Linked by Thom Holwerda on Wed 25th Jul 2012 22:18 UTC
OSNews, Generic OSes The article I'm about to link to, by Oliver Reichenstein, is pretty terrible, but it's a good way for me to bring up something I've been meaning to talk about. First, the article: "Apple has been working on its file system and with iOS it had almost killed the concept of folders - before reintroducing them with a peculiar restriction: only one level! With Mountain Lion it brings its one folder level logic to OSX. What could be the reason for such a restrictive measure?" So, where does this crusade against directory structures (not file systems, as the article aggravatingly keeps stating) come from?
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I can see advantages and disadvantages to both directory structures and tagging approaches but I fail to understand the rationale to choose one over the other. They are not mutually exclusive.

I only started to see the benefits of metadata with the advent of MP3 and the huge libraries of songs that everybody has. My files are all inside ~/Music but while many of them are neatly stored within subdirectories following the Artist/Album/Song.mp3 scheme, the large majority of them are simply scattered all over the place.

The reason for the mess is that while I'll bother to create subdirectories for entire albums when I rip them from the original media or download the entire album from somewhere I'll hardly take the time to do the same things for those artists whose work I couldn't care less other than that one song that I downloaded from YouTube using a converter or whatever.

While I could fix it to have it almost 100% neatly stored within directories following the above scheme using something like EasyTag leaving just those odd files with messed up tags out, I don't really see the point. It is too much work to manage my music collection that way when database-like music managers such as Amarok do a stellar job, including letting you check your collection for the date the songs were added, the most or least played songs, etc. It would work with a few hundreds files but most people these days have a few thousands files, filling several gigs of their hard drives.

Same goes for pictures. Pretty much all photo management utilities use EXIF tags in one way or another to help one to categorize their photos by date, location, etc. At the very least, it will provide a way to create a timeline to visualize these pictures chronologically.

In both use cases, tagging mostly works because the tags are generated automatically (either by ripping the album or using the EXIF metadata info added by the camera) and that is a very important distinction to make. If the heavy lifting of filling metadata were to be left for the user to do, I doubt that most people would be able to find anything at all on their archives.

Yeah, metadata based search would help somewhat on this regard but I bet that it would be cumbersome as well to look for anything older than a couple of months on these users hard drives.

KDE is trying hard to make it work with its semantic desktop without too much success. It should be noted that while Nepomuk can use Strigi to gather metadata from the filesystem automatically to work more or less like Google Desktop does, it actually lets users create their own tags for their files but in practice I don't see it being used much.

On the other hand, while directory structures might require the user to think a little bit about organizing their files up front, it actually pays off in the end when working collaboratively or simply when handling one's files to transfer them to other devices, upload them or whatever.

Sure, database-like content management for music and pictures will let the user upload songs and/or pictures to their cellphones or whatever but that's it. Even people with little interest in computers will have other kinds of files that they care about such as spreadsheets, letters, notes, etc for which there is no database-like file manager application and that's where the file manager comes handy.

One can simply open the file manager, traverse the directory structure that, again, makes sense to his/her way of organizing things, can select one or several files at once and open it with the preferred app, delete it, copy it to their cell phones (at least, the non-Apple variety), copy it to their Dropbox folder, drag it into the open media player to create a quick playlist, etc.

Where the directory structure falls flat is when one needs a file to, e.g., be in two different directories. Symlinks help somewhat but it is not a perfect solution. Here I think that tagging on top of the traditional filesystem structure would make sense. Both approaches are complementary to each other IMHO.

Please accept my sincerest apologies for the huge post!

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