Sunday, 24 April 2005

Musings: How to produce a Burn Folder in Windows?

One of the new features in Apple’s Mac OS X ‘Tiger’ is ‘Burn Folders’ – a folder which you can easily write to a CD by selecting the ‘Burn’ option. It contains links to the files or folders to burn, not copies of the files. In other ways it’s just like any other folder. This allows the user to stage multiple CDs at once, and keep frequently-written CD data in an easy-to-write folder. How hard would it be to create one of these folders in Windows?

The Windows (Explorer) shell is extensible. One of the things you can extend is the shell namespace. The Recycle Bin is a shell extension. So is My Documents. A Burn Folder might therefore be something like Recycle Bin. It’s even more like a Briefcase, a feature much touted back in Windows 95 – it’s still there in XP, but its functionality is largely replaced by Offline Files for the situation where you’re taking your computer away from the office.

Let’s assume that when you create a Burn Folder, we actually create a real folder with that name with some special properties, and in it, when you drop an item, we store a Shell shortcut to the item you dropped. We should also support copy and paste, pasting links. By using shortcuts we should be able to leverage the Distributed Link Tracking service to keep track of where items are if you move the original file. I’m not sure what we do if the original file was removed – presumably we have to try to resolve all the links before starting to burn, and if some are missing we need to report that.

So, we have a namespace extension, and it sounds like we’re probably going to use a folder as the junction point. We’ll have to extend the New submenu to allow such a folder to be created (I guess we’ll have to use the Command option). We’ll have to modify the Explorer toolbar to show the Burn button. To address a complaint Paul Thurrott made about ‘Tiger’s Burn Folders, we should probably also modify the status bar to show the size of the linked files (i.e. how much space is required).

That covers the UI, then we have to be able to write to the disc. Here we’re pretty much stuck with just being able to handle CDs and writing them using the Image Mastering API.

This might be a fun thing to do. Something to add to my stack.

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