanix (656269) on Thursday June 09, 2005 @10:26AM (#12769346) Homepage
    Microsoft purposed the death of folders back when they announced the WinFS system. The idea of an SQL or Database file system where queries are performed more often than direct references isn't new. While Microsoft is not releasing WinFS with longhorn, much of their search capabilities and ability to group files into multiple spots and 'death of folders' will still be occurring. Obviously apple is the first to give a solid attempt at implementing this, hopefully it will make organization far easier;)
    • Misread (Score:4, Funny)

      by dsginter (104154) on Thursday June 09, 2005 @10:32AM (#12769433)
      I read this as the death of Folgers [folgers.com]. I almost fained since Folgers is The Best Part of Wakin' Up(TM).

    • Maybe I'm just old fashioned, but I don't see how or why folders or directories should disappear.

      An improved search mechanism is welcomed, but how do I associate a bunch of related files together without labeling as being together? How do I move or copy something that is now relevant together with the other files?

      Lets say I'm working with research on penguins. I'll have jpeg images, url's, word documents, etc. And I'll put them in "My penguins" folder (exclude the My if your on longhorn:).

      I can archiv
      • I would hazard a guess that large fraction of the population is not as organized as you are. In fact, since I restore missing files from backup for my coworkers all of the time and see that they use no folders whatsoever, I know a lot of people do not organize.

        A hierarchical organization system is not hard to implement optionally on top of a search based one. That way you don't have to remember if you filed your Natalie Portman pictures in the "Petrified" or "Hot Grits" folders. (I keed, I keed.)

      • If you use GMail, you should be familiar with the concept of "labels". Of course, it's overly simplistic for organizing files with, but it works well for emails.

        Instead of trying to remember precisely which folder you saved a certain file to, you'd just have all kinds of tags on each file. So your video of penguins fishing for food could be tagged under tags like video, penguins, animals, fishing, etc. So all your videos are conveniently organized in one place, but all your *penguin stuff* is also organize
  • by AKAImBatman (238306) * <akaimbatman AT gmail DOT com> on Thursday June 09, 2005 @10:26AM (#12769353) Homepage Journal
    There's an interesting article on Wired about the interface changes in Tiger being a precursor to the demise of the classic folder-browsing Finder.

    Call me when Folders become saved queries, and then we'll talk about the semi-demise of Finder. Actually, Finder wouldn't leave us at all. In a properly designed database file system, folders/directories should be replaced with standard queries. An example of this is the Labelling system in GMail. You can add a meta-data label to any email, which will then cause that email to appear in a virtual folder of the same name as the label. But if you pay attention to the search bar, you find that the folder is nothing more than a stored search on a key piece of meta-data.

    This concept has massive implications for File System Usability. Under the folders-as-search concept, the same files can be organized under multiple folder groupings. This labelling data not only assists users in doing future searches for their information (i.e. A real reason to fill out meta-data other than "It might be useful."), but it also provides the user with a way of organizing ALL data for a given project under one folder without forcing the user to make a copy. It may not seem all that revolutionary, but I think you'll find that a lot of GMail users have already grasped the real power of the concept.

    That being said, WHAT'S TAKING SO DAMN LONG?! This stuff was figured out 10+ years ago, and pieces of it were even included in BeOS. NTFS has had many of the necessary features since its inception (just turned off for some bloody reason), and ReiserFS is bringing the same design to Linux. So what is everyone waiting for? The next guy to scoop you on it?

    *sigh* Dear Mr. Jobs: Will you please demonstrate to everyone how you do this properly with a file system? Thanks. Kudos to your NeXT development team who's made this possible.
    • by BShive (573771) on Thursday June 09, 2005 @10:31AM (#12769409) Homepage
      It's already here. It says right in the article that "[...] Tiger's Smart Folders feature, which lets the user save the results of a Spotlight search as a virtual folder that automatically updates as new items matching the search are added to the system." This sounds quite similar to the smart playlists in iTunes eh? I use the smart playlists in iTunes quite a lot, and I'll definitely be using this smart folder feature once I get Tiger.
      • by AKAImBatman (238306) * <akaimbatman AT gmail DOT com> on Thursday June 09, 2005 @10:42AM (#12769565) Homepage Journal
        Thanks. I misunderstood what Smart Folders were. This just further underscores that Apple is the only company willing to take risks to offer useful features to their customers. I'm not quite sure what makes Wired think that Finder and Smart Folders are somehow diametric. The two are actually perfectly matched. Finder allows you to browser all the folders on your system. It's good at that. If the folders just happen to be saved queries, who really cares? The interface still works. It's just boggles my mind that no other OS has latched onto this concept before now, despite the overwhelming evidence that it's A Good Idea(TM).

        Now that Apple's shown everyone the way with database filesystems, I wonder if we could get them to replace the "Recent" menu with "Piles" of recent folders. Wait, they're already looking at that. [mac.com] God, I love this new Apple. (i.e. NeXT renamed.) And that's coming from a guy who's hated Apple his entire life!
    • by platos_beard (213740) on Thursday June 09, 2005 @10:31AM (#12769410)
      Call me when Folders become saved queries...
      Did you read the article? That's exactly what SmartFolders are. You save query results as a SmartFolder and it updates itself whenever new matches are found.
    • by liquidpele (663430) on Thursday June 09, 2005 @10:37AM (#12769491) Journal
      "WHAT'S TAKING SO DAMN LONG?! This stuff was figured out 10+ years ago"

      Because you arn't just designing some cool thing here, this will effect how people organize *everything* on their computer. The reason the file/folder method worked so well is because it's a good abstraction from the real world model. If you switch to something more complex that can't be described easily in the real world, many people will reject it without trying it.

      Not to mention making meta data searchable on a hard disk is not an easy task without making the metadata you want to search a permanent part of the FS design. I think the idea here is to have any abount of metadata (within reason), of varying sizes, and searchable fast. That's not easy.
      • The reason the file/folder method worked so well is because it's a good abstraction from the real world model.

        Well no, not really. Back in the good old days, "folders" were called directories. Microsoft just stuck pretty icons on them and called them folders. Directories work because they're simple, for both users and programmers. Regardless of real-world metaphors, it's easy to understand a simple hierarchy.

        • by liquidpele (663430) on Thursday June 09, 2005 @10:50AM (#12769662) Journal
          sure it's easy for computer people...
          for home users, it'll take a LOT longer to explain "directories" than just a file/folder comparison and a file cabinet. Easy simple stuff you take for granted will often confuse the begeezis out of regular people.
          • by Lagged2Death (31596) on Thursday June 09, 2005 @11:36AM (#12770238)
            for home users, it'll take a LOT longer to explain "directories" than just a file/folder comparison and a file cabinet. Easy simple stuff you take for granted will often confuse the begeezis out of regular people.

            That's absolutely true.

            I think maybe a database filesystem - with the right interface - could be easier for these people. Yet it might also be more confusing for someone (like me) who's been using directories to organize everything for 20+ years.
            • Actually, that's mostly true. If you'd been using Apple's Folder concept (where windows remember where they are on screen, icons stay where you put them, and each folder opens in a new window), it would have been intuitive from the beginning.

              Navigating an OS through a CLI or Windows/Linux's file browsers is a huge mental burden compared to using your brain's eye-hand coordination features to browse a filesystem. Without the afrementioned principles being completely and consistently applied, the physical

      • by AKAImBatman (238306) * <akaimbatman AT gmail DOT com> on Thursday June 09, 2005 @10:47AM (#12769629) Homepage Journal
        It's easier than you think, actually. When it comes down to it, the primary difference a user will see between a Folder and a Label is that Folders can only hold a file once, while Labels can hold the same file multiple times. i.e. The concept just pushes existing abstractions just a bit farther.

        File links have always been a sort of "hack" to get around that fact that files can only be in one folder at any given time. With a database file system, you can keep the one folder per file metaphor, or you can grow into the folders as metadata concept. Your choice.

        The greatest danger in Desktop metaphors has always been that the metaphor will be taken to its fully restrictive extreme, and that the powers added by the computer will be ignored. That's exactly what's happened in this case, and it's not a good thing.

        Maybe I should blog something more complete about this...
      • making meta data searchable on a hard disk is not an easy task without making the metadata you want to search a permanent part of the FS design. I think the idea here is to have any abount of metadata (within reason), of varying sizes, and searchable fast. That's not easy.

        I believe that both ReiserFS and NTFS allow you to attach unlimited metadata named attributes to any file. In fact, an attribute's "value" could be much larger than the actual "file" it is attached to.

        Imagine if every graphic could
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Long live the directory!
  • Hmm.... (Score:3, Funny)

    by TechnoLust (528463) * <kai DOT technolust AT gmail DOT com> on Thursday June 09, 2005 @10:27AM (#12769357) Homepage Journal
    That's funny, I thought Gmail's labels system was supposed to be the death of folders.
    • Re:Hmm.... (Score:3, Informative)

      by WIAKywbfatw (307557)
      I'm an avid and early Gmail user but I think it's only fair to point out that Gmail borrowed the folderless labelling system that it uses from Opera's M2 mail client.

      As far as email is concerned, labels are an Opera innovation (unless, of course, someone can provide an earlier example), not a Gmail one.
  • Folders?!? (Score:3, Funny)

    by coop0030 (263345) * on Thursday June 09, 2005 @10:27AM (#12769359) Homepage
    I just put everything in the C:\ drive and know that I can find it using Windows XP's sweet search capabilities!

    err...yea...
    • Re:Folders?!? (Score:3, Interesting)

      by MarkByers (770551)
      Yes that's a great idea... let me just set up my web files all in one folder...

      Do you want to overwrite 'c:\index.html' (size 4509 bytes) with 'c:\index.html' (size 16735 bytes)?

      Hmmm... there's still a few technical issues remaining. I think folders will be with us for a while longer ;)
  • Figures. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by NoMoreNicksLeft (516230) <john DOT oyler AT comcast DOT net> on Thursday June 09, 2005 @10:28AM (#12769373) Journal
    The only shocking part is that there will be millions of people that have been using computers since the 1980s, who never noticed that there ever was such a thing as folders/directories.

    I'm sorry, but I like to categorize things. I like to know where they are, in this logical space. If this loses a document, can you dig it out? Or did it just never exist?
    • You just search for it. THats the point, and if the filesystem goes a bit further it could organize things in some kind of semi logical manner as well. Or you could organize them. The searching isnt tied to the file structure, it is tied to the content. So you could organize however you merry well feel like it from an actual logical filesystem point of view, but you could search for the content instead.

      I think that is what this is trying to get at.
  • Bull (Score:5, Insightful)

    by thesupermikey (220055) on Thursday June 09, 2005 @10:29AM (#12769384) Homepage Journal
    What a load of Bullshit

    Spotlight is really good, but that hasnt stoped me from being anal about setting up files so i can find things.

    What really pisses me off is out iTunes reognized all my music when it was inported into the libary. I spent years putting together music in such a way that i can find it. Now i have the seach for it b/c itunes had to mess things up.
    • Re:Bull (Score:5, Informative)

      by hexix (9514) on Thursday June 09, 2005 @10:43AM (#12769582) Homepage
      This advice is probably too late for you, but you can actually tell iTunes not to reorganize your music folder in the preferences.

      I agree this seems like a stupid thing to have turned on by default. I also find the behavior where it copies mp3s that you play to the music folder automatically strange. But I guess some people would get confused that deleting a file from their desktop makes it not playable in itunes anymore. *shrug*

      • Re:Bull (Score:3, Insightful)

        I also find the behavior where it copies mp3s that you play to the music folder automatically strange. But I guess some people would get confused that deleting a file from their desktop makes it not playable in itunes anymore.

        This suggests that people are thinking of iTunes as a place "where" music files exist.

        • Re:Bull (Score:5, Interesting)

          by singularity (2031) * <nowalmart@@@gmail...com> on Thursday June 09, 2005 @11:52AM (#12770439) Homepage Journal
          I consider myself quite a geek, and more of a power-user type.

          That said, I let iTunes do its own thing. I *never* go into the iTunes Library folder (where the actual files are stored). I do all of my organization from within iTunes.

          The problem comes from people that want to use two different interfaces (the Finder and iTunes) to manage music. iTunes does this really well. If I want to delete a song, I delete it from within iTunes. iTunes asks if I want to delete the original file.

          If I want a copy of a song, I just drag it from iTunes onto the Desktop. Instant copy. Any other organization is done with playlists, smart playlists, and the browser.

          I do not see people thinking of iTunes as where music files exist as a bad thing. This gets to the point of the original article - the removal of the old file/folder paradigm. If iTunes can do everything you could possibly need to do with your song files, why would you NEED to go into the folder hierarchy and deal with the actual song files?
          • agreed (Score:4, Interesting)

            by commodoresloat (172735) on Thursday June 09, 2005 @02:55PM (#12773024)
            I think iTunes' behavior in this regard is close to ideal. Perhaps the user should be warned before their whole library is rearranged like happened to the person posting above, but in general I like how iTunes arranges the library and I prefer that it copies songs into the main itunes folder. I periodically delete my download directory because I don't want random mp3s scattered about my desktop, and I don't want to have to worry about accidentally deleting a file that is in itunes' directory. And if I really want to use the finder to look for an mp3, the library is arranged in a perfectly reasonable manner.

            On another note, my biggest complaint about iTunes defaults is the "Use error correction while reading CDs" checkbox. I ruined much of my library on importing because I left this unchecked when I first started importing my collection. A lot of songs sound like crap; random distortion really loud, and there's no way to know which songs got screwed until they are playing. Why have an almost hidden preference that will ruin your library if not checked? Perhaps other people have better luck importing with this turned off than I do, but now whenever I use a computer's itunes for the first time I make damn sure that box is checked before importing CDs....

      • Re:Bull (Score:3, Insightful)

        by jayloden (806185)

        But I guess some people would get confused that deleting a file from their desktop makes it not playable in itunes anymore.

        God, I wish you were wrong, I really do.

        It all goes back to my constant raving that people need to be taught from the beginning how to use a computer, not how to use application X. To use a computer properly, you need to know what a file is, what a folder is, understand file sizes and disk storage, and how to use menus. These simple things are NOT that hard to understand if they

    • Re:Bull (Score:3, Interesting)

      by TheRaven64 (641858)
      Actually, I've had the exact opposite experience. iTunes is very good at organising my music - I used to do this all myself, but now I rely almost 100% on smart playlists. Spotlight, however, is a pain. I can usually find a file on my system faster using The Finder than using Spotlight. Why? Because:
      1. Typed queries are a pain in Spotlight. There is a lot of typed meta-data I could search, but the UI for creating a typed query is dire.
      2. It doesn't search most of my FS. Spotlight indexes little more th
    • by Dog135 (700389)
      I personally have iTunes set to not organize, and not move my music. I keep all my songs in folders organized by genre on the second partition of my HD. iTunes gladly "imports" them by just remembering where they are.

      Go to: iTunes->preferences->advanced tab

      uncheck "Keep iTunes music folder organized" and "Copy files to iTunes music folder when adding to library"

      Create your iTunes playlists the same way your folders are aranged. Select your playlist, drag your folder to it to import those songs i
    • Re:Bull (Score:3, Interesting)

      I was in the same boat when I first installed iTunes. I had spent hours organizing my music files into Genre -> Artist -> Album -> (Track) Song.mp3 format.

      I began to panic when I saw iTunes "Processing..." and heard my hard drive grinding.

      But then it occurred to me, iTunes had done in a few minutes what had taken me countless hours to do by hand. I can find my music in iTunes 10x faster than I can using the Finder / Explorer - so what was I worried about?

      If I actually need the physical file f

  • by toupsie (88295) on Thursday June 09, 2005 @10:29AM (#12769385) Homepage
    If you have your work organized in a defined folder structure, your memory will be faster than any Spotlight search -- especially given Spotlight's annoying habit of searching before you complete the search term.
  • by cmefford (810011) * <cpm&well,com> on Thursday June 09, 2005 @10:29AM (#12769387)
    But the very concept of having millions of files just scattered about in a completely flat heirarchy, well, doesn't seem like a really good way to handle your company's data.
  • by Saganaga (167162) on Thursday June 09, 2005 @10:29AM (#12769389) Homepage
    In other news, it was recently announced that due to the widespread use of email, street addresses would soon become obsolete. Out with the antiquated, in with the new!
  • You insensitive clod!
  • Not quite yet (Score:5, Insightful)

    by turg (19864) * <turg@winst[ ]org ['on.' in gap]> on Thursday June 09, 2005 @10:31AM (#12769408) Journal
    From the article: "The way Searchlight transforms the computing experience is akin to Google's effect on the web"

    And Google has made bookmarks obsolete, right? So Searchlight will make folders obsolete.

    Better search is always very cool. But proper organization and categorization is better yet. The problem is not that the latter is a bad system but that people don't do it very well. I think a system that helps people organize their stuff will be even better than a better search. The "labels" which are used instead of folders in gmail seem like a step in that direction.
  • by LegendOfLink (574790) on Thursday June 09, 2005 @10:31AM (#12769414) Homepage
    I'm still waiting for the time when I can "see" the computer code, via a green monitor that displays a shower of code. Then, I will have a plug that connects to my spinal column and allows me to "enter" the computer and manipulate the code using my brainwaves.

    It'd be very efficient, I could then just think of finding a file, and there it would be. Or better yet, I could imagine a beowul...NO CARRIER
  • by rice0067 (220981) on Thursday June 09, 2005 @10:31AM (#12769423)
    While I love the idea of a decent search system, the time honored forlder hierarchy works because thats how people think. For instance, pictures. For these meta based search systems each picture needs to have a comment attatched (if not searching by date).. and who really does that? I tried adding notes to my pics in iphoto but after a while it gets tiresome.

    And backups.. in a workflow.. every project has its own file and subfolders, makes it easy for backup and finding files.

    Anywho... folder hierarchy works great and is here to stay for most people. (except for those people who just save everything to the desktop.)

    • The folder heirarchy is *one way* that people think.

      We had this problem at an office I worked at a while back. We were a manufacutring borker broker, and we would get an invoice from a manufacturer that was to go a client in turn. Physically, we would put the original in the manufacturer's file, and put a photocopy in the client's folder. When we were computerizing, my manager thought that we should have copies of the scanned invoice in both the manufacturer's *and* client's folder.

      I explained how much

    • For instance, pictures. For these meta based search systems each picture needs to have a comment attatched (if not searching by date).. and who really does that? I tried adding notes to my pics in iphoto but after a while it gets tiresome.

      In iPhoto you can create keywords and drag photos to the keywords. You can also create folders in the viewing window and drag photos to those. You can even make smart folders which pick photos based on existing metatdata. This is easier than making a heirarchical file

  • by Jay Maynard (54798) on Thursday June 09, 2005 @10:31AM (#12769424) Homepage
    The idea of a folder as a visual reference for a directory may well be on the way out. There's still plenty of need for directories and hierarchical organization, though, for managing the contents of a system from the standpoint of software. OS X's Unix base is pretty heavily dependent on the basic Unix filesystem structure, and lots of software is built with a deeply ingrained assumption that it's there and the way files are organized.

    Spotlight is great for users, but there will be a need for something like the Finder indefinitely.
    • Just because the software needs to store and look at the files in a hierarchical way doesn't mean the the user has to see it in the same way. Computers are very good at transforming data from one view to another. The challenge, of course, is finding a view that is easy for the average user to grasp.
  • Removable media (Score:5, Interesting)

    by MacFury (659201) <me&johnkramlich,com> on Thursday June 09, 2005 @10:32AM (#12769432) Homepage
    I must admit, I really like Tiger's Spotlight. It has improved file management on my machine considerably.

    Having said that, how can this apply to removable media? I would like to see a feature on the next MacOS that automatically indexes removable storage.

    Let's say I burn a CD of some data. The finder should keep track of which files I burned to that CD, long after I erased the actual files from my hard drive. That way, I can perform spotlight searchs on my data, even if it really isn't present on my local drive.

    Find the file that you want and the machine prompts you to insert the proper CD.
    • by hexix (9514)
      So it can tell you that you burned the thing your searching for to a CD at some point in your life? How exactly do you expect it to prompt you for the proper CD?

      "Please insert the CD on which you wrote "MY NUDIE PICS' in blue marker."

  • What's the point? Folders and subfolders work for me...one of GMail's sorest problems for me is that you can't have sub-labels (something solved by me using Thunderbird to do my gmail...yay POP access). I assume this would have similar problems.
  • Not broken (Score:5, Interesting)

    by DogDude (805747) on Thursday June 09, 2005 @10:35AM (#12769454) Homepage
    What I'm wondering is what is broken with the whole directory/folder design? I wasn't aware that there was a problem. And what's the alternative... every file is stored on the hard drive in some arbitrary location, and a query is needed for each and every file access? That seems like a *ton* of overhead to fix a problem that just doesn't exist.

    And what about file systems? I know that modern file systems like NTFS are much better at optimizing file storage for large drives with millions of discrete files, but are all of the modern ones ready to handle a drive with millions of files all at root?
    • Re:Not broken (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Monkelectric (546685)
      What I'm wondering is what is broken with the whole directory/folder design? I wasn't aware that there was a problem. And what's the alternative... every file is stored on the hard drive in some arbitrary location, and a query is needed for each and every file access? That seems like a *ton* of overhead to fix a problem that just doesn't exist.

      Nothing is broken at all. This is just their latest idea to force an upgrade cycle. Filesystems like reiserfs can easily handle millions of files in a directory.

    • Re:Not broken (Score:5, Insightful)

      by smithmc (451373) * on Thursday June 09, 2005 @11:21AM (#12770041) Journal

      What I'm wondering is what is broken with the whole directory/folder design?

      What's broken about it is that a single hierarchical classification scheme may not always be appropriate for a given body of data. Suppose I have a whole bunch of documents. They're all about different products - ProductA, ProductB, etc. Meanwhile, some of them are proposals, some are degisn docs, some are marketing literature, etc. I want to be able to sift through these documents in various ways. What's the best hierarchy to use? Product type first, then document type (proposal/design/etc)? Or the other way around? What happens when I want "all proposals on ProductA or ProductC for North American markets"? Where in the hierarchy do I look? Meanwhile, if each file were in a database, with search keywords, I could find anything I wanted just as easily as anything else - there's no predetermined hierarchy that makes it easier to find some things than others.

    • Re:Not broken (Score:5, Informative)

      by Dixie_Flatline (5077) <vincent,jan,goh&gmail,com> on Thursday June 09, 2005 @11:26AM (#12770097) Homepage
      I'm spending a lot more time replying to these posts than I should. Still, I can't let them slip. :)

      A study was published just last year about how the desktop paradigm breaks down when a lot of files are trying to be stored. There's nothing wrong with the folder system from a technical standpoint. The problem comes when you have hundreds or thousands of files that need to be sorted and then found. Your capacity to remember such things is finite. If you know even vaguely what you're looking for ("Hmmm, it was about 2 weeks ago, I think it mentioned nintendo, and James may have written it..."), it's probably easier to find by searching than by trying to figure out if you filed it under James, Nintendo, or the documents that you got 2 weeks ago.

      If you'd like to read the study, try and get your hands on the ACM Transactions on Human-Computer Interfaces, June 2004, Volume 11, Number 2. It's quite interesting; a lot less dry than most papers. :)
    • Re:Not broken (Score:3, Insightful)

      by rsborg (111459)
      What I'm wondering is what is broken with the whole directory/folder design?

      Simple: the same problems with hierarchical/network databases back in the 70s. When relational concepts came into play, they significantly increased the accessibility of the information. And the beauty of the relational approach is that the old hierarchical structure can be emulated (with some enhancements).

      I wasn't aware that there was a problem. And what's the alternative... every file is stored on the hard drive in some arbit

  • by Buzz_Litebeer (539463) on Thursday June 09, 2005 @10:38AM (#12769501) Journal
    All I can say is the linking of Google Desktop Search and the program called GDSuite which makes GDS work like the "search" function from windows has already changed how I get to things on my machine. If I know a chunk of code from a certain filetype is what I am looking for, it is extremely straightforward to just type that information in and get a response immediately.

    The only thing I can hope to see is for Google Desktop Search to add a "label" functionality to GDS so that I can label things that are "games" and "code" etc, to help narrow down searches or even use virtual directories where it brings up a windows like link to all executables labled for games on the hard drive without having to individually organize.

    This way you could make folders that consist of multiple labels and or focus them down to less labels etc at a click of a button.

  • by henrywood (879946) on Thursday June 09, 2005 @10:38AM (#12769505)
    It's all very well to talk about the death of folders because of intelligent indexing and searching of file systems, but this is in the context of retrieving data. Where a hierarchical structure is so useful is when you are saving information in the first place. It's important to remember that a hierarchy divides the file system into a number of logical namespaces.

    A completely flat filesystem sounds all very well in principle, but how do you find names for all of those files? I have loads of files on my computers with the same names but in different namespaces. Or are we going to throw away filenames as well?
  • Actually....can someone give me a more concrete idea of how a soup file system works?
  • by jellomizer (103300) * on Thursday June 09, 2005 @10:39AM (#12769523)
    While searching has it benefits over folder there is the time that you don't know what your are looking for, but you will know once you find it. How many of you when you were fairly new to Linux
    cd /usr/bin
    ls
    and tried to run all the files to see what they did?

    Or on MacOS take a look at all the pfiles and see what they can control and what they can't.

    Or say you want to find a way to make the dock transperent and you search for Dock Transperance. While the real term that the search will find is Dock Clearness. Or that file you saved way back when you don't know the date you did it or what it is about but once you see it you know that is the one you need.

    Sure I like spotlight but there are some cases where it just fails me mostly because I am absent minded.
  • by Shadow Wrought (586631) <shadow,wrought&gmail,com> on Thursday June 09, 2005 @10:40AM (#12769528) Homepage Journal
    Maybe dumping everything into a single area makes sense for some folks, but I shudder to think about it. I work in the legal field and every attorney and paralegal in the office saves documents in case specific folders. This becomes especially helpful when, two years after the fact, you're asked to track down some obscure brief, correspondence, or the like.

    That plus there is still a large group of folks in the business world for whom computers are still fairly recent (the managers and partners who have been working since the 70's and 80's). Granted their numbers are starting to thin, but there are still a great many folks, in relatively high positions, who like the folder system because it replicates a filing cabinet- they get it. Trying to educate the entire generation on a "whole new way" of doing something "easier and faster" will frighten them off.

  • ...frog's shift key.

    "Ooh, we're so cutting edge we're not going to use a capital letter at the start of our company's name." Pretentious twats. I bet they all have poncy rectangular tinted glasses and soul patches and ride around their offices on scooters as well.

  • by yagu (721525) <[moc.liamg] [ta] [ugayay]> on Thursday June 09, 2005 @10:43AM (#12769581) Journal

    I don't think the directory as we know it is dead, it is a nice way to hierarchically (word?) organize our data (but wait, Documents and Settings???). Seriously, directories are intuitive enough and most people get comfortable with them quickly.

    But, there are some problems with directories:

    • they get messy when too deep (where the heck is that directory I put those files in?)
    • in a GUI, they're really really really annoying, and potentially very dangerous. On many occasion I've had people come to me to help them recover a file that "disappeared". Mysterious at first, I came to recognize the dreaded "mouse button accidentally released" during a drag and drop as the common cause for "lost" files in a gui universe. But it gets really dangerous when the lost file from "drag and drop" does something to a system directory, something I've encountered at least twice! (It can almost literally render a system unusable.)
    • they become useless when not deep enough (hmmmmmm, I know I have that photo in this directory, but among the 4000 others I can't find it!)
    • they're too specific... How many times have you thought, "I'll put it here, no wait, it's more appropriate over there, hmmm...."? And then just give in and put copies of the file in multiple directories (which introduces a whole 'nother slew of issues).
    • they're confusing in the quasi-standards community... (This new executable I'm contributing, does it belong in "/usr/bin", "/usr/sbin", "/usr/local/bin"?)

    However, this article I think shows the way technology will take us and I like the abstraction and "flattening" of the storage universe. I've already become less neurotic about how to organize and store photos, etc., especially now with photo organizers and desktop search software like Google desktop. For me it makes more sense to "ask" my computer where something is and have it return the top twenty most likely responses (with the ability to drill deeper if necessary).

    Directories served a good purpose, but weren't they mostly artifacts anyway? Aren't they kind of an opaqueness of underlying technology? Directories as far as I remember were a way of implementing pointers and references to blocks of data on a drive, albeit a nicely abstracted implementation at the time (except for DOS, ick... (why no ".xxx" extensions allowed for DOS directories, huh?)).

  • by mccalli (323026) on Thursday June 09, 2005 @10:44AM (#12769595) Homepage
    I use Tiger. I upgraded from Panther. And whilst I can search meta-data to my heart's content, for finding actual files the Finder in Tiger is less powerful than Panthers, not more.

    Reasons? Well, first of all Spotlight won't search the whole of your drive. Can't remember if it was in /usr/local/bin or /usr/bin? Tough. Spotlight won't help you, it doesn't look in those hierarchies.

    Made a mistake typing your search term into Spotlight and on an older machine? Don't even think of hitting that backspace key, or the Finder may go into a spinning beachball hell whilst it tries to live search everything for you.

    Want to find just files and nothing else (ie. no meta-data or content-related stuff, just filenames)? Well, you can use the undocumented start-your-search-with-a-double-quote feature, but that doesn't work well because it doesn't understand wildcards (so "*.java won't work, for example, whereas ".java will but would include *.java.backup).Also it seems to lose its idea of filename-only as soon as you hit backspace and try to re-edit it. In other words, typing ".java will find me *.java*, but typing that, then hitting backspace, then typing hte final 'a' character again will start finding me things with java in the content instead of just the name.

    It also has poor resource usage - some seem to be lucky, but search the forms and you'll see many people complaining about processes called mdimport or similar hogging large amounts of CPU. Then there's the indexing it does every time you connect a firewire drive - if I reboot my Powerbook in target mode and hook it up to the Power Mac, a large amount of indexing is initiated which slows down my performance on that drive. I can set it to not index, but then it slows down search on that drive. What's needed is for the indexing stuff to be really low priority or user-ppausable perhaps.

    Sorry, Spotlight is ok but in the Finder it's a pain more than a help for me. I wouldn't have minded it in addition to Panther's more straightforward 'find a file' bit, but as a total replacement for that it's rather lacking. I'm not even contemplating using it as a complete replacement for a normal directory structure.

    Cheers,
    Ian

  • by dpbsmith (263124) on Thursday June 09, 2005 @10:47AM (#12769621) Homepage
    Pie-in-the-sky. Please spare me the deep-think prognostications of people who obviously are unfamiliar with how the facility actually works (or doesn't) in the real world.

    When it is good, Spotlight is very, very good. And when it is bad, it is horrid. So far, in my experience, Spotlight has been very, very good about 50% of the time I've really used it (i.e. to find something I wanted to find, as opposed to playing around with it). And horrid the other 50%.

    Spotlight has several big problems.

    a) It doesn't find things reliably. This isn't like using Google on the Web, where you're happy with the results you find, and mostly don't know about what relevant hits Google missed. You have a very good idea what's on your hard drive, and it is incredibly annoying when Spotlight does NOT find a file you know is there.

    There is ongoing discussion of why Spotlight doesn't find things reliably, and, of course, many people who say "It works for me," but the number of users reporting that Spotlight is not finding files they know are there is very significant.

    There are various reasons for this. One is that Spotlight has a fairly long built-in exclusion list of directories it doesn't think you really want to search, but, unfortunately, it does not explicitly show you what they are. This is not, however, the only issue.

    b) It doesn't find things quickly. Wags are starting to call it "stoplight." Frankly, I'm scared to type anything directly into the search field. I've gotten to the point where I type the search target into a text editor and paste it into the edit field.

    The problem is that Spotlight oh-so-cleverly gives real-time live updating of the partial query as you type it in. So if you type in "Slashdot", for example, by the time you have typed in two characters it is trying to display every file on your computer that begins with "sl". For reasons that aren't clear to me, this frequently locks up the Finder's UI with a spinning pizza wheel. The entire Finder becomes unusable--you can't even activate another window and search for the file manually--for big fractions of a minute.

    c) A signficant number of users are reporting frequent occasions when Spotlight causes their whole system to slow down. And, in at least one case, I've pinned down a situation in which Spotlight, for some reason, actually causes another program to fail with file I/O errors unless it is prevented from accessing the directories that program is using.

    So, Spotlight is sometimes wonderful... but other times is unreliable, slow itself, slows down the rest of the system, and makes other programs unstable.

    But aside from that, Mrs. Lincoln, how did you like the play?
  • Tiger's Spotlight is good, and certainly better than anything else I have used so far. However, the way it presents the search results is always a bit useless as the top ten seearches are top necessary the way to show me what I need. Additionally the lack of a boolean search is a big mistake as you can't narrow the search down. It is still much much faster for me to remember the folder and go straight to it. When that is no longer the case I'll believe in the death of folders.

    We need something to help that is clear from the number of digital objects we have lying round on our computers these days. Some method of collecting these objects into conceptual sets or classifications (apart from file extensions which is not always the most useful) could be really useful - I have read some interesting stuff by people who are Metadata crazy (seem to have lost the links though - the tiger review of metadata writer was really interesting [arstechnica.com]...) Maybe the answers are somewhere there.

    But for most people, some method of grouping data, adding categorical schemes, visually and texturally organising and generally making files/objects more plastic in the way that we store them would be a great step forward.

    But in any case, nested folders *do* still have uses. And I think we need --in addition to-- rather than --instead of--.

    ---- Posted anonymous as bloody slashdot is banning IP

  • Whenever I create a project-specific folder and put a bunch of files in it, I know that those files are directly related to each other. I don't want to search for "files you think might be related to Project Foo" - I want "files I've explicitly said are related to Project Foo".

    There are times when searches are ideal for grouping disjoint sets of information. There are many, many more times when a best guess is completely insufficient. Searches to augment folders? Sure. Searches to replace them? No way.

  • by Alzheimers (467217) on Thursday June 09, 2005 @10:58AM (#12769749)
    Maybe I'm alone in this, but I really hate tagging metadata as the sole means of organizing large sets of files. I tend to prefer the physical metaphor, a place for everything and everything in it's place, over the vast sets of forgettable synonyms you can use to describe a document.

    And if I want it in more than one place? Space is cheap - I can make copies of it and put it into different places. Different copies, with the same name!

    The main reason I don't like using Gmail is that I can't get used to not having a visual way of organizing my data. In my yahoo messages, I mark an email and move it to a folder. Then I have the comfortably familiar folder tree, that lets me know all of the subcategories I can choose. It's automatic, it's easy, and it does what I want it to.

    Advanced search features are great, but not at the cost of useability. If it triples the amount of time it takes me to go through my inbox in order to tag every email with relevant metadata, it's not saving me any time or energy.

    Folders may die, but at what cost? It certainly won't offer me any productivity increases, and people less knowledgeable than me will find it even more difficult without that metaphor to relate to.

    Databases are great for compiling numbers and facts. They're not so user friendly as to become the next great interface for the masses.
  • by otisg (92803) on Thursday June 09, 2005 @11:21AM (#12770043) Homepage Journal
    Of course!
    Hierarchies suck for large amounts of data (when was the last time you went to ODP or Yahoo Directory to find something?)

    That (folder hierarchies suck, search rules!) is one of the main hypothesis behind Simpy [1], a social bookmarking service with tagging and full-text search (think of it as a better and prettier delicious), so there is even a FAQ entry about it:
    http://www.simpy.com/simpy/FAQ.do#hierarchies [simpy.com]

    [1]
    Simpy's demo/demo [simpy.com] account, to see the goodness of bookmarks without hierarchies

    • On the contrary, I have over 1300 documents in "My Documents", and I'd be fukked without my folder hieararchy. How could a flat list with search capability help me?

      I haven't used this OS, but the screenshot on Wired looked stupid: Why sort on HTML and PDF documents? Was that just one configuration? I can't imagine how I'd get through my documents without hierarchies. Once I've sorted down to a folder with ~100 files in it, then this search stuff would help,otherwise, seems like a hassle. I use Google
  • What Is The Hubub? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by theManInTheYellowHat (451261) on Thursday June 09, 2005 @11:28AM (#12770134)
    You surely could use this meta-data to make folders?
    It is simply a feature that you can or may not want to use.

    It would almost certanly have work that way for backward compatabilty. Consider haveing a webserver on a Mac with this file system. The URL is going to have to conform to the current spec.
  • positional memory (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Heisenbug (122836) on Thursday June 09, 2005 @11:32AM (#12770188)
    You know that memory trick, where you remember a long list of items by mentally walking through your house and assigning them positions? There's a huge chunk of our brains that's devoted to remembering *what* something is based on *where* it is.

    So for example: 5 or 6 days ago I downloaded a plugin for some blog package or other, written in php or perl I think ... it had a name like Exercise or Expendable, I forget ... Now I need to find it. What do I remember about it? That I saved it to the Desktop.

    That kind of thing will always have a place in my Finder. I like metadata search too, but I'm just not with-it enough to give up my brain's best way of remembering things ...
  • by Chyeld (713439) <chyeld@gm a i l . c om> on Thursday June 09, 2005 @01:53PM (#12772192)
    The funniest thing I see in this discussion are how many people are nay saying the concept not realizing that they already have a crippled version of it on their computer as FOLDERS.
    I'm seeing people complaining about namespace clashes, removeable media, flat file systems, mis-labeling, labeling, and 'lost files'.
    People, these are issues you ALREADY deal with.
    1. Folders, ARE NOT REAL. They are labels created for your conveience in an extremely limited database. Your file does not exist in a manila sheet of folded paper on your hard drive. It already exists as just an entry in a database pointing to a location on the hard drive.
    2. Your hard drive is, for all intents and purposes, a flat file system! With all that this entails.
    3. Namespace conflicts are moot if you aren't tying the file's ID to the name but instead an internal field. As most filesystems already do.
    4. You already lose files, you already forget files. The advantage in this case goes to the "Smart Folders" since you can atleast set up criteria like "Created today" or "Last accessed a year ago" to find what you've lost.
    5. We already have solutions to removeable media, it's called a seperate database for each filesystem attached to the computer which is stored on the media the filesystem resides in.
    6. And the arguement that "It's going to be too hard to label everything" is just pure silliness. You already use either file things by name or by some sort of 'grouping', applying this minimal amount of organization is already required just by deciding where to save a file and what name to save it under. Why would this be any harder under a system with even more options?

"In the face of entropy and nothingness, you kind of have to pretend it's not there if you want to keep writing good code." -- Karl Lehenbauer

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