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WinFS: Microsoft's Data Management Vision

XML Metadata Take On The Clipboard

This shortcoming isn't only obvious when hunting for data from non-Windows applications, such as CRM solutions. Windows XP searches are invariably file-based, as structured organization of data(sets) is currently not possible. As a result, the user - regardless of the number of proprietary applications - has access to a raft of different, sometimes competing search technologies. That, at least, is the status quo.

WinFS seeks to unify the organization and research of required data. The first solution to this is a multidimensional data index based on flexible criteria. XML arguments, which Windows adds to each file, are used. These metadata go way beyond what is currently understood by indexing. Which information is supplied on a file besides storage location, size, user and creation date is determined by the system and the user. Criteria that mark out data according to content are the real boon here. Windows will also reportedly be able to recognize semantic relationships and thus will no longer treat files as isolated elements. For example, the next-generation of Windows will not only list the hits for a full-text search, but also will group them according to relevance and provide document previews. And, ideally, the user will be presented with corresponding contacts, tables, network and Internet links all in one go.

The vision is an operating system in the shape of a relational database that considers all stored information as records. This brave new digital world doesn't come without a few limitations, however. For incorporation into the progressive indexing procedure, Windows can only use metadata on those file formats that the system recognizes and can handle. To return to the example above: non-Windows file formats will not automatically be referenced via metadata. The old failings of the clipboard and the search have metamorphosed into new ones - so long as developers and administrators don't turn to their own solutions for succor.