How slow do you have to slow-double-click for it to be a rename?


In many parts of the system, you can rename an item by first selecting it, then clicking on its name. The selection step is typically done by clicking on the item, which creates the risk that your second click will be interpreted as a double-click rather than as a rename click. How slow do you have to slow-double-click for it to be a rename?

Slow enough that it's not a regular double-click.

The double-click time is set in the mouse control panel; I believe the current default is 500 milliseconds. If your two clicks are within a half second of each other, they will be treated as a double-click. If they occur more than a half second apart, then they are treated as two clicks.

Okay, I lied.

If you think about it, the algorithm above misses a case: Suppose you click on an item, wait two seconds, and then double-click it. That second click (the first in the double-click) shouldn't initiate a rename because it's really part of a double-click.

Therefore, the rule really is that a click on a selected item with no other clicks within the double-click time, either before or after is treated as a rename.

That's why the answer to commenter boxmonkey's question "Who renames files by slowly double clicking?" is "Nobody." It's like asking, "Who makes a telephone call by picking up the receiver and holding the hook down for three seconds before beginning to dial, then holding the hook for another three seconds when the call is over?" Holding the hook isn't part of dialing process. The purpose of holding the hook is to ensure that when you ultimately go off hook, the operation won't be interpreted as a flash. You don't consider it part of the phone dialing process; it's just a way to separate the next call from the previous one.

Comments (36)
  1. This is the way I still do it.

    Vista doesn’t always let me but when it does I find it easier.

    Anyone remember Xtree on MSDOS?

    Gosh I love that.

  2. Steve Macpherson says:

    Out of interest, is there a particular reason you can single-click a file in explorer, then single-click again (after the double-click period), and use the cursor keys to change to a different file within the double-click period and cause the newly selected file to be renamed instead of the one that was single-clicked twice?

    Is this just a "feature" of Explorer?

  3. Will says:

    @Steve – Neat, I had to try several times to confirm that it even existed.  Wonder if anyone has reported this "feature" before…

  4. Maxim says:

    @Will – presumably there’s now some software relying on it and it will remain thus forevermore.

  5. John says:

    The reverse is also true: use the keyboard to select a file and then immediately click on the same file.  Presumably it is the selection of a single item and not necessarily the clicking that is key.

  6. Csaboka says:

    There’s another part of the story Raymond hasn’t mentioned: the two clicks should be near enough to be considered a double click. (IIRC, the default tolerance is +/-2 pixels in both directions.) So, if you move the mouse somewhat between the two clicks, you can enter rename mode as fast as you can double click, regardless of your double click speed setting.

    This is a safe way to avoid accidental double clicks, but requires greater concentration than regular clicking.

  7. Rob says:

    @Steve/Will/Maxim – you’ve selected the second file by moving the highlight to it.  What would you expect to happen when you click on a selected file?

  8. Nick Lamb says:

    Rob, read the description more carefully.

    What the user did was:

    1. Click file A
    2. Click file A again (to rename it)

    3. Push "arrow up", highlighting file B, perhaps by accident, before the "double click" timer expires.

    Reasonable outcomes seem to be (in order of preference)

    1. file A rename begins, highlighting A again if that’s part of the rename UI
  9. rename is cancelled, nothing happens, B remains selected

  10. The actual outcome is that it renames file B.

    It’s easy to see from a programmer’s point of view how this would happen, and it’s amusingly similar to a family of bugs in get_wchan() getting some attention in Linux recently. Basically, global state has a habit of changing underneath you. Sometimes that’s fine, but sometimes, here and in get_wchan() you actually want to cache the state locally so that it’s consistent even if it becomes out of date.

  • the operation won’t be interpreted as a flash

    Every time I move I have to call the phone company and tell them to turn off call waiting… otherwise I get a bill full of call waiting charges because I dial a wrong number, hang up, and dial the right number.

  • Rob says:

    The mouse is still over a different item. I wouldn’t expect the mouse to open a different item to the one it’s clicking on under any circumstance…!

  • J says:

    This actually happens to me all the time by accident and drives me insane

  • SuperKoko says:

    "So, if you move the mouse somewhat between the two clicks, you can enter rename mode as fast as you can double click"

    Not exactly. The first delay (time between the two clicks) is reduced as much as you want, but the second delay (time between the second click and the effective operation) is still equal to the double-click time.

  • Danny V says:

    When I don’t have a lot of files to rename I usually go for this method. Otherwise it’s good ol’ F2.

  • benjamin says:

    I’ve never been able to get the flash/call waiting option to work on a phone that doesn’t have a dedicated button or on a cell phone.

    You’re probably inclined to think "Oh, he’s some geezer…" but, in reality, I’m in my mid 20s.

    Using one interface to accomplish two different goals just seems like bad design to me. It probably doesn’t help that my parents didn’t have tone dialing until a few years ago.

  • Gabest says:

    Vista doesn’t have this "feature" anymore but on XP I remember accidentally renaming multiple files like this: 1. copypaste a few files to an explorer window, 2. while copying start renaming another file there, 3. wait until the copying ends…, 4. the selection moves to the new files and all of them are renamed instead! it even appends (1), (2), … before the file extension to avoid duplicates.

  • Metro says:

    There is also a requirement that the mouse be still for some period of time.  Otherwise, it will be interpreted as a drag operation.  I am constantly needing to go back and re-click on something because I am working fast and don’t let the mouse pause during the click.

  • Gabe says:

    Nick: this is like the problem in NT4 where Shift+Delete to bypass the recycle bin would sometimes send to the recycle bin anyway. This is because it checked the shift state when it went to do the delete, not when you hit the Delete key or menu item. The solution was to keep the Shift key held down, but it also meant you could press Delete, then Shift. This was fixed in W2k or XP.

    To be more on topic, I never understood why renaming (a feature you rarely use) is so easy to accidentally do. It’s even worse on MacOS where hitting Return enters rename mode (you have to hit Cmd+O to open the file). Who renames files more often than they open them?

  • Marcus says:

    I use slow double click all the time, but mostly for copying and pasting filenames rather than renaming.[1]  It’s far more convenient than the right-click context menu or F2.

    [1] On a side note, this is one of my chief irritations with Vista: Even though I almost always want the whole thing, Windows Explorer now leaves the file extension unselected when a rename operation is initiated.

  • Euro says:

    @Marcus: Even though I almost always want the whole thing, Windows Explorer now leaves the file extension unselected when a rename operation is initiated.

    You’re the very first person I’ve met who doesn’t say the exact opposite. How often do you really want to change the extension and not just the name? In my case, it’s about once every 30-40 renames.

    I’d imagine that this pre-Vista behavior is a continuous source of support calls: "Help! I can’t open my document anymore and the icon changed". In some ways worse is the way some expert users react to this behavior: "I always turn off ‘Show Extensions’ because I can’t stand having to un-select the extension when renaming a file (and therefore expose myself launching viruses called Readme.txt.exe)"

    This just goes to proof that you just can’t make everybody happy.

  • mikeb says:

    Since you mentioned the "hook flash", here’s my little anecdote about my childhood experiences with phone phreaking, even before I knew there was such a thing:

    When I was a kid I’d sometimes dial the phone by ‘bobbing the hook’.  This would make the same noises or switch activity – or whatever was used to signal a phone number – as the rotary dials that were used back in the olden days. In those simpler times, you could amaze family and friends with this parlor trick.  Also, for some reason you could get free calls at some pay phones using that technique.

  • Marcus says:

    "How often do you really want to change the extension and not just the name?"

    Re-read what I wrote.  I hardly ever want to change the extension or the filename.  On the other hand, I copy filenames into the clipboard for use elsewhere nearly every day.

  • Dean Harding says:

    "I copy filenames into the clipboard for use elsewhere nearly every day."

    Just press Ctrl+A before you press Ctrl+C. It’s not that much harder, since they’re both right next to each other.

  • Nick Lamb says:

    mikeb, look up "Strowger switch" in Wikipedia. Whether there actually still was such an electromechanical switch in your exchange by that time hardly matters, since the modern digital exchanges are backwards compatible, still accepting calls that use Strowger’s crude but effective in-band signalling method.

    (This isn’t necessarily true in a private exchange, but it is on every public telephone network I’ve seen)

    Rob, that’s why you’ll never make a good debug programmer :)

  • Steve D says:

    @Marcus: perhaps try a little utility called Ninotech Copy Path to easily do filenames and whole paths. </@>

    I’m doing a second click just to select a file in MS Explorer all the time, I think it’s becuause MS Outlook’s Inbox will highlight an entry without it necessarily having focus for keyboard controls.  Perhaps my biological context switching is defective.  So I try to just click the icon in Explorer to avoid entering the rename function when I don’t want to.

  • Dean Harding says:

    Also, I just remembers in Vista, on the shift-right-click menu is the "Copy as path" function, which would be even better for Marcus (assuming he wants the full path, not just the filename).

  • Yuhong Bao says:

    "[1] On a side note, this is one of my chief irritations with Vista: Even though I almost always want the whole thing, Windows Explorer now leaves the file extension unselected when a rename operation is initiated."

    This is because if the extension was selected, you could delete the extension by mistake if you were not careful, luckily even in versions prior to Vista, when you change or delete the extension, a warning pops up.

  • Jolyon Smith says:

    "luckily even in versions prior to Vista, when you change or delete the extension, a warning pops up."

    Frustratingly however, it doesn’t tell you what the original extension WAS or what you have changed it TO.   Often the warning message obscures the name you just typed and sometimes the extension change is a typo, not a deliberate choice.

    It also doesn’t give you the option of keeping the new NON-extension part of the name whilst retaining the old extension (although you might be forgiven for thinking that this was what you would get as the result of selecting "No" when asked if you are "sure you want to change the file extension".

    i.e. "no I don’t want to change the extension (but yes I want to keep my other changes to the filename – but you aren’t asking me if I want to change the entire filename)"

    It is also not intelligent enough to shut the hell up when changing the extension to one that is associated with the same file-type.  e.g. (on my system) jpg to jpeg, mpg to mpeg etc

    All-in-all this is possibly the laziest and most annoying warning messages in the entire Explorer implementation – it reeks of "after-thought".

    During the meanwhilst, the mention of other Explorer foibles in the click-pause and rename semantics reminded me of the Windows 2000 Explorer bug, where-in if you were renaming a file in Explorer and changed the sort order of the files in the Explorer view BEFORE confirming the rename, then the files would be resorted and the new name would be applied not to the file that you started renaming, but whatever file happened to occupy the position of that original file prior to the resort.

    At least that one got fixed in XP.

  • dhiren says:

    "When I was a kid I’d sometimes dial the phone by ‘bobbing the hook’.  This would make the same noises or switch activity – or whatever was used to signal a phone number – as the rotary dials that were used back in the olden days. In those simpler times, you could amaze family and friends with this parlor trick.  Also, for some reason you could get free calls at some pay phones using that technique."

    It could also be used to get around phone locks meant to prevent outbound calls – the handset has a lock which probably just enables or disables the link to the rotary dial. You’d still get a dial tone and be able to receive calls, just not make any calls. But by tapping the hook fast enough in the right way, you could dial out anyways.

  • Chris Hanson says:

    I use almost all of these modes regularly, but I’m kind of a file management geek. If i know of a shortcut, sooner or later, I’ll come to a situation where the shortcut will save me one or two clicks and then it becomes part of my routine.

    As a plug for my pals at GPoft, I’ll point out the Directory Opus’s rename mode cycles between file/extension selection modes with the F2 key. Initially just the name portion (not the extension) is selected. F2 then changes to selecting just the extension. A final F2 changes to filename.ext being selected.

    (Obligatory Vista/Explorer bashing omitted.)

    http://3dnature.com/opus.html

  • Centaur says:

    Also annoying is that creating a directory works by creating a default-named directory *first* and then entering the rename mode as an afterthought. What if the ACL allows creating subdirectories but not renaming them? What if the user then decides to cancel but is unable because the directory is already there and the ACL does not allow deletion?

  • Friday says:

    Why not bash Vista/Explorer if they deserve bashing?

    All these posts show just how much of a prison Explorer is…

    Now the bashing -> …catering to newbies and restricting veterans.

  • Alexandre Grigoriev says:

    In any case, it’s better than it used to be in Product X and Product Y. If you accidentally clicked on a file name and typed a few letters, there was NO WAY to cancel the rename. No undo, either. Good luck in guessing what was the original file name.

  • DWalker says:

    Double-click-with-some-certain-speed to rename a file is a poor overload of the clicking function, IMHO.

    Right-click and then selecting Rename from the context menu is straightforward, and using F2 is easy (although less discoverable).  Clicking at some certain speed is just strange.  

    In my case, I *never* want any number or speed of clicks to let me rename a file.  If I want to rename a file, I’ll do it using one of the other 2 methods.

    [“Double-click-with-some-speed” is not the feature. The feature is “click to rename”. Read that last paragraph again. -Raymond]
  • Mark says:

    Wow. I must be the customer Microsoft decided to please with explorer. Glad to meet you all.

    Rest assured, other products have other features that annoy me almost as much as this seems to annoy you.

  • Cecil Chen says:

    Actually, I always slow double click to rename a file. Unless i have to use a shortcut key combo, which is seldom. Never had a problem with slow double clicking and I find it takes about as much to right click and press M anyway.

  • Raymundo Chennai says:

    “That’s why the answer to commenter boxmonkey’s question ‘Who renames files by slowly double clicking?’ is ‘Nobody.’ It’s like asking, ‘Who makes a telephone call by picking up the receiver and holding the hook down for three seconds before beginning to dial, then holding the hook for another three seconds when the call is over?’ Holding the hook isn’t part of dialing process. The purpose of holding the hook is to ensure that when you ultimately go off hook, the operation won’t be interpreted as a flash. You don’t consider it part of the phone dialing process; it’s just a way to separate the next call from the previous one. “

    They should put a picture of you next to the entry for “pedant.”

    [Dear “Raymundo Chennai” – if that’s your real name, then fine. Otherwise, I’m going to start blocking you for violating the “confusing pseudonym” rule. -Raymond]
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