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Explorer Usability - your opinion?

Windows explorer 95 was a great leap in usability. With windows XP, they have gone backward.

When you click on "Search" in 95, the search dialog opens in a new window. So you can come back to the explorer folder you are working on by closing the search window.

Doing that in XP is a nightmare. First, your context is lost as the search pane "overwrites" the folders on the left pane.
Its very tough to come back to the folder view after searching. There is no keyboard shortcut key. You need to go to View-Explorer Bar and "View Folders". The most irritating thing is that there are shortcut keys for everything - except this one.

On top of it, clicking on "Back" does not restore the folder view.

Someone remarked that Microsoft resembles an immature child. If you notice children, even those who paint very well ruin the painting later on by continuously adding paint. The child simply does not know when to "leave the painting alone.

Joel was commenting about toolbars. Its not just toolbars. Everything. Menus, Explorer, Help Files, Windows desktop, COM, Active X, OLE, DDE, ADO, DAO, ADODB and now even Windows XP(overwritten by Longhorn).

They should focus on things like scalability/performance/. We can live without blue and silver themes.

Tuesday, March 16, 2004

I have mostly avoided XP, seeing no need to upgrade from 2000, so I haven't run across the problems you cite.

When Win95 came out, I remember seeing a lot from Microsoft about how much usability testing they did, how much time they spent designing the new interface.  Then the whole "we're hardcore on the Internet" thing came along, and suddenly everything had to be a web page, had to be accessed with a web browser.  Apparently the "new and improved" and heavily researched interface was not the greatest thing...

The newer interface features that I've noticed in both WinXP and OfficeXP promptly get turned off.  I am decidedly old fashioned, but I'm quite used to files and documents and I can get by quite well with them, I don't need a "where do you want to go today?" task-oriented interface to help me do the basics.

Oops, ranting...

Tuesday, March 16, 2004

Personally I also preferred the W2k organisation above the XP setup.

Just me (Sir to you)
Tuesday, March 16, 2004

Customize your toolbar and make sure you have the Folders and Search buttons on it.  You can toggle the left pane back and forth between the search and folder views with these buttons.

Also, un-clicking whichever button is active will bring up common tasks and shortcuts in the left pane.

Also, in the search pane, click the "Change preferences" link and then the "Change files and folders search behavior".  Make sure the "advanced" option is selected, otherwise selecting search criteria is a pain in the ass.

None of this was obvious, but once I figured it out I found it usable. The biggest usability obstacle is that many of the features are hidden several layers down and you have hunt around for them.

Tuesday, March 16, 2004

Can you make the Explorer toolbar and menu vanish in XP? You can in W2K.

There's probably a way of getting them back again as well. If only I could find it :o(

Tuesday, March 16, 2004

Ward,  I see one reason to upgrade the WinXP: multiple simultaneous logins.  I find this terribly useful as I use the computer for development, etc., but when its idle others can use their accounts for mail/internet without logging me out and my loosing my 19 open windows.

Of course I have a funny feeling that Win2K is "technically" capable of this same feat (e.g. allowing two instances of Yahoo Messenger to run, each with a diff person logged in) but they just stuck the interface for it on and called in WinXP. 

Anyone know of a Win2K app that simulates this XP feature?  Then I'd happily downgrade back to Win2K which I generally prefer.

Ken Klose
Tuesday, March 16, 2004

You can use RunAs in Windows 2000 (and Windows XP) to run individual programs as another user.

John Topley (
Tuesday, March 16, 2004

On Win 2K you could get a similar capability by running a terminal server and logging onto the same machine using a terminal services client (this is actually how XP does fast user switching). It wouldn't be as seamless as it is in XP.

Joel Spolsky
Fog Creek Software
Tuesday, March 16, 2004

Yes the missing shortcut key for folders also annoys me;
and then: in 2000, when searching, you can use DOWN-ARROW to select previous searches. In XP, you first must TYPE something before you get the list.

Well, that's the price of progress! :-)

Tuesday, March 16, 2004

Search in WinXP is just generally broken. So I don't see that problem, because I don't use search. ;-)

Chris Tavares
Tuesday, March 16, 2004

Ward: "I don't need a "where do you want to go today?" task-oriented interface to help me do the basics."

Fair enough.  You're not alone.  But you are in a (shrinking) minority.  Increasingly, people who use computers really do prefer the simplified, lead-me-through-it experience.  Generally, Microsoft tends to make this simplified UI the default, and allow more experienced users to switch it back to the Classic mode they're used to.

Tuesday, March 16, 2004

XP is significantly faster than 2000, if you disable the user interface themes.

Wednesday, March 17, 2004

I use Total Commander and PowerGrep and I have no problem searching in XP.

Both programs allow using regular expressions, etc.

They are a lot more powerful than whatever 95, 98, XP has to offer.

Wednesday, March 17, 2004

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