I hope I can describe this clearly…
Yesterday I watched a co-worker as she sorted through some of her (hardcopy) files looking for a particular document. As she flipped through her papers I noticed that she had multiple copies of some documents, such as e-mails and memos. Each memo copy was attached to a different document or set of documents stored in different folders. Let me explain by example:
A Memo contained instructions to mail copies of a Document, a Letter, and Presentation Notes. The Document, Letter, and Presentation Notes were each to be mailed to different groups of people. For whatever reason, the Document, Letter, and Presentation Notes needed to be stored in different folders. Wanting to keep track of which items were sent to whom and when, she paperclipped a copy of the Memo to each of the items. She also stored the original Memo in a special memos folder. In addition, she attached a copy of the Letter to the Document and the Presentation Notes. She wanted to attached a copy of each item to every other item, but that was just way too much paper.
This technique was handy for my co-worker because it created a paper trail she could follow at some point in the future that would help her trace her steps. It shows which of her paper files are associated with each other, and why. Likewise, it would help a new person in her position, once she leaves, to know when and why certain actions were taken.
I started thinking: this sort of a system would be really handy on the computer. It would be great if you could associate files with each other (“paper clip” them to each other) to help trace your steps long after you’ve forgotten how or why you did something. It would also help if you forgot what you named a file, but you knew that you created it in conjunction with another file that you do remember the name of. I don’t actually want multiple copies of individual files. Instead, I envision a context menu (right-click on Windows) with an option to “View Paperclipped Files,” which would open a folder showing all the files associated with the file you’re interested in, and how those files are paperclipped to each other. Ideally the system should work not only with standard files and folders, but with things like individual e-mails, calendar entries, executables, web page bookmarks, and more. Paperclipping two files should be really simple, such as by dragging one icon over another. (Yeah, I know that already does something in Windows. It’s just an example.)
My first question is more GQ-ish: Is this type of system available or in the works?
On the IMHO side of things, would this type of system be useful to you? How would you envision using it? What are the advantages and drawbacks, as you see them?