July 27th, 2005 • 3:35 pm
Mac OS X 10.4 (Tiger) introduces the concept of “smart folders”, which are effectively file searches with live updating. When you create a smart folder in the Finder (or do a file search, which amounts to the same thing), you get a window with a list of search results.
This window is also, as the name indicates, a folder. As such, it should behave like regular folders. But there are problems.
For example, let’s say you do a search that returns several search results that have the same file name. In Mac OS X (and in previous versions of the OS), you cannot have two files with the same name in the same folder. But you can definitely have two files with the same name in a smart folder, since a smart folder gathers results from several different locations, where files with the same name can coexist peacefully.
But then, a smart folder is a folder. So in theory, you should be able, for example, to select the contents of the smart folder (with “
command-A) and drag them to a destination, in order to copy all the search results to a single physical folder.
But what happens if the search results include several files with the same name? They can coexist in the smart folder, but they cannot coexist in the same physical folder. Obviously, Mac OS X needs a graceful way to handle such a situation.
Unfortunately, it does not have one. Try the following experiment. Open a new Finder window and do a search for files named “
index.html” on your hard drive. Chances are you have more than one file with this name, because it’s a very common one and there are many software titles that have a help feature in the form of a local web site with HTML files, including files named “
On my computer, when I do such a search, I get about 30 files called “
index.html” (along with other junk that contains “
index” and “
html” either in the file name or in the file itself). Hopefully you’ll get more than one such file on your system too.
Then select two of the files called “
index.html” in the list of search results and drag them to your desktop. What you are doing is asking the Finder to copy these two files called “
index.html” to the same location (your desktop). Since your desktop can only ever contain one file called “
index.html” at any given time, obviously we’re going to have a problem.
How does the Finder handle it? It displays an alert box saying:
The selected items cannot all be put into the same location, because at least one of them named “index.html” is busy.
And the only option given to the user is to click on the “OK” button in that alert box, which effectively cancels the operation altogether.
Not only is the error message wrong (the file is not “busy”, there are two files with the same name!) but it doesn’t even offer the option to copy the two files by renaming one of them in order to avoid having two files with the same name in the same location.
This is far from being an elegant way of handling the situation. Come on, Apple, you can do better than this.
Then again, when you remember that early versions of Mac OS X’s Finder offered no “Replace All” option when copying multiple files to a location already containing files with the same name, you have to wonder… How hard do Apple engineers really try to get the small stuff right? When it comes to Mac OS X’s Finder, we have a long way to go, and Tiger doesn’t improve things, quite the contrary.