What will be the best interaction, instead of a tree structure? Suppose you have thousands of files and folders in a tree? For example, Folder 1 has 100 files in it, folder 2 has 500 files in it. Folder A is inside the Folder 1, it has 200 files.

For the time being, we have kept it in a tree structure — but I am not sure if there is any other interaction instead this traditional format.

  • 2
    Your question is not very clear, what problem with tree structure are you trying to solve.
    – TDsouza
    Apr 9, 2018 at 15:22
  • 1
    You could always try something like the column-based file browser from OSX. Not a million miles away from the file tree but it allows scrolling of each column. In your example, Folders 1 and 2 would appear in the first column. Clicking on Folder 1 would reveal it's contents in column 2 including all 100 files and Folder A. Clicking Folder A would reveal all 200 of it's files in column 3. As each column is independently scrollable it should be relatively easy to find files without losing sight of the hierarchy. Alternatively, with that many files, use a search! ;) Apr 9, 2018 at 15:35
  • @TDsouza I think you didn't get my question. I'm not finding any problem in a tree structure or trying to solve it, I was asking is there any other better interaction instead of a tree structure. Apr 10, 2018 at 16:56
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    I agree with TDsouza that you could maybe clarify what problem you’re trying to solve. I suspect you want to know some alternative user friendly patterns for navigating extremely large data taxonomies. Define “best” and “better” - better at what? How you’re measuring this can help people answer your question.
    – Luke Smith
    Jun 26, 2018 at 3:27

1 Answer 1


With a tree structure, every item is associated with only one parent category or item.

  • food
    • fruits
      • apple
      • banana
    • vegetables
      • carrot
  • vehicles
    • truck

There are alternative ways of organization that capture more relationships than a tree by allowing an item to be in multiple categories. The downside of these organization systems is that they can be more complex and harder to use.

Some examples of organization systems where items can be in multiple categories:

  • tags – an item has multiple tags; you can browse members of tags

    • apple #food #fruit #tasty
    • banana #food #fruit
    • carrot #food #vegetable #yucky
    • truck #vehicle
  • hierarchical tags – the tags themselves are put in a tree, but items can still belong to multiple tags. You could browse in #food/fruit or in all #food.

    • apple #food/fruit #taste/tasty
    • banana #food/fruit
    • carrot #food/vegetable #taste/yucky
    • truck #vehicle

The most generic such structure has very few constraints:

  • graph – a totally free-form structure where any item can link to any other item. Links can be directed or undirected, and there can be multiple link types, such as “belongs to” or “is related to”. There could be multiple item types too.

    example graph rendered with Graphviz

    • food: contains fruit, contains vegetable
    • fruit: is member of food, contains apple, contains banana
    • vegetable: is member of food, contains carrot
    • apple: is member of fruit, is liked by Andrew
    • banana: is member of fruit
    • carrot: is member of vegetable, is disliked by Andrew
    • person: contains Andrew
    • Andrew: is member of person, likes apple, dislikes carrot
    • vehicle: contains truck
    • truck: is member of vehicle

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