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File Management is a broad term with a variety of definitions.  For scoping and discussion purposes we define file management as overall user-management of files.  The files are generally uploaded into the target web application from a user's personal computer or another website or application.  Users can then organize their files, typically represented navigationally or spatially.   They may decide to share these files with others, either as information (read-only) or in a more collaborative manner.  Further yet, they may desire to share their organization of files with others (e.g. an instructor sharing a structure of content with their students).



The Resources Tool in Sakai tries to do too much.  It is the file manager within a site, the place for all site members to view files in a variety of contexts, the place users can pull files from other sites into the current site, the place to set conditions for content availability -- it even allows users to create links and in-line documents. 

Basically, it

It does so much that it

is very

can be difficult to know how to

do anything.  It is the "stretch armstrong" of tools

accomplish the particular task in view.  General consensus is that the functionality needs to be chunked out in different ways and the UI generally simplified.  The Resources Tool is also challenged by several usability issues for specific interactions.   Those details will be fleshed out through the work of this project.  For some examples, check out Allison's UX Walkthrough which focused on the Resources tool.


File management is a common activity and


users have expectations based on their experience with their personal computers and the desktop metaphor.


Do users really think of a file uploaded from an external place differently than content created within the system?  Where this gets particularly tricky is if we allow users to display files in-line.  For instance, an instructor uploads a PDF of their syllabus and it displays directly on the page.  Is this different than if they created the syllabus within the tool using a wysiwyg editor for instance?


Sarah Windsor - Primary Persona


Sarah would like to use some of the class material from a previous class she taught.  She had a Sakai site for that class too so would like to reuse some of the materials in the class site.  There are several assignments that she can reuse as-is and a couple that she wants to make minor tweaks to before using in the new class.  Many of the readings are the same.  She can even reuse the syllabus with some minor tweaks.  Perhaps she needs to browse the old site to see what else might be of use.

Sharing files with colleagues

Sarah would like to circulate a draft of a paper to a few trusted colleagues before submitting it for publication. She doesn't want to create an entire site for this limited purpose, she simply wants to surface it for a particular group of people to read temporarily, and get some comments that she can incorporate.

Display syllabus content in-line 

Sarah has already created her syllabus.  It's currently a pdf.  She would like the content of the pdf to be displayed on the page when students visit the Syllabus tool.

Providing feedback

Sarah has several graduate students working under her, is thesis advisor to another, and common interactions with all of them include reviewing proposals and drafts of their work, which are returned to them with either informal comments and suggestions or even formal approval. They aren't graded like homework and quizzes, but it's still valuable to have these copies and a history of these interactions.

Spin-off copies for others to edit

Sarah has a favorite assignment she delivers every semester, where she circulates a template of a sample case study and then asks students to devise their own in their groups, working from the sample.  She wants to keep her original file available and inviolate for future classes, but also wants the students to just be able to take their own copy of it and begin to edit it collaboratively within their groups.

Profile: promotion and tenure

Sarah needs to keep a close eye on her career progress toward promotion and tenure, and wants to keep track of her publications, conference presentations, course evaluations, and any other details that she knows the review committee will factor into account. She'd also like to have it arranged in a presentable form with a fixed URL that she could distribute.

Assessing Teamwork

Sarah has her class work on projects in teams, all working on the same document.  To gauge the contributions of team members, she wants to see the document edits made, and by who, each time a change is made to the file in Sakai.

More scenarios to come...


  • Personal file manager available from anywhere in application.  Main home is probably within My Workspace.
  • The file manager allows users to view their files in a navigation or spatial view; with details and without
  • User can drag and drop into, out of and within.  
  • Tagging for files allows users to find files via their tags and others tags.  They can search or browse by previous tags (a.k.a. tag cloud).  Standard known metadata could be auto-tagged.  System knows the difference between my tag and others tags.
  • Robust search that not only searches meta-data tags but also document content.  It should be simple by default (think Google) but allow users define searches at a fairly granular level.

Possible Components

File Uploader

  • Allow users to upload files directly into their file manager and in the context of other activities or working in other tools.  While creating a wiki page, allow the user to upload a file.  The file should then be accessible from within that same context and from their file manager.



  • How does synching work?  If user accesses the file from within the tool and makes changes,  

File Management Views

a.k.a Mac Finder or Windows Explorer

Allow users to have several views on their files.  Sometimes a hieararchical tree and folder structure will work best and others user will want to see the items spatially.  Allow users to "drag and drop" files around for organization (reorganizer component).

File Manager

Rather than views described above is there a component that includes more robust functionality like search,  add & delete files, etc?

File Management Fleshing Out at Summit meeting

  • Getting files in
    • create / retain linkages
    • upload once, use in multiple locations -- sometimes should remain "as one file", sometimes new location is the base of something new
    • upload many at once - making web-dav easier -- bookmarklet (delicious one click to add files to my space)
    • Upload happens in context of other activities / workflows
    • Upload to general file space
    • Connections between file space and in context
    • assign information important to me about my files (context, tags, etc.)
  • Organization of my files (personal resource management)
    • manipulating
    • rearranging
    • slicing them up in various ways -- make structure match use (by topic for course for instance)
  • Sharing files as information (read-only)
    • across my course, across courses or projects, between courses and projects
    • with certain groups of people in specific contexts
      • subset or site participants
      • group of people not associated with sites and/or system (not logged in)
    • I decide how I share -- rules for sharing -- how & when
  • System representation of a file
    • how is it displayed to me
    • how it is displayed to others
    • what other information it shows me about the file (metadata, tags, auto-tags -- what course have I used it in, when last updated, etc.)
  • Collaboration 
    • I "own" the file versus share ownership / management with others

 Design Goals

  • System understands how I think about files and handles them appropriately
    • View images as thumbnails
    • Hiearchical and detail views of files
    • Display file contents in-line on page
  • Performance
    • If I can do it quicker outside the system than I will
    • File organization on the desktop
    • Web-dav performance issues
    • Web-dav getting started requirements overwhelming

 Next Steps

  • Talk to users
  • Flesh out use cases for problem spaces
  • Identify Components and prioritize
  • Choose 1 or 2 and form multi-disciplinary team around them
  • Allow instructors to display files in a customized display or display, and eventually integrate this display with links to other tools, so that navigation can becoem more lesson-centric and less tool-centric. See A Blue-sky Vision of the Resources Viewer.

File Management Component Ideas

Include Page
File Management Component Ideas
File Management Component Ideas

Next Steps 

  • Review content management contextual inquiry worksheet and iterate
  • Create overall project plan including short & long term
    • Sakai 2.6
    • Sakai conference meet-up with file management & navigation

Other resources

Sakai Resources WG confluence space:

Summit Post-it Page

See File Management Artifacts from Summit Meeting

Fluid/Resources Post-Conference Meeting, December 7 2007

Fluid and Resources December 2007