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Fill your folders

A modification to contemporary operating systems
  [vote for,

Many contemporary operating systems of modern computing devices and phones use a metaphor for hiding the vast amounts of files there are there and only showing you selected files that have a certain identifying attribute in common with each other and not the rest of the files on the device. They use an artificial illusory concept of a “folder”, which is what people used to use when we had paper, not only to keep related papers near each other but mainly to hide their incompleteness from our progress so that we have a good excuse to not actually do the work. So the modern OS draws you a little picture of a folder, which is nice.

However, a real folder is apparent when there is almost nothing in there — it is thin, and a folder with lots in there is fat. That’s obvious. We can almost spot an empty folder because it’s so thin, we can identify a full folder because it’s so fat. It acts as a useful extra layer of information before we even choose the folder to examine. This information is not generally afforded by modern OSs. Yes, there’s perhaps textual or numeric information alongside, if you set it that way, but that requires the brain to be in a different mode — the OS has already levered the current mode of staring at cute pictures. The brain isn’t also in ‘critically identify glyphs that form words or numbers and evaluate their meaning or value’ mode at the same time.

Why not have the folder icons “fill up” as if they are full of liquid. We are used to progress bars “filling up” (although sideways), so this is a readily adaptable affordance that everyone will identify without being taught.

Empty folders are the colour of the folder (usually a default). Folders with quite a lot in there will have what resembles a feint liquid in there, as if you’re also looking at the container held up to the light, filled up to a certain point (this might be metaphorically scaled on various similar but not identical measurements — overall data load / size of docs; sheer quantity of individual docs; or perhaps percentage of use compared with the biggest folder usage in the computer at the time; or just some made up “popularity” or “interestedability” scaling).

At its least utility, it becomes just another non-lingual aid to identification or location, in usage.

Ian Tindale, Jun 20 2010

Real Nesting Files Real_20Nesting_20Files
Sort of the inverse of this idea [csea, Jun 20 2010]


       "Let me have folders about me that are fat;
Sleek-headed folders and such as sleep o' nights:
Yond Doc has a lean and hungry look;
It thinks too much: such files are dangerous"

       Apologies to The Bard
xenzag, Jun 20 2010

       Why not just have the folder icons fill up with papers?
DrWorm, Jun 20 2010

       + this is an awesome idea!! (kind of like the Recylce Bin showing papers or no papers...)
xandram, Jun 21 2010

       I like it, but would want to think more about how to deal with recursive folders - and even more trickily, links/shortcuts/aliases - where there is more than one way to navigate to the same folder.   

       I think the underlying issue (and this is something I think you've touched on before Ian) is the failure of the metaphor. A computer directory structure is a map, or a method of navigating a taxonomy, a file/ folder is a shallow implementation of another such navigational interface that we find in the real world, but it only 'works' for structures of 2 dimensions - i.e. for files, that reside in folders - any additional complexity and the metaphor is stretched.   

       A different/alternate concept is of the file/directory (as opposed to file/folder). It's not quite as real-world, but I have seen actual implementations of directories of directories.
zen_tom, Jun 21 2010

       To be fair, it's fairly recently that they've begun to be referred to as "folders". Historically, they've been called "directories".   

       If we're adapting the graphics, then folders containing other folders can look like expanding folders or turn into filing cabinet drawers.
phoenix, Jun 21 2010

       this is baked ... can't find a link ... but I've seen this idea approx 5 years ago. The trouble is getting this main stream ...
ixnaum, Jun 23 2010

       That should be easy — give it to BP to keep secret.
Ian Tindale, Jun 23 2010

       We're laughing at you, not with you. Poor little humans, trapped in their little seven-dimensional Universe....
8th of 7, Jun 23 2010

       There's a problem with relativity here. One folder might have a single, small file, another may have dozens of also small files, another may have hundreds of quite large files, another may have a few humongous files.   

       Does your suggested scheme indicate the number of files in the folder, or the cumulative size of all files in the folder, and how does it indicate recursion?   

       Of course this all relates directly to the filesystem and the way the OS tries to map its storage system to something mere humans might understand.   

       The metaphor is already stretched beyond usefulness: a "file" can be notionally 'stored' in multpile 'folders' thanks to shortcuts. A 'document' may be accessed through many different routes, and the OS can display lists of 'files' matching many criteria, regardless of their position in the filesystem, thanks to search functionality and indexing, tagging, etc.
Tulaine, Jun 23 2010

       Maybe what will prevail in the future is “dividers” that go between files, rather than “folders” that contain files.
Ian Tindale, Jun 23 2010

       I think Amiga OS used "fat folders" if my memory is correct..
simonj, Jun 24 2010


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