Friday Rant: Why does Windows still place so much importance on filenames?

Summary:The title says it all really. Why is it that Windows still place so much importance on filenames.

The title says it all really. Why is it that Windows still place so much importance on filenames.

Take the following example - sorting out digital snaps. These are usually automatically given daft filenames such as IMG00032.JPG at the time they are stored by the camera. In an ideal world you'd only ever have one IMG00032.JPG on your entire system, but the world is far from perfect. Your camera might decide to restart its numbering system, or you might have two cameras using the same naming format. What happens then?

Well, you're then down to using other information such as date modified, file size and so on ... but this means that if you're carrying out an operating such as a mass file consolidation and putting all your photos in one place, then you're having to decide on the spot, based on information given to you in a dialog box, whether a file that you're copying/moving to a particular location is the same as a file that's already there? If there's only one duplicate it's not too bad, if you have dozens, it becomes a major pain in the rear.

Why? Why is the filename the deciding factor? Why not something more unique? Something like a checksum? This way the operating system could decide is two files really are identical or not, and replace the file if it's a copy, or create a copy if they are different. This would save time, and dramatically reduce the likelihood of data loss through overwriting.

Here's an example. I might have two files in separate folders called recipe.txt, but one is a recipe for a pumpkin pie, and the other for apple pie. OK, it was dumb of me to give the files the same name, but it's in situations like this that the OS should be helping me, not hindering me and making me pay for my stupidity. After all, Windows knows, without asking me, that the files, even if they are the same size and created at exactly the same time, are different. Why does Windows need to ask me what to do? Sure, it doesn't solve all problems, but it's a far better solution than clinging to the notion of filenames as being the best metric by which to judge whether files are identical or not.

Come on Microsoft, give us an operating system that's capable of handling files intelligently.

Note: By the way, the "why?" is a rhetorical question - the reason is legacy.

Topics: Operating Systems, Software, Windows

About

Adrian Kingsley-Hughes is an internationally published technology author who has devoted over a decade to helping users get the most from technology -- whether that be by learning to program, building a PC from a pile of parts, or helping them get the most from their new MP3 player or digital camera.Adrian has authored/co-authored technic... Full Bio

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