Clogged hierarchy in Vista

Last week I replaced my 6 year old Windows XP home computer by a new one running Vista. Now I desparately miss the “Up” button in all folder windows. (If you found it please tell me.)

I welcome the many new affordances of tagging and improved searching. They would perfectly supplement the file hierarchy. But they should not try to replace the sense of hierarchical structure. (Hierarchies could probably be replaced in many other contexts in real life. But I don’t see any emancipatory progress in abolishing the scaffolding of my file structure.)

Okay, there are workarounds. I could switch from mouse to keyboard and press left ALT plus arrow up – no thanks. Probably I am supposed to use the new breadcrumb trail and look for the parent folder which can be found there at the secondlast position (like the stressed penultimate syllable in Latin words…). But this makes me think, and thus violates the well known usability rule “Don’t make me think”.

I was used to hit the “Up” button almost blindly. Often, I am not at all interested in the name of that parent folder but in the siblings of my current folder, or in the “see also” shortcuts. I have the structure on my mental map and navigate accordingly, without reading the street names, so to speak. So this loss of a button is a small but perpetually annoying disadvantage of the new user interface.

If you want more details about my migration, read on.

The location information for user data is quite confusing, at least initially, and especially in a localized environment (see this animated powerpoint slide), so it is difficult to appreciate the additional context information. The tags and stacks are disappointing, especially when compared to the beta preview, where the tag stacks showed thumbnails and could be populated by drag and drop (if I remember correctly). And the tagging system seems to use a database which has no referential integrity: if I remove the last picture bearing a given tag, the tag is still there. And it was not easy to even get rid of the numerous sample tags of the sample pictures, because the permission system seems to be even more patronizing than before.

And another observation regarding the move of my stuff to a new computer: I have often moved my office stuff from one system or partition to another, and it takes me unsually just one or two days until the move is completely done. This is like moving from one apartment to another. But with the home computer, this is very different. Resembling a home with a garret and a basement storage, it has accumulated incredible amounts of stuff that you are unaware of. Although data storage is now cheap, there is still a cost attached to it: Increased time to search it, back it up, zip and burn it, and even to delete it. The cumbersome process yielded more losses, e. g. most of my beloved folder shortcuts (Verknüpfung) have their umlaut scrambled (Verkn³pfung). Which reminds me of a proverb: Zweimal umgezogen ist wie einmal abgebrannt. (Moved twice, is like burnt down once).

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