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It's Vista-riffic. . .sorta

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johnhattan

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Installed the Vista Beta on one of the machines here in the Hobbit Hole. For the most part it works pretty well. There are plenty of rough edges, but it's reasonably stable and easy to work with.

Except for one thing.

Windows Freakin' Explorer.


Microsoft's always had a love-hate relationship with Windows Explorer, and I've never really understood why. It always seemed to me to be one of Windows' success stories. True, it's not the most obvious thing around, but once you get the hang of it, it's pretty capable for about 99% of your file-management tasks. In fact, coupled with the old classic Windows Search tool, there's little else you need for handling basic file moving/copying/deleting/renaming/etc.

It just works.

Unfortunately, MS has never seemed to like it. From Windows 2000 on, they started to pretend it didn't exist. The default behavior for double-clicking a file in Windows, for example, is "open", which is just a way of displaying Windows Explorer with the left-hand file pane shut off and with big icons that impart no information about the file whatsoever.

That's never been much of a problem for me. With a couple of checkboxes I can make folders open up the way they should be seen --with the big tree-o-files over on the left-hand side and all of the file details on so that I can see at a glance a file's type, size, and last-modified date. Yeah they've always worked to protect you from the hideousness that are the document tree and/or Windows file extensions, but it's always been easy to put 'em back.


The Vista file explorer, though, is a goldurned mess. Things just seem to be designed to be more difficult to use. Two most egregious examples. . .

1. You know those little + and - boxes in the file tree? You know, the ones that make it obvious that there's more stuff to be seen if you click on 'em? Well, Microsoft determined that those are too difficult for the average user, so they changed 'em to little tilting triangles. That in itself isn't really a problem. The big problem is that if you move your mouse away from 'em, THEY DISAPPEAR! If anyone, ANYONE, can explain to me how making the "there's more information here" icons disappear makes things more clear, please tell me.

2. Now then, this might be a bug so don't quote me on this. But when I drill down to a particular folder and copy/move/delete a file, Windows now seems to decide "okay, now you're done doing whatever you're doing. I'm gonna now collapse that folder and put you somewhere else entirely". This indeed might be a bug because it gives no indication of having been done intentionally (unlike item 1), but it's just an annoying thing.


Honestly, the Windows Explorer is one of the parts of Windows that was done right. It's been subtly refined over the course of ten years and, honestly, it hasn't changed much in the past few years. That's because it really hasn't had to. Again, it's not the most intuitive thing around, but it did strike a good balance between power and ease-of-use. They could certainly have gone in the direction of FileBoss and made it more powerful and even more daunting for baby-users. They also could've crippled it more and made it less useful for experienced users, but they didn't. They left it balanced.

Also, its extensibility is a strong point. I recently installed Carbonite Backup on my machine, which is an online backup-n-restore program. One great idea they had was "Hey, let's not make our own file manager like every other backup program on the planet. Let's make an extension to Windows Explorer instead". So now I have little colored dots next to some of my folders that indicates its backed-up status (marked for backup, backed up, etc). If I wanna back something up, I just right-click on it and check the "back this folder up" menu item. It's dirt-simple and I didn't have to learn how to use yet-another piece of software.

And I can only assume that Vista's new Weird Explorer is gonna break that. Too bad.


Microsoft, pleasepleaseplease give me some kind of "use Classic Windows Explorer" checkbox somewhere. You did it with the Start menu for people who preferred the old Pre-XP style Start menu.

I don't ask much. Just grant me this.
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