Slashdot has a fascinating article on the Macs new Spotlight tool in Tiger called The Death of folders?.
When saving files, you add meta data information to them and just save them – the Spotlight tool keeps an index of this meta data and the files that relate to it. The meta data becomes virtual folders, displaying the “files” contained within. This is very similiar to Gmails “labels” for organising your email. Now this is pretty cool because it means you can now have the one file “stored” under two/three/four/+ virtual folders. You got a bill from your University? Well file it under “Finances” & “University”. It’s not ground break stuff, I agree, it fact it’s quite simplistic but it does address a need for better searching of files on our computers.
Having said that, do I believe the classic Folder is dead? No way. For starters, adding meta data to files can be a real pain. For instance, photos. I’ve taking thousands of photos, do I really want to have to add meta tags to all my photos just so I can find them at a later date? No way. I’d prefer to use a directory structure to store them. “What am I looking for? That’s right, photos from Christmas 2003”. So I goto my Photos directory, events, christmas 2005. Simple.
Also, Folders are necessary to segment data efficiently. Do I really want application installs, word documents, photos, videos, emails etc all stored in some flat directory structure? That basic thought goes against all the organisational processes we learn or are taught during our lives. Would you organise your house like this? Just throw everything into the living room? Nope – you use draws for clothes, cupboards for dishes, entertainment unit for tv/stereo etc etc.
So I prefer to see a convergence of the two worlds. The use of folders to store your files efficiently, while using a meta data “virtual” folder for finding files.
I think we’ll find it’s the best of both worlds.