Tuesday, March 10, 2009

That's not a yes-no question

This morning, I was trying to tidy my "My Documents" folder on our network drives. I write a lot of documents, and regularly will "Save As" to a new filename (document1.doc, document2.doc, ...) in case I need to jump back to a really old version of my document. I'd eventually stacked up about 6 or 8 "backup" copies of a strategy document I'd written - so I selected "Cut" on each of the old copies, made a new directory called "Drafts", then tried to "Paste" those files into the new folder.

That's pretty standard for file management in a GUI - I'd done this countless times under Linux.

But under Windows, I got this interesting dialog box:

First of all, I was doing all my work in Windows Explorer (the file manager) not Internet Explorer, so I don't know why the dialog claimed it was from the web browser.

But the message "Do you want to move or copy files from this zone?" isn't a yes-no question. That's an either-or question! The errors on Windows make no sense to me, and this is a perfect example. I didn't want to lose my important work, even though I was only working with old drafts of a document. So I needed to be clear which button to press - if I pressed the wrong button, would Windows lose my files?

After a (long) while, I figured the question only made sense if it was asking "Do you want to move or copy files from this zone?" That is, do I really want to do this file operation? That's the only way I could read that question as a yes-no question. So I clicked Yes.

Sometimes these dialog boxes make me feel like I'm disarming a bomb. Click the wrong thing, and it's all over.


  1. You are a very lucky man. What usually happens at this point is this: You make your decision (after several minutes) and you move your mouse over to the button you chose and start to click. Then, a dialog box from some process you started five or ten minutes ago but by now forgot about or assumed was not really running pops up, and you click that instead, and you have no idea what you just clicked. But from now on the computer does not run quite the same ever again ...

  2. Really? I figured it was move or copy from the beginning.

  3. You'd think that Microsoft could take 10 minutes and add two dialog boxes, one for the "copy" action and one for the "move" action. But no... they expect you to deal with there bad grammar and pay them for it.

  4. Here's what happens to me. While I am puzzling over the meaning of the mystery dialog box, some other program decides it has to have the focus. I deal with that program, only to find that the original dialog box is now buried behind its program's main window, with no way to bring it to the foreground.

    When creating a GUI way back in the days of Windows 3, a fellow programmer was showing me an early version of his work. When he demonstrated how it handled errors, I complained about the error dialog. "What's wrong with it? It's perfect," he said. I replied, "No it's not. It says that all my work is lost, and it's got an OK button on it. There's nothing even remotely OK with losing all of my work." The next time he showed me the program, the error dialog was the same, except the button said, "Oh well."

  5. "there bad grammar"?? Talk about bad grammar...

  6. I think we've all managed to miss that he was moving files from one directory TO A SUBDIRECTORY. In my mind, that's not something you pop a dialog box for, just putting stuff into a subdirectory.


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