File Dialogs for the 21st Century

File dialogs: you use them to open and save files all the time and you don’t think about them much. But if you did think about them, you’d have to conclude they are dinosaurs of the 80s roaming around in the 21st century.

Here’s what the File Dialog with the mostest would have: * Searchable – Based on the same indexing technology used by the desktop searches, let me just type the file name in. It’s not rocket science! * Unix-like tab completion. As I type the name and use bash to complete, update the directory view. * Bookmarks/favourites feature. Support three categories: (a) read-only bookmarks containing usual suspects such as my home directory, (b) personal bookmarks which I can set for all applications (e.g. “home/research” “/opt/projects”), (c) bookmarks specific to this application. * History feature: Remember the last N files I’ve accessed.

See, google’s dominance has led to a search-crazy world. And good thing, too. Browsing through a hierarchy worked when hard drives contained a few hundred documents. But it’s becoming a little challenging in a world where the Library of Congress will soon fit in your pocket. So Google Desktop and a host of competitors now let you pinpoint files on your hard drive in a second.

But how about the file dialog? Same old, same old. This is particularly noticeable in Linux, where there is a proliferation of dialogs. Using a gtk-based app? Here’s the gtk dialog. KDE? KDE dialog. Java? Java dialog. (Maybe.) Even when the dialog is the same – as in Windows – it just plain sucks!

As a related point, how long until the desktop search tools are provided as standard components, capable of being integrated into such controls as file dialogs?