Tabbles: WinFS Reincarnated?
If you’re looking for a file management solution that isn’t going to force you to reformat your drive to a journalized file system, you might want to give Tabbles a try. (It’s pronounced TAB-bulls, by the way, not ‘tables’ like the furniture.) Tabbles uses some unique ‘tagging’ features to make your messy hard drive a thing of the past. If you’re anyone — yes, even an SMB or enterprise — who is looking to tidy up the swath of digital clutter you have lying around, here’s what Tabbles potentially can do for you…
“Entire app made in F# and WPF…. Inspired by WinFS, or rather, what WinFS should have been.”
And with that launched an impressive demo (over Skype desktop sharing) from Tabbles’ one-man Sales and Marketing team of Andrea D’Intino.
So here’s how it works: You install Tabbles (only 9 megabytes) and you get going. Tabbles runs on top of Windows Explorer but also has its own Windows Explorer-like window. Each Tabble folder is essentially a virtual folder that is designated for a ‘tag’ or ‘indexing.’ Once a file or folder is implanted into a Tabbles file or folder, it’s then tagged for access later through Tabbles.
What’s more, Tabbles also features ‘auto-tagging’ with a incredibly robust ‘rules’ section. Tabbles watches your hard drive and you can automatically set every text or movie file — for instance — to be tagged under Tabbles.
You can even set rules for when files end up in standard Windows folders. You no longer have to do a Windows search for all the movies on your drive, you simple open your “videos” Tabbles folder, and everything that would be tagged as a movie (e.g. .avi, .mov, .mpg) is there. Once a file is tagged, it never matters where it lives on your hard drive. It’s always in that same spot you tagged it in on Tabbles. (Currently, Tabbles supports logical ‘and’ and logical ‘not’ arguments for combinations, and are currently hard at work implementing logical ‘or’ functions.)
What starts to make Tabbles a powerful file-system ‘layer’ is when you use combinations. Inside the Tabbles Explorer window, you can narrow your files down using the tags. For instance, one could add the ‘business’ folder with the ‘proposals’ folder with the ‘2009’ folder, and find all documents that were tagged as business proposals for 2009. I pressed D’Intino about the amount of user-input required to get this started, and he conceded — it does require work initially on the user’s side. But he noted that many companies or individuals using this already have organization problems and are looking for this kind of solution. What’s more, the learning curve was designed to be minimal since Tabbles mimics Windows Explorer so well.
But he referred me back to the auto-tagging feature, and showed that an entire folder of documents — or a grouped bunch of documents at a time can easily be tagged either by a right click menu, or a drag-and-drop into the Tabbles folder. D’Intino also noted that Tabbles provides a way of meta-tagging not traditionally possible with (Windows) file systems since it allows you to create specifically what you want to index.
Tabbles also has a ‘portable’ version that runs on a USB stick, and they’re working on network drives too. And for the coming future? D’Intino informed me that they’re currently working on a beta that will store data into a real-time-database (SQL or something else) that will allow Tabbles to query the database and pickup files across the local network, not just their local hard drive.
So if you’re a business stacked with virtual files and folders looking for a way out of the paperless hole you’ve buried yourself in, Tabbles comes at $70 a license, and a client-server version at $100 a license. There are volume discounts available, too.
On a final note, Tabbles is pretty complicated to explain with a few hundred words. It’s much easier ‘seen’ then spoken about. That’s one of the biggest things that D’Intino drove home. It’s hard to describe all the features without seeing them in action, too. Since so much of this is done with the GUI, you might grasp their explanation page for more details.
But one thing is certain, if you’re a company that’s entrenched with a mess of files, you might want to give Tabbles — at the very least — a try. It’s totally free to test and runs on XP, Vista and Windows 7.