Why was HDS_FILTERBAR added to the common controls if nobody uses it?


Mike Dunn was curious about the intended purpose of HDS_FILTERBAR.

The HDS_FILTERBAR style adds a row below the header control consisting of an edit control and a funnel icon. The funnel icon presumably represents a coffee filter, because after all, everybody in the world drinks coffee as much as people in Seattle. (Developers think they’re so clever.)

Mike points out that new features of the common controls were nearly always used by whatever version of Windows or Internet Explorer shipped that new version. The HDS_FILTERBAR style is a notable exception. What happened?

I believe the HDS_FILTERBAR feature was originally intended for use by Active Directory; my guess is that dialogs like Find Computer would have taken advantage of it. For whatever reason, that feature was cut from Active Directory, which is why you didn’t see anybody using it. However, the feature was cut after the code for the feature was already written and checked into the common controls under the style HDS_FILTERBAR.

The Active Directory team either forgot to tell the Common Controls team, “Hey, you know that feature we asked you to write for us? Yeah, we don’t need it after all,” or they did, and the Common Controls team said, “Well, we already wrote it, and we don’t want to take the risk that removing it won’t introduce a bug, so we’ll just leave it in. Maybe somebody else can find a use for it.”

The result was a feature in the header control that nobody used. And since nobody used it, I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s a little buggy. (We already know that it’s more than little ugly.)

Comments (19)
  1. anon says:

    Google image search for "HDS_FILTERBAR" has an amusing picture of a dog as one of the top results.

  2. Henning Makholm says:

    I wonder, did the developers think they were clever, or had they just never thought about how "icon" and "rebus" are different concepts?

  3. I always thought that Icon represented filtering because it starts off wider at the top and is narrowed at the bottom to represent the smaller result set with the filter.  Doesn't even remotely look like a coffee filter to me.

  4. Gabe says:

    The funnel icon just mirrors what Excel uses for its filtering. It makes sense that MS would have a common icon for a given feature. Other software (like SysInternals' ProcMon) also use a funnel to represent filtering.

    I don't see a connection to coffee, either. All I see is that lots of stuff goes in one end and few things come out the end.

    [Your funnels appear to be leaky, then. The funnels that I have do not remove items; the amount of stuff that goes out the bottom is the same amount that went into the top. -Raymond]
  5. dave says:

    I wonder, did the developers think they were clever, or had they just

    never thought about how "icon" and "rebus" are different concepts?

    Grr, that reminds me of the several cases I have seen where a "log file"

    button had a picture of piece of a tree.  

    Grrr!

  6. Scott H. says:

    You know, as a non-coffee-drinker, all this time and I didn't make the coffee filter connection. I remember being confused the first time I tried to use something that used that funnel/filter/roughly-triangularly-shaped thing because I didn't connect it in my head with filter.

    Maybe it's supposed to be "funneling" you to the right selections? Larger set funneled down to a smaller set? Probably a good example of a UI choice that might not have been the best in retrospect but is widely-known now.

  7. Anonymous Coward says:

    As avid coffee quaffer I must say that I never made the connection with coffee filters either. It's obviously a funnel, which is a bad metaphor for what it does since funnels don't funnel larger sets into smaller sets; they just squeeze the same set into a smaller bucket.

    The stupid thing is that if I search the web for ‘filter icon’ I only get funnels, probably all inspired by Microsoft's use of the icon. So what would be a good metaphor? A sieve possibly?

  8. Joshua says:

    A sieve possibly?

    Yes.

  9. Deduplicator says:

    Well, a sieve might have been the right metaphor, but a funnel it was, a funnel it is, and a funnel ist stays. That's the thing with lock-in, inertia and 'never change a running system'.

    Or, as its often said, it was good enough for gramps, its good enough for me.

  10. Amused says:

    But what would an iconic representation of a sieve look like?

  11. Bob says:

    But what would an iconic representation of a sieve look like?

    A tin foil hat with holes in it.

  12. dave says:

    Or, as its often said, it was good enough for gramps, its good enough for me.

    And that's why the operation of saving a file to my terabyte fixed disk is represented by picture of a 1.44MB floppy.

  13. chentiangemalc says:

    The whole funnel thing did seem illogical. Coffee filter now that makes sense! Never thought of that before. Filter away the bitter coffee grinds to get the beautiful, refreshing lifeblood of the development world.  It's coffee filter for me now. I think that is better than sieve because we filter data not sieve it.

  14. Simon Buchan says:

    I always thought it was less representative of it's actual functionality of "removing unwanted data" and more the high-level goal of "reducing the flow [of information] to manageable levels". Never made a coffee connection.

    BTW: The "uncommonly used things might have bugs" obviously doesn't apply to security bugs, so if a security reviewer finds a non-security bug in the source, is that likely to be logged? (Not that it would make the bar to get fixed.) Or would that mean the security reviewer gets "last touch" status on that component?

    [If, during the investigation of a security issue, non-security issues are found, then they get logged as normal-priority bugs. And security fixes are made in such a way that they do not confer "last touch" status. -Raymond]
  15. Joshua says:

    [And security fixes are made in such a way that they do not confer "last touch" status. -Raymond]

    I wish my boss were half as intelligent.

  16. Filter funnel says:

    Having just looked at the Event Viewer in Windows 7 I see the funnel icon is still alive and well. But then, so are these: en.wikipedia.org/…/Filter_funnel (also can search for images of them). So we get the best of both paradigms! :-)

  17. ulric says:

    funnel made sense to me because they narrow the results…

  18. David L. Morris says:

    The funnel as a filter symbol made sense to me as a metaphor from chemistry classes in high school (as in circular filter paper, fold into quarters, place in funnel).  I had always assumed that to be the case, which shows that what is gobsmackingly obvious for one person is not always so for someone else. Plus, here is Australia, filtered coffee would not be thought of as the height of coffee geekdom.

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