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Author Topic: IDEA: collect files in a virtual folder  (Read 27376 times)
cracksloth
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« on: December 07, 2006, 01:17:42 PM »

most filemanagers do not have the ability to create "virtual folders".  these are not physical folders but they still allow you to create holding pens for files you want to group together (but not physically move).  this concept is similar to a search results window where files from many different disk locations are viewed together as a collection allowing the user to perform file operations and access the explorer contect menu for the items in the list.  a "virtual folder" is similar in that it allows you to drag in whatever files that you want.  this is useful for collecting a bunch of files from various locations and performing a single action of them all from the context menu.  if the virtual folder supports saving and loading of file lists, then a user could quickly show all files relevant to a particular project.  as mentioned in another thread, if used with "log monitor" then a list of recently added or updated files can be displayed.  scripts could be created that display dynamic lists of files based on virtually any search criteria.

i know xplorer¬≤ (a file manager) supports "virtual folders" (actually they call them "scrap containers").  i have seen a few others but i can't recall any names right now.  regardless, these features have always been bundled with the filemanager itself rather than being a standalone prog that can be used universally and can be customized to more powerful uses.  needless to say, plain vanilla explorer doesn't have this feature (and neither do most filemanagers).  it would be great if users of any file manager could take advantage of this concept.  the most universal method would be to allow files to be added to a virtual folder from the sendto menu.  this would necessitate using a commandline parameter for adding files.  as mentioned above, this would open up a huge number of options by using scripts.  also, with "log monitor" users could get an instant display of any new or updated files (such as any newly downloaded music, or any documents that have been updated on a shared drive, etc) and instantly be able to process those files however needed.

so, the skinny on such a program:

filebox.exe "music.box" "x:\path\file.ext"

where "music.box" is the filename for the virtual folder and "x:\path\file.ext" is the path of the file(s) you want to add to it.

if "music.box" does not exist, it will be created.  the file structure for a *.box file is just a text file containing a list of the files included.  changes to the *.box would be automatically saved.

i hope i explained the concept of a virtual folder okay - maybe everyone is already familiar with the idea and i just talk in circles  smiley
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« Reply #1 on: December 07, 2006, 06:36:28 PM »

That's an interesting idea.
Just throwing some stuff in:
Doesn't launchbar commander support virtual folders? I guess that could be the solution.
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cracksloth
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« Reply #2 on: December 08, 2006, 02:08:54 AM »

are you talking about how launchbar commander supports loading the contents of a folder into a menu?  i'm not completely sure, but i think that is what you mean by "virtual folders" in this case.  if so, this is a bit different than what i am talking about.  i think the name overlap here is just coincidental.  i'm afraid there is no solid terminology for the feature i'm talking about.  i have heard them called "virtual folders", "scrap containers", "temp panels", and "file holders".  every time, someone just comes up with a term they think sounds snappy.  do you think i should re-explain a bit?  i realize that words are a poor substitute for actually seeing it in action.  you can check out "scrap containers" by looking at xplorer2 http://zabkat.com/

« Last Edit: December 08, 2006, 02:15:46 AM by cracksloth » Logged
JennyB
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« Reply #3 on: December 08, 2006, 05:11:32 AM »

Pikybasket does the job of collecting fitepaths and appending them to the clipboard, using a shell context menu option. Can they Just be pasted from there into the queue wimdow of D&DR?

More generally, is there a simple utility to write clipboard contents to a file, or append them? I'm thinking it should be possible to map a file type to some of the more common clipbord formats, and give a choice if it is available.





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« Reply #4 on: December 08, 2006, 06:41:23 AM »

This is a nifty idea.

Pikybasket will certainly do the job (if it's just a list of files type job) for a single folder.

But, I'm guessing you're more wanting a shortcut to the file?? That way you can interact with it via Explorer as with a normal folder: play mucic/add to list/etc??

I'm thinking a group of folders (aka your music.box type folders) and a group of SendTo entries (ie to those folders) would fit the bill?? That would get shortcuts into your "virtual folders", but then it depends what you wanted to do with them?

May be a better solution if your wanting to act on the files from the context menu directly (like Pikybasket does) is a separate application?

- Perry
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« Reply #5 on: December 08, 2006, 08:32:25 AM »

Pikybasket will certainly do the job (if it's just a list of files type job) for a single folder.

My mistake. I thought "Copy Paths to Clipboard" meant the files that were in the basket, not those that are currently selected  embarassed

Quote
I'm thinking a group of folders (aka your music.box type folders) and a group of SendTo entries (ie to those folders) would fit the bill?? That would get shortcuts into your "virtual folders", but then it depends what you wanted to do with them?

I have a shortcut in the Send To folder pointing to that folder and called "Set as Destination" so I can create a new destination quickly (create a shortcut and send it there).

It's also a way of making quick backup copies of files and folders, bocause if you select anything other than a shortcut, the whole thing gets copied. The behaviour you require is:

 "create a shortcut for everthing selected if it's not already a shortcut, then move the shortcut to the destination."

It's not quite a virtual folder. Opus 8 has these - it calls them "File Collections." A file collection is not just a collection of links to files - it is a collection of valid links. Add a file to a collection and then move its location -the link is deleted.



« Last Edit: December 08, 2006, 01:19:56 PM by JennyB » Logged

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cracksloth
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« Reply #6 on: December 08, 2006, 10:39:22 AM »

perry is right.  the point is to have a window that provides access to a very specific set of files (these files can even be in completely different locations).  for example, i could visit "c:\music", select all files by x artist put them into a virtual folder using the sendto menu.  then i could go to "\\htpc\music" and add all music by y artist into the same virtual folder using the same sendto shortcut.  using logmonitor, you could have a virtual folder created that will automatically contain all new *.mp3 and *.wma files that you downloaded.  because this window provides access to the file's right-click context menu, the user would have quick access for copying, moving, renaming, editing, re-tagging, etc.  this is a great way to group files together that you want to work with.

a folder of shortcuts to a group of files is not as useful because you get the right-click context menu for the shortcut (rather than the file it represents).  this means that you cannot move/copy/rename the files.  a virtual folder provides access to the files as if they were really grouped together in an actual folder.

the question is what is the best way to allow all programs to access the same virtual folders.  the best way i can think of is the commandline because it can be used with the sendto menu (or a context menu item), logmonitor, scripts, etc.  The *.box files i mentioned earlier are just a renamed text file with a list of file paths.  these represent the files in a virtual folder.  for example, music.box would be a virtual folder called music.  so if the user double-clicks music.box (which is associated with filebox.exe) then the contents of the virtual folder are displayed.  also, the user can drag in more files into the virtual folder.  or, the user can add new files to music.box using the sendto menu.  *.box files are automatically saved when changes are made so if the user restarts the computer, they can still quickly access the same files.

pretend you are working on a project.  for example, say you are authoring a dvd.  this process requires that you keep track of a lot of different files in a lot of different locations.  with a virtual folder you could just drag in shortcuts to the programs you are going to use and drag in the media and other resources that you will be working with (video, audio, source and destination folders, etc.).  we can call this dvd.box.  now whenever you get home you can always launch your dvd.box and have access to the files you need for that project without having to play 20 questions with a file manager.

again, with logmonitor (my latest obsession) you could create a list of all new/updated documents on a friend's shared folder at work.  or a virtual folder that only shows the new *.mp3 and *.wma files that arrive in your incoming folder.

again, the biggest advantages of virtual folders:
- you can group files together that otherwise are scattered around multiple drives
- you choose which files are grouped together (they can be specific to a single purpose or task)
- it is accessible via commandline so it can interface with a wide variety of other applications

the interface can just be a generic window with the files displayed inside.  the only other necessary interface element would be a way to "remove" files from a virtual folder without actually deleting them.  this could be a button on the window itself or a context menu item or a hotkey - the solution here does not seem entirely critical.
« Last Edit: December 08, 2006, 10:47:41 AM by cracksloth » Logged
skrommel
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« Reply #7 on: December 08, 2006, 08:15:39 PM »

 smiley I don't know if this meets your needs, but here's an attempt.

ShortCutter - Make autoupdating collections of shortcuts to certain filetypes.

Features:
- Rightclick the tray icon to configure
- Choose Settings to change rules and options
- Choose Enable to Start or Stop all the rules

Keep folders with shortcuts to all your music, images or whatever!



You'll find the downloads and more info at 1 Hour Software by Skrommel.

This one could also be made to make hard links on an NTFS system, but that makes deleting your invaluable documents only a click away...

Skrommel
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cracksloth
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« Reply #8 on: December 08, 2006, 10:57:17 PM »

nice, skrommel (as usual)!  it serves a bit of a different function than what i intended but i can still appreciate its usefulness.  good work - you are a coding *machine*!
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skrommel
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« Reply #9 on: December 09, 2006, 07:55:43 AM »

 smiley Just updated ShortCutter v1.1.

Changes:
- 20061209 - v1.1: Marks the shortcuts with modification date instead of creation date, removes shortcuts to missing files, updates modification date of all shortcuts.

Skrommel
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Perry Mowbray
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« Reply #10 on: December 10, 2006, 04:54:17 AM »

The more I've thought about this the more I like the idea...

a folder of shortcuts to a group of files is not as useful because you get the right-click context menu for the shortcut (rather than the file it represents).  this means that you cannot move/copy/rename the files.  a virtual folder provides access to the files as if they were really grouped together in an actual folder.

That's true, but my thinking was that the application that manages the shortcuts would do the other functions: copy, move, write to dvd, etc.

I think that would give you the best of both worlds: a lot like your favourites folder, you can open and act on the shortcut.

the question is what is the best way to allow all programs to access the same virtual folders.

My first thought was doing something like Shell Object Editor would get it very accessible.

pretend you are working on a project.  for example, say you are authoring a dvd.

The term that comes to mind is Categorised Favourites  Wink

Doesn't sum it up completely, but it's what came to mind...

- Perry

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Perry Mowbray
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« Reply #11 on: December 10, 2006, 05:35:38 AM »

A Recent Documents Manager was mentioned Over Here, which is not too dissimilar to some aspects of the requirements posted in this thread.

- Perry
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« Reply #12 on: December 10, 2006, 05:15:57 PM »

as mentioned in that thread, it is a bit bloated for the needs addressed here.  and the ability to add items to a specific virtual folder using the commandline it a must for the kind of functionality mentioned above.

integrating this as a shell object so that it can be viewed in a file manager certainly has its benefits.  i am only concerned that going down this road would require more time/effort than a traditional "coding snack".  i would be completely thrilled with either way.

@skrommel:
do NTFS hard links support files on network shares?
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Perry Mowbray
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« Reply #13 on: December 11, 2006, 03:34:23 AM »

as mentioned in that thread, it is a bit bloated for the needs addressed here.  and the ability to add items to a specific virtual folder using the commandline it a must for the kind of functionality mentioned above.

Yep, I completely agree: just thought the two ideas were not too dissimilar  Wink

integrating this as a shell object so that it can be viewed in a file manager certainly has its benefits.  i am only concerned that going down this road would require more time/effort than a traditional "coding snack".  i would be completely thrilled with either way.

Agree again! Especially: something would be great!

- Perry
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« Reply #14 on: December 11, 2006, 08:28:01 PM »

 smiley For more info on links, read http://shell-shocked.org/article.php?id=284. You'll also find some tools there.

Skrommel
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« Reply #15 on: December 11, 2006, 09:56:52 PM »

so it looks like the short answer is that using a combination of hardlinks and symlinks for files and folders would be problematic because of the inability to target network shares and because different programs may delete differently (some may delete the link and some may delete the original file).  i think this application would need to delete the original file.

after looking up some info on creating a virtual folder using a "shell namespace" (like perry mentioned), it looks like it might not be such a horrible task if anyone is up to it.  this also might be the best alternative given the problems with hardlinks/symlinks mentioned in the article above.  source code examples seem to exist if someone is interested.  but the file managers i have seen are proof that using a namespace is not necessary (but it would be kinda cool).
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Perry Mowbray
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« Reply #16 on: December 12, 2006, 04:11:25 AM »

That was a good read, thanks skrommel!

but the file managers i have seen are proof that using a namespace is not necessary (but it would be kinda cool).

My only thought on that is that exposing it to the system as in a namespace only extends its usefulness and useability.

I'd be interested in reading the links you found...

- Perry
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« Reply #17 on: December 12, 2006, 09:20:01 AM »



Directory Opus Supports Virtual folders under the name "File Collections".  You can create as many as you like.  It automatically creates one called "Find Results" as the result of any search operation.  That way you have all the matching files available to work on directly.

The are some limits on what can be done with the files.  The biggest drawback I've found (and listed as a requested feature from many) to the Dopus file collections is that it won't limit searches to the files in a collection.  It would be great to be able to select a number of folders from a crowded network drive and add to a collection.  Then just search those.

Other file operations are pretty standard.  The only added operation is "Remove from Collection".  It doesn't touch the file but pulls out of the view.  And there are entries under "Send To" for the File Collections.

-Rob

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http://www.gpsoft.com.au/
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Perry Mowbray
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« Reply #18 on: December 13, 2006, 04:17:06 AM »

Directory Opus Supports Virtual folders under the name "File Collections". 

DOpus certainly looks good, but I think what we were wanting was something that sits outside the filemanager.

I guess it begs the question though, if DOpus has replaced Explorer (which it can, right?  undecided ) does that mean that its File Collections are outside of the filemanager (because it's become the Explorer)??

- Perry
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« Reply #19 on: December 13, 2006, 05:54:01 AM »

Directory Opus Supports Virtual folders under the name "File Collections". 

DOpus certainly looks good, but I think what we were wanting was something that sits outside the filemanager.

I guess it begs the question though, if DOpus has replaced Explorer (which it can, right?  undecided ) does that mean that its File Collections are outside of the filemanager (because it's become the Explorer)??

- Perry

Yes, but not in a useful way.  Sad  The only way you can see what is in a collection is to open it in DOpus, where it looks just like any other folder. Outside, it doesn't.

For example, I run bbLean as a shell, so I don't actually see anything on the desktop. All the files and folders are in a Desktop menu, and I can navigate anywhere from there (the shell context menu works too). That's great because I can tear off a menu at any point and leave it open if I want to return there without going down the tree again.

DOpus can put a 'shortcut' to the file collections on the Desktop, so that automatically appears in the menu, but it doesn't allow you to navigate down to a particular collection - all it does is open DOpus. You can't get a shortcut to an individual collection either Sad

If what's needed is it be able to tag a group of files so that they can
be found as a group, then maybe it would be nice to have a way to quickly add them to a group in FaRR? If grabbing an open web page got URL|Title, then FaRR would also make a nice portable bookmark manager!






 
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« Reply #20 on: December 13, 2006, 09:54:23 PM »

Yes, but not in a useful way.  Sad  The only way you can see what is in a collection is to open it in DOpus, where it looks just like any other folder. Outside, it doesn't.

That is a shame then  Sad
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Perry Mowbray
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« Reply #21 on: December 13, 2006, 10:01:38 PM »

Just found this:


from BaxBex which may go a little way to filling the need?

- Perry
« Last Edit: December 13, 2006, 10:03:29 PM by Perry Mowbray » Logged

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« Reply #22 on: December 14, 2006, 10:58:53 AM »

i have exchanged a couple of emails with the author of "My Smartfolders":
http://www.castlepeaksoftware.com/

"My Smartfolders" is a shell namespace that allows you to tag files within your system (local or network).  then you can create smartfolders that only display the files with certain tags.  this is a big step in the right direction but the things that are missing:
 - ability to tag files using the commandline
 - access to the explorer right-click context menu for files in a smartfolder.
    a minimal context menu currently exists but you will not have access
    to the sendto menu or any installed shell extensions
 - when a file is renamed/moved, "my smartfolder" can find it.  although
    generally, this is a good feature, it will create problems when using
    "log monitor" because when you move a file, you want it to disappear
    from the list.  i suggested that the user be able to disable this feature
    for certain smartfolders.

we talked about the ideas mentioned above and he said:
"Currently, we're in the process of evaluating in which direction we're going to take My SmartFolders, so you're feedback is very useful."

hopefully, i will hear something more definate in the future.  if so, i will let you all know.  it is currently $29 but if it can fix the problems above, i think they will have a new user.
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cracksloth
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« Reply #23 on: December 14, 2006, 11:03:47 AM »

Quote
I'd be interested in reading the links you found...

@perry:

i just did a google search for "shell namespace" trying to find related programs but given the technical language i mostly pulled up a bunch of code examples.  admittedly, a lot of the code examples i ran acrosss were in delphi but i would assume that examples would exist for other programming languages as well.  unfortunately, i didn't save any links to show since i don't speak delphi  smiley
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« Reply #24 on: October 30, 2008, 09:34:58 PM »

It looks like recursion is stopping short on my system. It does not dig enough. Is it possible to increase folder recursion number?

Also is it possible to create shortcuts based on parent folder`s name rather than from exe?


thanks


smiley Just updated ShortCutter v1.1.

Changes:
- 20061209 - v1.1: Marks the shortcuts with modification date instead of creation date, removes shortcuts to missing files, updates modification date of all shortcuts.

Skrommel
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