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February 18, 2005 12:09 AM

Broken: Windows search box

Windows_searchBryan Klimt asks: "Which folder do you think I should search in?"


The right one.

Posted by: TheRightOne at February 18, 2005 02:12 AM

Uh...the "resize" corner is visible in the screenshot. All a person has to do is click-and-hold the left mouse button and press the right arrow key on the keyboard to expand the suggestion list toward the right, and then press the enter key without letting go of the mouse button. (If you care to be a bit more random, you can just drag the corner with the mouse only, too.)

Posted by: at February 18, 2005 02:15 AM

The last answer is right, but this is - at least - a bad solution. Most OSes have a search function with this field much larger than this.

Posted by: Kossatsch at February 18, 2005 03:16 AM

"Uh...the "resize" corner is visible in the screenshot."

A useless default is a broken UI. If I have to resize it to make it useful, it should start off bigger to begin with.

Posted by: mendel at February 18, 2005 07:49 AM

Is this a PEBUAC issue????

Posted by: Kitten at February 18, 2005 08:36 AM

Definitely a PEBKAC. You can also resize the search pane to make it much wider. When you do that, the folder menu gets wider as well.

The alternative to doing it this way is to have the popup box like they did in previous versions of Windows. I wasn't involved in the design process, but I would figure that Microsoft decided it would be most intuitive to have the search criteria on the left and the search results appear on the right.

To say this is broken is just laziness on the part of the user.

Posted by: Jay at February 18, 2005 08:59 AM

"A useless default is a broken UI"

definitely true.. this is surely broken.

of course you can fix it, but you shouldn't have to.

Posted by: nathan at February 18, 2005 09:19 AM

Is it broken or is it laziness? It depends on what level of usability one wants to accept in a user interface. Yes, one can resize the dropdown list. But given that the control has a list of the elements that are to form the dropdown, why not size the list to accomodate the longest element? By the way, the Windows Start menu does this. You can check for yourself by adding a shortcut to the start menu with a long name. It will size the list to accomodate the long shortcut you added.

Posted by: Carlos Gomez at February 18, 2005 09:20 AM

Hrm. The version of WindowsXP I'm currently using (Pro, SP2) sizes that particular drop-down (as well as the others in that window) to fit the longest element.

Posted by: anitsirK at February 18, 2005 09:33 AM

UI default size broken, otherwise there is resize corner...

Posted by: dusoft at February 18, 2005 09:49 AM

Resizes for me in XP SP2.

Posted by: Brian at February 18, 2005 10:21 AM

And Windows dominates Mac OS? I guess VHS beat Beta, better or not.

Posted by: Jay at February 18, 2005 10:53 AM

This is most probably just a result of Microsoft wanting to make the search function fit into a search pane on the left of the window. They probably fixed it in SP2.

Posted by: fuzzy at February 18, 2005 11:16 AM

Not all such boxes resize themselves. I agree, it's annoying.

Posted by: Susan A at February 18, 2005 11:30 AM

The UI is broken. If it has to be tweaked by the user to make it usable, its design is poor.

Posted by: sam at February 18, 2005 12:25 PM

This is broken in Windows in general. Many dialogs like this are NOT resizable. And something like this should size itself. I know in the Mac the API has a function to figure the pixel width of a string amongst other helpful tools. Windows must have something like this. That's, like, three lines of code to get a decent estimate of how wide the menu should be and pad it a bit?

A related problem is the popup with, say, 20 entries, but it will show only 5 or 6 and give me a scrollbar when I have a 24 freaking inch monitor in front of me.

Posted by: Citizen Of Trantor at February 18, 2005 01:45 PM

" will show only 5 or 6 and give me a scrollbar when I have a 24 freaking inch monitor in front of me."

That IS broken. Getting a smaller monitor will fix the problem.


Posted by: DaveC426913 at February 18, 2005 02:29 PM

You do realise that the full path for each is displayed when you mouse over it.

This isn't broken at all.

Posted by: MinkOWar at February 18, 2005 04:03 PM

Just let your mouse pointer hover over any entry and the entire path will show.

Posted by: Joe at February 18, 2005 08:54 PM

Why the extra action of mouseovers when there is already a precedent for other controls where they simply display the whole thing?

Posted by: Carlos Gomez at February 18, 2005 09:52 PM


- the narrow default width is desired for layout reasons

- you can see the path with a mouseover

- it's easily predictable that

then why not put the folder name in the list instead of the path in the first place?

(Not that I consider that a complete solution, because if you've got more than one folder with the same name, you still have to somehow magically intuit that a mouseover will show you the path [and don't bother telling me that "everyone who's anyone will know that already", please, unless this app's audience is restricted to experienced Windows users]. But it's better than what's there now.)

Posted by: jaed at February 19, 2005 01:11 AM

To those who say it resizes automatically:

The screenshot is of the AutoComplete box, NOT the drop-down box.

Posted by: Shadow at February 19, 2005 11:18 AM

Aha! I see, now. Thanks for pointing that out, Shadow. I'd never tried typing in that box. Those who said that a mouse-over shows the whole name are incorrect, too, it would appear. And, jaed's potential solution is no longer really applicable either, because you'd type the whole path, and the program isn't going to be able to intuit which folder you meant, using just a sub-folder name. This ought to resize to fit the width of the item just like the drop-down box does. I wonder if the auto-complete boxes on websites in IE are broken, too.

Posted by: anitsirK at February 19, 2005 07:23 PM

good idea :)

Posted by: pekvik at February 20, 2005 12:28 PM

If it auto-resized, you'd have to resize it again if you typed in a really long directory name, just so you could see the search results.

Maybe Microsoft should put it on the top of the screen, like in 98.

Posted by: fuzzy at February 20, 2005 01:59 PM

There is another way in which it is broken.

1. The drop-down combo box entries show C:\Documents and Settings\[I assume] some user\My Documents etc. But that's not how it's presented elsewhere in the UI, where care is taken to present My Documents as My Documents, not the long trip through the filesystem.

2. Yes, there is an API to get the text length; in fact it is very much encouraged as in complex scripts (Arabic mainly) one cannot deduce the text width by adding the widths of characters, not even adjusting for kerning.

3. From the programmer's point of view, Windows combo boxes do not automatically size for width or height. Bad bad bad. Lazy programmers thus don't add the required boilerplate code to make them do this.

4. I agree all windows should be sizeable.

Posted by: Simon Trew at February 22, 2005 07:45 PM

resize the search window. then it will sasy stuff like C:/Documents and Settings:/Documents. DUH!!!!!

Posted by: mo at March 24, 2005 06:14 PM

At least you got that far, mine really is broken, I'll send it "Windows Search"

Posted by: Reynolds at April 12, 2005 07:16 PM

Windows is a crappy OS!

Just dont use it!

If viewing websites can make your OS crash (I.E. Getting malware from a website) then its not a good OS.

use UNIX or Linux.

Posted by: Henry at April 13, 2005 12:42 PM

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