Tag Archives: Folder

Seeing Your Files in Three Dimension

3d1aThis kind of thing has got to be the future of files and folders so long as we have files and folders: the Innolab 3D File Manager from Adam Miezianko, Kristopher Rambish, Karen Fung, Zavnura Pingkan at Boston University. (Thanks, visualcomplexity.com)

This design is like a ferris wheel which organises contents by their relationships rather than their physical position on a hard drive. Each spiderweb thread marks the ties between folders holding contents related to the open file folder (center, in purple).

The file manager runs on Linux. It’s actually old: 2003, so something of a shame this kind of thing hasn’t caught on. The closest, I guess, is 3D Topicscape and perhaps WinFS, the storage system that was dropped from Vista back in 2004.

Mapping Your Drive

I’m a big fan of treemaps, and a big fan of anything that keeps your hard drive organised (or any kind of media, really.) So treemap software that create a map of your hard drive are hard to resist, which is why I’ve written about them a fair deal. (For an attempt at an exhaustive list of treemapping software, check out this page.) Here’s a new version of SpaceMonger, one of my favorites, which is now officially out. Just to confuse you, it’s version 2.1, but that’s only because version 2.0 was never released.

Basically, treemaps create a box-like map of whatever it is you’re mapping — in this case, your hard drive. In the illustration above, you can see the bigger rectangles as folders, with the subfolders inside them. What’s the point? You can see at a glance how much space you’ve got left (the grey bit) and which folders, even which files, are taking up space. You can even use it as a file manager, since by clicking on a folder that zooms into the folder in question, and by clicking on a file you can launch it. Right clicking allows you to do things to the file, including delete it. It’s all pretty intuitive stuff.

SpaceMonger isn’t the only one out there doing this, but I like the way it does things.


TaskTracker’s Virtual Folders

Interesting how different people get different things from the same software. I love TaskTracker (and listed it in my top 10 programs) because it remembers what files I’ve been using, even if I don’t. Makes finding something real easy. But one reader gets something quite different from its latest incarnation:

…much more useful on a daily basis is TaskTracker because of its Virtual Folder feature. I work on numerous projects simultaneously, drawing files from my long-standing Windows Explorer hierarchial folder arrangement. TT’s file lists enables me to drag shortcuts to those files into Virtual Folders. The Virtual Folders can be converted to permanent folders thereby maintaining all the project references in one file. If the project is a bust, just delete the Virtual Folder. None of the ‘original’ files are disturbed.

I must confess I don’t use that feature very much, but maybe I should.

TaskTracker Branches Out

Just been chatting with Michael M Ross, the man behind TaskTracker, software I’ve recommended several times here (it’s on the list to the left of this post) and in the column. It’s Real Useful Software in that you save time, you don’t waste time trying to figure it out, and in the end it all seems really, really logical. Oh and it’s free.

Well, not quite free anymore. Michael has just released version 1.1 and is now charging $25 for it after offering it as freeware and then donationware. Which is cheap, and you should buy if you can afford it, but Michael tells me that if you don’t the program won’t actually stop working, it will just nag you a bit more than it would otherwise.

Version 1.1 includes some nifty new features which are worth checking out. One allows you to automatically review images within TaskTracker; another ensures that loading the program doesn’t take too long (by only adding newer files and validating older ones) and, most intriguingly, ‘virtual folders’ which Michael says is in its early stages, but which I think could really go places.

Virtual Folders are collections of files you want to keep in one place. A small window appears — which then allows you to add a folder, and to drag files of any type from the TaskTracker list into it. The files themselves aren’t moved, but as long as those files exist on your computer, the virtual folders will keep them in their list, making it easy to get to stuff, irrespective of what kind of file they are. So if you’re working on a project, for example, you could keep all the bits and pieces in one virtual folder without ever having to root around in subfolders or Windows Explorer. Sort of WinFS without the Long (horn) wait.

Getting To The File You Want

Been playing with an interesting variation on the ActiveWords/SureType theme whereby you type what you’re looking for, not go trawling through submenus and whatnot. It’s called 1st TurboRun from Green Parrotts Software, and it allows you to just type the first few letters of whatever file or program you’re looking for, and will offer matches as you type. No remembering file names, locations or whatever. Neat.

It doesn’t seem to suck up too much memory and runs pretty smoothly, except when you assign it too many folders to look through, then things slow to a crawl. Another downside is that you can’t specify what kind of files 1st TurboRun should remember — not much point in storing lots of small txt files, for example, but every Word file it comes across it should make a note of.

1st TurboRun doesn’t have any of the extensibility of ActiveWords, and none of the text-storing functionality of SureType and other text storers. And if you’re the kind of person who doesn’t remember what they name files you’re probably better off with the excellent TaskTracker, which remembers what files you’ve been working with and stores them by file type and date in lists you can access easily.

But 1st TurboRun is neat because it works not just with files but with programs, meaning you can launch any program stored on your hard-drive with a couple of key strokes. It’s also is useful for those times when you kind of know what you called the file but aren’t quite sure. 1st TurboRun costs (I think; the website says the offer’s only good to June 31) $20.

The New Windows And Organising Your Stuff

This month’s PCWorld gets hold of an early prototype of the next Windows, which, apart from the usual ‘interface enhancements’ illustrates what I think is going to be the most important change in how we store and retrieve files.

The magazine says that the new ‘Longhorn’ version Windows Explorer — the program which lists what files you have, and which folder there are in — “routinely displayed much more information about files and computer resources than it does in Windows XP”. There’s a panel in the program that “let users and/or applications associate search keywords, comments, and categories with files, data within files, or objects stored on other devices, computers, or networks.”

This basically means that, instead of lumping all your files in a specific directory, or folder, where they languish, you can give your files dynamic order depending on what keywords you assign them. Say you assign the keywords ‘home’ and ‘flubber’ to a file: you can then create ‘virtual folders’ using either, or both, those keywords which will turn up all files of whatever kind which contain those same keywords. This is called WinFS and in theory will allow you to find related resources regardless of their physical location or object type. If you’re interested, there’s more here on the Microsoft website.

I think this is a great innovation and one that is long overdue. The whole folder metaphor is tired and irrelevant to how we use data these days. However I have some worries: Given that most folk today still give their files less than helpful file names, and have yet to discover the joys of creating subfolders to give order to their hard drive, isn’t the ‘dynamic approach’ going to just make things messier? It will largely hinge, as far as I can see, on folk spending an extra few minutes entering keywords into each file’s properties box. Given we’re able to do that now in programs like Microsoft Word, but rarely actually do, what are the chances of that happening? Great in theory, I just worry about the implementation.

In the meantime, I use dtSearch to find stuff, and it works like a charm. It ain’t pretty but it’s sturdy and very configurable. Otherwise, check out X1, which is on the cusp of releasing a new version. Other good search programs: 80-20 Retriever and Enfish Find. Personally I couldn’t live without one of ’em.