Scott Hanselman

Wrong File Types View in Vista Explorer Folders

July 25, '07 Comments [18] Posted in
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I hope this is considered a bug (or at least an issue) and will be addressed in Vista SP1. I'm growing increasingly frustrated with Vista when Explorer decides that one of my many thousands of folders contains pictures and videos and surely I must want to rate them and tag them and see what date they were taken on. Don't get me wrong, the Folder Templates are lovely. I just don't like the assumptions that are being made.


imageThis folder above is my Apple Newton Software Archive, from unna. Note the Explorer Columns like "Date Taken" and "Rating."

Right click in the whitespace of Explorer and click "Customize This Folder..." You can also click Organize|Properties from the menu if you like.

From the Properties Dialog that appears, click the first Dropdown that likely says "Pictures and Videos" and select "All Items." You may want to click "Also apply this template to all subfolders.

unna Properties

Personally, I visited c:\users on my Vista machine and applied the All Items view to every folder from there down.

This is probably my number one beef with Explorer right now.

About Scott

Scott Hanselman is a former professor, former Chief Architect in finance, now speaker, consultant, father, diabetic, and Microsoft employee. He is a failed stand-up comic, a cornrower, and a book author.

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Wednesday, 25 July 2007 07:35:22 UTC
My #1 bug as well. I've reported it, feature requested it, etc. as has everyone else in the universe. I'm really hoping it's addressed in some way in SP1.
Wednesday, 25 July 2007 08:20:16 UTC
This was my main problem with Vista as wel, till I found this solution:

Works like a charm, and is generally a better solution that you've got posted here, Vista still tends to guess folder views after a while(if using your solution).

Anton Afanasyev
Wednesday, 25 July 2007 08:23:00 UTC
Hey Scott, nail on head, etc, etc. Even better when Vista decides that the content in the folder has 'changed' and now is media content so bang goes my nicely ordered and grouped docs view to be replaced by the silly media view.

And pray do tell, why oh why does an icon based list view have column titles !!!!!! Don't get me wrong I don't want to go back to XP now I am finally comfortable with Vist, but boy oh boy it does get frustrating some times.

Simon Wilson
Wednesday, 25 July 2007 08:51:58 UTC
My biggest gripe is the keyboard access in the common file dialogs. If you press shift-tab from the filename box the selection now moves to the header control rather than the list of files. I can't count how many times this has caught me out, who would expect the header control to come after the list control in the tab order!

My next gripe would be the seemingly random reset of my dual monitor setup, but I'm sure this will be NVidia's fault!
Wednesday, 25 July 2007 11:22:40 UTC
I've been seeing this problem since explorer.exe was introduced to Windows. It has previously been due to Explorer having limited slots to store each folder's view and when it runs out of slots it falls back to some arbitrary value. There has been a registry key to change in earlier Windows that increased the number of "slots" but I don't know if Vista is still the same.

As I see it, they have been doing two things wrong with folder view settings:
1. They should be storing this data in alternate NTFS streams with the folder instead of some limited storage area in the registry or wherever it happens to go.
2. When a folder has no settings defined or the limited storage is full, Explorer should fall back to a default that has been defined by the user instead of some apparently random choice.
Wednesday, 25 July 2007 12:08:01 UTC
Thanks for the heads up Scott, this has been driving me crazy in Vista.

On a similar note to Simon's issue about keyboards, that Search dialog is convenient but also maddening. I tend to just hold the backspace down to delete short entries and try again. However, as soon as you erase the last character, the very next backspace acts as if you hit the back button, usually descending me all the way back to the root folder I started with! Horrible interface.

Talking about the Search box, I have found no way to force Vista to perform a real Search instead of searching its indexes. If you copy a bunch of source code to a folder, out of an archive, and immediately try to search for text in the files or for a filename, Vista will come up with no hits. You have to wait for it to decide when it updates the search indexes and then you can search and get results. This threw me for a loop for quite some time and gave me numerous false results because I was not aware of this.

Another *super* annoying problem is that in List and Details view, you must right-click directly on a piece of text to get the file context menu or you lose your selection and get a worthless context menu.
Wednesday, 25 July 2007 12:16:58 UTC
I'm very frustrated with the folder templates too (BTW I never found them useful) - the only way to solve definitively this issue is to personalize the columns of _any_ template, then "apply them to all folders": then explorer may switch between them displaying always the same layout. Doing this is an hassle too - since the "Choose details" dialog box has hunderds items :(

Other things I really hate are 1) the new file types & association manager (how do I add a DOS command line, right-clicking a file?), 2) sometimes I don't understand which file or directory are selected, 3) useless buttons in the toolbar (still missing the "new directory" button!) and a simpler way to show hidden and system files rathern then browsing the Folder options chaos...

I'm planning to buy Directory Opus by gpsoftware...
G Bellavite
Wednesday, 25 July 2007 12:30:06 UTC
Have you seem the number of columns and there are in the customize view? Almost impossible to navigate.
Wednesday, 25 July 2007 13:44:21 UTC
This has bugged me since beta. I was surprised that Vista shipped with it still present - for someone who spends even a marginal amount of time in Explorer, this is incredibly annoying. I've even seriously considered using other file managers (but they unfortunately all sucked). I'll be annoyed if this isn't fixed in SP1.
Wednesday, 25 July 2007 16:11:21 UTC

I've even seriously considered using other file managers (but they unfortunately all sucked).

Xplorer2 doesnt suck, it's (one of the) first things I install on a clean windows machine ! Especially recommended on Vista, if you regularly copy files across your network .

Wednesday, 25 July 2007 16:56:44 UTC
Thanks, I'd been meaning to look into this.

There's a registry setting which tells Windows how many overriden folder settings to remember - BagMRU. In XP it only kept 400, in Vista it defaults to 5000. Should be enough for most cases, but if not you can bump it up.
Wednesday, 25 July 2007 17:29:57 UTC
Thanks for the workaround. This has been infuriating me for months.
Scott Yost
Wednesday, 25 July 2007 18:37:31 UTC
Thanks Scott! I didn't know about that feature. It helps ease some of the pain Vista's shell causes.
Wednesday, 25 July 2007 23:30:14 UTC
Could this be an issue w/ my graphics card or driver? A lot of times when I select New Folder from within Explorer, I see nothing - but if I hit F5 to refresh the right hand pane - then I see the new entry titled New Folder which I can then select and rename. Other times it behaves as expected and shows the new entry immediately, highlighted so I can rename it.
Thursday, 26 July 2007 20:03:01 UTC
Thanks, I too was really frustrated with this "feature". But I still think there is an even worse bug in Vista: copying files from/to another computer on network practically grinds to a halt even for really small files. Apparently this has someting to do with Vista's network autotuning. If you experienced this problem, I recommend visiting the this link. It did the trick for me. Also, Microsoft has an unofficial fix for this, but I'll rather wait for an official SP1.
Igor Brejc
Monday, 20 August 2007 01:32:02 UTC
Just tried this fix and Explorer.exe died. Nice. Tried it again and it worked, though. [shrug]
Monday, 27 August 2007 22:36:31 UTC
I've had similar problems, but recently noticed still weirder behavior -- yesterday I ripped 50 cds into mp3s, each with its own folder on the desktop. As I looked inside each folder, I noticed that Vista had used the "music" layout for some folders, the "all files" layout for others, and other variants. I was puzzled: why would Vista randomly choose different layouts for new folders of MP3s?

Today I got something weirder. I downloaded a zip file and unzipped it onto the desktop into a new folder. While I had the folder open, I changed the name of the folder via its desktop icon. Each time I changed the name, the view of the folder changed! For example, I named the folder "123" and it changed to a music file list view. I renamed the folder "foo" and it changed to a generic file list view. I renamed it "bar" and it changed to a generic file view using extra-large icons.

That shed some light on the MP3 folder issue --- each folder had a different name, so the view was probably being keyed off the name (and thus appeared random)

But that doesn't answer the truly confounding question --- why, oh why, would Vista change the appearance of a folder based on its NAME?!
Monday, 10 September 2007 07:51:51 UTC
I've spent some time observing the problem and there currently doesn't seem to be a workaround, apart from using a 3rd party file manager.

1) BagMRU capacity is not the problem here. Explorer in XP will forget older directory preferences when the BagMRU space is exhausted because it acts in circular buffer way. This is not the case with Vista. It'll start doing this seconds after you begin using a fresh installation. So increasing BagMRU doesn't help...although it will once they fix the bigger problem.

2) The solution mentioned by Anton above looked promising, but it just doesn't work.

Vista simply doesn't listen. You can set a folder type template for a folder as many times as you like -- sometimes you'll have to set it to a template you don't want, apply, then set it to the desired view to even get it to stick at all -- but you can be sure that the second anything changes in that folder it'll change to "Documents" or probably "Pictures and Videos". At that point you can't see file sizes, and probably can't even read the filename since the Name column will only be a few characters wide. User preferences for column details, widths, and orders are also lost. This will even happen with special folders like "Computer"; half the time when I go to "Computer" it's unreadable because the Name column is an inch wide and all other columns are hidden.

I have to believe this is a bug. As someone who works with files all day long, this aspect of Vista is the one that has me shaking with frustration. It makes me feel as though I'm interacting with a crazy person; it makes the entire OS experience feel random and flaky. Imagine using another application where the user preferences settings randomly scrambled every few minutes changing the whole layout and behavior of the program. I'm tired of putting unnecessary wear and tear on my mouse -- and my patience -- fighting an endless daily battle with this nonsense.

I also take issue with the following Explorer features in Vista. I'm sure this is the first many of you will have heard of these problems. I encourage you to check them out for yourself:

[1] how there's no simple 'x' available to close the optional Folder and Preview panels.

[2] how the Folders pane regularly loses synchronization with the Files pane.

[3] how the Customization can be set to "All Items" on a folder, but the folder won't actually display the layout you selected for "All Items" (using Tools | Folder Options... | View | Folder views) until you switch to some other view then back to "All Items". Then it'll stick...until some seemingly random amount of time elapses.

[4] how "Customize" appears as a tab in the Properties of every drive except the system drive. Huh?

[5] how the Folders pane has no horizontal scrollbar but Vista automagically scrolls the whole thing back and forth automatically for you like it's haunted by a spastic poltergeist, usually obscuring the folder name you were try to read. Again, the user is out of control.

[6] occasionally, changing the folder type template, even on a fresh Vista install, crashes Explorer completely and it needs to restart.

[7] despite the recent test patch release, the "Calculating time remaining..." bug is alive and well. Its estimates are still comically inaccurate. Seriously, did a summer student write this part of Explorer? This would embarrass me if I were on the Vista dev team.

[8] when you move a very large directory structure over top of another directory that has a similar structure, and there are a lot of file and directory collisions and the collisions are grouped (as is the new behavior) and the user is eventually prompted to overwrite, skip, etc. , files and directories at the source will get left behind...they may be copied, but not moved. Yes, you heard me. Move, one of the fundamental file operations, is broken in Vista's Explorer.

Here's a simple example you can try for yourself. Create a directory called PARENT and put a subdir called CHILD in it, then put a text file in CHILD. Now copy PARENT to another drive. Select the first PARENT and cut then select the second drive and paste. You will get "Do you still want to merge this folder" for both folders; choose Yes twice. On the file conflict choose "Move and Replace". Now look at the original PARENT drive. Both directories are still there...they haven't been moved! Only their file has. This will happen whenever there's a collision of file and directory names. Thanks to these empties laying around I've had to become familiar with forensic recovery software when I accidently delete the real copy instead of the decoy. The situation is more dire when the collisions are nested deeper and the "Do this for all current items" checkbox is employed. In this case even files will fail to move. Until this bug is fixed you HAVE to check your source files and ensure they were moved then do a manual cleanup after the move. Especially with large, nested directory structures. Because of this, I currently don't feel safe using Vista. I have to triple check all my non-trivial file operations.

Only the pain of having to re-build multiple machines is keeping me with Vista right now and because of these problems I can't currently recommend it to other devs and advanced users. I do, though, feel as though Vista has a ton of potential and that it is simply rough and unpolished. I have high hopes for it in the future.

I don't know who to talk to at Microsoft, so hopefully given your celebrity, Scott, this might get to some eyes that can make a difference.
Allan S
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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed herein are my own personal opinions and do not represent my employer's view in any way.