Re: File Extension Madness

From: <>
Date: Mon Aug 16 2004 - 16:44:50 CEST

> On Sat, Aug 14, 2004 at 12:57:32AM +0000, Charles Goodwin wrote:
>> > it is rare that a user would specificlaly choose a filetype and
>> > deliberately specify a differnt file extension.
>> There are many unobservant people in this world. Having witnessed this
>> type of thing first hand, I can honestly say that there are many people
>> who would inadvertantly do this by not realising that 'file type'
>> relates to 'file extension'. It seems so obvious, but unless you are
>> familiar with the jargon, it's completely unobvious. And it is jargon.
> The key problem that we want to avoid is a situation where someone
> working with native files (say boo.gnumeric) decides to send the
> file to someone as an xls. The displayed name is
> 'boo.gnumeric'
> They select 'Excel 97' and save. We're in the incomfortable
> situation of either
> - changing the file name for them to use the right suffix
> : I don't like this, the app should never pretend to be
> smarter than the user.
> - allowing them to send a useless gzipped xml (a .gnumeric file)
> to an MS Excel user.
> : This is also unpleasant. No one likes receiving
> useless data.
> - Warn them (possibly with a 'just this once')
> :This is what gnumeric currently does.
> It also raises questions of how to display a filename in the save
> dialogs. Should that be
> foo <type == excel>
> or
> foo.xls <type == excel>
> or
> foo.xls <type == by extension>
> The last option seems fraught with ambiguity. There are several
> different formats named 'xls' we can pick one of them, but I don't
> really like it. The first option is not terribly pleasant either,
> someone may put in foo.xls themselves, forcing us to guess if they
> some how wanted a file called 'foo.xls.xls'.

I've actually grown comfortable with the behaviour I programmed for AbiWord.

If the file is..

fred.abw, this file name is displayed in the SaveAs dialog.

The user chooses a different file type to save as (like rtf..)

the name in the SaveAs dialog changes to...


If the user changes this name after changing the file type, it gets saved
as this name. In other words the user sees the file name the file will be
saved as and has the option to change it.

If the chooses a filename


for say, an abiword file, AbiWord saves the file as


I believe that this behaviour is the pretty close to optimal, especially
now that nautilus and GNOME place so much attention to the MIME extension.

I'm not sure if CVS HEAD still has this behaviour. I seem to remember
getting caught out recently.

I would be very interested in hearing what the GNOME usability people say
is optimal.


Received on Mon Aug 16 16:31:03 2004

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