Microsoft WinFS promised to revolutionise the way people access information on their computer. Storing files in a relational database structure, categorised by attributes/tags, would have ended the limitations of a folder hierarchy.
The idea appealed because often files have more than one reason to exist. Placing them in a folder forces us to decide where to store information based on only one aspect. I don’t really care where, or how, something is stored as long as I can find it. I want to do that based on what it is not where it’s stored. If my file is that leaf, circled on the lower left, why the need to remember which branch of the tree it’s on?
Back in August 2005 I speculated how WinFS could impact Building Information Modelling:
What's in Store... What will WinFS mean for CAD & BIM? – RobiNZ CAD Blog 08/2005
The ability to associate data from multiple applications in multiple forms using relationships, rather than disk file/folder structures, seems useful for users trying to bring together the masses of distributed data which represent a BIM Project.
At the time Microsoft described WinFS as:
“The new relational file system for Windows. As an essential piece of Microsoft’s Integrated Storage strategy, WinFS bridges the gap between file systems and databases and provides a unified, rich programming platform for all data: structured, semi-structured, and unstructured.”
Essential? Well, maybe not:
The Fishbowl: We Come to Bury WinFS...
“WinFS is dead. Its carcass is being split between SQL Server and ADO.NET, and the relational filesystem that was going to change the way we use computers is no longer just postponed to be shipped after Vista, it’s gone.”
If WinFS as a PC file store is dead it’s a pity. Are we condemned to being forever lost in a forest of [directory] trees?
- Desktop Search; Although limited to the indexing capabilities they do allow you to find information irrespective of location. Only thing is you don’t want to search every time you need a commonly used file.
- Shortcuts; You can maintain shortcuts to commonly used files but they are limited to storage by alpha/numeric order or by placing them in yet more folders, aaarrrrgggghhh!
- MindManager: I remember the location of critical project information using MindManager topics. They can link to many project information sources and allow a relational topic layout irrespective of it’s physical location. It works because:
- More than one topic can link to the same source & there is no limitation on source location.
- The topic can have;
- Notes/Images as reminders.
- Visual indication of classification & status using Icons.
- Category tags.
- I can filter the view based on these icons and categories.
- I control how the information links are structured!
So my solution to the limitations of a folder tree is a map tree!