23 May 2013

File systems

“It’s a UNIX system! I know this!”

It is well known that users have a difficult time understanding the standard, hierarchical computer file system. I wonder that’s really the case, though.

For example, the Mac—from the beginning—taught users how to use the file system though the Finder. The Finder was the Mac “shell”—the program the user used to get to and organize their documents and applications. But when the user interacted with the file system within an application, it presented it in a completely different way than the Finder did. This was always the biggest stumbling block I witnessed new users stumble over on the Mac. This dichotomy tended to be repeated in most GUIs that followed.

Perhaps the problem isn’t with file systems themselves but with the ways we’ve expected users to interact with them.

The screenshot above is not actually from fsn, which was used in Jurassic Park. It’s from fsv.

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