On the Virtues of ZTree (or comparable file management tool)

Compression reduces disk space (see the Blog entry “Using Windows Compression for Ruby Jobs”), but the multitude of files remains, and a system which uses many small files (any of which could rapidly become a very big file) needs a file management tool. Most use Windows Explorer, but this is a very poor tool for the sorts of things you may often need to do when running a Ruby job.

ZTree is the recommended product – see http://www.ztree.com/index.html

But if the keystroke-oriented interface is too arcane for you, you could consider File Commander – see http://silk.apana.org.au/fc.html

And there are other similar products out there – google ‘File Management Windows’.

I use ZTree probably a hundred times a day. I use it for organising subdirectories, moving files, searching files and subsets or supersets of files, zipping, unzipping, running executables, making backups, examining other drives on the network, examining files at the hex level (often the only way to see a problem or corruption point), editing files (both text and hex), examining fixed-width ASCII files, etc.

As a simple example of the sort of thing which cannot be easily done in Windows Explorer, consider this task: identify all variables in all jobs which have Males coded as 1.

  1. log the parent folder (takes 5 seconds for 750,000 files)
  2. set the file spec as *.met (1 second)
  3. show all the *.met as a single flat list (even though in many different subdirectories – 1 second)
  4. tag all the files (1 second)
  5. search the files for the text “1=Male” (will catch 1=Males too – takes several minutes, but it’s a lot of files)

The result is a list of files which contain the search string. Pressing F7 opens a view pane, and down arrow lets me examine each file in turn.