Microsoft improves file management in Windows 8

Microsoft improves file management in Windows 8

Summary: Do the changes Microsoft has done to the file copying, moving, renaming and deleting UI go far enough?


Microsoft has showed off some of the changes it has made to the file copying, moving, renaming and deleting user interface in Windows 8 on the Building Windows 8 blog.

Microsoft had three goals in mind:

  • One place to manage all copy jobs: Create one unified experience for managing and monitoring ongoing copy operations.
  • Clear and concise: Remove distractions and give people the key information they need.
  • User in control: Put people in control of their copy operations.

So, what do we have that's different? Well, first off we have a single dialog box for multiple file operations rather than having Windows spawn multiple dialog box. From this box users will be able to pause, resume and stop transfers, as well as have the option to see more details such as data transfer speeds.

Cosmetic changes, but much-needed nonetheless.

Microsoft has also improved the handling of 'file name collisions' when copying a file to a location where a file with the same name already exists. A simple dialog with checkbox options replaces the current confusing hellstew of options.

In addition, Microsoft has also removed a lot of of the redundant confirmation dialogs such as the 'are you sure you want to move this file to the recycle bin?' or 'are you sure you want to merge these folders?'

Nice changes that will certainly streamline file operations. However, this doesn't address my biggest issue with file operations, which is the continued heavy reliance on file names. Why is the filename still the metric used to determine whether files are identical or not? Why not something more unique? Something like a checksum? This way the operating system could decide is two files really are identical or not, and replace the file if it's a copy, or create a copy if they are different. This would save time, and dramatically reduce the likelihood of data loss through overwriting.

What do you think of these tweaks?

Topics: Software, Microsoft, Operating Systems, Windows

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  • RE: Microsoft improves file management in Windows 8

    I'm glad they are improving this. Comes a long way since the XP copy/move/paste dialogs.
  • RE: Microsoft improves file management in Windows 8

    Can you explain how your proposal of using a checksum instead of the filename would work?

    Not too sure you've really thought about this at all (I'm betting all you've done is scavange what you thought was the best retort from the blog article comments but took it completely out of context).
    • It's AKH ..

      @finarne .. since you're new here, i'll catch you up real quick: he's prone to not thinking through material he blogs with and also tends to ramble ... most times without a spell checker .. go figure!

      More on topic though, the last GUI/UI and behavioral change shown with the visual comparison of same-name files is a brilliant idea.

      Unlike previous same-name file copy handling in XP, Vista and W7, you now get to compare files without the ambiguity. This is an important feature as there are bound to be scenarios where, for example, a person creates a re-worked version of a file in PhotoShop and doesn't want to accidentally replace it with the original (or vice-versa).

      This certainly is a great way of saving time and cutting down on accidental file replacement, with bad, inferior or simply incorrect files of the same name.
  • Performance - that's the reason not to use checksums

    If you use a checksum (or any kind of signature) to identify a file these must be calculated at some point. If you do this at copy time all source and target files must be read completely first before any copying is done ? obviously too much overhead (especially across a network). If you permanently store them in the file system then they must constantly recalculate them when any update is made, which could be happing very frequently for some files. Also you have to deal with the older file formats that cannot store these signatures, and deal with the problems of corrupted signatures that are out of sync with the file contents.

    I am sure the team at Microsoft are bright people and have gone through all these ideas and rejected them for reasons of practicality (in fact I am sure I have read a MS blog post somewhere that dealt with this exact suggestion).

    So let's praise them for making some excellent usability improvements!
    • Caveat

      @rwfearnley Windows Search already indexes a lot of information on many of the files that we may wish to copy. Why not include a checksum as part of that?
      Also, you only need to calculate a checksum on file collisions, at which point file activity has already been halted whilst waiting for user intervention.
      The necessary overhead should barely be noticeable.
      • RE: Microsoft improves file management in Windows 8

        @keebaud@... The original idea was to replace checking file names with using checksums, so you'd need to calculate a current checksum on every file in the target directory before copying.
  • RE: Microsoft improves file management in Windows 8

    Heck I was happy when I started using Vista and if you had a copy error that you could cancel that one file and the job would continue instead of canceling the whole thing. This is another improvement.
  • Looks great to ...

    ... me!
    P. Douglas
  • File Management INTERFACE

    Looks like changes to the file management INTERFACE ... no big changes along the lines of:

    - ZFS integrity features
    - extended RAID handling
    - deduplication features
    - enhanced local backup
    - integrated cloud backup

    Same 'ol, same 'ol.

    Don't mention Windows Home Server :-(
    • RE: Microsoft improves file management in Windows 8


      And you know this to be fact? You may be very surprised come mid September.
  • RE: Microsoft improves file management in Windows 8

    Why would you want to copy a file over an existing file with the same checksum? Seems like a waste of resources to me. The only reasons I copy files is for backup purposes or to provide a copy elsewhere. If it's going elsewhere then its not there already so a checksum is irrelavant. If it's a copy for backup, then its very likely that it is an update that is being backed up, so the checksums would be different, but i still want to copy over the file, not make a new one.
  • RE: Microsoft improves file management in Windows 8

    Multiple displays: Why is this treated as some huge accomplishment? Browsers have been doing this with download pages for a long time
    • RE: Microsoft improves file management in Windows 8

      @edkollin I switched to Linux a year ago from XP, and on my list of "things I gained" was exactly what they're now adding to Windows 8: a single dialog box showing all copy/move operations, ability to pause or cancel, see throughput details, etc. I guess I'm one little step closer to going back to Windows... maybe Windows 9 will bring virtual desktops. :-) Actually, come to think of it, Windows 8's "app store" will probably be like Linux's software repositories and let you update the OS and applications through one tool... Windows 7 already copies KDE's excellent launcher menu... the Linuxification of Windows has begun. :-)
  • RE: Microsoft improves file management in Windows 8

    How many out there remember the DOS utilities named LapLink and Brooklyn Bridge? Both were intended and marketed primarily for transferring files between PCs using either a serial or parallel cable, but also conveniently displayed both source and target directories (aka folders) in side-by-side columns with the sizes and dates of each file. It was an easy process to determine which file was newer, and files could be copied in either direction, or renamed, deleted, etc., and whole directories could be easily synchronized The side-by-side listing of files in source and target directories is something that has been lacking in the native Windows file manager utilities, and would certainly be a welcome and useful addition.

    The improvements to the file copy operation in Windows 8 looks like a welcome improvement, but couldn't the improvements be made to the file manager utility itself?
    • RE: Microsoft improves file management in Windows 8

      @dcwest Good point (and I do remember LapLink!). I switched from XP to Linux about a year ago and when trying out Windows 7 recently the one shock to me was that the file manager wasn't multi-pane or multi-tab (it might be multi-tab, but I didn't see any clear way to create new tabs). I used explorer2 on XP which was multi-pane and Win7's file explorer still doesn't seem to have come close to catching up with it. If anything, it seemed to be more obtuse than XP's.
      • RE: Microsoft improves file management in Windows 8

        @jgm@... You mean like Amigutil on the Amiga 500 which was, oh, around the late 80's/early 90's. Maybe I am just savvy but I simply open 2 explorer windows and tile vertically. A single windows would be nice in some cases.<br> Here's a brilliant idea, and likely to appear... Configurable File Explorer layout such that maybe I don't want a preview pane and want another folder view(?)... sounds good to me!
    • Because...

      @dcwest "conveniently displayed both source and target directories (aka folders) in side-by-side columns with the sizes and dates of each file"

      With all journalling filesystems, you can turn certain features off. Including update/access/creation timestamping.

      Bear in mind that a creation time/update time may not be valid or accurate - if you work in an environment where you need that (and know these caveats wont be an issue, like centralized time synchronization) then there are utilities to do this job. Microsoft builds Windows with features that improve usability for the majority of its users, rather than making (fairly) radical changes that would only improve things for a subset (of a subset) of users, whilst adding additional complication for everyone else.

      The alternative would of course be checksumming, but the main downsides of this have already been detailed here in the comments by others. I wouldn't want to have to explain to my parents, family members or customers why Windows was asking them to replace img1.jpg:9A747F534ACEDA7305F7446EADC35D2952F8189D with img1.jpg:DEEDC78C92245C7032CFD313EDB88638B1C3D528 and why it messed up their names with random letters and numbers.
      Alan Burns
  • RE: Microsoft improves file management in Windows 8

    OpenVMS does file versioning, like filename.ext;ver and it is really handy. It also ahd a huge and english-like command-like that puts CMD to shame. Not bragging on VMS really but these two features could help Windows be easier to use.
    • CMD

      The windows command prompt isn't supposed to be all encompassing, it's designed purely for administrators and power users to use command line utilities built into windows and/or installed by programs, as well as for the processing of fairly simple batch scripts.

      It isn't designed to be a portal to do anything on a Windows system; it's a holdover for compatibility. If you want to make a fair comparison, compare it with Powershell.

      I don't see how vile versioning could be added - would they be arbitrary versions like file.1.version and file.2.version, meaning the first and second copies on the local machine? How would this integrate with Windows when certain files already have versions (binary files like .exe and .dll), when some don't? If they aren't arbitrary, how can versioned files be generated for the trillions of files out there with no version, and how would they remain synchronised between every computer with the file on it?

      Finally: Command lines are not user friendly, they may make the lives of administrators easier, but user friendliness is generally not high on the list of priorities for someone using a command line - first would be functionality, and second would likely be performance. I doubt the addition of anything like what you suggest would be feasible (and worth the development time), nor improve the windows experience in any great degree.

      Note that I'm not trying to discredit you or anything, I just wanted to point out that the suggestions you mention would require a heck of a lot of work to implement, for a dubious gain in real productivity or functionality for the majority of windows users.
      Alan Burns
    • RE: Microsoft improves file management in Windows 8

      @opcom Now you're giving me flashbacks to using a VAX mainframe in college in the early nineties. :-) I DO miss the file versioning it had and when exploring the subject recently was surprised to find it's not readily available elsewhere, even Linux.