PapaJohn Productions
Newsletter #103 - May 13, 2006

Managing Files with Total Commander



A few weeks ago it took an hour to talk someone through getting video from a DVD into Movie Maker. Last weekend it took 3 hours with someone else. The difference was in the basic computer skills between the two users... mostly in their ability to do routine file management tasks. Finding folders, creating a new folder, renaming a file, moving files out of a downloaded zipped package, copying files from one folder to another, etc.... all the little routine tasks done all day long that add up to being fast and comfortable with your computer, and being ready to tackle the more challenging multimedia projects.
In digital or analog environments, file management is such a basic skill that everyone assumes you know it... maybe you do, or maybe you're too embarrassed to admit you don't... or maybe you think you know it, but you really don't.
The analog world has file cabinets, hanging folders, closets and shoeboxes.
The digital world started by emulating the analog world... directories and subdirectories that were later referred to as folders and subfolders... attempts to translate our understanding of the analog world in the digital. But no matter what you called them, people couldn't see those things.
With Vista (and the Apple operating system) the operating systems are giving up trying to make the average user understand the real-world analogies... just let the system manage things for you. You don't need to know where a file is... it'll be there someplace. One statement I read about Vista said "... no matter how much or how little you remember about a file, you'll be able to find it in at least one of your virtual folders...."
I've been managing computer files from before computers had hard drives, when the floppy discs were stored in shoe boxes... and I'm in the middle of beta testing the Vista operating system... in many or most ways, the files haven't changed. Nor has my primary tool for managing them. I realize I'm not an average user and it's sometimes difficult to understand what a newbie to computers, Movie Maker and Photo Story knows.
On DOS operating systems I used Norton Commander to manage files... it didn't get carried forward into the Windows environment by Symantec, so some diehard users created Windows Commander to emulate it, and that later turned into Total Commander, where it is today.

Let's take a quick look at Total Commander... it's a double-paned window, in a way like Movie Maker with collections in the upper part and projects in the lower, sometimes sharing the viewer/monitor. But in this case, it's one view on the left and another on the right. The two panes can be any folder of any drive in one, and any other one in the other.
I've noted two things in this snapshot, looking at my laptop's C drive
Main Working Window
This app has lots of features to explore. I'll only be hitting the highlights of those of most interest to users or Movie Maker and Photo Story... features that pertain to multimedia files more so than text documents, spreadsheets, and databases.
... before getting into it further, here's a couple short notes...

Vista Corner... I downloaded build #5381 this week... it's billed as the "Ultimate Beta Interim English build" and it's been the most difficult of the builds for me to install... the progressive releases seem to be more and more demanding when it comes to hardware and drivers. I've always had to add the audio driver, but this build also needs custom setups of other multimedia controllers, things I don't yet understand what and how to do.  
P.S... follow-up note about the 5 free online hosts of Issue #101
How many views and comments has there been? The viewing tally on the 3 services of the 5 that I put the two sample videos on...  a couple weeks later...
I'm still waiting for the first comment to be posted about either of them on any of the services.
I submitted my first video with a price tag on it to Google Video... the 'Mission to Mars' flick with my grandson Nick in it. I priced it at 99 cents to download and 19 cents for a 'day pass'. Google provides potential purchasers with a 30 second free sample. It took 8+ days from the uploaded WP4 file to get through the process... a couple days to get to the status of "Video is verified; stay tuned - it will be live shortly", and the rest of the time to go live, which hasn't happened yet. I'll let you know when it does.
Newsletter 56Newsletter #56 was about a Renaissance Handfasting Ceremony... we'd call it an engagement today.
I'll be videoing the follow-up event on Sunday, May 28th... the wedding ceremony in true renaissance style. Festivities like swordfights between the best man and others will go all day, and I'm committed to get as much of the action that I can.
I'm looking forward to it. The bride and groom and I have a date tonight at Barnes & Noble to go over the video game plan, which will include a web-site, online videos, and a DVD.
I purchased my first shotgun mic to mount on my camcorder, for better audio... more focused sound with less wind, crowd, camcorder motors, and other ambient noise. I just received it, and did a couple quick tests to verify it works... I'll devote next week's newsletter to it.
Knowing I'll be needing lots of hard drive space for the editing... it's time for some serious file management, which fits with the subject of this newsletter. I'll do checking and cleaning up with Total Commander. 
Vacation Planning - we'll be leaving in late August... to Zurich for 21 days around Switzerland and Italy, over to Istanbul for 5 days, and back home in late September. It'll be the first time I've visited Europe with a camcorder. We'll be travelling with a tablet PC and not my laptop, which could mean a 4 week break from newsletters.
.... back to the main topic...

Here's the download link - Directory TreeTotal Commander - v6.54a
We'll cover these aspects of the utility:
There are many features that won't be covered. If you decide to try or use it, there will be plenty more for you to explore.
Browsing folders and files...
You can open Total Commander more than once... like having multiple Internet Explorer browser windows open at the same time.... at the right I show its directory (folder) tree open in one of them, and browsing the contents of selected folders with another copy... in the images shown below. Doing it that way means I don't have to redo the directory scan after checking a selected folder.
Sometimes I'll be in a Movie Maker folder playing with image and xml files in one pane, in my captured video folder in another pane, in the custom profiles of Photo Story 3 in a 3rd pane, reaching over to another computer of my network such as the Vista system in another pane, etc... anything more than having two panes open at once needs a second instance of the app.
If the quick view in the intro section above, showing some drive and folder info, didn't impress you, let's go down into some of the folders. Single clicking a folder shows the quick view summary of its contents. Double clicking it opens it and takes you into the contents.
Single clicking on a file shows you a quick view, as best it can. If it's not enough, you can double-click it to open the file in its associated app.
Here's a folder with BMP images. Select a file (single click) and the quick view shows the image.
Quick View - Pictures
Here's a folder with audio (WAV) files. Select a file and the quick view plays the tune so you can hear it.
Quick View - Audio
Here's another folder with some video files. Select a file and the quick view plays the movie. In this sample it's playing a Photo Story 3 story.
Quick View - Video
Here it is in the Movie Maker Shared\AddOnTFX folder, with files such as xml for custom effects, transitions and title overlays. Select an XML file and the quick view shows the text in it... besides reading, you can select some text and copy it to another file.
Quick View - Test

Search, Review, Prune, Archive...
I know computer users who go through the life of a computer without using more than 10 GB of space, without deleting or archiving anything... they don't do multimedia work.
My C drive is a nominal 100 GB. External drives are E with 105 GB, G with 75 GB, and H with 60 GB. With 340 GB of space spread across 4 drives, finding files and managing them is still a constant chore.
Let's assume I have time to review the movies I made last year... here's how I'd step through doing it.
Use Commands > Search from the main menu > search for all files ending with .wmv > include all 4 drives in the search > go to the Advanced tab and set the search criteria to only find files dated between Jan 1 and Dec 31 of 2005 > Press the Start search button > the resulting list of 581 files is then sent to a working pane by pressing the 'Feed to listbox' button.
Show > Quick View Panel turns the other panel into a media viewer... as I go through the list, I can press the Delete button on my keyboard for any of the files with no long term value.... archive the ones I want to keep, by moving them someplace else... or just sit all day and enjoy another viewing of last years videos.
Search and Review
The Thumbnail view of the left pane is probably better than the list view, as you can see the first frame of each video without loading it into the player.

Thumbnail View
Thumbnail View
The Show > Thumbnail view gets you what you expect... the image if it's a still, or the first frame of a video. 
It's one of the many features that parallels the viewing of files in the Windows XP operating system.
I carry a 1/2 GB thumb drive around with me, which has all of the tools I need... Total Commander uses only 2 MB of space, and I can run it from the thumb drive on any computer from Windows 95 to Vista.
Note that I'm showing BMP files as thumbnails... one shortfall of Total Commander is that it doesn't show JPG files this way... maybe with one of the many plug-ins available for it, but not in the basic app.

Commonly Used FoldersInstant Access to Commonly Used Folders
I'm often in the Movie Maker subfolders to work on XML files...
... and in the Photo Story 3 folder to work on custom profiles
... the Vista computer on my network to round up screen shots
... Bernadette's computer downstairs
etc. etc.
The Control-D keyboard keys open this drop-down list of commonly used folders. The folder can be on any computer in our home network.
It's an easy way to quickly get to folders in lower levels such as those for "My Pictures" or "Recorded TV".

Make or Open Make Zipped PackageZipped Packages
If you want to make a zipped package to email or upload, there's no need to go to another software package like WinZip.
Select the files and tell Total Commander to send them to a compressed folder. It has zipping and unzipping features built into it.
When I told it to do it to the 3 selected png files, I got this zipped package...
Made Zipped Package
It defaults to naming the zip file with the same name as the first file in the selected group.
If you download or get a zipped package from someone, you handle it as if it was a regular folder.
Here's what it looks like when I double-clicked the new file... the 3 PNG files are in it.  
Into Zipped Package

Split a FileSplit a Large File to Transport or Store on CDs...
If you have a large DV-AVI file and want to pack it onto some CDs for future use as a source file, select the file and use Files > Split File.
It'll put the split parts in the folder that's in the other pane... see the screen shot below.
It neatly cut this 2.1 GB DV-AVI file up into 4 parts, each of which fits on a standard CD... the crc file is used to check the files and help put them back together on the other computer, or on this one if I need it again after deleting.
When I double-click the museum.001 file, Total Commander offers to put the files back together.
Instead of putting them together, I tried renaming them to an AVI extension.... the renamed museum.001 file played fine, both video and audio. The other split segments didn't.
Split Files 
If all you wanted was a DV-AVI of the first part of the big one, it's a way to get it sized to put on a CD...
This splitting feature could support you copying the source files to discs and rebuilding them if and when needed. You can use data CDs or DVDs to store the files. 

ftp connectionTransfer Files to and from Websites...
Maintaining a website requires the uploading of files...
There are browser-based connections provided by hosting services, but they are often awkward and slow... 
The use of ftp (file transfer protocol) is usually easier and faster. Total Commander includes ftp software.
The screen shots show the ftp connection I use to maintain my website. When I select Net > FTP Connect from the main menu, I select 1&1 - from the personalized ftp list, and then the Connect button. In a few seconds the website is in one pane and my local copy on the C drive in the other.
Setting up a new connection is as easy as filling out a few lines... host name from your website host provider, and your user name and password.
The optional but handy entries tell Total Commander what folders you want to set as the defaults when you connect. You can sync the remote and local folders.  
Here's part of what it looks like when I connect to my website at the 1&1 service. The left pane with some of the info spray-painted over is the folder at 1&1. The right pane is the same folder on my laptop's hard drive.
MM2 Website
ftp limit
With Total Commander, folders on servers are treated the same way as folders on your computer. See from the message at the left... you can have up to 10 ftp connections open at the same time.
If you have multiple websites on one or many servers, you can have connections open to all of them.
The Quick View feature doesn't work with the files on a server... but it works with those on other local hard drives. If you don't know what a file is on a website, you need to download a copy and look.

Conclusions and Closing
If you're using a computer to make movies and stories, you are already doing file management... somehow. How you do it is by method(s) you're familiar and comfortable with. You don't usually have time to try other methods... and you may not have any reason to try something else.
All I hope to do with this newsletter is share some info about how I do file management. If you see things in Total Commander that fit your management style, try it out... you can decide to use it a bit or a lot. 
I'm a Microsoft MVP, but I'm not saying that My Computer is my favorite or most used file management tool... nor am I saying that file management in Vista is going to win me over from my long-term use of Total Commander... I use My Computer regularly, but not near as much as I use Total Commander.

Have a great week...