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Controlling the Windows 2000 Professional 'File Open', 'File Save' and 'File Save As' Common Dialog Box (CDB)

The following information applies to Windows 2000 Professional and is not readily available anywhere - It comes from a variety of sources including the experts-exchange.com, Microsoft.com, Window's 2000 Resource kit, Window's help files and various net searches - I claim no originality for this information, although I have spent a fair amount time testing some of the various techniques - and I am certainly not a Window's expert, nor an MVP, etc - I am just an ordinary user trying to learn to 'live with' Microsoft's Operating Systems -

Please note that the CDB is highly customizable and its implementation varies greatly between applications. More sophisticated applications, like Word & Excel, may supply additional features to the CDB, such as a find file function, delete file, etc.

Note the following right click options within an open CDB:

Sorting:       Right click inside the dialog box, click on arrange icons

View:          Right click inside the dialog box, click on view

 

Display View

As best as I can tell, there is NO way to force an application to use a particular 'default' view in the CDB, particularly the details view. This doesn't appear to be possible unless an application developer provided for it or with 3rd party software is used.

Most applications use the list view their default.

More sophisticated applications, like Word & Excel, will independently remember the previous state of the CDB, including the display view. That is, each application will independently remember its own 'lasted used' settings.

The grids displayed when the details view is selected from the view menu in an open CDB are those grids selected when the window's explorer folder options are set globally.

 

Sort Order

Generally, the order of the file items displayed in the CDB (irrespective of which display view is used) is controlled by the sort order when window's explorer folder options are set globally.

Simply implemented applications (Notepad, Wordpad, etc) will use the folder options sort order as their default.

More sophisticated applications, like Word & Excel, will independently remember the previous state of the CDB. That is, each application will remember its own sort order.

Some apps don't remember the previous state of the CDB (Photoshop and many others).

 

Resizing the CDB

As best as I can tell, there is NO way to enlarge or resize the 'default' CDB, at least not without 3rd party software help.

 

Enable/Disable CDB Buttons

The buttons and places bar are enabled and disabled in the following registry key

HKCU\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Policies\comdlg32

Setting

Name

Type

Data

Show Back button on File Open/Save dialog box

NoBackButton

REG_DWORD

0x00 | 0x01

Remember previously-used file names

NoFileMru

REG_DWORD

0x00 | 0x01

Hide places bar

NoPlacesBar

REG_DWORD

0x00 | 0x01

 

Customize the CDB Places Bar

Not for the faint of heart

To customize the Common Open Dialog Box (used by notepad, etc), Jerold Schulman International, Inc. provides the following tip

http://www.jsiinc.com/SUBF/Tip2500/rh2514.htm

To customize the places bar in the Office 2000 Save As and Open Dialog boxes, Microsoft provides this knowledge base article:

http://support.microsoft.com/default.aspx?scid=kb;en-us;205041

 

Setting Window’s Explorer Folder Options

To set the folder options, do the following:

·                     Open window's explorer and configure the window as desired such as sort order, grid position, etc... The same sort order will also used in the CDB.

·                     Optionally, grids can be added and/or deleted by going to pull-down menu View | Choose Columns... and select any additional grid details that you want to be appear in the explorer window and uncheck any you don't want to appear. The grids selected will also be displayed when details is selected from the view menu of an open CDB.

·                     Once you are done go to pull-down menu Tools | Folder Options and click "View" tab.

·                     Under "Advanced settings:" locate "Remember each folder's view settings" and make sure the selection box is checked.

·                     Then locate "Like Current Folder" button and click it to apply the setting globally.

I believe the above will set the sort order of the CDB and the grids displayed when the details view is selected in the CDB. However, it probably won't override the customizations created by the Customize This Folder option as explained by Microsoft in this knowledge base article:

http://support.microsoft.com/default.aspx?scid=kb;en-us;232743

The following solution did NOT work on either of my Win2K machines and I have no way to verify it's veracity, but Win98 users can try the method explained by Microsoft in this knowledge base article:

http://support.microsoft.com/default.aspx?scid=kb;en-us;229070

 

3rd Party Utilities

I would think that there ought to be a simple straight forward way of setting up a default CDB. As one 'expert' quipped, "what's the point of having a Common Dialog Box if it's not common?"

Freeware

Having said that, there is at least one freeware application that will force standard apps to use an enlarged CDB and the details view. It is called Windows MultiEnhancer 6.9 and is available here:

http://www.netcult.ch/elmue/ElmueSoft-en.htm

Many thanks to LangaList reader Bob Stringer for this tip.

Within reason, a user can control the sort order, force the detail's view, control the displayed grids and display an enlarged CDB for free -

Shareware

There are two CDB 'helper' utilities that I have purchased and tried:

XfilesDialog is available for $22 (as of 8/25/2003) at http://www.xdesksoftware.com/ - I think it uses the folder options sort order to open. It does open with the detail's view so it's only one click to resort - and it opens with a much larger dialog box, which is also helpful -

Dialog Box Assistant is available for $20 (as of 8/25/2003) at http://www.win-utilities.com/ - It will remember it's 'MRU' settings, including an enlarged CDB -

I bought both, but I think the dialog box assistant is the 'smoother' of the two -

A third suggested by another LangaList reader (Jenny Pitt) looks very promising - File-Ex by Cottonwood Software is available for $20 (as of 9/29/2003) at http://www.cottonwoodsw.com/fx3summ.html - I'm in the process of trying it out myself and I think it will become a permanent addition to my shareware arsenal -

All three titles offer full featured free trials in the true spirit of shareware, are minimally priced and are very well featured, including convenient access to options, user specified folders, etc.

FINAL RANT

I have no quarrel with shareware authors, most have produced excellent products, stand behind their efforts and proudly so. I use several dozen shareware applications every day.

BUT, it is aggravating to have to pay for something that I think MS should have gotten right the first time.