By Al Fasoldt
Copyright © 1999, The Syracuse Newspapers
In the old days, I had a private joke. Of course I could find things I had downloaded. They were somewhere in a pile of floppy disks.
In many piles of them, in fact. I had whimsically labeled them. They had such nerdy descriptions as "Cserve v.4.1 w/o dat fils" and "Fract prg wGra apps." I'm not making this up.
When I had to find something I had saved -- when I REALLY had to find it -- I'd flip through the floppies, one by one, until I found it more or less by feel or until I gave up looking. You can guess which of those two things happened first.
These days, all my storage is done on CDs. I've owned a CD-ROM recorder for a long time, and I'm on my second one now. This one's a Yamaha SCSI model that will record CD-Rs and CD-RWs. (CD-R disks are cheap but can't be erased, and one mistake will ruin them while you're creating a recording. CD-RWs can be used again and again, just like a cassette tape, but cost a lot more.)
My collection of file-storage CDs -- more than 200 so far -- gives me a prodigious storage capacity. I was able to store 280 megabytes of stuff on 200 floppy disks a decade ago, but I'm able to squirrel away 130 gigabytes (130,000 megabytes) on 200 CDs. Those 200 CDs hold more than 200,000 files.
Having all that storage capacity is not a blessing. It's a burden. Pity me for a minute. I have to forget about labeling my CDs so that I can find one of those 200,000 files. I have to forget about keeping track of new versions of some Internet program; if I have 60 or 70 stuck away somewhere, figuring out which is new and which is old could take me all Saturday afternoon.
I have a much better method than a Magic Marker. It's called Where Is It. If you use Windows 95, Windows 98 or Windows NT and have a lot of files, you need to try it out. It's the best file database system for Windows of all the ones I've tried -- at least two dozen -- over the last three years.
Where Is It was written by Robert Galle of Slovenia in eastern Europe. It costs only $30. You can download a trial version from http://members.xoom.com/WhereIsIt/. If you have a hard time getting to that site, try http://www.nettally.com/moribus/whereisit/.
WhereIsIt is very close to the top of my list of the best Windows programs. It catalogs files no matter where it finds them -- even inside compressed files of many different kinds -- and seems to have no limit on how many files it will track. (Most of the other catalog and database programs I tried gave up or even crashed when fed a lot of files.)
But what's just as impressive is the number of languages that Where Is It comes in. You can get versions in Bulgarian, Catalan, Chinese, Croatian, Czech, Danish, Dutch, French, German, Greek, Hungarian, Italian, Korean, Norwegian, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian, Serbian, Slovak, Slovene, Spanish, Swedish and Turkish in addition to English.
Where Is It can sort files by name, date, size or type, and it can sort in other ways, too. It can search for phrases that are part of filenames or words that are in file descriptions or other related texts. For example, if you have thousands of files that describe something (other files, maybe) and that all end in ".me" (as in "read.me"), you can make sure Where Is It indexes those texts so they will be searchable.
A bonus that makes Where Is It practically irresistible is a companion program, Where Is It Lite, that is free for everyone. (You don't have to own Where Is It.)