Making order out of chaos

Files on my computer have lately been multiplying at an alarming rate, like the rabbits down under before Myxomatosis came along.

The chief villain behind this proliferation of files is my passion for digital photography and this was brought home to me recently when I realised that I have been doing digital photography for only six years, but that I already have 50 CD-ROM and DVD backup discs full of pictures. The problem is that I have lost track and haven’t the foggiest idea of where anything is.

With the thought that the number of digital pictures I take is not going to decrease and that, in time, my office is going to be knee-deep in discs, I have been looking for a way to catalog everything so that I can easily find what I need. One possible solution I recently came across is a program called WinCatalog.

It will allow you to catalog the contents of any number of CD-ROM and DVD discs, flash drives, external hard drives, music CDs, and folders on your hard drive and allow you to find items you are looking for. There is a free version of WinCatalog called WinCatalog Light and it’s available from www.wincatalog.com.

Using the program is simplicity itself and all you have to do is create a new catalog, save it in a place of your choosing, and then begin to add material to it. The cataloging process is very quick, seeing as the content of the file is not imported, just it’s name and its location, and you can catalog a collection of CDs almost as fast as you can feed them into your computer.

In order to make searching even more effective, you can add keywords or comments to any file or group of files to help you in finding them later. For instance, you can select all the pictures you took on your latest holiday, and add a comment to them, giving the location and any other information you care to add.

Finding files is easy and all you do is call up WinCatalog, enter all or part of the file name or comment, or a keyword, and hit the Search button. The program brings up a list of files or folders which meet the criteria that you entered and tells you where each is to be found.

I easily added a selection of content to my test catalog including a folder of files from my computer, two DVD storage disks, and Bonnie Tyler’s Greatest Hits. Adding comments and keywords was also very quick and, once that was done, searching for a particular file was a real breeze.

The free version of WinCatalog looks very capable and while the paid version does give you quite a few extra features, the free one would more than cover the requirements of an average user. I felt that WinCatalog did have a slight flaw in the fact that the Search feature makes you search by filename, keyword or comment, and does not allow you enter a term once, and search under all three headings at one time.

It also falls a bit short, in my opinion, because it has no provision for importing thumbnails of all your pictures so that you can see what you’ve got, rather than just looking at a list. My version of computing heaven would be WinCatalog which could not only import picture thumbnails, but could also index the contents of your other files, much like Google Desktop does, and help you to find a wordprocessor document, for exampple, by a word or phrase it might contain.
I think that would be a truly awesome tool for making some order in your life.

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