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TUTORIAL: How can (and why should) I change the standard File Dialog?

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By Menneisyys, Retired Moderator on 13th November 2007, 05:05 PM
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In the Smartphone & Pocket PC Mag VIP Help forum, I’ve received the following question:

“When I create an email on my Mogul (HTC4000) and go to insert file, my memory card is not a listed option to pick from any ideas? My Moto Q did this as did my 6700 before that”

The explanation and cure for this is pretty simple. (Note that if this problem doesn’t apply to you, don’t stop reading: in the second part of this tutorial, I provide you with some really useful tips. Also note that this article deprecates my pre-WM5 one published HERE. I also explain the difference between the MS Smartphone and Pocket PC platforms, file dialog-wise.)

First, the explanation. Let’s see the case of the Moto Q – that is, MS Smartphone devices. In which way is the MS Smartphone (that is, touchscreen-less) platform different from the “big brother”, the Pocket PC OS? In several ways, of course – it’s much dumber in almost every respect (I miss the ability to fine-tune the backlight level the most). In a way, however, it’s (at least for many users) much more useful and usable than the Pocket PC operating system: its file dialog box is entirely different from that of Pocket PC’s. This, however, greatly confuses users switching between the two platforms.

When you go to Menu / Insert / File (or, more generally, you select a file from any program - again, this tutorial is a generic one), you’ll have direct access to all the directories (including the storage card(s)) as can be seen in the following screenshot:



Here, if you do select the storage card (by going to Menu / Storage Card), you’ll be taken directly to the card and, there, can select (left softkey) any file, in any directory, as can be seen for example in the following screenshot:



On Pocket PC’s, the situation is vastly different. When, upon composing a mail, you select Menu / Insert / File, you’re shown ALL the (accessible – see the rules later) files in one listbox as can be seen in the following screenshot:



There can be several hundred or even thousand files in the list, which results in both at time huge loading times and a lot of work to actually find the file you need; therefore, you can restrict the selection to a subdirectory only by using the “Folder” drop-down list:



The results of the restriction can be seen in HERE, showing an example of listing the contents of the “cities” subdirectory.

Note that – this is VERY important! – the “Folder” drop-down list only contains subdirectories under \My Documents in the built-in storage memory and the direct descendants (subfolders) of the root folder of the storage card. That is, if you have a file you’d like to add in, say, a second descendant of the root of your card, (say, \a\b), it won’t be accessible at all. The same stands for the subdirectories of \My Documents on the storage card – they won’t be listed either. This has always a BIG problem with Windows Mobile and has widely been criticized (see for example THIS for links).

In addition, there’s no way to “select only the root (without its visible subdirs) of the storage card” from the list – as opposed to the above-shown Smartphone screenshot. You will ONLY see the contents of the root of the card if you leave the “Folder” drop-down menu on its default, “All Folders” setting. Then, happy hunting for the file - after the list, finally, loads ; )

If you find this all (1, the HUGE number of the files shown 2, the inability to access anything outside \My Documents in the built-in storage memory and the direct subdirectories of the root of the storage card) a pain in the back, rejoice: there are decent solutions to the problem. Of them, I explain the two most widely used and important ones; one of them being even free.
 
 
13th November 2007, 05:05 PM |#2  
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1.1 Spb Pocket Plus 4

As has already been mentioned in my quick review of the IEM plug-in of Spb Pocket Plus, the, particularly with the new and indeed vastly improved version, highly recommended all-in-one system helper application, there’s built-in support for changing the system-level file dialog to something much better.

If you do get Spb Pocket Plus 4+, your problems are already solved: after installing it, the new file dialog will take effect at once, as can be seen in the following screenshot:



That is, it’ll work just great; you’ll be able to freely navigate the entire directory structure and won’t be flooded with hundreds or thousands of files at the same time, making it pretty hard to find the right one (or even wait for the list to load).

1.2 Y. “Mad Programmer” Nagamidori's FileDialogChanger

Before the (recent) release of Spb Pocket Plus 4, this was the suite I recommended the most for Windows Mobile users. Now that Spb Pocket Plus 4 also supports this functionality AND is a highly recommended all-in-one tool, I no longer do this - FileDialogChanger won't be needed any more if you go the Spb Pocket Plus 4 route. If you, however, don't (or REALLY need the exception defining capabilities, which I explain in the next subsection), make sure you get and install FileDialogChanger.

Get THIS ZIP file, extract gsgetfile.dll from the ARMRel directory and transfer it to \Windows on your Pocket PC. Then, get THIS file and, from the ARM directory, copy filedlgchg.cpl also to \Windows. Note that you MUST right-click these two links and select Save As to directly save it - if you just left-click it (as usual), you'll be taken to an error page because of the invalid referrer.

Now, go to Settings / System and tap the new File Dialog Changer icon and make sure you enable the Exchange Standard File Dialog checkbox as can be seen in the following screenshot:



That’s all; now, you can safely traverse the file system when adding attachments (or, again, looking for a file to load - or, a directory to save your current one to). Note that, unlike with Spb Pocket Plus, there’s no a quick drop-down tree list containing the current directory, all its parents the storage card(s). However, you can always use the left softkey (up) to go up to the parent (to the root, as it starts with \My Documents), where you can already click Storage Card (or any other directory):



1.2.1 Defining exceptions

Note that Mad Programmer’s FileDialogChanger also allows for defining exceptions (Spb’s program is incapable of this). That is, if, for some reason, you do not want to rely on the new file dialog in a given program, just add the given application to the exception list. For example, you prefer seeing all your, still sticking with emulators, ROM files on your PDA at once, and don’t want to manually navigate the directories to find them, then, you might want to add the emulator to the exception list so that FileDialogChanger knows it shouldn't be used with that specific app.

An example with PocketHobbit, the Commodore 64 emulator (discussed HERE), which uses the default file dialog box (screenshot HERE; with Mad Programmer’s tool, HERE). Then, all you need to do is clicking ADD, go to the directory with the executable file and double-click it. In this example, I’ve added all the three EXE files visible in the previous screenshot, resulting in the following exception list:



After this, PocketHobbit will start using the standard file dialog, while the rest of the system (all the other apps) will still use the redefined one - that is, that of FileDialogChanger.

(Note that I’ve chosen this emulator for this explanation not because of its (pretty much missing) merits but because it’s based on the system-level dialog box. If you are really into C64 emulation, forget this emulator at once and go for something better.)

1.3 Why will you want to consider changing the file dialog?

No, not only when you want to add attachments to a mail. The new dialog can be used much more widely. As a rule of thumb, whenever and wherever you’ve, in the past, encountered the standard, dumb and, in many cases, very annoying file dialog control, the new one will be used instead at both loading and saving. Yes, even at saving - for example, when you save Word Mobile files, you can tell the system in exactly which directory it should be stored to as can be seen in THIS screenshot.

As the standard file dialog only lists files under \My Documents in the main memory and files one level deep in the file system of the card (without showing the user where they really come from), in many cases, your only choice will be using third-party file dialogs like these two.

Again, just an example of the utility of these third-party applications: in order to keep the directory structure clean, you keep, for example, your emulator ROM image files two levels deep on your storage card under, say, \ROMs\SNES. Unless you use direct invocation (you click the given file from File Explorer to make the system invoke the associated emulator) and (when you do need them) you don’t copy around these files to a directory already visible to the standard file dialog, you won’t see these files at all. Unless, of course, install a better, third-party file dialog - one of the apps introduced in this tutorial.
16th November 2007, 07:32 AM |#3  
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UPDATE (11/16/2007): HowardForums forum member BeyondTheTech has just created a CAB installer of Mad Programmer’s FDC. This greatly simplifies installation – you just download the ZIP file from HERE, unZIP it, transfer the CAB file to your handset (if it’s not already there) and execute it in order to be installed. (Install it into main memory!) After a reset, you're all set – you only need to enable it as explained above (by checking in the checkbox).

Note that being put in a CAB installer also means you can uninstall it if you want if, for some reason, disabling the above-mentioned checkbox isn’t sufficient for you (because, for example, you want to remove all third-party stuff from your PDA without hard / clean resetting it).
17th November 2007, 12:10 PM |#4  
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FDC 1.70 Beta with thumbnail view
17th November 2007, 09:04 PM |#5  
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I was using this one when I am still in the pocketpc era....

http://tillanosoft.com/ce/tgetfile.html

But apparently, it don't support every applications out there...
17th November 2007, 09:17 PM |#6  
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ww2250

I was using this one when I am still in the pocketpc era....

http://tillanosoft.com/ce/tgetfile.html

But apparently, it don't support every applications out there...

Yup, very few.

It's mostly on the MS Smartphone platform that it's useful - several of Masterall's kick-ass emulators use it.
17th November 2007, 10:27 PM |#7  
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It exist also gsgetfile.dll for Smartphones.

"http://www.geocities.jp/hou_ming_2/gsgetfile-i_sp.zip"

PS: "http://www.geocities.jp/hou_ming_2/beta/FakeCursorSP.zip" also for Smartphones.
18th November 2007, 09:19 PM |#8  
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Word?
Nice solutions! The free one especially since, well, it's free!

However, this doesn't seem to effect Word Mobile. Even with the FDC Word still only let's one search one directory deep...

Any thoughts on that one?

EDIT: to clarify, while saving files it works, but i'm reffering to the OPEN-file dialog. Which still s**cks.
18th November 2007, 10:01 PM |#9  
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DopamineNL

Nice solutions! The free one especially since, well, it's free!

However, this doesn't seem to effect Word Mobile. Even with the FDC Word still only let's one search one directory deep...

Any thoughts on that one?

EDIT: to clarify, while saving files it works, but i'm reffering to the OPEN-file dialog. Which still s**cks.

Yup, Office Mobile has a different file dialog. I don't know how it can be changed.
18th November 2007, 10:03 PM |#10  
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Quote:
Originally Posted by CharlyV

It exist also gsgetfile.dll for Smartphones.

"http://www.geocities.jp/hou_ming_2/gsgetfile-i_sp.zip"

PS: "http://www.geocities.jp/hou_ming_2/beta/FakeCursorSP.zip" also for Smartphones.

Thanks; as usual, you're GREAT!
19th November 2007, 02:17 AM |#11  
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Quote:
Originally Posted by CharlyV

FDC 1.70 Beta with thumbnail view

WOW... thumbnails... sounds nice.

How good is it though considering it's still BETA? Menneisyys, have you had a go at this? Any problems reported... speed, stability etc?

Would be great if you could do a review of it.

Cheers
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