Over the past six or seven months, I’ve been working a piece of software to make my life easier when I’m looking for an old file in my various external drives. It’s very simple but it saves and incredible amount of time. The program is called File Atlas.

I’m kind of a data hoarder. I don’t like to delete old project files after they’re done. I’ve run into several situations where I’ve needed a random file from an old project, whether it’s a final render because the company I worked with are re cutting the film or their drive failed, or maybe I need a shot of a crowd or an establishing shot, like the awesome aerial shot of L.A. that I used for Bionique. It’s always handy to have the files around.

The only problem is, if you are archiving all that stuff on external drives you never know what drive has what. You have to connect each drive, look through the folders and see if it’s there. If it’s not, you unmount, disconnect, get the next drive and try again. This process is annoying if you have 3 or 4 drives. At the office we have over 40!

Over the years we’ve come up with systems to avoid that. Creating logs, printing out a screenshot of the root folder and sticking it on the drive, etc., but they are always a pain to implement because someone has to keep the logs or printouts up to date.

Enter File Atlas.

The basics. How it works.

File Atlas is a program that you leave running in the background and forget. Every time you connect a new drive File Atlas quickly and quietly explores and saves a list of all the contents in the drive into a virtual library. If such drive has been explored in the past it’ll leave it alone unless it’s been a while, in which case File Atlas re explores the drive and updates the library.

What’s great about this is that whenever you need a file, even long after you’ve disconnected all your external drives, you just need to open File Atlas, go to Search, type the name of the file or the folder and in a few moments File Atlas will look through its library and will show you what drive and folder your files are in. Now you know exactly what which drive you need and you know your file will be there.

How it came together

I went back to my programmer roots. I had a clear idea of what I wanted and of how post production people think so the design process was pretty straight forward.

Where I struggled a bit was in the coding itself. I was a top student back in the day and I’d already made full featured software before. But over 6 years had passed since the last program I made so I was a bit slow at the beginning, and it took a while to get over some problems.

For example, I had to rewrite twice the section that explores the drives because the first two versions weren’t efficient enough and would clog up all my memory (all 16 gigs of RAM!). However, thanks to some professional programmer friends and Google, all the problems, one by one, got solved. At least the ones I know of.

Try it out

If  you want to give it a try, the software is currently an open beta. Just go to FileAtlas.com. There’s only a Windows version for now because that’s what I use, but if there’s enough interest I might port it to Mac OS.

I use it all the time on my computer and it works pretty well. Sometimes I’ll catch a glitch here and there, but they’re usually just little things like a message that shows up when it shouldn’t or stuff like that.

Oh, and don’t forget to send feedback!