Is file management essential, hazardous, or a relic? Judging from the comments posted to my column two weeks ago, "Microsoft's killer tablet opportunity," and to last week's piece, "Crowdsourcing the killer business tablet," the question is surprisingly controversial.
Some commenters were adamant that file management is dangerous because unsophisticated users don't know how to handle it. Because these hapless folks ask for help finding a missing document, they explain, the tools provided for keeping files organized are at fault.
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This isn't much of an argument. Depriving sophisticated users of valuable tools because other users don't know how to work with them makes little sense. Educating unsophisticated users is a far better solution, for reasons so obvious I trust they need no further explanation.
The more thoughtful arguments against file management have fallen into two groups. One insists that with effective search, file management becomes unnecessary. The other proposes using metadata as an alternative to traditional file management.
Where search falls short
Someday, search by itself might be as effective and convenient as navigating a well-organized folder tree. If it does, it won't be search as we use the term today.
As pointed out last week, the proof lies no further than your nearest browser. Bring up your favorite search engine and search for "using search instead of file management" -- in quotes. You won't get any hits, even though you and I know of at least two recent articles on the subject. (Well, you might get one hit, for this post, if it has been indexed by the time you perform the search.)
Next, search for "iPad file management critique" without the quotation marks. You'll get somewhere between 670,000 (Google) and 18,600,000 hits (Bing), which isn't narrow enough to be helpful. Again, no Advice Line commentary on the subject appears on the first three pages.