Person files are the BeOS' standard way of storing contact information
about people. These files are normally created and edited by the People
application, which you can find in your
directory, but as other contact managers for the BeOS appear, you can set
the preferred handler for Person files to be your favorite contact
Person files are actually zero-length files with each piece of
information (like name, e-mail address, etc.) stored as an attribute of
the file. This usage of the Be File System makes accessing Person
files via queries very easy.
The BeOS is somewhat unusual in having each contact be a single file;
most operating systems' contact managers store all of their contacts in a
single file, essentially a database. Person files are individual files, but
the entire BeOS file system is also a database! Because of the BeOS'
built-in query engine (accessed via the Find panel) and the Tracker's
ability to display custom attributes, you get much of the functionality of
a contact manager built into the BeOS, for free.
Many applications will accept a Person file (or files) when dragged onto
them, and will do something useful in response. For example, you can drag
Person files onto BeMail and a new message will be opened with those
people's e-mail addresses added to the To field. You can also drag Person
files into a recipient field of an existing BeMail message to add them to
You can even extend Person files to include extra attributes (using the
FileTypes preference application -- look for a Tip of the Week on this topic in a couple
weeks), like birthday or mobile phone number. You can't see these extra
attributes in the People application, but you can edit them in the Tracker
easily enough. How's that for power and flexibility!