Re: [Usability] Faded File Extensions

On 26 Dec, 2005, at 5:15 PM, Jason Hoover wrote:
Somewhere between hiding the extensions and making them visible to
rename them, is just hiding them until the user decides to rename the
file, putting the cursor before the extension. (Which, I think may be
what Apple does, but I didn't remember that until after I wrote it.)

AppleWorks and Microsoft Office for Mac both preselect "untitled" but not the file extension for overwriting in their default filenames ("untitled.cwk", "untitled.doc", and so on). That's the most similar behavior I know of to what you describe. But clicking on a filename in the Finder selects the entire filename for overwriting, including the extension if it's visible.

The Finder has a "Show all file extensions" preference that is off by default, the converse of Windows Explorer's "Hide extensions for known file types" option that is on by default. Regardless of this setting, however, "deleting" the extension from the filename hides the extension but does not actually delete it. (I don't know where the "hide this file's extension" flag is stored.)

If you add an extension to a file that already has one, you get an alert of the form "Are you sure you want to change the extension from “.PDF” to “.gif”?" with the default button being "Keep .PDF". This happens even if the previous extension was hidden, which can be very confusing. And if you add an extension to a file that doesn't already have one, you get an alert of the form "Are you sure you want to add the extension “.gif” to the end of the name?" with the default button being "Don't Add". If you go ahead with either of these actions, of course, you make the file practically unopenable.

In short, it's hack upon confirmation alert upon hack, and a shining example of why you shouldn't use file extensions to indicate filetype.

Matthew Paul Thomas

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