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I work with many files doing general data analysis.

Things I want to know about my files include:

  • what data is contained in the file (in long and very long descriptive, english text)?
  • is the file downloaded from somewhere (where? when?) or generated by a program (which one?)
  • why I made this file, verbal description what I want to do with it, where it belongs in my data analysis workflow (additional english text description, can get very long as well)

For this, long filenames are simply not the solution! Even long filenames are too short for the full descriptions, and when actually working with the files (perl, awk, R) the long filenames get in the way.

What I do right now is make a readme in each dir with the filename, tab-separator, and the long description. However this solution is very cumbersome as you can imagine because the descriptions are completely separated from the filesystem and everything, the readme has to be maintained and updated separatedly etc.

Is there any tool one can use for really verbose, systematic descriptions of filenames? Maybe even integrated into the filesystem?

Operating system used: Windows 7 and Cygwin, various flavours of linux/unix through SSH and importing X

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You could do this with HFS+ on OS X (Download URL is added by default) without problem. I'm not sure something comparable is available elsewhere, especially across platforms. – Daniel Beck Aug 28 '11 at 16:49

As you need a platform independent solution using the file system meta data systems file it is provided by NTFS can not be used.

An alternative would be a database system that manages files and meta data - totally independent of the file-system.

A simple file-system based solution would be to add a second file containing the meta data. E.g. an XML based file with the same filename appended with xml. All current file-systems support multiple file extensions. The additional XML file would have the advantage that a user can read it in an text editor where as tools could also interprete it and extract relevant data like URL from which you downloaded the file.

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Hi Robert, you are outlining how to create such a system. Thanks but my answer was more if something along these lines exists already? Also, I wonder if versioning control systems maybe provide such a functionality. – gojira Aug 28 '11 at 14:44

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