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Responding to Feedback, Microsoft Makes Changes to Windows 8 File Management


On last week's Windows Weekly, I raised a topic that I've been wondering about for some time: How much user feedback does Microsoft take into account while developing Windows 8? After all, so much of the OS design seems to have been created in secret. But this week, coincidentally, Microsoft published the first of what I assume will be a series of posts addressing this very issue. And for this first entry, the company is examining thousands of items of feedback related to Windows 8 file management.

"We read the comments, newsgroup discussions, and reviews that have been written about Windows 8 and track the feedback carefully," Microsoft's Steven Sinofsky writes in the introduction to a post on the company's Building Windows 8 Blog. "We listen to this feedback by taking into account the source of the feedback and factoring in the intended audience for features as well as trying to reconcile conflicting feedback (no matter how many thumbs up votes there might be, we can promise that, for any design worth discussing, there are conflicting and equally valid points of view). Of course, we always consider the engineering feasibility of any changes we make—compatibility, security, performance, and so on."

According to the post's author, Ilana Smith, a lead program manager on the Engineering System team, Microsoft received thousands of comments to three previous posts about Windows 8 file management, summarized them, and then provided today's update on some of the changes we'll see as a result. These changes will be coming in the Consumer Preview/Beta release of Windows 8, due in late February. They include:

Identifying duplicate files during a copy or move. In the Windows 8 Developer Preview, Microsoft introduced a new experience for selecting the right file when file name collisions are encountered during a copy or move. "In the beta, we've added a new option to the detailed conflict resolution dialog," Smith notes. "By checking the box in the bottom left of the dialog, you can filter out all files that match on name, size and time. The system will skip copying or moving these files. This functionality adds no additional time to the operation, works both locally and across networks, and on all types of systems and storage."

Pause a copy operation and resume it after reboot/sleep/hibernate. If your PC is in the middle of a copy operation and goes to sleep or hibernates, the copy operation will automatically pause. And when the PC wakes, the user can optionally choose to resume the copy. "We decided not to have copies automatically resume on wake, as the system environment may have changed significantly in the interim and we do not want to cause an error," Smith writes.

Confirmation improvements. Microsoft says that it has made improvements in how confirmations are presented during a file copy operation so that they don’t get lost under previously running copies.

Windows 7 navigation pane scrolling bug is fixed. In Windows 8, Microsoft has fixed a bug with navigation pane scrolling that exists in Windows 7.

Picture orientation in Windows Explorer. Thumbnails of pictures now respect EXIF orientation information for JPEG images in Windows 8. "If your camera sets this value accurately, you will rarely need to correct orientation," Smith says.detail.

Performance improvements. Previous versions of Windows suffer from a small performance issue tied to icon overlays--like the small "lock" overlay you see on files that shared. The fix? Get rid of the overlays. "Overlays have limitations – they can only show a single state, add a lot of visual noise, and can be confusing," Smith writes. "The padlock overlay has been removed; this information is conveyed better by the 'Sharing status' column."

Pin to Start. In the Developer Preview, there's no way to arbitrarily pin items to the Windows 8 Start screen, as you can do with the Start Menu or taskbar in Windows 7. This is being fixed for the beta. "You can now easily pin your favorite folders to Start, and take advantage of the rich customization functionality that we built into it to arrange the folders into groups and into any order you want," Smith says. "Additionally, just as in Windows 7, you can pin shortcuts to executables to Start directly from Windows Explorer, which can be very useful for applications that don’t add themselves to the Start screen by default."

Powershell. New options related to Powershell have been added to the Explorer window's File menu. (Previously, there were some command prompt options only.) 

Explorer ribbon changes. Microsoft is making a number of changes to the Explorer ribbon user interface. First, and most amazingly, it will be minimized by default. (This happens to be my preferred way to use it.) Second, the ribbon will now display keyboard shortcut hot-keys so that you can easily see what keyboard shortcuts will trigger commands. And third, Explorer customization settings are being added to the list of Windows 8 features that are synced to the user's account on Windows Live. This allows customized settings to be configured once and then used on any PC for which you've logged on with a Windows Live ID. Nice!

"We really appreciate all your feedback on our previous posts," Smith concludes. "We believe it has contributed directly to an improved file management experience for Windows 8."

There you go. :)

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