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Cataloging contents

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It’s been a while since we covered a utility to help you keep track of the contents of “removable” volumes—external hard drives, CDs, DVDs, network shares, etc. In fact, the last time we talked about such an app in Mac Gems was back in October 2004, when Jonathan Seff recommended DiskTracker (   ). That $30 utility automatically scans removable volumes and keeps a searchable database of their contents.

I’ve recently discovered an interesting alternative: Limit Point Software’s free (donations accepted) Touvaly 1.1 (   ). In addition to being less expensive—who doesn’t like free?—Touvaly also takes a very different approach to cataloging your volumes: Instead of keeping track of their contents in its own database file, Touvaly “recreates” those volumes on your Mac’s local hard drive. But it doesn’t actually copy the contents of a volume onto your drive; instead, it creates a folder that represents those contents by including a “pseudo copy”—the company’s term, not mine—of every file and folder on that volume, mirroring the original hierarchy.

To create such a volume catalog, you simply drag the desired removable volume into the Touvaly window (or onto its icon in the Finder):

Touvaly main window

You’ll be asked where to save the folder containing the volume’s local catalog, after which Touvaly will examine the volume and then begin making its “pseudo” copy.

Touvaly copying files

Once the local catalog/copy is finished, you can browse it just as you would the original volume; in fact, because it uses standard files to represent the original volume’s contents, one of the big advantages of Touvaly’s approach is that you can use Spotlight (or another search utility such as EasyFind or MoRU ) to find files on the original volume. (Of course, because the files don’t actually include the originals’ contents, you can’t search by content.)


A Touvaly-created catalog of a FireWire drive

(One feature I’d like to see is the ability to double-click on a file in your “virtual” volume to access it. For example, you could then be prompted to insert/connect the volume containing that file, at which point the original file would be opened.)

Touvaly’s preferences dialog offers a number of useful options. If you keep your files meticulously organized in folders, and need to know only where particular folders reside, you can tell Touvaly to include only folders in its catalog. You can also choose to omit applications and application bundles.

Touvaly preferences dialog

More useful are options to copy resource forks and Finder comments. The former allows the files in your “mirror” to have their original icons instead of generic ones. (Note that this option increases the size of your local catalog, since it needs to include all these resource forks.) The Finder comments option includes each file/folder’s Finder comments—if present—in the pseudo copy, which means you can use Spotlight to search the comments of the original files.

Finally, you can have Touvaly append the size of the original file to the Finder comments of its pseudo-copy, a useful option that lets you see how large the original file is without having to connect/insert the volume on which it actually resides.

The downside to these options is that they significantly increase the time it takes to create your local catalog, as well as its size. For example, I used Touvaly to create a catalog, with all “additional content” options enabled, of a removable FireWire drive containing over 85,000 files. The process took over 15 hours! The resulting catalog, complete with all resource forks and comments, was just over 735MB in size, as compared to 149GB for the original volume. With “Only copy folders” checked and resource fork copying disabled—but Finder comments enabled—making a local catalog of the same drive took just over 2 minutes and was effectively 0k in size, as it contained only folders.

That said, I suspect most people will use Touvaly for volumes such as CD-ROMs, DVDs, Zip and MO disks, and the like. For these tasks, Touvaly’s speed is much more reasonable. For example, I created a local catalog of a CD containing just under 400 photographs, all with custom icons, in 31 folders. It took Touvaly 5 minutes and 12 seconds to create its 36MB local mirror of the disc. (This particular catalog is relatively large, thanks to the custom thumbnail icons; however, those icons make it easy to view the actual contents of each image without having to insert the original CD.)

I’ve created a folder on my Mac’s hard drive for storing “pseudo” volumes created via Touvaly; by using Spotlight (or EasyFind or MoRU) to search this folder, I can now quickly find any file on any removable volume.

Touvaly is a Universal Binary and supports Mac OS X 10.2.8 and above.

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