Is there an OS that, instead of a hierarchical filesystem based on directories, uses tags? A problem with directory hierarchies is that a file often belongs into more than one category. Some systems solve this with symbolic links and whatnot where a file appears to exist in two places at once. But is there a system where this is the default behavior? Where all files exist in the same place, but are differentiated and navigated by their tags?

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    Part of me thinks this should be a part of the shell and UI and not the filesystem. Because the set of files that require tagging like such is such a small portion of actually files on a file system. – surfasb Oct 23 '11 at 15:16
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    How so? I see no reason why all files wouldn't use this system. – Core Xii Oct 24 '11 at 7:03

There have been a few attempts - beos came to mind, as did winfs.

If someone was to implement a metadata filesystem it would probably use something like filesystem resource forks (on OS X) and alternate data streams on windows

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    Indeed, NTFS sort of does some of this, too. All files are in the MFT, and directories are just one way that files can be indexed. That's how the on-disc data structures operate, at least. Potentially, other indexes by other MFT attributes can be made. – JdeBP Oct 29 '11 at 22:37

As long as the file system hierarchy is in a single file system, you can use hard-links and your files will belong to each "tag" directory.

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    You can't really hack this into a hierarchical filesystem because you run into problems with filename collisions and a UI not designed for tagging. – Core Xii Oct 23 '11 at 15:11
  • What you are asking for, i.e. "all files exist in the same place" doesn't seem to provide a solution for filename collisions either. – jlliagre Oct 23 '11 at 20:45
  • Well you'd probably index the files by their contents, ala hashing, and allow non-unique names. Granted, that is a bit tangent to the actual question. – Core Xii Oct 24 '11 at 7:04
  • This is certainly also doable with a regular file system. It seems to me that what you are asking for isn't a superset but a but a subset of what is available with today's file system and links. – jlliagre Oct 24 '11 at 21:18
  • I suppose you could add this to a hierarchical filesystem, but it'd still need major revision of e.g. file open/save dialogs. – Core Xii Oct 25 '11 at 10:38

You need not to migrate from your original operating system to satisfy your needs. Give TMSU a try. It is a FUSE mountable file system level solution to your problem, said to be cross platform compatible. I myself have not tested it yet.


There is TagsForAll for windows. It is a file manager based on tags. Tags can have hierarchical structure. User interface is very simple but nice. Free version fully functional and save tags in database, Pro version save tags also within NTFS stream to a file.

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