Why is Windows UI for folder selection so lame ?

August 23, 2005 By lavieroboies

It doesn’t happen often but everytime I have to code it, it always leaves me with the same bad feeling.

Today, I added a feature in a small app I’m developing for a client. The UI of this feature involves a Browse button to let Joe User tell the app in which directory some files can be found.

Is there only one person out of the hundreds of millions of Windows users who likes this dialog ? I seriously doubt. Is there only one who finds it usable ? I’m sure not.
This Browse for Folder dialog is plain unusable. Just go type a path in the edit box: You’d expect the tree selection to follow. No ! You at least expect what you just typed to be saved as your choice when you click OK. Not even !
Wait, there’s more : Setting up this dialog programmatically requires that the programmer holds a PhD in Computer Science.

Besides this, we have a nice, usable, powerful and handy standard file dialog. And that’s where it becomes more frustrating: That one won’t allow you to let user select a directory. If you absolutely want to use it, you’ll have to use dirty tricks such as forcing users to select a file in that dialog, even though you don’t care about that file (hence why would user do ?). Remember old Windows drivers installation, when it prompted you for a location for the driver by forcing you to select a file that it won’t choose anyway ?

So, pleaaaase, Microsoft, tell me why among the ton of flags in the good ol’ open file dialog, there’s not one that allows to select a directory !

Rhaaa ! End of rant. I guess I’ve been sitting in front of that computer for way too long… 🙂