Is the folder dead?

Think about a real folder made of paper.

Back in the day…

We invented paper folders because we had limited space in the physical world to organize ourselves. We needed a way to group and sort our letters, documents and papers. If we had stacked up our files anywhere on the floor, we would have run out of room and never found anything we needed. Folders in drawers helped us store and find important information.

Then we invented computers.

When computers were new, the visual concept of a folder helped us connect an intangible new world to our physical one. In reality, computers were not limited by physical space. They didn’t need a filing system to find what we needed. The metaphor of the folder just helped us make sense of this new digital world.

Today, computers are no longer new to us. We are just as invested in our digital world as we are in our physical world. In fact, the new generation may not even know what a paper folder is — the same way many don’t know what a floppy disc icon represents today. And in a way, you don’t even need to know that something like “saving” exists if things are automatically saved, or the concept of saving doesn’t even exist anymore.

So why do we still use folders on our computers?

We don’t need folders to understand our computers anymore. And our computers certainly don’t need folders to find what we need.

But we continue to follow this system because that’s the way it’s been for years. The metaphor we once used to make sense of things is now an artifact we accept because it’s always been there. It’s a primitive and self-imposed limitation we never stopped to question.

But let’s continue using the metaphor, for a moment:

Imagine just one big folder, with everything inside, that you can command at your will.

“Hey folder, show me shoes.” And shoes appear.

“Now show me only blue shoes.” Ok, here are only blue shoes.

Seems simple enough, right?

You already think this way when you make a Google search.

If you want to see cars, you’re not going to a folder called Cars in Google and searching for a website inside it. You’re simply typing the word “car,” and Google shows you every car that’s ever been catalogued on earth — including a few specific cars it thinks you might like. It’s just one huge database with everything dumped inside, surfacing what you need on command.

Imagine your own personal Google — a database of everything you love.

This is the purpose of mymind. A personal search engine for everything you care about, enhanced with artificial intelligence.

Search “sweaters” and you’ll see only the sweaters that fit your style, because you saved them there over time.

Search “sweaters,” press enter and add “brown,” and you’ll see only brown sweaters you love.

Search images from last month, then narrow that down to only images with wooden interiors. Or flowers. Or landscapes.

See what you’re doing?

You’re organizing without folders. You do it as you go along. You’re finding exactly what you need, with no filing system or categories. You’re filtering, but without the toggles, layers, tags and complicated UI. You’re curating, without manually organizing boards and groups. You’re making mood boards on the fly.

Even better, it’s more current and refined than anything you would organize manually — and more personalized than anything Google could show you.

“When you’re not upholding the illusion of productivity, you can actually be productive.”

Folders and drawers forced us to think in categories. To “save” something, we first had to think about which drawer or folder it belonged in. But our digital world is more fast-paced and flexible than ever. The way we consume and save information has become faster, more chaotic and more transient. Not everything fits into just one folder or drawer. Some things are more fluid. Sometimes there is no right folder for it, sometimes there are multiple correct folders, and sometimes you don’t need one at all. Self-imposed organization, just for the sake of it, limits our ability to stay in the flow.

The folder is dead.

How we work and think digitally is already changing. We are slowly realizing how outdated our old systems are, and how much time they waste. Technology has made organizing, filtering, tagging, grouping and categorizing obsolete. We cling to these old methods out of comfort and familiarity. They create a sense of productivity when all we’re really doing is moving data around to no end.

Of course I still believe folders make sense in some scenarios, perhaps when there is a shared structure for multiple collaborators, but even there I could think of many alternatives today that would work better with more potential than the traditional folder.

What could you spend that time and energy on instead?

mymind is for those who no longer want to work for their tools. They know stopping to think about where to put something, or where to find it, wastes precious time they could use elsewhere. They would rather create, explore, think, write, read, dance and move forward.

When you’re not upholding the illusion of productivity, you can actually be productive.

What will you do with your new freedom and peace of mind?

Thank you for reading,

Tobias

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