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An important message from System 7 Today founder Dan Palka
 Topic: Natural Order (Page 1 of 1)
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  lostprocess (Profile)
  16 MB
Posted: Wed May 31, 2006 9:43 pm
I just thought I'd make mention of a really fantastic system extension written by Stuart Cheshire (the author of 'Bolo' among many other things) called Natural Order. It fixes file sorting in the Finder so that files with numbers in their names are ordered properly.

A full description and download link is provided here:

But the short description is that a Finder list normally ordered: File 1, File 10, File 11, File 12, File 2, File 3...
Becomes: File 1, File 2, File 3, ..., File 11, File 12

The download is a Compact Pro archive (which took me a minute to figure out how to decompress.) Perhaps it's worth mirroring?
  dpaanlka (Profile)
  1024 MB
Posted: Thu Jun 01, 2006 3:44 am
Actually, listing files like that is the correct way to do so. This is why putting zeros in front of numbers exists. Anybody that works with many numbered files, whether digital or physical, will tell you this.

File 001
File 002
File 010
File 011
File 012
File 102

That is how you're supposed to number things. The *natural order* does not work when you are alphabetizing numbers.

It is good practice to learn to number your files in the correct way, rather than modify your computer to display them in an incorrect way.
  lostprocess (Profile)
  16 MB
Posted: Thu Jun 01, 2006 7:36 pm
I am someone who works with many numbered files, both digital and physical, and I simply disagree that listing a file named "File 10" after "File 1" but before "File 2" is correct. You can say that it's correct according to the intended algorithm, which is one that you may prefer, but it drives me batty and violates my expectations. Mac OS X does not behave this way and it's something that always irked me about the Classic Mac OS, which is why I find Natural Order so pleasant.

Leading zeros have the effect of right-aligning the value in a list, for readability, as well as communicating the magnitude of a sequence. There are plenty of circumstances where this is useful and expected. The trouble with leading zeros is that you have to know roughly how many files you expect to have, and if you overrun that number, you have to revise everything to keep it neat. And, in my opinion, they just don't look as nice (but that's just my opinion.)

Luckily, Natural Order doesn't interfere with how leading zero lists sort. And if you like what it does (a fair conditional) it'll order your other lists according to the reasonable expectation that 10 comes after 9, not 1. I'm not trying to convert anyone, I just think it's a really useful extension that's very solidly implemented.

(Also, it's worth mentioning, it does its magic when the number is at the beginning of the file name, as in, '1 - My Song.mp3')
  dpaanlka (Profile)
  1024 MB
Posted: Thu Jun 01, 2006 7:56 pm
lostprocess wrote:

I am someone who works with many numbered files, both digital and physical, and I simply disagree that listing a file named "File 10" after "File 1" but before "File 2" is correct.

Well, regardless of what you or I prefer, File 10 after File 1 but before File 2 is still the correct alphabetic way of ordering files.

The link is there if anyone wants to download it and use it. I tend to be very leery of extensions and control panels that modify a huge part of the OS to fix a very minor "problem" that isn't even considered a problem to many, so will probably not feature that on the main site.

Same applies to Kaleidoscope, Sleeper, etc...
  lostprocess (Profile)
  16 MB
Posted: Thu Jun 01, 2006 8:46 pm
You're right, I didn't mean to suggest the Mac OS sort algorithm contains a bug, only that the algorithm it applies is inelegant in its treatment of numbers. Whether that algorithm is appropriate or dumb is, perhaps, a matter of taste.

However, one of the points I wanted to emphasize was that this is actually a small patch of two quite simple functions, written by a supremely talented Apple programmer. The chance of instability being introduced by this patch is very small (and I've experienced none). But your leeriness is understandable.
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