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How do you tag (or even organize) your files?

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This thread was created to answer a question about the way I tag files (I didn't want to hijack this other thread). But maybe we could all share our systems! [edit : just added that part to make this thread more... encompassing]

Like I said in the other thread, after much pondering, I've decided to append tags directly to filenames.

Some of the reasons for that decision are :

1- they (the tags) are always there and <b>visible</b> ("Filename tags" are "tangible" : can see them all the time, in explorer and any other desktop search tool), (tangibility)
2- they are compatible with any search tools (farr, X1, etc.) (compatibility),
3- they're available in any other modern OS (portability)
4- they're not that cumbersome to manipulate (change, add, remove, modify) with a good renaming utility (BRU, Flash Renamer) and a little bit of RegEx knowledge, and they're also VERY easy to add to a filename on the spot (in the "save" window, or in the "property" window) with AHK's help.. but more about that latter. (flexibility)
5- they're realiable (reliability and... robustness?)

So… Some details: as it is now, my tagging scheme is built around the abcz abbreviation system. I actually used this system awhile back, then stupidly abandoned it because of some wrong language considerations, and then came back to it (on rjbull’s advice — thanks again!).

The syntactic structure of my tags/categories is :

1-   "tgs" (a fixed string that indicates that the word is a tag — it could be something even shorter, like two numbers, but it’s not as convenient with farr)
2-   "X" (a capitalized variable which indicates a metacategory)
3-   "abcz" (the abbreviated theme, following the abcz system).

Following this model, here are some tag examples (just for illustration, won't go into too much detail...):

tgsOimpt (something important)
tgsOru (something I’ve already read)
tgsPphie (something related to philosophy)

These tags are placed at the end of my strictly formatted file names in which all “info fields” are delimited by specific characters.
e.g.: “Tags strings”  always start and end with a “+” sign. These characters facilitate file renaming, readability, and other file name related operations.

So, a fairly typical filename would look like :

xAR-.Eagleman,David M.(2005 11 09)__Time and the Brain__,,in The Journal of Neuroscience,,[No 45 vol 25]+tgsPscie tgsPbioe tgsPneue tgsPat tgsPthée tgsPPEP+.pdf

That’s 160 character just there. But I don’t care because my work flow has improved dramatically with that technique : I access everything in seconds with farr (or even X1 or Archivarius).

I use AutoHotkey’s help to implement that system. Using AutoHotkey allows me to :

1- make sure I never ever make orthographic mistakes,
2- never use a tag that "doesn't exist" in my "registry",
3- easily search through my tags (just use "search" in my AutoHotkey script) which are classified hierarchically (easy to do in AHK’s script),
4- easily add new tags or modify them,
5- have some tags to always appear together, grouped ; example : if I write "perl", I want AHK to write : "tgsOmi tgsOPERL" (which means : "something personnal, written by me...)
6- …etc. possibilities are uncounted

Of course, I organize my AHK script so that it’s easy on the eyes and pleasant to use (with lots of commented lines -- essential)!

My only gripe with that system is that, compared to a complete software solution like tag2find :

1- it's probably not as easy to replace/edit/change/erase tags once they're in the names,
2- it’s not as sexy as using a nice GUI,
3- and, mostly, there are limits to how many tags I can append to a file name (I've yet to have big problems with that, and hopefully, the 260 char. limit will be obsolete in a few years) …  Like I said in the other thread :

It's not perfect: file names tend to become gigantic and it's pretty important to keep them under control because of the windows 259-260 max path limit (IMO a stupid limitation, even if I understand why — when will that change!!! Amiga’s SFS allowed 32000 ack in 1998)... In my case, the 259 character limit is especially a problem for documents names — I put a lot of info in there : document type, author, date, title, etc. + tags ; I do that for very good reasons (don’t want to hear about windows files metadata capabilities : too inconsistent), it's extremely helpful. For applications, file/folder names length are not as preoccupying since I don't write anything else in the name but the program’s name  +  the tags or categories.)
--- End quote ---

Anyways, I still manage to be pretty efficient using software like BRU (Bulk Rename Utility) or Flash Renamer.

Regarding the visual aspect & the “folder problem” vixay mentions

But you know. I find that there is a difference in paradigm between tagging, and folder hierarchy. Tagging almost always requires you to search, and doesn't give you a good folder level view, but gives you quicker access to stuff you need. Whereas folders, give you good views, allows exploration, but makes finding things a bit harder. I think when we reach the tags = folders in explorer stage is when it'd be great! (like the delicious extension in firefox!)
-vixay (October 19, 2007, 10:03 PM)
--- End quote ---

yes… I know what you mean. It is a problem. I currently use X1’s ability to save different type of searches in a folder tree, and I do create temporary folders I windows’ file system for current projects. (I usually destroy the folders once I’m finished though). It can make it easier to follow a project, depending on what I’m doing.

I’d actually really like to use “true” virtual folders more, but I found ALL the “virtual folders” solutions that I’ve tried are unreliable : change the name of the file inside the virtual folder, move it to another location in the true folder, etc. and weird things start to happen (e.g. :  tried the “file collections” feature in Directory Opus : I trialed it a while back and it didn’t work as expected).**

Sorry for that long post.   :)

So... How do you tag YOUR files?

** SpoilerActually, yes the best potential solution I found is tag2find (it could also be used to create virtual folders). But it didn’t pass my compatibility tests and portability requirements. To me not only a “certain degree” of portability is important, but I also want to keep some kind of control over my data (even if created with a piece software that's proprietary). In that spirit, I find that file identificator/metadata/tags shouldn't be just lost in the advent of file transfers, file backup, etc. (a likely possibility with all current tagging software I’ve tried). Also, aside from portability, one thing that "bothered" me with tag2find  was that I couldn’t see the tags while I was in explorer (or any other desktop search tools or file manager for that matter) : tags were pretty much invisible unless the tag2find explorer was opened. That made the tags and the "tagging endeavor" a pretty abstract thing... they could only be used with tag2find, but not with X1, farr, etc.

Some of these criticisms might be addressed in the future beta release (end of Octobre, actually), and APIs might be released for software like launchy — hopefully, farr will be able to tap into that opportunity too… We’ll see.

I have modified the content of my first post and the title of the thread to make it more encompassing and encourage participation... as I'm really curious about everybody else's strategies...

we need a document management solution for the desktop.
make my documents a database,
with tags, versoin control and notes about where files are copied to out of the system.
I admire your persistance but in the end its just abusing a crap system (the concept of filenames and organisnig by folders).

we need a document management solution for the desktop.
make my documents a database,
with tags, versoin control and notes about where files are copied to out of the system.
I admire your persistance but in the end its just abusing a crap system (the concept of filenames and organisnig by folders).
-justice (October 20, 2007, 08:28 PM)
--- End quote ---

I think agree.  If I understand what you say...
If I could program and design something better, I would try to help in this endeavor... that's for sure. (It's the kind of project that would make my mind happy -- still wondering what I'm doing in the theatre field...)

In OS X all files have a Spotlight comments field. So in finder one calls up file info (⌘i) and adds space separated word tags. I use &tag notation to know what was a tag and what was a comment.
My launcher Quicksilver, leverages Spotlight for tagging, and this is where things get *cool*. I pattern-match find my file [DENN], then [TAB], then pattern-match my action [AD]d tag..., then type in my tag [ORWELLIAN]:

This adds the tag to my file. I can queue up files using [,] multi-selection:

The actions I have are — [Add tags...] [Set tags...] [Remove tags...] [Show tags]. Ok, I've tagged my file(s), and I now want to search for some tags. In Quicksilver, a tag catalog is stored so I can pattern-match search my tags:

That utilises the core OS Spotlight mechanisms to find my tagged files:

The cool thing about this, as Spotlight is a global and core OS service, I can integrate it with other software (or manually tag files if I choose); for example use Ruby/Applescript/Automator to handle an infinitude of further tasks (auto-magically upload tagged files to an FTP server etc.). I can also save "Smart folders" in my Finder so I have pseudo-folders of tagged files available. This workflow is as simple and elegant as it gets ;-)


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