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

17 Jan 2009   #1
MilesAhead

Windows 7 32 bit
 
 
Still no file comment function after all these years

Hmmmmm, still no file comment function built in after all these years. I thought NTFS file system had a little 1500 byte section perfect for the purpose but iirc somebody had the great idea of just sticking the whole file in there if it's small. Could've come in handy to right click on a download named zyqx125qmz22.exe and comment what it is(you can rename but then if you google to find it again you don't remember the original download name.)

It would be nice if it was built in to all file types. I thought XP did it for a few file types. I hoped they'd make it universal.


My System SpecsSystem Spec
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17 Jan 2009   #2
baarod

El Capitan / Windows 10
 
 

NTFS, the file system, knows NOTHING about the format of the primary stream of the file. What it DOES know about are attributes and alternate streams. There is no 1500 byte "section" of any file that is managed by NTFS. As for "sticking the whole file in there" perhaps you mean resident files where the file "contents" are stored in the Master File Table (MFT) instead of in clusters on disk. Usually this is limited to 700-800 bytes. I doubt that this is where you want to save your comments.

I'd suggest an alternate data stream. Just make sure you name it consistently because it's pretty well hidden. Incidentally, this functionality *IS* built into Windows and has been for about a decade (give or take a few years). What comments you might store in a separate file simply save to the same file using notation like this:

originalfilename.ext:comment.ext

So, say you have that ZIP file and want to potentially include an entire readme file with it just save the readme content as

foo.zip:readme.txt.

Only it's not that easy!

In Windows 2000 you could just edit the Comments attribute on most any file by right clicking and selecting the Summary tab. This was cool. Microsoft turned it off to "help" the simpler folks out there. You see, since that additional information was not stored in the "file" but rather in an alternate NTFS stream it would be lost if that file were copied to a non-NTFS volume. You'd get a scary "alternate stream" dialog that was deemed to confusing for mere mortals.

In addition, they altered the common file dialogs to reject the colon character to prevent the nifty trick of using alternate stream naming like foo.zip:readme.txt BUT the feature is still there in the filesystem.

Here's how to use it in 7:

Press Windows+r to bring up the Run... dialog. Type "notepad", drag the file you'd like to comment onto the dialog, append :comment to the end of the line and hit Enter. The line will look like this:

notepad d:\Desktop\wep.zip:comment

You'll get invited to create a new file that you can type or paste content into and then save. This content will be stored along with the file in a named alternate stream that you can access in the same way as you created it. Windows+r, type notepad drag the file, append :comment and hit enter.

If you want to make things easier for yourself you can integrate this functionality into the context menu of all files using the Send To feature by creating this file:

C:\Users\username\AppData\Roaming\Microsoft\Windows\SendTo\Comment Editor.vbs

containing this line:

WScript.CreateObject("WScript.Shell").Run "notepad " & WScript.Arguments(0) & ":comments.txt"

Some notes:

The word :comment is not special, you can name the alternate stream whatever you want as long as it's a filesystem legal string. Neither the size or presence of the alternate streams show up in Explorer so they make a nifty place to hide stuff. If want a list of files that have alternate streams you'll need to use a command prompt with the /r switch. Also, that bit about copying files with alternate streams to non-NTFS volumes still holds --you'll get a message about it if you try.

There appears to be a way to restore the old Windows 2000 functionality to selected files in 7 as well. It would involve some more investigation but if there's any interest I'll work on it.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
18 Jan 2009   #3
MilesAhead

Windows 7 32 bit
 
 

There's no need to PM me just because you reply to my post. I'm notified of follow ups. The inner workings of the file system aside, seems like after all these years a comment function in the context menu should be doable for all files. It shouldn't be up to me to do it. Evidently there was demand for it since it was half-assed implemented in earlier versions of Windows. They are indexing everything else whether we like it or not. Seems they could give us 1 kb associated with a file. Sheesh!!
My System SpecsSystem Spec
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18 Jan 2009   #4
MilesAhead

Windows 7 32 bit
 
 

Just tried my freebie file commenter I originally wrote back in Win98 days. Seems to work ok in W7 beta 32 bit. The description is on this page: Comment Shell Extension Note that since it's a shell extension it's only supposed to work in 32 bit. MS has this article how to launch the 32 bit shell. I don't have 64 bit so I can't try it out: Some Windows Explorer extensions and some Control Panel items are not displayed on computers that are running an x64-based version of Windows I'm assuming it just launches one explorer window in a separate process, but as I say I don't have 64 bit to try it out. If anyone tries please let me know if it worked in 64 bit W7. Note that the utility is a "hack" in that is just uses a flat file as the "database" for the comments. But for that reason it's been working pretty well from Win98 all the way up to W7.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
18 Jan 2009   #5
patrickbdunlap

 
 

I assumed WinFS was being developed to replace NTFS but it seems that WinFS is not a complete disk part systems, just a subsystem. I agree, NTFS is OLD and needs to be updated big time.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
18 Jan 2009   #6
MilesAhead

Windows 7 32 bit
 
 

I'm curious if shell extensions work in 64 bit using that MS workaround but I don't want to do a whole install to find out. If my PC had 4+ GB ram I'd probably try the 64 bit but from what I hear you cannot detect any performance improvement with 64 bit unless you have mucho memory. More and more PCs are on the shelf with 6+ GB ram so I guess we'll be finding out soon if any of these context menu gizmos coded in 32 bit work in 64 bit land.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
18 Jan 2009   #7
baarod

El Capitan / Windows 10
 
 

Quote   Quote: Originally Posted by MilesAhead View Post
There's no need to PM me just because you reply to my post. I'm notified of follow ups. The inner workings of the file system aside, seems like after all these years a comment function in the context menu should be doable for all files.
It is doablable for all files. Just not on all supported file systems. Pity they have to accomodate legacy systems and couldn't force the world to use NTFS exclusively.

Quote   Quote: Originally Posted by MilesAhead View Post
It shouldn't be up to me to do it. Evidently there was demand for it since it was half-assed implemented in earlier versions of Windows. They are indexing everything else whether we like it or not. Seems they could give us 1 kb associated with a file. Sheesh!!
But it is up to you to do it. They can't. It would get lambasted as data loss at one extreme or a kludge on the other. That's why it was removed. They not only have given you 1kb associated with a file but terabytes potentially cut up in as many named streams as you'd likely ever use.

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.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
19 Jan 2009   #8
MilesAhead

Windows 7 32 bit
 
 

Quote:
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.

I have a better idea. You are so conversant with file systems create ext5 and we'll all use a free OS with built in comment functions.

Otherwise let me know the rate you're willing to pay for this custom software and I'll consider coding it.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
19 Jan 2009   #9
damoh

Windows 7 RTM x64
 
 

mmmmm
My System SpecsSystem Spec
19 Jan 2009   #10
limneos

Windows 7 RC 7100 32bit/64bit
 
 

Despite the tension in here , thank you , baarod...

I've learned a couple of new things from this thread.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
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 Still no file comment function after all these years




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