Tagging File Systems?

I had an interesting in passing conversation with someone today about tagging file systems… which reminded me of my own sordid past.

Before I joined Microsoft, before I was an MVP, before I released Base4, I wrote something called XTend.

At the time I called it a relational file system, but this was back in 2000, today it’d be a ‘tagging’ file-system.

I personally find it strange that fully 9 years later, I still can’t find a viable tagging / relational file system.

See I for one want more than just ‘keyword search’ to help with the ‘finding found things’ problem.

Anyone else feel the same way?

Comments (6)

  1. Absolutely Alex.

    I wrote something similar-ish to what XTend was providing but way more amateurish (I was about 17 at the time and was just starting to really dive into deeper coding challenges).

    I got hold of XTend after I discovered it years later via seeing you on the .NET Mailing List and digging into what you had done.

    I think it’s clear that many attempts at what we’re looking for are just plain wrong but I also suspect it’s the sort of thing that if somebody manages to do it right there will be a lot of "oh course!" moments from users.

    Appreciate you posting this, I’m keen to keep up to date if there’s anything I’m currently missing in this space 🙂

    • JD
  2. Damien Guard says:

    BFS supports tagging – there is a whole book written about it and it has been ported to Linux and still available in things like Haiku (BeOS port).

    The mail system used to store the body of a message in a plain text file then tag a bunch of attributes on the file – from, to, subject, date, priority etc.

    The result of this was a lot of "applications" like the mail viewer were in fact just explorer-style folder views. This was possible because the attributes were indexed .

    More info at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Be_File_System


  3. Alex D James says:


    I’m not talking about supporting Tagging (via extended attributes like BFS).

    I’m talking about the whole system being based on tagging, and the UI leveraging this heavily, not as a search feature, but as a navigation feature too.


  4. Alex D James says:


    Yeah I know we got it ‘wrong’ in the past, but that is what surprises me, namely that someone hasn’t managed to figure out the combination of UI, technology and marketing to get it right yet.

    There were a lot of elements of XTend that I think were good, but it definitely was lacking something, what exactly I don’t know.


  5. mysterious.e@hotmail.com says:

    So what kind of ‘WinFS’ like features are being rolled into the next release of Sql Server? I’m guessing MS will eventually put SQL server into the OS in some capacity.

  6. Craig Stuntz says:

    Agreed. It’s even stranger that you can tag various file types using competing, proprietary formats (e.g., Picasa tags for images). Not only is there no single tagging system for all types, but even individual types don’t use unified tags.