Windows file names (was: "touchy applications")

Subject: Windows file names (was: "touchy applications")
From: "Hart, Geoff" <Geoff-H -at- MTL -dot- FERIC -dot- CA>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Tue, 19 Mar 2002 09:02:04 -0500

Dan Lewis reports: <<Microsoft appears to prefer that users don't see those
pesky little extensions. Default settings in most Windows flavors will not
display the ".exe" at all. Since (here at least) the engineers typically
insist on including more than one file with the same root name (boffo.exe,
boffo.pdf, boffo.hlp) we have been forced to resort to pictures of the icons
to distinguish in these cases.>>

This raises an interesting point. Microsoft has chosen to hide the
extensions because they recognize that file extensions are confusing to many
neophytes, but in making this assumption on behalf of its users, hasn't
bothered paying any attention to user needs. (In the Mac, there are no file
extensions; the file type and creator information is implicit to the file,
and is contained in the resource fork. Not necessarily a better idea, but
one that Microsoft is trying to emulate here.) It would be much more logical
to simply ask the user a series of questions (including whether to display
the extensions) the first time they use a computer.

The problem, as you note, is that this approach does a poor job of meeting
audience needs, both for the engineers you're working with and for anyone
who double-clicked an e-mailed file containing a virus labeled "cool
photo.jpg" with the ".exe" suffix concealed. Bad design decision all around,
and exactly what happens when you try to mollycoddle your users without
asking whether they want this. In your case, of course, the simple solution
is to work with the files in list view, with the full file names displayed.

--Geoff Hart, FERIC, Pointe-Claire, Quebec
geoff-h -at- mtl -dot- feric -dot- ca
"User's advocate" online monthly at
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