Bye Bye File System

I don’t want to deal with files and directories anymore.

A few weeks ago I bought IA Writer for Mac (thanks Stephan!) — the most basic text editor one could imagine. Its goal is to facilitate distraction-free writing. Before being turned into a Mac app, it was a successful application on the iPad.

As you are likely aware, iOS apps don’t expose file systems. When you open an app like IA Writer you can immediately start typing, either in a previously created document or a new one. As a user you don’t have to deal with directories or file names, meaning you don’t have to make two choices:

  1. What am I going to call my document?
  2. Where am I going to put it?

You may think it’s silly, but those two choices seem to considerably reduce my “barrier to entry” when it comes to creating a new document. When I want to create a new document I don’t care what it’s called or where it’s stored, I just want to enter content.

As it turns out, IA Writer for Mac does not mirror this paradigm. I can start typing immediately, but it doesn’t save content automatically and to save it… you guessed it: you have to choose a file name and location to store it. I have found this really reduced my pleasure of using IA writer — it’s not purely about content anymore, I also have to worry about keeping things tidy. Is this file name descriptive enough? Can I really store this in my Documents directory, won’t that pollute it? Stuff I really don’t want to be bothered anymore. I’ve been spoiled. The same thing goes for other applications too: Keynote, Eclipse, graphic editors. The file system is a pain.

It’s not just mobile where the file system has disappeared. The web has largely got rid of it. Google Docs don’t have file names or directory names. Neither do Gmail or calendar. Files and directories are a major distraction.

As far as I’m concerned, the file system is dead. If I’m looking for something, I’ll open an app and search for it. Get those directories and files out of my face.

(This was written in a unsaved IA Writer file.)