Sorting is a state and a verb (and a floor wax and a dessert topping)


Cliff Barbier points out that after you sort an Explorer view by name, new items are not inserted in their sorted position. This goes back to the question of whether sorting is a state or a verb.

If you take an Explorer folder and say Sort by Name, do you mean "From now on, always show the contents of this folder sorted by name"? Or do you mean "Rearrange the items currently in this folder so they are sorted by name"? The first case treats sorting a state, where sorting is an attribute of the folder that persists. The second case treats sorting as a verb, where the action is performed so that its effects linger but the action itself is not remembered.

You might think that sorting is obviously a state, but STL disagrees with you:

std::vector<Item> v;
... fill v with stuff ...
std::sort(v.begin(), v.end(), Item::ByName);
v.push_back(Item(...));

When the last line of code appends a new item to the vector, it is not inserted in sorted order because std::sort is a verb which acts on the vector, not a state of the vector itself. The vector doesn't know "Oh, wait, I'm now a sorted vector."

Okay, so in Explorer, is sorting a state or a verb?

"Let's do both!"

Sorting is a state, in the sense that the list of items is presented in sorted order when the folder is first opened. It's a verb in that the sorted order is not maintained when new items are added to the view while the folder is already open.

Placing new items at the end instead of in their sorted position is necessary to avoid having items move around unbidden. Suppose you're looking at a folder sorted by name, you scroll down the list, find the item you want, and just as your finger is posed to click the mouse button, another process creates a file in the folder, which Explorer picks up and inserts into the view, causing the items to shift, and when your finger goes down on the mouse button, you end up clicking on the wrong item.

You can imagine how annoying this can end up when there is a lot of file creation activity in the folder. If the items in the view were continuously sorted, then they would keep moving around and make it impossible to click on anything!

Mind you, you do have this instability problem when files are deleted and you are in a non-placed view (like List or Details), but there's at least a cap on how much trouble deletion can cause (since eventually you delete all the items that were in the view originally).

It looks like starting in Windows Vista, Explorer tries to insert new items into their sorted position, so at least in the modern versions of Windows, sort is a state. Good luck trying to click on something when the contents of the folder are constantly changing.

Comments (62)
  1. Pierre B. says:

    2 easy bits:

    1. Creations can occur in the midst of deletions, so deletions get go on forever too. (Although new items that could get deleted are added at the end, so I guess if the item you're looking for exist, it will end up being at the top.)

    2. I guess the UI team figured out that the repeated creation-just-at-the-click case was much rarer than the annoyance of having items show up unsorted. I'm glad they changed the behavior.

  2. Scotte says:

    "…and just as your finger is posed to click the mouse button, another process creates a file in the folder…"

    I find it hard to believe that this is a consideration. I have no idea how many dialog boxes I've summarily dismissed over the years when they pop up while I'm typing.

  3. GSerg says:

    @Jack Mathews: Try to extract some files from an archive into an existing folder in Win7 (by right-dragging the file into the folder and selecting "Extract here"). The files will end up scattered all other the folder. Good luck figuring out what they were. In WinXP, they would nicely sit in the very end, so you could easily do something else to them. This new behaviour has effectively killed the "Extract here" command. I now always have to use "Extract to folder/<files>", which I hate.

  4. Leo Davidson says:

    @GSerg: I've never found that a problem because I always extract archives into a fresh directory, then deal with their files, or enter the archive itself as a virtual folder. For most other operations, sorting by modified time is preferable, at least to me.

    @Raymond: "Unpredictable item positioning" is something you often argue strongly against so I'm surprised you are/were in favour of a system that has items appear in different places depending on when they appeared vs when the window was opened.

    @Jack Mathews: Well said!

    This issue does seem to divide people, though. I guess it's a "which way round does the toilet roll go" issue.

    FWIW, I help write a file manager which (since the Win9x days) has always defaulted to the Vista/Win7 way (sorting is a state) with an option to do it the other way (sorting is a verb) for those who wanted it. We recently removed the option, figuring even Explorer dropped it and assuming nobody still wanted it… But as soon as we put that version out we got a bunch of complaints and ended up putting the option back in the next update.

    (It also doesn't play nicely with grouped and/or hierarchical folder views.)

  5. Dan Bugglin says:

    I've seen sorting act as a verb in 7 when moving folders around.

    The problem is if I myself specifically add files to a folder I expect them to take their sorted order so I can find them later!

    @scotte Indeed.  I don't think it would be too hard for the MessageBox API to ignore user input until a few seconds after the dialog opens and the user has had a chance to read it (some apps such as Firefox do this themselves in some dialogs).

    Of course edge case apps, such as apps that modify the MessageBox's window after creation, might not work properly with this and would have to be considered.  Plus some apps send tirades of MessageBoxes your way when you already know what they say and you just want to close them right away… but I would consider that a flaw in the apps, not the API.

  6. "and when your finger goes down on the mouse button, you end up clicking on the wrong item."

    That's exactly the problem I have when trying to do anything in Process Manager.  Regardless of what sorting I use, it seems that there is always enough activity to cause the list to move when I'm aiming for the process I want to kill or reprioritize.

  7. Ivo says:

    A bigger (IMO) problem is renaming files, especially with the keyboard. Let's say you have music_1.mp3 … music_9.mp3. You want to rename them to song_1.mp3 … song_9.mp3. As soon as you rename the first one it jumps to the end (because song_1 > music_9). Then you have to go up to find the next file you want to rename. Repeat 8 times.

    What's curious, is that you don't get this behavior in root folders (like C: or D:). It would be great if I can make all folders behave like drives in that regard.

  8. SimonRev says:

    I'm afraid I like the XP behavior (files stay in place).  After all, it is pretty trivial to hit F5 if I want to refresh the sort.  And having new files always at the bottom is extremely handy.

  9. jader3rd says:

    "Good luck trying to click on something when the contents of the folder are constantly changing."

    Now that I think of it, that has yet to be a problem.

  10. Joshua says:

    @GSerg: the real problem is the windows culture of unhygenic archives.

  11. Brian G. says:

    Sometimes I like the new Vista/7 behavior.  Sometimes I like the old XP behavior.  I can't say that I clearly prefer one over the other for all situations.  Why can't Microsoft just make a system that reads my mind (asking me every time would get tiresome, and I'd probably forget to change a menu option ahead of time) before choosing whether to treat it as a verb or a state?

    The preceding paragraph is intended to be taken with a (very large) grain of salt and read as sarcasm and/or tongue-in-cheek.

  12. Jon says:

    Brian G.,

    Although the concept seems great, can you imagine the reaction on Slashdot? "Microsoft requires users to consent to brain scans to browse hard drive."

  13. blah says:

    The STL example is a total non-sequitur. Of course a single generic algorithm cannot magically maintain the order of any iterator range you throw at it into the future. For that you have the tree-based data structures. Way to take an implementation detail and use that as a UI design argument.

    [My point is that the natural implementation of the hypothetical std::vector::sort(BinaryPredicate _comp) method treats "sort" as a verb, not a state. -Raymond]
  14. Mason Wheeler says:

    Like Jader3rd said, I've never had this be a problem.  What in the world are you doing trying to perform manual operations on a folder that a running program is actively using and modifying?  That sounds like a recipe for trouble in more ways than just this example!

  15. 640k says:

    Because XP explorer used a specific stl container it was a verb. Not because some UI designer choosed to.

    Vista explorer did away with stl containers, using other components which treats sort as a state.

    The explorer developers didn't choose the behaviour. They didn't bother to care at all. They just coded happily in ignorance.

  16. Jack Mathews says:

    @GSerg:

    Yes, Extract Here… is now broken, as it always was.  Archives are folders at a fundamental level. Extract Here is like right dragging a folder and having a "Merge Contents of this folder into here…" It's a pain to change your habits, but it doesn't make the old way correct, it just makes the old way the way you're used to.

    @Ivo:

    You can rename groups of files and have Explorer number them for you.  The case you just said, you're using filenames as defacto folders.  So if you have foo_0, foo_1, …. foo_99, shouldn't you have a folder named foo and then then files for the tracks inside?

  17. Jack B Nimble says:

    I definitely prefer the XP way. Now if only I understood why when I select multiple files to be loaded into something (like windows media player) the last file selected is always first, and then it orders the remaining files from the first one selected onward.

  18. SimonRev says:

    I can help you there Jack:

    You probably selected the first file in your list then held down shift and clicked the last file to select them all, then you dragged the files into Media Player.

    When Explorer generated the list of files for the Drag-And-Drop operation it took the focus file (the one with the dotted rectangle) first, then the remaining files from top to bottom.

    (Note, I don't really like that behavior, but it is consistent.  Next time, try using Ctrl+click to get the focus onto one of the files int the middle of your selection and you will see the result).  I finally got in the habit of selecting bottom to top to ameliorate the problem.

  19. Ivo says:

    @640K – I hope you are joking. :)

    @Jack M – that was just an example. I'm sure you can see the inconvenience when renaming a group of files in general. As soon as you rename the first file, it will be resorted and you will have to scroll to find the next file you want to rename

  20. Troll says:

    Because this WAS an idiotic decision (to do both) instead of letting the user configure from Folder Options. Most file managers have this option as already mentioned in the comments, most except Explorer.

    [Ah, the checkbox, the mating call of the loser. -Raymond]
  21. Dee says:

    Win7 seemed to be marginly more intelligent where new items appear on the end, then shortly after get resorted.

    I'm not sure whether it is intentional or what triggers the resort, but it's happened enought to be noticable.

  22. Barry Kelly says:

    I wrote about this many moons ago (blog.barrkel.com/…/venting-on-vista.html), to quote:

    "I often keep a folder open while a background process is creating files in it: anything from an automated build producing log files to a wget mass download job. Now, maybe I'm a really odd fellow, but I rather appreciate the way XP behaves in this scenario: periodically, the kernel notifies Explorer that the underlying directory has changed, and XP will add the new items at the end of the existing listing – even though this may be out of the correct sorting order for the folder. I know that I can just press 'F5' to refresh the view, and everything will be resorted. However, knowing that new files are just appended to the end, I can scroll down there and watch the output appear, and even open it up when I see that the next output file has been created.

    "In Vista, no longer. Explorer is now "smarter", for some smart-ass value of smarter. Instead, it incorporates new items into the existing sorting order. Now I know some people would consider the old behaviour a bug and the new a fix, but the old behaviour was long-standing, and I had learned to rely on it."

    I personally consider it a minor functionality loss; the fact that the behaviour is long-standing makes me believe the change to it was a mistake, rather than intrinsic worth of either approach. In any case, it made me use Explorer a lot less, and Cygwin/bash a lot more, which also made it easier to switch to OS X, Linux and Solaris. I reduce my dependencies on the OS every time the shell changes, to something I can control and keep more constant.

  23. Kay says:

    @Barry:

    If I want sorting by creation time I just…. sort by creation time. Then it orders things correctly.

  24. Troll says:

    The analogy with that post about styled controls is hardly relevant. I am really trying to like Windows 7 (tried to like Vista as well) but can't because I have no luck with trying to click on something when the contents of the folder are constantly changing. Something as basic as file management is screwed up due to the forced auto sort and forced auto arrange. The big problem with Microsoft is they refuse to accept genuine feedback when someone gives it. That's why I took the "Troll" user name. All "polite" feedback falls on deaf ears or all "strong" feedback is considered troll-ish.

    [If there were a checkbox for every possible design decision, the configuration dialog (not to mention the test matrix) would be a disaster. Part of the job of designing something is actually making a design decision. You can't make an omlette without breaking some eggs. -Raymond]
  25. Joe says:

    I daresay that people reading this blog are NOT typical windows users and from I can tell, real typical windows users like the Windows 7 behavior because it does what they expect.

  26. jon says:

    What's wrong with designing something to give the user a choice about how they use their computer?

    I know it must seem like Apple's business model is much more successful than Microsoft's these days, but do you really have to emulate everything they do?

  27. jmthomas says:

    How about having the control watch where the mouse is and keep the item pointed to static on the screen?  If the insert goes in before the current mouse pointed item, move everything above the moused item up.

    Users can rest their eyes and mouse as long as they want, watching the item they are going to click on, and be assured it will not ever change underneath them.

    Although I personally agree with @Barry Kelly, I can live with the new way AS LONG AS my mouse click isn't perverted.

    Ditto with the "Expand the folder tree after a mouse pauses a moment" feature.  I've lost more files because the tree expanded the folder list underneath me…  But it would be OK to expand the folder if the folder beneath the mouse didn't suddenly change to some sub folder of my desired target!

    And then there's "automatic" scrolling as the mouse approaches an edge, and the item underneath continues to change, even though the mouse has stopped moving…

    I propose a general rule (go back and look at the very old CUA guidelines from the IBM-Microsoft cooperation era): when the mouse has stopped moving for 2 seconds, any selection item underneath the mouse pointer (and the pointer) stay fixed at its current screen location.

    Thus a user has only to wait 2 seconds before (re-)verifying the selection and clicking.

  28. jmthomas says:

    @Kay:  Not when a downloaded file is pre-allocated in a temporary directory and then renamed.  Creation time doesn't change.

  29. Burak KALAYCI says:

    XP did this better than Vista. Should be hardly a surprise to anyone.

  30. jon says:

    Particularly when you consider some of the loser checkboxes that you DO actually have.

    "Always show menus" ? Whoever came up with the idea that it was a good idea to get rid of the menu bar should be sacked immediately, but given that you did decide to get rid of it, isn't it a bit gutless having an option to turn it back on? No, this is a design decision – no menus for you!

    "Display file size information in folder tips" – because it's such a controversial thing, showing the size of a file. Definitely need an option for that.

    "Display the full path in the title bar (Classic theme only)" – not only is this option rendered more or less useless by the fact that Explorer doesn't even have a window title any more, why is showing the full path of a folder deemed a feature worthy of a loser checkbox?

    I could go on…

    [Some designers are more weak-willed than others. -Raymond]
  31. Adam Rosenfield says:

    Raymond, please don't feed the trolls.

  32. Anonymous Coward says:

    Raymond, in re your reply to Blah… you missed the point spectacularly.

    [Suppose there were a method on std::vector called std::vector::sort. Suppose it took a BinaryPredicate. Would you expect this to be a verb or a state? If you don't like that, then let's step away from STL entirely. System.Collections.Generic.List.Sort(Comparison). Is this a verb or a state? -Raymond]
  33. jmthomas says:

    @Troll / @Raymond

    Please see "The design of everyday things" by Norman, Donald A.  (I found this delightful book via one of Raymond's recent blog references.)  He'll tell you that adding new / changing old features to an incorrect design just makes it worse.

  34. Brian G. says:

    Mild curiosity here: did you remember to pack your fire-retardant suit this morning, Raymond?  I have a memory of some comment in the past alluding to the possibility that you personally changed the sorting functionality of the shell here and I'm wondering if you were expecting this much controversy over the topic.

    As a side-note (if anybody cares) I have a mild preference for the old XP-style "new stuff goes at the bottom" but this I can adapt to.  I love HiTechHiTouch's suggestions about keeping the view's center under the mouse cursor so that you can rely on whatever is under your cursor to remain static while things may shift around it.

    [I can never predict which articles will generate the most flames. I only learn this after the fact and end up removing a category of articles from the queue. I'm begining to realize that any discussion of a feature that changed after Windows XP is flame-bait, because it's clear that in the minds of the people who comment the most on this site, Windows XP was Perfection. -Raymond]
  35. Nick says:

    [Ah, the checkbox, the mating call of the loser. -Raymond]

    While I don't agree with all the changes in New Windows, this response was hilarious.  Thanks :)

  36. John says:

    If somebody's going to call you an idiot no matter what you do, maybe you shouldn't do anything.  There was a compelling reason for this change, right?  Right?

  37. dave says:

    It's this sort of thing which reminds me why I never ever ever want to work on (specify/implement) user interfaces.

  38. Jack Mathews says:

    The problem with thinking that sorting is a verb is that it is displayed everywhere in the UI as a state.  How so?

    * Headers show a sort chevron in the header.  The header says what is displayed, so a sort chevon implies that the header "is" sorted by that, not "can be."

    * The "sort by" items in the View menu show a checked status for the current sort order.  A checked state implies a level of "this is persistent state," not like normal menu items, which say "you are issuing a command"

    I would say that the Vista/7 teams changing this is a good thing by explaining the XP behavior with "Good luck trying to explain to your mom why the file she just saved ended up at the bottom of the folder."  Had to explain this one away countless times.  I'm pretty sure that there's more confusion by misplaced files than by folders constantly changing state.  In fact, I can't think of a non-developer common case of this.

  39. Joshua says:

    The long-running versions seem to have been DOS 6, Win 3.1, Win 98, Win XP. I wonder what the next long-running version will be. Predictive pattern says Win 7 but who knows.

    Sooner or later I'll have to make the jump from XP to what's probably going to be Win 7.

    Raymond calls the checkbox the mating call of the loser. What I will be doing is alternate shell. In this way I am not asking Microsoft to do the work to modify the shell to my liking but only make it possible for it to be done, which is most of the time a lot less work. I could finger a couple of points where this was done wrong, but with confidence there aren't many more unlike the endless list of trying to adapt the shell to everybody.

  40. Evan says:

    @Joshua: "the real problem is the windows culture of unhygenic archives."

    The *real* problem is the unreliable hygenicity of archives. If you expected them to be unhygenic, as you call it, then you could always compensate. Now, you don't know whether you need to or not.

    (I actually have a script I can run if I'm at the command line that will extract an archive (several different forms) by looking in it first, figuring out if it's hygenic or not, then making a directory if it isn't. It's pretty spiffy.)

  41. 640k says:

    @Joshua: That might be the best solution considering the explorer tree control is badly broken in windows 7. Cannot use it in any productive way even when enabling all it's features. It was clearly released long before it was finished, rushed to release. It will probably be finished until Windows 8, but so will several new annoyances, although I have a hard time to imagine any more. Mabye: "it's looks like you're trying to sort files, how can I help…"

  42. Troll says:

    Ah so Raymond finally covers my biggest and most annoying pet peeve of Windows 7 and Vista! I am talking about List, Details and Content views obviously. If I was head of the shell team, I would fire the guy(s) who made this change in Vista right away when Longhorn was in beta in 2005. It is so annoying that every time I use a Vista or Windows 7 system, I curse all of the shell team and pray something bad happens to them. I have stayed with XP for this very annoyance.

    Windows 95 to XP handled it perfectly (they treated sorting like a verb) and I genuinely feel Windows 7/Vista are deliberately designed to make working with files impossibly difficult so they treat it like a state. Working with files has become a massive nightmare because of this change as all copy-pasted, extracted, downloaded or renamed items are automatically sorted and scattered.

    Raymond, if you can do something about this please do so and convey the proper feedback to the shell team to make this auto sorting/auto refresh optional in Folder Options in the next version of Windows. This is a classical example of Microsoft being completely out of touch with what its users want. If this doesn't change in Windows 8 to allow configurable XP-like behavior so that new items are ALWAYS inserted in their sorted position and sorted *only when I press Refresh*, I (and hundreds of others mad and screaming about this change since Vista in the Answers and TechNet social forums) will have to stay forever with XP.

    The other annoyance also BEGINS with Windows 7 (but not in Vista or any earlier OS dating to Windows 95) for icon views (Medium, Large) where auto arrange is a state FORCED UPON THE POOR USER. It is forced because the lazy shell team didn't finish updating the ItemsView control in time to allow custom positioning and custom ordering.

    "Good luck trying to click on something when the contents of the folder are constantly changing." That is exactly the situation right now for me in Windows 7/Vista. Are you making fun of your own product?

    Wikipedia states it as well in Features removed in Vista: "It is not possible to turn off autorefresh/autosorting of files and folders." (Windows Media Player 11 and later have this same problem like Explorer). And the 2nd issue I mentioned (related to arranging not sorting) in Features removed in Windows 7: "Disabling Auto Arrange and Align to Grid is not available in Windows Explorer windows. As a result, users can no longer manually arrange items via drag and drop within a folder".

    Plus bonus annoyances you get for free with Windows 7: "Changing the sort criteria when multiple items are selected causes all items to be de-selected." and "Selection of multiple items is not retained across back and forward navigation."

    [Welcome, readers, to this week's episode of "no matter what you do, somebody will call you an idiot." -Raymond]

  43. Jeremy says:

    It's too bad people complain so much about these things. The articles people tend to complain about are the ones I find the most interesting. I hope it doesn't end up that your articles all get pruned down to "here is why we decided to change this font to a sans serif one" (which will inevitably be followed by a chorus of how terrible Comic Sans is….).  It would be a shame if you couldn't talk about interesting design decisions.

  44. Nick says:

    [I think any discussion of a feature that changed after Windows XP may end up on the list, because it's clear that in the minds of the people who comment the most on this site, Windows XP was Perfection. -Raymond]

    I realize the heavily commented stories are more work for you, but I have to ask — please don't remove that category of posts.  Discussion on the how and why of changes from Old Windows to New Windows is one of my favorites.

    I might just add that I don't think it's so much that XP was Perfection (is that what the P stood for? ;), but rather that it's been the most popular operating system on the planet for 10 years.  That's a *long* time — many people have used XP for longer than they've owned their car.  Some people (myself included) are easily set in their ways and resistant to change, and when the only way to vent about is anonymously over the Internet you can hardly expect the best manners.  I hope that doesn't detract too much from those of us genuinely interested in what you have to say.

  45. barrkel says:

    @Kay – sure, sorting by creation date would be fine, if the underlying filesystem supports it (not all do, especially over the network), if the new files appearing in the directory were not created some time ago (i.e. were not the result of a move operation), if the new files don't have creation dates rewritten by file extraction utilities (some archivers preserve this data), and finally if I didn't also simultaneously want alphabetical access to the current files in the directory (this is my real objection).

  46. Troll says:

    "If there were a checkbox for every possible design decision, the configuration dialog (not to mention the test matrix) would be a disaster."

    Except that in this case an option is a must because some users are finding it nearly impossible to work with files when they're jumping all over the place. It's not about adapting to the change at all or "XP is perfection" problem. It's about making users' lives easier. If they are telling Microsoft that renaming, copy-pasting or watching files in a folder where the order is changing frequently is causing massive usability issues, Microsoft SHOULD provide a checkbox option. It's all subjective (what necessitates a configurable option) but generally speaking, long-standing behaviors (95-XP) should be optionally available. In this case, this problem makes Windows 7 completely unusable to me. Do some searching in Microsoft's own technet social and answers forums and see how many people are mad about this change. Then rectify it in Windows 8 while there's still time. XP is perfection for many because Vista changed long-standing features.

  47. Troll says:

    One last thing. If Microsoft can't justify adding this to the configuration dialog UI for whatever reasons, at least make it configurable through the registry and tell us the secret registry value or maybe or programmatically. Is there already a registry value for Windows 7/Vista to disable this extremely annoying behavior? This was my no.1/very topmost annoying complaint with Vista that hasn't still been addressed. Why does sorting as a state doesn't behave on network paths and local drive root paths? How can it be disabled for all folders?

  48. Medinoc says:

    One thing I appreciate in Vista is that when it fails to keep items sorted, at least it takes notes that it's not sorted anymore, so that when you click the column to sort again it won't sort backwards like XP did.

  49. Florian K. says:

    What I don't understand about all the people complaining that they can't do real men's work in Explorer is this: In my company (PC and embedded development), almost everyone uses a Norton Commander clone for the real work (TotalCommander, SpeedCommander, FreeCommander and the like). Explorer in Windows 7 is a really shiny and easy thing for everyone, and I really like it for things I do on my home PCs or easy work, but if you're not everyone (e.g. developers or system administrators) and have to do heavy work, why are you really using Explorer for this? Use the right tool for the job. It's really sad that some people stay with XP just because Explorer (or rather, some feature of Explorer) is not for them. It's like not upgrading because WordPad is not a good word processor, and refusing to just use a real office package…

  50. Anonymous Coward says:

    Norton Commander and its clones are toys. They were nice in the DOS era, but don't compare to the feature set of Explorer. That doesn't mean Explorer is the best there is though – I have had a go at Dolphin recently and I was pleasantly surprised. Is it better on all fronts? I'm unsure… but Explorer does have serious competition.

  51. Kay says:

    @Barry.Kelly

    Your cases are very specific and most users will never run into those problems. A majority of users of Windows are people without any computer aptitude and probably confused by the XP way of things. I've seen this confusion in person multiple times.

    If you ~really~ want things sorted your way you can always use a custom shell and not explorer.

  52. bzakharin says:

    I thought Windows 2000 was perfection. What happened to all the "XP SUX" posts?

    Seriously, I think Win7 is the best version of Windows, just as every version of Windows (except ME) was at the time of its release, but more so (It actually delivers on the promise of running as well as Vista on the same hardware. Something every version of Windows claimed, but none actually did). I am a developer and never even noticed the change in behavior discussed in the article. Frankly, IIRC, XP (or maybe some older release) went back and forth between state and verb behaviors whenever it felt like it. I was never sure whether the new files were at the bottom or not, so I learned to just always press F5. I guess I've been doing that ever since. Nice to know I can stop.

  53. Florian K. says:

    @Anonymous Coward: I really like Windows Vista and 7 Explorer, but I can't think of a single thing I can do in Explorer that I couldn't do a) also and b) easier and c) faster in SpeedCommander, at least for things I do at work. Recent versions are even almost as shiny as Explorer :)

    Maybe I'm missing something. But as a developer, I prefer SpeedCommander by far for most things. At home, Explorer is fine for anything except large-scale file operations.

  54. David Walker says:

    In 10 years, I have never had trouble working with files that were "jumping all over the place".  If I am working in a folder where the files are likely to be moving around, I will have the authority to pause whatever process is creating the files so I can work on whatever issue has me in that folder.

    Or, guess what, you can SORT THE FILES BY CREATION DATE with the newest files at the bottom.  Do this temporarily if it's not your favorite sort method.  Then the new files will be at the bottom, of the list, and files won't be jumping all over the place.  Now, that wasn't so hard, was it?

    Personally, I like the new behavior.  The commenter who pointed out that the chevron indicates a "state" and not a "verb" is right.

  55. outro56 says:

    I think all this is silly, you are not forced to sort your folder items by name. You can also sort using modified/creation date it that's really important for you. Treating sort as a state is quite right. The previous XP behavior is quite a hack for users that want to have their cake and eat it too

  56. rdm says:

    Sorting can be a state, without losing the active item under the mouse pointer, without forcing a pause: if the item would be inserted above the mouse pointer you could move everything up to make room for it, keeping the file under the mouse in the same position.  This is easy to do for a flat list (detail view), but harder for a tiled display (large icons) — you wind up needing some padding sometimes, "at the top".  Another issue is what happens when the mouse is making a transition from one place to another.  Here you actually do wind up needing a pause, and you probably also would need visual feedback as to whether you had the mouse over a file or temporarily in transition between files (you might want to make this one fade to give the user an idea of how much time they had left to move the mouse), or in an irrelevant state.  This is not trivial — you need some extra data structures to represent "the user's perspective" to implement "also sort updates".

  57. Troll says:

    Take the case of any file operations (such as archive creation, photo resizing, mass volume normalization for music files) that place modified files in the same folder as the source. Why should I be forced to place them in a new folder just so I can separate them from the source files? If I already have the folder open, with XP, I can just delete the source ones after the modified ones appear at the end. One F5 and everything's sorted again. Sorting by date created or date modified makes them harder to locate because they're no longer alphabetical. I really hope this annoyance changes in the next version of Windows if Microsoft cares enough.

  58. Troll says:

    And I still can't get a New Folder to appear at the very end of the list in Vista/7 even if I sort files by date created or date modified. Folders are compulsorily grouped together. The moment I create a new subfolder in a folder with already lost of files and folders, the view scrolls like crazy and the new folder goes to the N's before even I can type its name. The moment I finish typing the name, it jumps again. Disaster.

  59. GSerg says:

    I do like Windows XP. But I've worked on all Windows from 3.11 to 7, including server versions, so I don't think my bias towards XP is a baby duck syndrom. My point is, if in operating system A I have to do 2 clicks to achieve my everyday goals, and in operating system B I have to do 4 clicks, one of them being a right-click, then the operating system B is worse for me, usability-wise. With Windows 7, I constantly find myself in a need to do more clicks than I would have to do in Windows XP.

    (I'm not counting clicks to dismiss new security dialogs, for these are good ones; I'm only talking about additional clicks resulted from changes in the interface.)

    And I love new features of Windows 7. Overall, I'm not going to downgrade. But I can't stop being sad and sometimes frustrated for having to do more clicks/typing, and for things that are now out of the user control and the only available option for which is the one inconvenient for me.

  60. David Walker says:

    Yep, Skyborne, the most annoying thing about the blog software — which we know Raymond doesn't control — is when your comment text disappears, and there is no feedback, and your comment never shows up.  Oh well, that's life.

  61. Skyborne says:

    Having the list jump around is *massively* annoying.  Trying to get the last of a few hundred images off a camera memory card in Gnome?  The larger thumbnails replacing the placeholder icons will keep pushing those files out of the bottom of the view by default.  (I guess you can get around this by sorting by modified time descending; but I tend not to think when angrily trying to hit a moving target.)

    The main frustration I have with Vista's sorting is that it is *usually* a state, but not *always*.  If I drag-and-drop a file, it tends to stick where I let go of it, even if I hit F5.

    Lastly, 7 > Vista > XP.  There are other opinions, but this one is mine.

    [Apologies if this multi-posts; I'm not getting any feedback on my previous attempt, and of course the comment text was destroyed in the process.]

  62. LR says:

    @David Walker: There is a clear sign if the post was accepted: The reloaded page then contains some black-on-green text in a box at the top, something like <the post will show up in the blog in a few moments>. If this green box is missing, it is save to scroll down, modify some character in the message text, and post it again.

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