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Windows 7: Still no file comment function after all these years

21 Jan 2009   #11

Windows 7 32 bit


How about updating your shell extension to use :stream storage and drop Win98 and non-NTFS support. It would seem to be an improvement for the OS and the extension.
To answer the question seriously. I designed my utility to comment files I downloaded. Therefore I don't want to alter the file. My utility doesn't touch the file at all. It gets the file names from the Shell through the IContextMenu interfaces. If you do md5sum before and after commenting a file it will give the same results. In fact you could paste a checksum in the comment as a way to verify later on that the file hasn't been corrupted over time.

It doesn't have anything to do with NTFS. It works with FAT32 also. It gets the filenames from the shell and uses the paths as keys with up to 4KB -1 of associated comment in a flat file. Very simple and easy to debug. If you commented 1000 files with the max size comment depending on the average length of the paths then it would probably use a little over 5 MB of memory. As time goes on with main memory in the GBs that's a pittance and shouldn't slow the shell down.

I haven't seen any other freeware that does quite the same thing. But will all the download sites there are too many for me to search. Their bots just scarf up your work and post it on their boards. Search and you may find something you like better. For commenting every file on the system I wouldn't recommend it. It's meant as a convenience. The way I used it was to copy the short description from the site where I was downloading software and paste it into the comment as soon as the download completed. If you forget what the download is for because you may have downloaded it a month or 6 months ago you can hover the mouse pointer and let the comment pop up.

I see that it works from Win98 all the way through 32 bit W7 as a feature, not a bug.

My System SpecsSystem Spec
21 Jan 2009   #12

Windows 7 Beta/XP-Pro SP3

Hmm, just wonder what this Tags functionality in Win7 is all about? You can show up an extra column at details view and I once saw a way to add tags for file but cannot remember where.

Is there anything known, I think it would be a way of commenting files too

My System SpecsSystem Spec
22 Jan 2009   #13

Windows 7 32 bit

GHad I took a look on MS pages about Tagging and I suspect it's a stream in storage deal. It says it only works for specific file types and definitely not for plain text files. Probably the best candidate would be a file indexer like Locate32. It can track file system changes. We'd just have to convince the developers to add a file annotation function to let users stick in a short comment. They'd probably be reluctant to break working code though. The only 3rd party annotator I remember is something that annotated graphics files. It could hide data inside the file without disturbing the image or some approach like that. I'm not graphics format knowledgeable so maybe that's a stream storage format? I dunno'.
My System SpecsSystem Spec

22 Jan 2009   #14

Windows 7 Beta/XP-Pro SP3

Thanks for looking into it. I'll try a bit around and report back...

My System SpecsSystem Spec
25 Jan 2009   #15

Windows 7 Beta/XP-Pro SP3
Heureka... I did it ;-)

Hi all...

After having hours of fun coding I came out with a pretty neat solution imho.

What I did:

I started with those alternate data streams (ADS) mentioned above (thanks) and looked and tested around a while and those seemed after all drawbacks well suitable for adding tiny bits of information to a file. Also because the info stays there when you move, copy or rename the file (even over network). So basicly I need this functionality then:

1. Create/Update custom ADS
2. Search for custom ADS content and present a result

As soon as I realized VBScript is able to read and create ADS files point 1 was no big thing. I created two scripts: SetADS and ViewADS. Using them like this:

wscript SetADS.vbs Comment myFile.txt

I can create/update the ADS named Comment on myFile.txt. (ViewADS works the same, but only show the ADS content). Yes, multiple ADS are possible, just replace Comment with Tags for example (only one word and legal file name characters only allowed for a stream name)

For Point 2 the script called FindADS is the bigger problem. First I need to find all finds with a Comment ADS (for example), but easiely done via recursive search an a folder:

wscript FindADS.vbs Comment c:\data

But then how to show the results? It would have liked to integrate it as search connector at the normal search dialoge, but as far as I see it right, only webpages can be used. What other possibilities? Well as those should nicely integrate with Windows7, gadgets may would work but how to open the results? I little application to dock at superbar with a jump list that supports search? Multiple ways, but...

I dicided to go for a Library in the end. Why? Well, I can present a collection of shortcuts without opening an exploror at the real physical folder. As the library stays at your explorer main view you never need to remember a previous search folder. And the library shows the number of matches at the top instead in the statusbar only and you have title displaying for search keywords. Plus it's up to you when you remove or update the library. So search once, work as long as need the result and remove it afterwards. No need to browse anywhere in explorer. I must admit though I also looked at the Searches folder. Those search connectors are XML files also but I wanted to make the scripts work first and started out with libraries already. Maybe this can be changed later if desired.

Okay, how could this be done? It turns out, a library is just a little XML file with special file extension I can write myself. And a library can be opened in explorer via cmd call and thus also by VBScript. So basicly the script does following:

- Ask user for search keywords
- Recursive seach for ADS and make a in string search against content and file path
- Create a result folder and create shortcuts for every file found
- Create a library and point to this folder
- Open the library in a new explorer window

So the search works even when your keyword is found in the path of a file in your search path or any subpath. I just assume you sort you're files anyway

Okay, want to try (I hope it works for you...)? Let's go:

First you need the following scripts I packed up here (WinRar):

Expand and drop it somewhere where the scripts are meant to stay (I reference this path as <InstallDir> from now on)

Next is to make the scripts usable. I'll show you my way: to include shortcuts in the SendTo folder (Mine is at: C:\Users\GHad\AppData\Roaming\Microsoft\Windows\SendTo).

Create shortcuts for all three scripts by right dragging them to the SendTo folder and selecting create shortcuts. Now rename and change each shortcuts properties and decide for a stream name, I use Tags for example:

- Rename Shortcut to FindADS.vbs to Find Tags
- Change properties target to: C:\Windows\System32\wscript.exe "<InstallDir>\FindADS.vbs" Tags
- Rename Shortcut to SetADS.vbs to Set Tags
- Change properties target to: C:\Windows\System32\wscript.exe "<InstallDir>\SetADS.vbs" Tags
- Rename Shortcut to ViewADS.vbs to View Tags
- Change properties target to: C:\Windows\System32\wscript.exe "<InstallDir>\ViewADS.vbs" Tags

Allright. From now on I can right click on any file and select Send to... Set Tags to input my tags. I can right click on any folder and select Send to... Find Tags, input my search and hit enter. The search pops up when done.

If there's interest in doing more for integration or any improvment, I'm willing to turn this into open source with help of some more expirienced people. Just send me a message. I would also like to get feedback about if it works for you. Thanks.

The folling issues/drawbacks are still to resolve for my solution:
- No deletion of ADS
- No deletion of created libraries
- No deletion of find result folders
- Only legal file name characters allowed as ADS content

Well, empty ADS consume 0 bytes, libraries can be deleted by user and the find result folders contain only shortcuts, so they won't comsume that much space. For the same search the same output folder will be used so this shouldn't go too big. And for the last glitch. This is only because the content is added to the shortcut name at the result, so an illegal character will mess up the shortcut filename. This can be turned of by editing the VBS script though, but I thought this is a only little mess for a big benifit.

Hope you like the solution, have fun, greetz,

PS: No warranty at all, see ScriptHeader for license and details
My System SpecsSystem Spec
18 Apr 2009   #16

Windows 7 32 bit


I reworked some of the COM dlls from CommentConfig utility and changed the design. Now instead of having a central file for a system-wide database, when you comment files in a folder, a comment data file is created in that folder. This has several advantages. The data file doesn't care about the drive letter. The base filename is used as the key for the comment search.

You can copy entire folders. It also has a "copy with comment" shell extension that works across networked drives or on the same machine. It copies the files using shell copy and if any in the source are commented, the comments are appended in the destination comment data file. If none exists in the destination folder, it is created. (So of course for things to work on networked drives you will need file create and write permissions. And I believe the shell copy requires the networked drives to be mapped to drive letters.)

Any machine with the comments can have the ToolTips displayed just by installing the shell extensions. For file types that are not archive types, a button is on the Property Page to generate a TreePad file from the comment data file in that folder. If you want to link all the comments together you can just import the files with TreePad or TreePad Lite.

Also included in the help file is info on setting the Windows tooltip delay so you can adjust the lag time for tooltip display.

The other improvement is the comment, instead of a single line of text word-wrapped by the Property Page dialog, supports Return. So at least now you can do some primitive formatting using the Enter key and spaces to align text to some degree.

With v. 1.71 of TipOff I think I've gotten rid of any serious bugs so it's likely to be the last version. Not much sense doing 32 bit shell extensions when everything is going 64 bit. If MS provides some free easy to use 64 bit unmanaged VC++ IDEs then maybe I'll try my hand at some 64 bit shell extensions.

In any case, check out the Half Shell utility on the Hotkeys
page. It's a work-around that allows a lot of 32 bit shell code to
work on 64 bit systems by launching the 32 bit explorer shell from the SysWow64 folder as MS suggested.

I hope people enjoy using TipOff. It's free for use at your own risk, as are all the programs on my site.

My System SpecsSystem Spec
18 Apr 2009   #17


Since there is a variety of software mentioned here, both for file commenting purposes and other purpose, I think moving this to the Software section (and pinning it) would be a good idea. However, the initial rants and sarcasm can be done without.

If given the OK by the authors in here, I am going to clean this up and move it to the software section, as these little utilities are *very* handy.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
19 Apr 2009   #18

Vista Ult 64bit - Windows 7 Ult 7264 64bit


We also may do well to look at a sub forum or sticky for member written utilities...?
Of course they'd need to be tested by our staff to make sure they work as expected and contain no hidden (for lack of better term) nasties, not like I think these members would ever even consider this.

Maybe we could bring this up with Brink and z3r010
My System SpecsSystem Spec
19 Apr 2009   #19


It has already been discussed before actually.

dmex has written a number of things....and has one in development right now....
My System SpecsSystem Spec
19 Apr 2009   #20

Vista Ult 64bit - Windows 7 Ult 7264 64bit

Quote   Quote: Originally Posted by John
It has already been discussed before actually.
Yah, I thought that would already have been discussed by now

dmex has written a number of things....and has one in development right now
Yep, good stuff too! That's why I figured we'd have had a forum for that already. We have a number of coders on the site and it may encourage some to work on new ideas.
Man...I'm having a bit of trouble getting used to this new KB..nice board but a bit different from what I've been using the last 4 years. It's amazing how some small changes can cause sausage fingers...arrghh!
My System SpecsSystem Spec

 Still no file comment function after all these years

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