Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Wish list: Pimp my hard drive

I can't believe that it's 2007 and I'm still staring at nested displays of little yellow folder icons, which then open up to show me, of all things, file names. Or I can get little thumbnails that tell me no more than I know from the file name extension.

Shouldn't we be beyond this? Here's what I want to see when I look at my hard drive:

Titles. Most of the documents on my hard drive have titles. Some of them even have those titles coded in some way as titles - such as the html files, and files in various word processing formats. I'm sure that it is possible to make an algorithmic guess at titles (or at least first lines) for just about any file with text.

Authors. OK, it won't really be authors, but if nothing else I should be able to distinguish files I created from those created by others. There are automated (and frequently erroneous) "owners" in files, but that ownership is often a good clue as to the provenance of the file. I want to see that. (Meanwhile, I'm going to start storing what I write in folders apart from what I have downloaded. No, I don't use "my documents." I hate that folder. I renamed it once and really screwed things up, so I have my own top level folder under c:.)

Is there any reason why I shouldn't be able to see snippets from my own files as I browse a folder? An opening line or beginning paragraph would be fine. I shouldn't have to manually open every file to see what's in it.

Most used.
The "recent documents" function in Windows is useless. OK, pretty much useless. I want to be able to see the files I have most frequently (but not necessarily recently) opened. I can't tell you how much time I've spent hunting for local copies of certain files.

Tags. I want to tag my files, and I want the tags to be available external to the files themselves, a kind of delicious for my hard drive. (And don't tell me to get Windows Vista -- that's not what I want, in more ways than one.) I want to see tag clouds and tag lists.

"Like." This may be pushing it, but I really want to see clusters of documents that are like each other. This will be the usual statistical reliance on the imprecision of language, but it would reveal connections in the documents that could be useful.

Folder names. I'm not sure I can explain this one but... I have a folder named "FRBR" and a folder named "MARC". When I want to look in one of those folders I don't want to have to go through the hierarchy of folders to find them -- especially because I never can remember where I've put them. Why can't I just type "MARC" and see the folder or folders with "MARC" in the name? Why do I always have to run through the whole hierarchy? (If you have found a way to do a folder name search only on Windows XP, please let me know.) Or maybe folder names could be treated as tags, once tagging is working.

There are undoubtedly many other things I could wish for, but basically what it comes down to is that there needs to be a better interface to the hard drive. Some of this can be found in google desktop, but I have found it unsatisfactory, generally.


sgillies said...

A better OS than Windows, in other words? Quicksilver on OS X is a really nice tool for searching and manipulating files.

Unknown said...

Folder names:

If you select a search for "All Files and folders", there's an option to search just for folders under the "More advanced options". It's a HUGE drop down list under "type of file"; Folder is in there alphabetically.

Roger Hiles said...

I've used desktop search tools like Beagle for Linux and Copernic for MS Windows-- not quite what you are asking for, but better than nothing!

Karen Coyle said...

Roger, thanks for the suggestions. I'll look into those for both my Windoze and Linux machines (and I do hope that I can someday drop the former and just use the latter!).

Anonymous said...

Heh, one bug in Windows the windows file explorer that drives me absolutely insane is ordering. I tend to view files as a list sorted most recent at the top. It's useful since odds are I'm going to be editing only recent documents or viewing recently added documents.

The issue is when a new file is created/edited while the directory is open it's still added to the bottom, instead of triggering a resort to place it on the top. In other words, it gets added to the worse possible place for it.

Bad, bad Windows!

Anonymous said...

If you don't mind the good (bad?)folks at Google getting access to your hard drive, then Google Desktop can do some of what you are asking for. Works for me.