26 July 2012

Single-Level Folder Depth

Apple unveiled a new, single-folder-depth file system in the new Mountain Lion OS. At first, it seems like an unnecessary restriction, but after consideration I think the simplification is a step in the right direction.

Simplification of the complex digital paradigms taken for granted today is almost always an improvement, but being able to locate files later is key. With increasingly large datasets, files need some sort of meta-data to describe what kind of file it is. The trick that Apple pulls is to have app-specific file browsers. This is like having a base level of folder structure for different content types without the user having to create it. Once you've filtered to a particular content type, then you can use a single level of folders. Using these two organizational tools, I can imagine a single folder depth working with even complex file systems.

Of course, even better would be to do away with folders altogether and use tagging, such that a single file could be found by two or more different tags. Every file would have a filetype tag. From there on, it would be up to the user to decide what level of organization they want. For instance, a piece of music could be tagged both "classical" and "intellectual", and a movie tagged also as "intellectual". Then, if a user is in a particular mood and is looking for just any type of intellectual content, the "intellectual" tag would be the first place to go, without having to worry about what app needs to open it or what content type he was looking for. It would also save the user from having to create multiple folders of the same name in each of the apps.

But a good move forward, nonetheless.