Rich drag & drop in Windows Vista

Have you ever selected a bunch of files, started dragging them, and then only to accidentally drop them on the desktop, making a load of duplicates cluttering your desktop which you have to clean up later? No? Just me? 🙁

Luckily for me (and me only), Windows Vista bring a some minor but powerful enhancement to the drag and drop interface. Vista actually provides visual feedback about what actions will be applied to the files you have selected. It might sound simple if not stupid at first, but sometimes you really don’t know what’s going to happen and its good to have some reassurance you’re not making 500 duplicates of the same files.

Rich drag drop user interface icons

If you’ve ever used Windows Vista, then you might have seen these little icons on the side of your cursor when you move your sensitive documents around the hard-drive. There are 8 different types in total, collect them all to unlock hidden Ultimate Extras! Find the secret 9th type to win a trip to space!

This feature as described in the patent “Rich drag drop user interface“, attempts to solve this simple problem, “when performing a drag/drop operation, it is not always clear to the user what action is going to be taken upon completion of the drag/drop operation. It can be even more confusing when multiple files for dragging/dropping have been selected together.”

So the inventors have created a table of all the possible actions you might want to do with files and folders depending on where you drag them to, and provide appropriate visual feedback on the actions performed if the files are to be dropped.

Rich drag drop user interface table

Like me, if you don’t want to refer to this table every time you want to drag and drop some files, just remember to look for those little icons next to your cursor before you release your folders of Tux Penguinography on an unsuspecting icon.

17 insightful thoughts

  1. There is also an undo feature in the right-click menu when you have accidentally dropped your files.

  2. Umm???

    Lists and Auto Lists were dropped features from Vista.
    If I’m not mistaken they have been totally removed from RTM.
    They were in Beta 1 though.

    It’s a real shame,
    I would have really found Lists useful.

    (Dont get mixed up with the File “View” Lists)

  3. Lists are still in Windows Vista.

    For example, drag a file in the “Links” folder inside your user directory. The “Links” directory is a “list”.

  4. Umm….
    A List in beta 1, was basically a virtual folder (which you could create at anytime, coz it was registered as a folder type.) which allowed you to create a Static list of files in which you could just drag/copy/paste.
    Basically what this allowed you to do was dump files of even the same filename and wouldn’t give you an overwrite message. This say allowed you to sort out files with the same name, while seeing different metadata etc.
    Also all of the files in the List would behave like files and not shortcuts. For example if you selected all of the files in the list and copied them, it would actually create a real copy of the file and not just a duplicate shortcut.
    This functionality has sadly been removed from Vista RTM. It was reported removed on the Vista newsgroup.

  5. @Coldfire: If you try drag a file into the “Links” folder, it would tell you you’re making a shortcut in a list directory.

  6. I’m not on Vista atm, So I will have to check it out later.

    Anyway I’m still pretty sure that the functionality I talked about prior has been cut. As in you can’t create Lists/Custom Lists anymore 🙁

  7. Yeah, thank god stacks are still in!

    But in saying that, they too have been sadly down-played!

    I recommend for everyone to watch the Shell team Beta 1 video interview on C9
    To see how much was cut/downplayed in Vista RTM from Beta 1!
    What as shame really, I really think it just needed some further refining of the UI to make things look more obvious.

  8. This feature was also prsent in XP, but it lacked the color and ‘obviousness’ that Vista brings. In XP, the tags were monochrome.

  9. I like the way explorer does this in vista 🙂

    although I often use right-click-drag. it’s just easier to be certain about what u do with the files that way.
    don’t forget that u’ve got shift to change a copy into a drag!

  10. When i Drag&Drop files I always use right-click to drag. When you release to drop, it asks you if you want to copy or move. This is in XP too.

  11. Yeah and in typical MS-fashion, text indicators which tell users what will happen do not realign at right side of the screen, so you can’t see the text (for example if you drag files into bin in lower right corner) :o)

  12. I’ve noticed in Vista that you can’t save a link to webpage by clicking and dragging the upper left corner “e” icon.

    Anyone else noticed this, is there a fix or setting that will allow this?


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