Configuring Windows Explorer - Bugs

This page describes various bugs and annoyances in Windows Explorer.

Hidden Extensions | Hidden System Files | desktop.ini | Copy Path | Shared Folders | Ampersand | cmd.exe | Errors in the Registry | Disk Copy | Sort By Ext | Missing Sort Order Indicators | Inaccurate and Awkward Directory Size | Search by Extension | Locate File Type | File Display Order | Smooth Scrolling | File Find | Generic NT Problems | Related XP Problems

Explorer will not show all file extensions
Even when View/Option.../View is configured to Show All Files and to display file extensions, some extensions are never displayed. In each case sited below, use the DOS DIR command to see the file extensions.
Examples are available in c:\winnt\profiles\All Users\Start menu\Programs\Microsoft Office\
When an *.exe file is inserted in an MS Word document, it is displayed as an icon. When this icon is dragged from a Word document to a directory, it is named Share.shr and stored in MIME format. Double clicking it will cause it to decode and execute.

In Windows 98, this procedure produces Share.shs, an executable which is NOT in MIME format. For more info, see Scrap Files Can Tear You Up.

c:\winnt\profiles\{user ID}\favorites\*.url files are the Internet Explorer favorites. This replaces Netscape's bookmarks which are stored in an HTML file.
*.pif files are used to start DOS programs.

This is caused by the registry entry NeverShowExt. Simply the existance of this flag hides the extension. The data value is an empty string. This flag is frequently paired with the IsShortcut registry flag.

The following extensions are never shown in Windows 95

       .maf Access.Shortcut.Form.1
       .mam Access.Shortcut.Macro.1
       .mad Access.Shortcut.Module.1
       .maq Access.Shortcut.Query.1
       .mar Access.Shortcut.Report.1
       .mat Access.Shortcut.Table.1
       .cnf ConferenceLink
       .shb DocShortcut
       .url InternetShortcut
       .lnk lnkfile
       .pif piffile
       .shs ShellScrap    
.shr is not a registered extension in Windows 95

Explorer does not show Hidden System Files
Even when View/Option.../View is configured to Show All Files and to display file extensions, the hidden system files do not show. Use C:\WINNT\Fonts\marlett.ttf as an example. Compare Explorer with DOS attrib m* or dir m* /a.

The Marlett TrueType font is used for displaying scroll bar arrows, Maximize and Minimize buttons, option buttons, check boxes, and other controls in Windows 95. The font is explicitly loaded by the GDI at startup. Windows 95 performance is enhanced by using a TrueType font instead of bitmaps for controls. From FAQ.

c:\winnt\history - 3 hidden files; in Windows, a list of URLs

c:\winnt\Temporary Internet Files - 4 directories and 1 file; in Windows, URLs

Explorer does not show some files named desktop.ini
Windows Explorer, File Find, and the MS DOS Dir command are written to not display certain hidden files named desktop.ini when those files are located under C:\windows\Favorites\Channels. In other directories, the same file, with the same attributes (i.e. hidden) can be seen. See here for more information.

There is no way to place a path in the clipboard
This means that when you do a CD in DOS, or want to copy a directory name to a document, you must manually type in the full path. Old DOS based directory browsers always allowed the path to be copied to the clipboard. See here for a file you can download to fix this.

Identifying Shared Folders (Directories)
In NT, shared folders are identified with a hand icon under the folder icon. Some systems show the hands only if the user is logged on as an administrator, not a user.

Do not use an ampersand "&" in a file or directory name
In Windows NT, the ampersand "&" character is used to separate 2 commands on the same line. If it is used in either a file or a directory name, it will work in some cases and fail in others.

For example, running under NT, the associated action
    cmd.exe /k "h:\tips & hints\test.bat"
fails with no way to fix it. However,
    cmd.exe /k "h:\tips and hints\test.bat"

By the way, adding an extra space between bat and the double quote causes major thrashing as virtual memory goes from 60 M to more than 120 M.

Under NT 4, the difference between cmd.exe and c:\winnt\system32\cmd.exe
When a file association is made, a pop up menu allows a user to execute a command. When the command is a DOS command, the way the command is referrenced makes a difference. Even though the same command is executed, the way the file name is passed differs. One way uses the long file name and the other uses 8.3 nomenclature.

This problem was trouble shot using pkunzip because it has an option to display the command line.

When the command line is

  c:\winnt\system32\cmd.exe /k "H:\PK204G\Pkunzip.exe -^^vb %1 |more"

the command line parameters are -^vb H:\hints and tips\Delphi\

When the command line is

  cmd.exe /k "H:\PK204G\Pkunzip.exe -^^vb %1 |more"

the command line parameters are -^vb H:\HINTSA~1\Delphi\

Notice that the spaces in the directory name are present in one scenario and not in the other.

An attempt to trouble shoot this with a bat file was hindered because the directory name originally contained an asterisk ampersand (another undocumented no-no). Even so, this performance was verified using batch files which contained echo %1 and echo %* (all parameters).

Errors in the File Association Table (Registry - HKey_Classes_Root - aka HKCR)
In HKCR\{association}\shell\{verb}\command, paths and filenames which contain spaces require double quotes. When displayed in the Windows Explorer Edit File Types dialog box, there should be one set of double quotes; in regedit, there should be two.

c:\program files\jetform5\FILLER50.exe %1 is interpreted as
c:\program.exe files\jetform5\FILLER50.exe %1

"c:\program files\jetform5\FILLER50.exe %1" is interpreted as
c:\program files\jetform5\FILLER50.exe %1

Notice that in one case, the executable is program.exe and in the other it is FILLER50.exe

{association} is replaced by the group ID - such as txtfile, Word.Document.6, batfile
{verb} is one of the menu choices associated with this file type - such as Open, Edit, Print

This does not apply to DOS applications which do not allow spaces regardless of the number of double quotes used.

It is easy to determine if any programs have this problem. In Windows Explorer, just right click on any file without an association, select Open With... from the menu, then scroll down and search for a program named Program. When executed, the following error indicates that at least one association is incorrectly defined.

Cannot find the file 'c:\program' (or one of its components) ...

The following NT 4.0 associations have this problem
  .dat .jdt .jfm .jtp .mdf (JetForm Form Filler 5.0)
  htfile (HyperTerminal File)
  OrgPlusWOPX.4 (MS Organization Chart 2.0)
  PCXImage.Document (PCX Image Document)
  rtffile (Rich Text Document)
  TIFImage.Document (TIF Image Document)
  WangImage.Document (Image Document)
  wrifile (Write Document - Print & PrintTo)
  XIFImage.Document (XIF Image Document)

The following Win 95 associations have this problem
  Numerous MS Access associations
  aspfile (Active Server Document)
  ClipGalleryDownloadPackage (Part of MS Office)
  ftp, gopher, http, https (Netscape)
  giffile, jpegfile, pcxfile, tgafile (Microsoft)
  MSPhotoEd.3 (Microsoft)
  Office.Binder.8 (MS Office)
  Office.Binder.Template (MS Office)
  OrgPlusWOPX.4 (MS Office)
  PCDfile (MS Office - Photo CD Image)
  Office.Binder.Wizard (MS Office)
  pngfile (MS Office)
  Numerous PowerPoint associations (MS Office)
  TNP.Example (Take No Prisoners - Game)
  VSConfigFile (McAfee VirusScan95)

Among others, in Win NT 4.0, Internet Explorer does it correctly. MS Write documents are ok for Open, but not for Print and PrintTo.

Disk Copy does not work in NT 4.0
Under Windows Explorer, if you right click the floppy drive and select Copy Disk..., it won't work unless the disk is blank. However, if you Open My Computer and perform the same action, it works as expected. Also, the menu options under File are different depending on which of these 2 techniques is used. This is suprising since Explore and Open run the same file but with different command line parameters.

This works fine under Windows 95, only NT 4.0 has the problem.

There is no way to sort files by their Extensions
Windows Explorer permits you to sort the files by Type but not by Extension. Most experienced users consider this to be a major problem. For instance, *.bat is associated with MS-DOS Batch File. (Logical) When sorted by Type, the*.bat files are sorted under M. (Very logical :)

Of course, the Microsoft User Friendly default is to completely hide the industry standard extensions so that only the new Types are visible. Therefore, this is only a problem if you (the user) change the default.

To further confuse matters (we are talking Microsoft here), a File Type can be associated with multiple extensions. Actually, this is a good idea ... if only it made sense, and if you could sort by either Extension or Type.

No sort order indicators
Windows Explorer permits you to sort the files by either Name, Size, Type, or date Modified. Just click on the header for the associated column. (Hint: the column headers look like buttons.) A second click will sort the column in the reverse order. However, Explorer does not indicate which column or direction the sort is based on.

Norton File Manager (a third party competitor) renders the current selection as a depressed button, but does not indicate direction. BTW, Noton allows the user to configure what is shown - Name, Size, Last Modified, Attributes, Created On, Last Accessed, Folder, Type, Protected By, and DOS Filename (allows sorting by DOS file extention). (Do not buy this product - drag and drop file copy/move is intermittent.)

For a very user friendly way to indicate which column is sorted, see MS Exchange (email) which uses either an up or a down arrow in the appropriate header/button to indicate both the selected option and direction.

Under Windows 2000, Windows Explorer provides the MS Exchange type of sort indicators. This is a significant improvement.

It is a pain to display the size of a directory and all the subdirectories under it
To see the number of files and directories, and their total size, view the properties of the parent directory. Unfortunately, the amount of wasted space is not given. (Space is wasted if a small file is stored in a large allocation unit.)

In Windows NT, the size of a user profile, other than the current user, is not available. Assume that user profiles require about 500 KB per user who has ever logged onto a given machine. (The user's registry file is about 450 KB.) My machine at work has been used by 26 different users (see c:\winnt\profiles). Therefore, I assume that 13 MB of disk space is lost. Normally, this space is never reclaimed.

BTW, this is an important issue if you are trying to clean house and make room. Which directory is worth the most effort? What should be archived or deleted?

When trying to locate a file type, there is no way to search on an extension
When you want to modify the file association data related to *.bat files, you just better know that you need to search for MS-DOS Batch File.

When trying to locate a file type, any letter typed searches for a file type
This sounds good. In Options.../File Types, Pressing M will search for the first file type starting with an M.

With Windows 95, Pressing S after the M will search for the first file type starting with an S.

With Windows NT 4.0, Pressing S after the M will search for the first file type starting with an MS.

Actually, it may depend on how fast you type the second letter. There appears to be a timer.

When you edit a file and save it, it is moved to the bottom of the file list
This is very irritating. Files should always be placed in the correct sort sequence.

Disable smooth scrolling (actually, jerky scrolling)
This annoyance was not discovered until after IE 4.0 was installed. Basically, when you click on the Windows Explorer scroll bar, either the tree list or the list of files is scrolled to show more data.

The fix requires modifying the Control Panel\desktop registry entry for every defined user. Therefore, it is suggested that each user run TweakUI and fix his own account.

When there is only a default user, then HKCU and HKEY_USERS\.Default both point to the same registry keys.

In the registry, add a SmoothScroll DWORD value of "00,00,00,00" to

A value of "01,00,00,00" or deleting the SmoothScroll key enables smooth (jerky) scrolling.

This fix also applies to RegEdit.

When a new option value is missing, the application should default to the way it worked before the option was added.

Under NT 4.0, the System Internals Registry Monitor caught a reference to

  HKCU\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Internet Explorer\Main\SmoothScroll
         0x0 = disbled
         0x1 = enabled  
when IE 4.0 / View / Options / Advanced was used to toggle smooth scrolling off and on. This also forced a cache update for a number of programs.

Note: Simply modifying HKCU\Control Panel\desktop\SmoothScroll may not appear to work because many Windows applications cache this paramter. You must either close and reopen all affected windows (re-booting the system is Microsoft's suggestion), or you can force a cache update by changing any IE 4 parameter and clicking Apply. (I toggle SmoothScroll on and back off again :)

Tools / Find / Files or Folders

You right click a folder, select Find..., and enter a search string. Guess what, NT 4 and 95 do different things!

I have a situation at work where CM controlled documents are stored on a shared drive with (RX) permissions - Read, Execute. I need to search the documents for a key word. From Windows 95, a list of files containing the word is returned; Windows NT 4 Sp 4 returns a null set (ie, no files). Based on the speed of the "search", the files are never actually opened, and therefore, never searched. (The NT machine also includes IE 5 which may or may not be part of the problem.)

In both cases, I am logged on with the same ID (ie, the same permissions).

This is completely unacceptable. At a minimum, NT should tell me that it is not actually doing anything.

If the permissions are changed to (RWXD) - Read, Write, Execute, Delete - then NT 4 Find... works.

Find is part of Windows Explorer.

Windows XP - Jan, 2003

Find has been re-named Search.

I have a single text file saved with several different extensions. When I Search for a specific string,

Of course, Windows 95 and 98 find the string in all the files.

On the other hand, the search results are dynamic, if you copy a file to the search path, and it matches your search criteria, then it will show up in the results list.

It appears that the SearchAssistant interface is xml driven.

In particular, lcldocs.xml contains a list of file extentions (as does lcladvd.xml, and perhaps others). Unfortunately, I can not simply search for other files with extentions because *.xml is not in the list. lcladv.xml is the main file, but it does not contain any file extensions. (I verified this by modifying the text. Warning: Modifying these xml file will crash Windows Explorer.)

Accoring to Microsoft, if you first upgrade XP, then a simple registry hack will "fix" the problem. The magic is here - 0 ignore file, 1 search them all

I found these in the registry.

They are related somehow, but you can't actually open them in a browser.


Agent Ransack

Don't bother using the Windows XP Search feature, use Agent Ransack (free) instead - it even improves how the results are displayed.

Find constrea.h on XP

Find desktop.ini on XP This is unbelievable - don't waste your time with the XP search feature.

Related Generic NT Problems

DOS commands do not work with filenames which contain spaces
If a filename contains a space, then it must be enclosed in double quotes.

The PKZIP character to show the command line "^" does not work
Because Windows NT uses the ^ to delimit special characters, PKZIP -^ needs to be entered as PKZIP -^^ in order to work. There are additional limitations.
  PKZIP -^^vb *.zip works
  PKZIP -vb^^ *.zip does not work

Related XP Problems

The new version of Windows Explorer delivered with Windows XP is terrible - the first problem, by it self, is enough for me to warn you not to use this operating system. (On the other hand, you could download Agent Ransack (free) which replaces the Windows Explorer search function and shows the the matching strings - like grep, only better.)

Author: Robert Clemenzi -
URL: http:// / user / clemenzi / technical / WinExplorer / WinExplorerBugs.htm