Things I find annoying about the way that Windows names files and moreso how it sorts files:

  • It would be extremely helpful to allow question marks in filenames and it’s annoying that it won’t let me. I’d say that it’s actually even more important than periods.
  • By default, Windows does not include extensions on filenames. You can change this, though, which is good. Unfortunately, when you show extensions it changes the order in which files sort because the period is sorted after the space. So if you have an MP3 entitled “Troy Thomason – Black Coffee.mp3” and another entitled “Troy Thomason – Black Coffee (live).mp3” the former will appear first if you’re hiding extensions but the latter will appear first if you’re showing them. This comes up more often than you would think. If you have the American Pie movies on your computer, “American Pie” will show up before “American” if extensions are not hidden.
  • Windows 2000 does not sort numerically. If you have a file named “Test Document 2” and another named “Test Document 10” the latter will appear first in Windows 2000. This actually wasn’t a big deal because I could fix it using filename trickery. So this isn’t a complaint so much, particularly since they fixed it for Windows XP, but it’s kind of annoying that Windows XP and Windows 2000 treat this differently. There are supposed to be ways that you can get Windows XP to stop figuring out numbers, but I want to have my cake and eat it, too. I wish one of the Windows 2000 SP would have addressed this issue. Yes, yes, I know that’s not what SPs are for, but still.
  • On the other hand, there are some discrepencies between Windows 2000 and Windows XP that have no logical explanation. The way that non-numeral and non-alphabetic characters are sorted changed. I had found a filename trickery way around previously mentioned problems by sticking certain characters in front of the filenames like !’,-…. but Windows 2000 puts them in a different order than XP, so the order changes depending on what OS I’m using and that’s pretty lame.
  • Also lame was Microsoft’s decision to make the dash a non-sorting character for XP. I wanted to add a dash to put certain files ahead of other files because it’s less intrusive to the exclamation point that I had been using (if I wanted a file to appear at the top of the directory, I simply renamed Filename.ext to !Filename.ext).
    Most of these could be fixed if I could go into the registry or some other setting place and change how the files are sorted alphabetically.

Category: Server Room

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3 Responses to Windows Filenaming Annoyances

  1. Brandon Berg says:

    1. The reason you can’t use a question mark is that it’s used as a wildcard in DOS commands. What I do is use a full-width question mark. It looks a bit funny, but it’s better than nothing.

    2. Huh. I never noticed that.

    3. I suspect that using both operating systems to view files on a single drive was not thought to be a very common scenario.

    4. What are the specific changes you’re referring to? I can’t do anything about it, but I know a guy who probably knows why they changed it, if you’re curious.

    5. It’s not so much a non-sorting character as a character that’s used only as a tie-breaker. CompareString (the Windows API used by Explorer for sorting file names) can be called with word sorting rules or string sorting rules. With string sorting rules, punctuation marks are treated kind of like letters or numbers. With word sorting rules, you first compare all the regular characters, and then go back and use the punctuation as a tie-breaker if all the regular numbers are the same. Word sorting is intended to be more like a dictionary sort, I believe. Sounds like Windows switched from string sorting to word sorting, which kind of makes sense for file names. I don’t know whether this is better or worse than an exlamation mark, but you can still use a leading period.

  2. trumwill says:

    1. How do I do a full-width question mark?

    3. I think that they should have figured it. People using more than one OS on a network with a common server doesn’t strike me as wildly ambitious use.

    4. I can’t remember off the top of my head. My computer set-up is in the process of being taken down at the moment in preparation for the move. When I get it back up again I’ll take a look.

    5. A Period is a good idea, though I mostly use sorting for folders and you can’t put a period at the start of a folder, apparently.

  3. Brandon Berg says:

    1. Full-width characters are only used in East Asia, so you’ll need to install a Chinese, Japanese, or Korean font. Having done that, open up the Character Map (charmap.exe), select a CJK font (e.g., MS UI Gothic). Then check the Advanced view box, select Unicode from the Character set list box, and then scroll down to the very bottom of the character grid. You should see the full-width question mark just before the full-width Latin letters. It’s code point FF1F if you can’t find it.

    3. Good point–I hadn’t thought of that. Maybe it’s just that, from a business perspective, it doesn’t make sense to put new features into an old operating system when you want people to upgrade. Also, business customers are often quite resistant to the idea of putting new features in service packs.

    5. A leading space will do the job, too, and it’s allowed in directory names. The catch is that Windows Explorer will just ignore leading and trailing spaces when you try to rename a file–you have to do it from the command shell.

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