iLife and the Untitled Document Syndrome

There’s a fantastic article over at Daring Fireball about the friction of saving an ‘Untitled Document’ – It’s so true! Well worth a read.

I completely agree with his observations about the iLife suite. Both iTunes and iPhoto abstract away the location of their actual files from the user. Recent switchers to the Mac have a really hard time with this concept – “But where are my files?!” they cry!

The files are there; if you really must see them they are easily findable. The uncomfortable leap of faith comes with letting go; not caring where they are physically located. The files are an implementation detail – what you as a user care about is can you find the photo or song in order to use it. In both cases, an app specifically designed to manage that kind of media makes for a much better experience than a general purpose hierarchical directory browser. If you then need a copy of that file for whatever reason – just drag it out of the app on to the desktop then you can use and abuse it at your leisure – safe in the knowledge that the appropriate iApp is keeping the originals safe.

I remember going through the transition myself and it is an odd feeling for someone accustomed to managing their own data. But, once you let go it’s very liberating!

Anyway, without further ado, over to Daring Fireball: Untitled Document Syndrome

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  1. Posted March 18, 2009 at 12:31 pm | Permalink

    Yeah but can you change that default behaviour? What if you have your own scheme for file storage? A particular naming scheme, and locations to put those files. Where to keep the latest and where to store the archives. Can I customise my Mac to accommodate my schema?

    You suggest I should let go and conform to Mr. Job’s ideal but did he ever consider that his ideal is not suited to me and the way _I_ work? i.e. the way that works for me. I can understand why having a one size fits all solution would be an advantage to a beginner but to a person with thousands of files gathered over the years it can only be a bottleneck.

    I want to know where my files are because:
    - I don’t want them locked into a particular OS’s schema.
    - I want to be able to blitz and re-install a different OS without my files being tied into my old OS’s architecture.
    - I want to move them from one filesystem type to another to utilise advances in technology.
    - Maybe my filing system makes more sense to me than Mr. Jobs.

  2. Ashley Towers
    Posted March 18, 2009 at 5:15 pm | Permalink

    The iApps can be configured to some degree – probably not as much as it sounds that you want to. But the whole point is that you are worrying about manually managing a file structure – it’s not much better than having files in a filing cabinet!

    With the iApp approach – the files (if you care to look, and I don’t very often!) are logically organised e.g. photos are in a hierarchy for by year/month/date then the image files themselves are what ever you want to call them. Any albums are just symbolic links to the same files. I can’t think of how I’d do it better manually!

    I bet I could find an arbitrary picture using iPhoto (an app designed from the ground up to manage photos) quicker than you could using your file explorer – however good your hierarchy!

    The location of the file is irrelevant to me – I just have better things to do with my time than to manually keep my filing structure in order – my computer is much better at doing mundane tasks. What counts is how quick I can find the file to print/edit/whatever. As long as I’m safe in the knowledge that if I ever wanted to switch OS or whatever, my files are in a sensible (and easily importable) structure.

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