The function and future of the folder

Whitham, Roger Denis Redmayne and Cruickshank, Leon (2017) The function and future of the folder. Interacting with Computers, 29 (5). 629–647. ISSN 0953-5438

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Folders are a commonplace metaphor in computing environments, constituting a link to physical work materials and are a key means for individuals to impose order on their digital work materials. This paper presents the findings of a novel qualitative study examining folder use by 12 information workers, using logging to accurately capture how folders were used in individual everyday work over 6 weeks, and challenging participants to work without using folders. Through observation and interviews, the study provides new descriptions of how folders are used and the dependence some study participants had on their folders to think and create, as well as to access files. The findings call into question whether search and recency-based lists of files could fulfil the functional role of folders, identified as key means for individuals to construct and specialize their work environments. Implications are discussed for document management tools, and more generally for operating system design.

Item Type:
Journal Article
Journal or Publication Title:
Interacting with Computers
Additional Information:
This is a pre-copy-editing, author-produced PDF of an article accepted for publication in Interacting with Computers following peer review. The definitive publisher-authenticated version Roger Whitham, Leon Cruickshank; The Function and Future of the Folder. Interact Comput 2017 1-19. doi: 10.1093/iwc/iww042 is available online at:
Uncontrolled Keywords:
?? information retrievaldocument managementinteraction paradigms hci theoryconcepts and modelshci design and evaluation methodshci theory, concepts and methodssoftwarehuman-computer interaction ??
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Deposited On:
27 Mar 2017 09:26
Last Modified:
22 Nov 2023 00:31