File Management

Andy Ihnatko on Mac OS X Lion:

I truly believe that the concept of a visible file system is a leftover relic of the 70’s and that it’s becoming increasingly irrelevant to modern computing. If the idea of opening a window full of folder and document icons won’t disappear completely in five years, it’s going to at the very least become like Mac OS’s Unix terminal. That is, it’ll there if you look for it and you want to use it, but most users won’t need to know it even exists.

File management is by far the issue I see my students struggle with the most. Not software, not programming concepts, not high-level conceptual topics, not vocabulary, but simple file management. Every semester, no matter how many times we review it, many students wind up with a scattered mess of files labeled “untitled-1.” Digital natives who have grown up in the Google era expect to be able to easily find what they’re looking for. To them, it seems silly to think about file management and, in all honesty, they’re probably right.

We’ve all begun to experience this shift to varying degrees. In the early days of mp3’s [^1], I carefully named my files and placed them into a collection systematically labelled folders, much like I currently do with other file types. However, with the advent of iTunes, I gave up that control and let the software organize the files for me. I never have trouble finding what I need as I can easily search or browse through my collection. iTunes has eliminated the need for file management by making it something I don’t even have to consider.

There will always be those of us who need to access the file system, but this an issue that has frustrated the typical PC user for decades. While Apple certainly caters to geeks, the company makes its bread and butter by providing a non-frustrating experience for all. Lion’s “All My Files” is just a single step in that direction and I, for one, welcome it.

[^1]: By “the early days,” I mean the Napster era when Winamp was the mp3 player of choice for every college student