Saturday, May 19, 2012

How the Windows 8 copy file conflict dialog slows you down

After Microsoft got its act together in Windows 95, the Windows copy conflict dialog's user interface essentially remained the same up to Windows XP. The copy engine may have seen under the hood improvements but the UI was very well-designed, consistent and simple. Microsoft attempted a redesign the file conflict dialog with Windows Vista but that resulted in a dialog that had horrible keyboard usability. Now with Windows 8, they have changed it yet again and this time keyboard usability is now okay - still not great but it's resulted in a dialog with poor mouse usability and somehow they have managed to remove functionality too! The biggest mistake they have done is they have a split a single simple yet powerful dialog into two separate dialogs - one simple dialog, and one advanced dialog. Here are some screenshots of the Windows classic copy conflict dialog, the Windows Vista/7 dialog and the Windows 8 dialog to refresh your memory.

See for yourself how many mouse clicks or keystrokes it requires and you will realize the new design isn't quite intuitive:


Windows classic dialog

Windows Vista/7 dialog

Windows 8 dialog

See file conflict details to make a decision (mouse)

0 clicks required

0 clicks required

1 click on Choose files button

See file conflict details to make a decision (keyboard)

0 keystrokes required

0 keystrokes required

3 keystrokes (down arrow twice, then Space or combination of Alt+C)

Overwrite/skip single file when copying single file (mouse)

1 click on Yes button or No button

1 click on Replace button or Don’t Replace button

1 click on Replace button or Skip button but 3 clicks or many more keystrokes if you want to see details to make a decision and then overwrite

Overwrite single file when copying single file (keyboard)

1 keystroke (Space bar or Enter)

2 keystrokes (Tab, then Space)

1 keystroke (Space) or 1 combination keystroke (Alt+R) but more if you want to see details to make a decision

Overwrite single file when copying multiple files (mouse)

1 click per file on Yes button

1 click per file on Replace button

2 clicks for first file, then 1 click per file, finally 1 click for Continue

Overwrite single file when copying multiple files (keyboard)

1 keystroke (Space bar or Enter) per file

2 keystrokes (Tab, then Space) per file

At least 4 keystrokes for first file (Alt+C, then tab, then down arrow, then Space) then Up/down arrow keys, space per file then finally 2 keystrokes to tab to Continue

Overwrite/skip all (mouse)

1 click on Yes to All or No to All

2 clicks (1 click on ‘Do this for next….’ then 1 click again on ‘Replace’ or ‘Don’t Replace’)

1 click on Replace All or Skip All button

Overwrite all (keyboard)

1 combination keystroke (Alt+A) or 2 keystrokes (Tab, then Space)

9 keystrokes (Tab 4 times, then Space, then tab 3 Times, then Space again) OR at least 5 keystrokes (1 combination keystroke Alt+D, then tab 3 Times, then Space)

1 keystroke (Space) or 1 combination keystroke (Alt+R)

Rename to keep both files

Not available in Windows XP

1 click (single file), 2 clicks (all files)

4 clicks to rename all (keep both versions for all files)

Dialog supports mouse "Snap To" for less mouse movement

Yes (pointer moves to most useful button – Yes button)

File conflict dialog doesn’t support “Snap To”, folder conflict dialog supports it

Neither simple nor advanced dialog supports mouse “Snap To” at all

More clicks and keystrokes for UAC protected locations


2 clicks or keystrokes

Even more additional clicks and keystrokes than Windows 7 for UAC protected locations

It’s not all bad. For example, the XP dialog lacked Rename ability. The Windows 8 dialog also adds the ability to skip files with both same date and same size and visually compare files. But you can see how for the most important operation - seeing the conflict details to make a decision, the overall number of mouse clicks, mouse re-positioning requirement and keystrokes have increased unnecessarily and the design complexity also increased by splitting the dialog into two. The proper design would have been to keep it all in a single dialog, yet show multiple files in a scrollable area. But considering that there is no way to disable the annoying auto sort feature which shuffles all your files, compared to that monstrosity, this regression in the copy experience is nothing.


Anonymous said...

It's still better than hiding the No to All feature, like Windows XP and lower did.

Gaurav Kale said...

How is it better? It requires more clicks to do anything except 'Copy all' and 'Skip All'. Microsoft's stupid and inaccurate telemetry probably told them people click on these two actions only most of the time. That same telemetry told them users do not use the Start Menu! :P

Anonymous said...

In reply to the first Anonymous, in Windows XP and lower, the No to All feature is known as Cancel.

Gaurav Kale said...

Not exactly. "No to All" means skip all the conflicting files and copy the rest. Cancel would stop the copying of all files.

Anonymous said...

In reply to the second Anonymous:
You are wrong because cancelling the whole operation will also affect any legitimate pending transactions.
In reply to the first Anonymous:
You are wrong as well because clicking "No" while depressing the "Shift" key has a "No to all" effect for any possible remaining conflicts, without affecting any legitimate copy/move operations, unlike "Cancel".

ew0054 said...

I just hit esc and remember ctrl C, V because I still cannot interpret the meaning of this dialog. Very poor design and fluff for nothing.

Anonymous said...

Sorry but this one is how it should be for all

if I want to KEEP both files then I should have that option

sorry but microcrap has stuffed it again