I currently have a 1 TB drive that stores my documents, videos, music and basically acts as a catch-all for anything I’m not currently using. It currently has more than 47,000 items on it, totaling close to 500 GB. Add to that the fact that I also have a lot of documents saved on a separate internal partition, and I have a lot of “stuff” to wade through when looking for something that I can’t quite remember where it is. Since I don’t always keep the external drive mounted (I use a laptop), it can be a bit of a pain figuring out which hard drive something is on.
What I really need is a way to find out which hard drive contains a particular document, even when that hard drive isn’t attached to my computer. I need to be able to perform a search on a hard drive that might not be mounted. Enter a fantastic volume indexing tool called Basenji. Here’s how the Basenji developers describe their product:
“Basenji is a volume indexing tool designed for easy and fast indexing of volume collections. It currently supports indexing of removable media such as CDs and USB sticks and stores them as volume objects in a database. After being stored in this database, volumes can be browsed and searched trough for specific files very quickly.”
That description is exactly what I was looking for, and led me to taking Basenji for a spin. And it was more than I’d hoped for.
Using Basenji couldn’t be simpler. Start it up, then point it at the drive (internal partition, external hard drive, CD or USB stick), and tell it to start indexing. If you have thumbnailing and metadata indexing turned off, then Basenji is lightning quick. It did my entire 1 TB drive (half full), in less than two minutes. After the indexing was finished, I could browse my external hard drive, even when it was unplugged. Brilliant! You can also use Basenji’s search function, which frees you up from navigating through dozens and dozens of folders. Just tell Basenji what you’re looking for, and it finds it for you, whether what you’re looking for is a video file, MP3, text document or folder.
Basenji, as I alluded to, also offers to thumbnail your items and extract metadata while indexing. With thumbnails being generated, you’ll get a tiny picture of what the document holds. For instance, if you index a folder full of images without thumbnails, you’ll only see a generic “image” icon, which isn’t all that useful, especially if your images don’t have descriptive names. With thumbnails turned on at indexing, you’ll now see a little thumbnail image of the actual picture, which lets you visually search.
Metadata, on the other hand, is even better. Metadata is descriptive data about a particular document. For instance, if you have a text document with a nondescript title, but you have metadata which describes the document as “party plans” then when you search for “party plans” in Basenji, you will find that document, even if “party plans” isn’t in the title.
Now, scanning with thumbnail creation and metadata extraction turned on takes a long, long time. So long that I didn’t really wait around for it. Instead I pointed Basenji at a folder of documents, pictures and MP3 files I’d cobbled together and turned it loose. In not too long a time it had indexed the folder, and I was able to use the metadata and thumbnails to find exactly what I was looking for.
I’ve used a similar program in the past, and while it certainly did the job, it wasn’t nearly as fast as Basenji, nor did it have as nice an interface. I love being able to search as well as browse, and setting Basenji up to index a particular volume or drive couldn’t be simpler. The preferences are simple but make sense, and the speed of regular indexes is impressive. If you have a lot of backup discs or drives, or are simply looking to get a handle on having too much “stuff” in too many places, Basenji could be just what you’re looking for.
Note: After writing this article, but before posting, I saw that Basenji now has available a daemon that launches Basenji’s indexer whenever a new disc or drive is mounted. I haven’t tried out this new feature, but it looks great, and incredibly useful.