Tuesday, 26 January 2010

TorchFS — New public repository

In the last days I did some cleaning up of the source code and today I published TorchFS as open source on github.

Updates

Please follow the TorchFS twitter feed for updates!

Thursday, 21 January 2010

TorchFS — A filter for your files and folders on the Mac

I am happy to announce the first beta test version of my new Mac project “TorchFS.”

TorchFS is a filter for your file system

TorchFS displays your folder structure filtered by your search criteria. This helps to manage large amounts of files.

For example: You want to focus on stuff that happened in 2010 on your computer. TorchFS filters the given folder structure (“Documents”, “Pictures”, “Music”, …) and only displays entries, that have seen some action in 2010, dropping older stuff from the focus.

“A normal finder view of an user’s home folder”
This is a picture of an example user home folder. You see a lot of folders that might be a bit older and that take up the user’s attention without need.

“A finder view of an user’s home folder, but filtered for files of 2010”
Here you see the same home folder, but this time TorchFS has filtered out all unnecessary folders, which helps to focus on the folders that are relevant in 2010.

Raison d’ĂȘtre

Computers get more powerful by the year and the amount of files we store on them gets bigger and bigger. You probably have files as old as 10 years (or even older) stored somewhere in the hierarchy of your home folder. All this stuff wont go away, hopefully. But we need an efficient way to deal with this abundance of information.

My personal story is, that sometime in 2009 I noticed that my “Documents” folder had grown to a size that was unmanageable for me: it contained documents from several years and — as I am a lazy person — it had no deeper folder structure inside the “Documents” folder. So I decided to try the next best thing and started to create subfolders called 2009, 2008, 2007 and so on and moved the stuff to these subfolders.

But after some weeks I got tired of this chore and remembered that I had a computer, that is more than able to do this boring work for me. And my computer could not only categorize my stuff by years, but by using Spotlight it was able to apply any criteria to a collection of files that I needed. This was basically the idea behind TorchFS: to move away from manual work of categorizing my files and to leave this work to the computer.

Behind the scenes: Spotlight and MacFUSE

TorchFS works by using Apple’s Spotlight search engine and Google’s MacFUSE user-space filesystem framework. TorchFS creates a Spotlight query and displays the found files in their original folder hierarchy in a virtual filesytem provided by MacFUSE. This way no new folders or files are created on your hard-drive. In fact the files are not touched at all, but TorchFS will display a virtual file alias that will take you to the original file.

TorchFS builds on the SpotlightFS file system, which is part of the standard MacFUSE distribution by Google, but extends its functionality to preserve the original folder structure of the found results.

Differences to the standard Spotlight result window

The Finder can display the results of a Spotlight query, called “smart folder”, in any of its view options, but not in the hierarchical view, that can be used for “normal” folders. If you want to know the location of a smart folder item you have to click on it and its location will be displayed at the bottom of the Finder window.

This way you lose much of the original meta-structure that could help you to tell the relevance of the found item in the context of other files.

Additionally the normal Finder view of a smart folder usually gives you too many results for a broad query like “2009”: too much files to get a good overview of what happened last year.

These two points are solved with TorchFS.

How to get TorchFS

First of all: Please remember, that this is a beta release. So this version might contain bugs and if you decide to use TorchFS you will do so at your own risk!

In order to use TorchFS you first have to install MacFUSE: Please go to the MacFUSE website and follow the instructions for installing.

After you have installed MacFUSE, just download and unpack the zip-file containing the TorchFS app. This file can be found here.

To start TorchFS just double-click it. It will present some basic system smart folders like “All Documents” along with your own smart folders as TorchFS folder (Please consult you Mac’s help system on how to construct smart folders). If you like you can drag these TorchFS folders to your Finder’s “Places” shortcuts menu for easy access. (In order to see new smart folders in TorchFS you have to restart the TorchFS.app)

Why “Torch”?

Why this name? I wanted to keep a reference to Spotlight in the name. And a torch only illuminates a very small area and it can be used to follow a path. Just like the path through the folder structure. But on the other hand, it’s just a name.

Updates

Please follow the TorchFS twitter feed for updates!