Put away

Hell, yes! The future needs files...

For many mobile users, files are like dinosaurs, a holdover from the bygone desktop era. Sure, they “work” but, they’re mostly there because, you know, ancient history. I’ve discussed this issue for the last 2 years and I usually get some version of “get over it grandpa”.

I’m not here to tell you exactly what should happen, but more what you should want. For me, it’s a travesty that people don’t understand why files are so powerful and more importantly, how they need to evolve for mobile. I want all OSs, including mobile ones, to properly support real files as they are amazing, inspiring, and possibly the future of how we build our digital future.

This is the biggest challenge Apple users are facing as Apple find themselves having to balance the needs of users of their various platforms as MacOS moves ever closer to the iOS way of doing things. Some future iteration of Siri might be clever enough to locate everything the user is looking for if it can talk to all the Apps and get them to query their own datastores for search results, but that's a pretty dicey proposition and I'm not sure that's the way to bet.1

Sidelining the creation of files to an option on the Share menu while your OS provides a lamentably weak Files app is definitely not the way to go. If creating iPadOS had been the genesis of a different approach to the needs of users that would be one thing, but using the Files app on iPadOS is just such weak sauce for anyone who used a halfway decent file manager on a Mac or Windows or Unix system.2


[The Mac...] created the “Desktop”, a temporary holding place for files. People needed folders for longer term storage but it was also powerful to have a temporary ‘working area’ for recent files. The original Mac even had a “Put away” command that would return a file from the Desktop back into its original folder location (sadly removed in OS X). This small bit of history shows how adding a tiny amount of metadata can have a significant positive impact on a user’s workflow.

I'd completely forgotten that "Put away" was ever a thing on the Mac desktop. Our computers are capable of this3 so why can't they offer such useful and helpful features?

[Via adactio, via philgyford's pinboard]

  1. Yes, I'm old. Doesn't mean I'm wrong about this.  

  2. I refer the honourable member to my previous footnote.  

  3. Metadata is a wonderful thing!