Thursday, August 02, 2007

Folders and File Categorisation

Microsoft's Vista, like XP, comes pre-built with folders called "My Documents", "My Photos", "My Music", "My Videos", and even "My Scans".

They're useful for about 10 mins, and then you run into issues - it stops you from categorising your files any other way, for example by project or by customer. Something is very wrong.

The best solution is multi-dimensional categorisation - being able to view your files by document type, project, customer, or any other cut.

However, since WinFS was removed from Vista's feature list, it isn't possible to do this. But for online storage, like Google Apps, these features should be straightforward - right?

Google gets it wrong too

Wrong. There's Google Docs & Spreadsheets, Google Photos (a.k.a. Picasa), Google Videos (a.k.a. YouTube), Blogger, and many other tools.

But there's still no way to group your files together into a "project folder".

They've made a few stabs in that direction - for example, you can attach Picasa images to Blogger entries, and Google Search in the US now works across file types. But in general, it's even further behind Microsoft.

How it should work

The obvious technology for combining all these file types is HTML.

Imagine creating an online project homepage, with links to the appropriate photos, videos, blogs, emails, spreadsheets, or even calendars. You could either upload new files, or link to ones previously uploaded to sites like YouTube.

The key point is that every perspective - project, file type, author, etc - should have its own homepage, allowing you to view or edit appropriate files. Many of these files will appear in several different places - the author's homepage, plus the project homepage, plus YouTube - but that's ok, because it reflects life!

Why WinFS didn't work

Looked at this way, it's obvious why WinFS failed, and Vista still has those pre-built folders like "My Photos". You simply can't categorise files without web technology - the URL, the hyperlink, the homepage, mashups, even the Wiki.

It's also a reminder that we're still at the foundation stages of computing - categorising files is a basic requirement that no one has truly accomplished yet.

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