It seems that WinFS as a new file system for Windows is dead. This is what Quentin Clark says on a Microsoft blog:

Since WinFS is no longer being delivered as a standalone software component, people will wonder what that means with respect to the Windows platform. Just as Vista pushed forward on many aspects of the search and organize themes of the Longhorn WinFS effort, Windows will continue to adopt work as it's ready.

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I never understood why WinFS caused so much stir. It probably came from the overestimation of search technologies these days. Everyone is hypnotized by the success of Google. Many think what worked for the Web should work on the desktop too. But how often did you search for a file on your hard disk last week, in comparison to the number of times you searched on the Web?

4 Comments
  1. Jim 16 years ago

    To me it's tougher to distinguish uses for search technology on the desktop and internet. Just because people might search more on the internet doesn't take away from the time it takes when they need something local and are wading through files opening and closing to check each one for some particular info. Search technologies should just work, be practical, and be fast and efficient.

    What seems sad is that searching on the internet is so much faster in many cases than searching on your own harddrive. WTF is up with that? We've always been taught that having something local is faster? This demonstrates how far behind MS and others have been with search technologies and it is sorely needed. We won't even go into the whole how badly Windows XP searching sucks and doesn't always give back correct results.

    I can't say that WinFS was never practical but I do question whether it really belonged in the OS distro with such a feature set to begin with. As for no longer being a download is one that seems baffling. Is it going to be that good now that they want to make a few more bucks off it? Is it that screwed up that they need to make more bucks off it to recoup some of the costs? Who really knows? I really can't help but wonder if it was going to hit the specs harder than anticipated but again I really don't know.

    I do know that Apple has done a nice job with their search technology called Spotlight. It's not perfect but it feels and looks lightyears ahead of any of the search technologies I've seen for XP. I've yet to look at a Vista beta so maybe they've made strides with it to catch up. I hope to check a beta out soon.

  2. Jim, I didn’t compare searching on a desktop with searching on the Web. I compared searching for files on a hard disk with searching on the Web. I am searching often for information on my Desktop. I am searching for mails, for texts in a document management system, for records in a database system etc.

    The point is that all these applications are specialized for their type of information and therefore more effective. When Google’s Desktop Search came out, I was one of the first who installed it and probably also one of the first who uninstalled it. It is a useless tool from my point of view. When I searched for a mail, for example, I used Outlook not Google Desktop search.

    We don’t need WinFS because we already store most of our information in database systems. WinFS was just a general database system for files. It is useless like Google’s Desktop Search because the specialized applications are better for searching/storing information.

    We don’t need better tools to manage files; we need better tools to manage information.

  3. Jim 16 years ago

    My apologies for not being more clear. Most people I talk with refer to "the desktop" as that of a desktop system or workstation.

    Also some of this is about companies being there first. Sure, the market penetration seems low right now for some of this but it will and is growing. I work with people everyday who could benefit from good search tools that can index the content, be fast, and simple. So far from what I've seen Apple has gotten the closest to that level.

    And by the way I might have beat you on the install and uninstall of googles desktop search tool. It's horrible. Who in the hell wants their desktop search to open up in a web browser? That is an example of being impractical or rather just dumb. Maybe down the road if desktops go to being completely web driven, we might see it make more sense but for the time being Coppernic and MS implement desktop searching better than Google does. There's been others that I've tested but can't recall the names now. Personally I use Directory Opus for my own searches on my two main systems but from time to time have preferred Coppernic.

    As for your other points I am agreeing with you. It's about being practical. I recall some companies including Apple who were doing web searches in a tool that was not in the browser. Stupid idea!!! Too much clicking and such....just not efficient.

    I agree that we need better tools to manage information but that is going to happen partially in the form of search technology like has been discussed. For instance in an app that manages digital photo's, why should someone always load that app just to search for a particular photo that they might email to someone? A search within an email app that can search through the comments and keywords saved with the photo's are what people would like to do. Perhaps this is doable with Vista without WinFS...I've not had a chance to test it yet.

    I encourage folks that if you haven't looked at the search technology that Apple has done in Apple latest OSX(Tiger) to do so. They're the ones doing it right for the moment. Since I work with Windows boxes everyday, I'm hoping that MS can do the same or one up it with Vista with or without WinFS.

  4. >> My apologies for not being more clear. Most people I talk with refer to "the desktop" as that of a desktop system or workstation.

    I belong to “most people”. Desktop, desktop system and workstation, they all refer to one and the same thing. What I mean is that if I am searching on a desktop, it does not imply that I am searching for files. Usually, I just search for information.

    Maybe a concrete example will make this point clearer. Outlook stores all its information in just one file, let’s say outlook.pst. How could WinFS be of help here? Shall I store metadata for outlook.pst? Does it make sense to search for outlook.pst on my desktop? No, I am searching for mails within outlook.pst using Outlook.

    Now, do I need Google Desktop Search (or any other desktop search tool) to search for mail within outlook.pst? I don’t think so. Usually, when I am searching for mail I already know that I am searching for a mail. So I use Outlook which allows me to search much more effective than with a desktop search tool since I can search for the sender, the subject, the date etc.

    Let’s take your picture example. It might be true that nowadays most people just store their pictures as files on their hard disk. Could WinFS be of help here? Not really. It makes much more sense to use a specialized picture management tool where you have much better “picture search capabilities” than in WinFS. And those people who store metadata with their pictures already use picture management tools.

    The point is that when it comes to searching, any kind of general desktop search tool will always be less effective than an application which specializes on the kind of information it is programmed to manage.

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