A friend of mine asked me how to transfer his data from his old laptop to his new laptop. In particular, he was interested in the big three types of files on most personal computers these days: documents, music, and photos. “I know where I keep all my files, so I just copy them over to where I want them on the new computer, right?”
Well, he’s right for one of three categories of files: documents. But when I asked him if he was interested in preserving his iTunes playlists, song ratings, and album art or his Picasa photo albums (basically, any of his “metadata”), he gave me the “of course” look. Little did he know the headache that awaited him, none of that information moves when you simply copy or backup files.
I know this for a fact, as I was faced with the same problem this past summer when I purchased my new computer. Like my friend, I use iTunes for my music and Google’s Picasa to organize my pictures. So naturally my first step was to consult your friend and mine, Google Search, for how to backup and transfer my precious metadata. The process for iTunes isn’t too bad but is still far from easy for the non-techie crowd. But Google’s Picasa is an absolute nightmare.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s a fantastic program that I use daily. But one of its main features enables you to create photo albums, which are basically compilations of whatever pictures you choose. By default, Picasa has all your pictures indexed by date. And if you are interested in grouping all your wedding pictures or vacation pictures, for example, you create an album and add whatever pictures you would like to be included. But this doesn’t move or change any of your actual picture files stored on your hard drive. Rather, it’s an internal reference inside of Picasa. So if you want to move your pictures to another computer, you will lose all of that organizational work.
These are just two examples, albeit big examples. The use of these two particular programs extends far beyond me and my friend. But even then, these are definitely not the only two programs which store internal user-generated data in a way not easily accessible. So the million dollar question is, why is this the norm? When will companies like Apple or Google correct this?
It amazes me that moving / backing up this kind of information is still not as easy as moving files. Everyone wants it, in fact, many already think they have it only to be surprised when there’s a big hole in that bridge when they get to the point of crossing it. Apple, Google, or any software company, if you’re listening, this is something likely all your customers want, not just a feature or enhancement wanted by a select few. Make it happen, already.