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Open/save dialog goes to “recently used” list by default

Hi folks,

I thought I’d stop by my blog to rant about a little GTK+ issue that has come up recently.

GTK+ is known for its thoughtful design. For example, when you open a file chooser dialog box to open or save a file, the directory it initially displays is the last directory you used.

Or at least, that’s what it used to do. The relevant code was deleted last July by the well-known GNOME developer Federico Mena Quintero, in GTK+ versions 2 and 3. In its place, you get the “recently used” list.

File/Open screenshot

I guess you haven't opened any schematics lately

I don’t know about you, but usually the files I want to open are not the ones I have not recently used. If I opened a source file recently, it would probably still be open in my text editor. And if I want to send an email attachment, the file I send is usually a different one each time, not the same file over and over again.

Files tend to be grouped into directories. If you open a file in a directory, it’s fair to assume that when you click “open” again, you want to open a different file in the same directory, not the exact same file you just opened. In most apps, this workflow will still be possible because the app calls gtk_file_chooser_set_filename() to set the current filename to be equal to the last one that was opened, and in this case, the relevant directory is used.

However, in some apps there is no filename or directory set, and every click on the “open” button results in you going to a list of recently-opened files. From this list, there is no way to navigate to the directory of the last opened file apart from remembering where it was and following the whole hierarchy, or creating a bookmark. You might say that that’s the app’s fault, but it was never a problem in the past, because GTK+ had sensible behaviour by default which didn’t need to be overridden.

The behaviour of the “save” function is just as bad. Here’s a screenshot:

File/Save screenshot

Here's a list of everything you've worked on in the past month in no apparent order. Where would you like to put this file?

Some have said that Xfce provides a refuge for people who don’t agree with the direction the Linux Desktop has taken, with the release of GNOME 3 and Unity. I switched to Xfce for that reason, but I’m not really finding it to be the safe refuge that I expected it to be. The developers who built GNOME 3 are also using libraries shared by both GNOME and Xfce as a platform for their questionable experiments in user experience.