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How do I make a 3D "folder" displaying its elements and connections between them?

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Povilas S
Povilas S Oct 05, 2020
Picture a transparent cube with dots in it, representing separate elements, and lines between the dots representing connections between those elements (a bit like constellations). I want to be able to make those type of folders (or data matrixes if you like) on my pc and I don't know if there's a simple way to do it (existing programs with similar functions, etc.) or would it be necessary to make a separate program for this?

It would be enough, at least for the start, if you could enter data values (like names of people for example) and link them together - a program would then visualize this by connecting the dots. But it would be even better if you could drop actual files there and visualize connections in the same way (between pictures for example). You could flip the cube in various ways and zoom in and out to reach particular elements. Clicking on a dot would display data value or a file and information about it as well as highlight its connections. A search function would be also necessary.

Creative contributions

New data management systems

J. Oct 06, 2020
First, I am impressed with the presented idea and creativity. 3D folders could be very useful in the purposes you mentioned because of their "relaxed" structure. But I am not sure I understand exactly how beneficial would it be compared to the 2D structure of data.

The first association I had were the wires in the old computers which were all over the place, connecting the components and roam around. To make it smaller, visually more appealing, neat, and easier to find damage and repair, wires and components were replaced by motherboards and small 2D configurations. It brought faster and more efficient data processing.

The same I imagine happened with the visualization of the folders and files. Data management systems like MySQL work in a way that they establish connections between database components in order to reach, read, and process the data faster. Although they are shown in 2D on your desktop, they are heavily 3D in their management structure (name, content, timestamps (4D)). The reason why they are shown in 2D is probably the same why PowerPoint is more popular than Prezi - it is faster, easily readable, and more user friendly, for its purposes.

Nevertheless, I agree that Prezi sometimes gives you the ability to describe the problem/solution better, especially if you are creative or handling tons of related data. Therefore, I am sending you some links, hopefully, something helps.

The FSV software is a visualizer of our data, but it lacks the connections.
Same with 3D FIle Explorer.
Although the upper two seem like nice introduction, Cubix 3D FIler on Indiegogo seems more legit. Still, the connections are not visualized.
The real deal could be the winner of the 2003 edition of NSF Science & Engineering Visualization Challenge - Innolab 3D File Manager that organizes contents based on their relationships, rather than their positions on the hard disk.

*Although 3D would have a devastating effect on the performance of the computer, the solution could be, as you suggested, to make the 3D folder optionally available just in folders where 3D-structured files could provoke the creativeness, while maintaining the transparency of the system and config data or the other data we use every day.
Povilas S
Povilas S7 months ago
Thanks for such an informative contribution! Yes, the last option - 3D file manager is basically what I'm looking for (or close to it). But it doesn't seem to be available to actually install and use. It's probably only for Linux? It was created 17 years ago, maybe it didn't gain enough popularity, etc., but seems really cool. About 2D vs 3D - yes, 2D is more convenient for general, simplified use when you don't have or want interconnectedness involved, but when you do, then 3D appears (at least to me) to be nicer and easier for a few reasons. You could have interconnectedness visualized in 2d - it would look like a web or a mandala, etc., but it's just not that good as 3D, it lacks the space to put many elements there (compared to 3D). You also have 360 directions (roughly speaking) to go to make a connection and in 3D you have 360 squared. In 2D you also can't flip a thing in so many different angles and investigate the connections from spacial perspective. But probably the main reason is psychological - when you imagine and connect things in your mind, there's a mental space there, you don't make 2D diagrams (at least I don't), it's kind of structured in space - past has its place, future has its place, different memories, dreams, ideas have their place, but they all have a 3D feel, it's like a mental 3D map. We take input from a 3D world we live in and then reconstruct a projection in our minds and store it there, but that projection is not like a desktop screen, it's more like a movie, but not with a single timeline, kind of messy, multilayered, at least that's how I perceive it. And mind recalls things mostly (or only) by association. So those kind of digital 3D models would be more close to how we connect things in our mind and might help to better remember and understand those connections consciously. About 3D stuff using a lot of computer’s processing power – I don’t know about that, that might be a problem, but on the other hand 3D modeling programs work by the same principle and they do much more complicated stuff than just that, I think this would be like a very simple 3D modeling program and shouldn’t use much resources.

Can Python do it?

Shubhankar Kulkarni
Shubhankar Kulkarni Oct 06, 2020
I made something like that using Python a few years back. It was a network of hormones and enzymes and had up-regulation and down-regulation links between them. Python allows you to link files. So, you can replace the hormones with files and have such a cube. Constructing a cube (or for that matter any other shape) is easy. I have some questions to help me better understand the concept: 1) Is this purely for visualization purposes? 2) Why a cube?
Povilas S
Povilas S7 months ago
Thank you! I have some basics of Python, but that's all, I'm really on a kindergarten level. I know there are at least few if not many extensions for Python to help you make certain things easier. Did you make it with general Python or some sort of extension? And did you make it like a separate program or was it somehow incorporated and run through Python itself? About your questions - it's both for visualization and storage, but mostly for visualization and also for simply making connections in an easy way, because now all you can do is simply place similar elements into the same folder. So you need many separate folders if you have a more complicated net of connections and it's not very practical, to say the least. You could paint 2D diagrams for this, but 3D is even better and this kind of system would combine the functions of storing, connecting, and visualizing at the same time. I think this would be very useful for creative process. Two most important aspects of it are association and visualization. This is also true for memory. This would help to remember creative associations by visualizing them. That's a bit how the mind itself works, you just don't always clearly realize the connections and therefore they appear random or subconscious. Not necessarily a cube, could be a sphere also. You could use different shapes for different types of elements, but probably a sphere and a cube would be two most useful types. Could be no shape at all, just elements in a digital space, but by putting them into a confined shape I want to emphasize that it's a set of elements in a kind of container, like a folder, so cube seems to be maybe the best, sphere is a more undefined (in a sense) shape.
Shubhankar Kulkarni
Shubhankar Kulkarni7 months ago
I made it in general python. The program was run through Python itself. I, too, am not an expert in Python. I used Stackoverflow extensively. :) I get your application now! It's for visualization of cross-nested files. I like the idea! Can be useful. The one I created had no definite shape. The skeleton was that of a 3D lattice structure. I went on replacing the vertices of the lattice (nodes) with my molecules of interest. I added links across the nodes. I could rotate and zoom in-out of the structure. Each node had a short description attached to it. My network was purely for visualization. However, to add a new link/ node, I needed to add lines to the code. I think Juran's suggestion (Innolab 3D File Manager) is better - exactly what you described (I guess). I did not know about it.
Povilas S
Povilas S7 months ago
Yes, 3D file manager seems great, but it doesn't seem to be available for download and installation. That's something I don't understand about Python (or maybe I lack some understanding about programming in general) - it's often referred to as multipurpose programming language, but it doesn't seem to be adapted for easy making of separate, user-interactive applications, everything is mostly done in and through Python itself. Maybe Java script is more suitable for this? Once again - I'm on a kindergarten level.

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