Joakim Nygård Archive Linked About

Bucket With A View

25 Feb 2009

Some weeks ago I linked to a post by Alex Payne called The Case Against Everything Buckets in which he argues that organizational applications such as Yojimbo, Evernote, Together, etc. are a bad idea because they recreate the structuring features of the filesystem. I linked to it because I agree that applications should refrain from recreating existing functionality. Rather they should expand on what is already there.

It has become painfully obvious that the old desktop metaphor just doesn’t cut it for the tens of thousands of photos, thousands of songs and hundreds of documents we all store. They are not practically manageble through the standard interface to the filesystem, Finder (or Explorer on Windows). They are not and should not be clever enough to handle every organizational idea. The Finder, despite critisism, handles hierarchies of files and folder rather well. It should not be extended to make it a photo browser and media player (though I am tremendously happy with Quicklook). So what would work?

As Alex Payne writes:

use software that does one thing well.

This rhymes perfectly with traditional Unix philosophy and to some extent Apple’s approach to software. It makes for simpler applications and with inter-application communication (AppleScript, Automator, Unix pipes, et al.), powerful tasks can be accomplished without reinventing the wheel.

I’ve previously written about my thoughts on extending the file system in One Application to Rule Your Files and the idea fits perfectly with organizational software. Don’t recreate the filesystem – provide a better view to the files thrown in there. Applications like iTunes, Together and Tagbot all provide alternate views to files in this way.

John Gruber wrote a piece on how one problem with saving new documents is that you’re forced to deal with the organizational aspect while you’re still working out the contents. Applications that do away with the traditional save dialog (which I believe to be horribly outdated) encourage the user to create more content.

I think no one would argue against the use of a mail client (be it Thunderbird, or mutt) to manage emails. That’s how it has always been and we tend to think of mails not as files on the harddrive but something that belongs inside the client. Yet every mail is stored somewhere on the computer (not webmail obviously).

The point is not to do everything by hand or to manually place every file in relevant folders. Instead we should have applications that do this for us in a way that is both compatible with the underlying filesystem and reveals information on the files that would otherwise be hard to find.