Death of the lame Recycle Bin confirmation dialog in Windows?
February 16, 2006
Before leaving behind the previous topic of deletion patterns, let's briefly look at one of the weakest implementations of the Trash pattern anywhere: the Recycle Bin in Microsoft Windows. On the Mac, when you move something to the Trash, it moves to the Trash. In Windows, when you move something to the Trash, you get this:
When Microsoft appropriated the Trash pattern (from Apple and Xerox), it was apparently helpless to resist the desire to protect the user with a confirmation dialog—even though the entire point of the Trash pattern is to avoid irritating the user with a confirmation dialog. File this one under, "Unclear on the concept".
For what it's worth, both Windows and the Mac display an additional confirmation dialog if you manually invoke the Empty Trash command. The Windows dialog says like, "Are you sure you want to delete these <number> items?" The Mac dialog says: "Are you sure you want to remove the items in the Trash permanently? You cannot undo this action." It's a matter of opinion, but here I give a slight preference to the Windows version, since the Mac dialog is redundant; an action that's permanent is, by definition, an action that can't be undone. (You could also argue that, if you know how to use disk utilities, the delete operation isn't actually permanent. Either way, the dialog is wrong.)
The confirmation dialogs in the Windows means the lucky user has at least three chances to avoid accidental deletion! They can: 1) say No to the first confirmation dialog, 2) Undo the move to the Recycle Bin, or 3) say No to the second confirmation dialog. It's nice to know that, with all this protection, no Windows user anywhere has ever deleted something they didn't want to delete.
It's possible that Microsoft has silently made some progress on this issue. When I tried to reproduce the first delete confirmation dialog to take a screen shot of it, I was unable to get it to appear on any of five different Windows XP PCs. The "Display delete confirmation dialog" check box still exists in the Recycle Bin's Properties dialog, but as far as I can tell, this check box no longer has any effect. Perhaps the dialog was quietly dropped in a service pack update? I can find no confirmation of this on the net. If anyone has an authoritative account on whether this dialog has been dropped, let me know. It'd be nice to say good riddance to an unloved dialog.