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Present Perfect


Filed under: General — Thomas @ 09:01


I'm sure smart people have worked on the xdg spec, but the naming of the xdg dirs illustrates one of my pet peeves - choosing directory names that aren't well-thought-out.

Among others, I have Music, Videos, and Pictures.

Pictures is not the worst. I guess it's a little quaint to not be talking about Images instead on a computer, but at least "picture" covers more or less the full range of items it wants to capture.

Videos is not too bad either. The pluralisation makes me puke, but I guess that's a personal dislike.

But against these two, Music is just plain terrible. I'm pretty sure my Bill Hicks albums are in no way Music. Neither are my radio podcasts. Or the audio books that I luckily don't have. Never mind that it's a non-plural word and thus inconsistent with the others.

Elisa is now using the xdg dirs, it seems. It is neither better nor worse than what it had before. I think before it was labeling audio as Music as well, and video as Movies (forgetting the fact that there are also tv series, video clips, camera clips, ...)

I've always done audio/video/image, which seems to me the most straightforward and concise. Some people argue that (while video is fine) audio is too technical. I guess I'm not a usability expert - I would expect any human being that understands the word video to understand the word audio as well, especially when presented in the exact same context.

I guess this is one spec that is going to keep me a grumpy old man for the rest of my Linux days :)


  1. calling the audio/music simply sound?

    have a nice day :)

    Comment by markino — 2008-04-20 @ 10:03

  2. Luckily, you can rename the XDG dirs to whatever tickles your fancy with `xdg-user-dirs-update`.

    Comment by Philip Withnall — 2008-04-20 @ 10:05

  3. # echo “Music” >> .hidden
    # ln -s Music audio
    # killall nautilus
    # echo ‘No one likes a grumpy face :)’

    Comment by jauco — 2008-04-20 @ 10:09

  4. Edit ~/.config/user-dirs.dirs and rename the directories and your problem is gone ;) .

    Comment by Livio — 2008-04-20 @ 10:13

  5. Cool, seems like I am not the only one who is obsessed by this stuff. I spend quite a lot of time figuring out the perfect way to organize my home directory and how to name the directories in it. I also use ‘audio’ and ‘video’ but I use ‘pictures’ to store pictures (photos). Images can be more then just pictures/photos so i store these in other places: icons and other images for specific projects belong to the projects themselves, wallpapers have their own directory (because a wallpaper is conceptually as distinct from a photograph then a photograph is from a song imo)

    If you’re interested, I am currently working on a tool to manage the distribution of video, audio etc on my various systems

    Comment by Dieter_be — 2008-04-20 @ 10:16

  6. you can change the name and location of the xdg user directories by changing $HOME/.config/user-dirs.dirs. nautilus will pick it up immediately, applications based on glib will need to restart.

    the syntax is quite easy:


    in your case:


    this, obviously, applies if you were not ranting about the logical ids used. :-)

    Comment by Emmanuele — 2008-04-20 @ 10:16

  7. It is yet another Linux “usability” spec I plan to completely ignore. It’s my filesystem. It’s my home directory. I do what I want.

    Comment by Philip Paeps — 2008-04-20 @ 11:11

  8. One more spec designed against Windows behaviour : My Documents, My Images, My Videos, My Music …
    Again, they are hardcoded path location adn expect people to put the documents tehere, which is totally wrong !

    When I’m writting an article for a magazine, I will put my screenshots in the same dir than the one which contains the OO document.

    IMHO, theses directories ( Audio, Images, Videos ) should be virtual directories. They should be static beagle/tracker/strigi/nepomuk queries. And so when for example you enter in Videos directory, you will have all the videos files indexed in your home directory and others directories ( think about remote or removable storage were all you films are stored )

    Comment by FACORAT Fabrice — 2008-04-20 @ 12:08

  9. Completely agree with audio/image/video usage. Here are some of my folders though:

    ~/video/movie # If I had movies…

    I don’t expect other people to be as anal as me though. I mean, honestly, will normal users actually create a music directory inside of audio? Normal users would probably be perfectly happy putting sermons in a Music directory. Remember, there are still people in the world that store all their photos on their desktop…

    If it makes you feel better, think of how many times have you seen Windows users not use their “My Music” and “My Pictures” folders and use something like a “Music” folder instead (for me, that is the majority).

    Comment by ejona — 2008-04-20 @ 15:37

  10. you can just rename the folders in nautilus the XDG file will be updated accordingly automatically. so theres no need to cry…

    Comment by Pavel — 2008-04-20 @ 16:01

  11. Music is plural (as well as singular).

    I feel your pain though. Putting my collection of comedy standup in the ‘Music’ folder itches where I can’t scratch.

    Comment by Edward — 2008-04-20 @ 16:06

  12. The real problem I see with this xdg spec is not the specific
    naming, but rather that it *renames* the physical directories
    instead of the presentation names shown!

    What for? freedesktop.org already did a very good
    standard for .desktop files and this is already used
    by both KDE and GNOME to localize applications,
    mime-type *and* directories.

    Just think how this stupid idea would affect indexing engines
    (e.g: beagle, strigi, etc.) whenever you happen to login
    with a different language and let xdg-dir… rename your

    Comment by oron — 2008-04-20 @ 18:46

  13. This “usability” spec isn’t for forcing a certain behavior on you, it’s for programs to actually be able to follow what your usage is. Instead of having an app that just stuffs music in ~/Music, they now have a sane way to find out that you actually keep your music in ~/audio_band_excitation or whatever. I think you’re missing the point of the spec completely.

    Comment by Dan Nicholson — 2008-04-20 @ 18:55

  14. Speaking of XDG, what about dot-{files,dirs}? Running a typical gnome session (and some fdo technology), I have tons of them in $HOME. What happened with ~/.config and ~/.local? Hardly anything uses it.

    Comment by Henry — 2008-04-20 @ 20:30

  15. @Dan: I don’t think I miss the point of the spec. The point of the spec is for apps to know where to go look for some common kinds of files the user creates.

    I do think you missed the point of my entry. To make it more clear – if I write a sound recorder, where should it record the sounds to by default ? Don’t tell me they should go in Music or XDG_MUSIC_DIR.

    Where should my stand-up comedy go ?

    Comment by Thomas — 2008-04-20 @ 22:24

  16. I agree completely with comment 12, localizing the directories names directly is bad and ugly.
    I really don’t want to have to switch to Japanese input to access the dirs in a shell either.

    Comment by Jens — 2008-04-21 @ 05:22

  17. @Thomas:

    Sorry, that reply wasn’t meant for you, but for comment 7 (and 8 for that matter). I have no idea how to address the categorization of corner case media files.

    Comment by Dan Nicholson — 2008-04-21 @ 07:19

  18. @Thomas. I use ardour for working on audio projects and i use eclipse for programming. so i structure it like this:

    ~/workspaces/ardour/*audio projects go here, each in it’s own directory*
    ~/workspaces/eclipse/*programming projects go here, each in it’s own directory*

    (although obviously I can sometimes edit the eclipse projects with other editors such as vim or joe. but i still think it’s better to name these directories after the “environment” – eg eclipse – that defines how the directories are structured then more general names such as programming or audio-work. because different programs can expect different formats/directory layouts)

    My own little dirty scripts or tools go in ~/scripts or ~/bin. These directories should not contain anything that can’t be generated from an eclipse project directory (or downloaded from the net). Likewise, after finishing an audio project (not that I ever get to that ;-) I could mix down music and then put it in my ~/audio directory, or hell for things like this I would even put symlinks in my audio folder pointing to the mixed down music in my audio project directory.

    As for the standup comedy, I don’t see what could be wrong with a structure like this?
    (of course you could have comedie movies. these still belong in movies)


    Comment by Dieter_be — 2008-04-21 @ 09:08

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