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In many environments the file system directory structure and naming conventions attempt to allow one to use a file manager to navigate the life cycle of a document. This overloading of functions makes it difficult for users to handle the complexity.

A file browser is a tool that lets the user navigate among files located in a directory structure to find a specific file. Whereas, when given a specific file, a life cycle navigator is a tool that lets the user navigate its life cycle from source to published copy and across versions.

Does a Life Cycle Navigator exit?

I see a user pointing at an object:

  • Left mouse button displays the document
  • Right mouse button has a Life Cycle Navigator (LCN)

The LCN displays a tree for a specific document within a file manger, for example:

  • Published
    • 3.2 Current
    • 3.1
    • 3.0
    • +2.x
    • +1.x
    • +Archived
    • +All
  • Source
    • Draft
    • 3.2 Current
    • 3.1
    • 3.0
    • +2.x
    • +1.x
    • +Archived
    • +All
  • +Work Flow
  • +Properties

Or from a command line:

$ lcn x.pdf --open_source_document | my_favorite_editor
$ lcn x.pdf --show_published_version_info
$ lcn x.pdf --show_previous_publish_versions_info

See also, Life Cycle Navigator.

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2 Answers 2

You looking for a Document management System (I'll let wikipedia explain it better than I can)

Any decent DMS will have a way to look at previous version of the doc, and see attached meta data.

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I am looking for a tool that is as simple to use as a file manager but when given a document moves through time rather than through current contents of directories without the distraction of all of the other documents. If some DMS(s) have such a tool then that is what I am looking for. –  C.W.Holeman II Feb 15 '10 at 22:10

In Alfresco (and some other ECM software), you use the navigator to find a file, and then you click "View Details" to see all versions of the document. It is a web interface rather than a standalone program, though. Is it the kind of feature you are looking for?

Beyond that, I have good news: CMIS has been approved as a standard, and all ECM vendors are starting to implement it. It means that the same explorer can talk to all kinds of repositories. It is very new but there is already a standalone CMIS Explorer that allows you to browse a repository's files. For each document, a "Get All Versions" button is described as an "in progress" feature in February. Not sure if this feature has been finished yet. If yes, I think it would what you want.

Update: I installed the latest CMIS Explorer to check: the versions feature is not here yet...

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