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FolderBrowserDialog Unmasked: Everything You Wanted To Know About The Folder Browser Component From .Net Framework
The FolderBrowserDialog, available as part of the .Net framework, provides a folder browser component for your C# and VB.Net applications. The UI consists of a modal dialog which contains a tree control displaying all the files and folders on the system. The user can then browse and select a folder from the tree. The full path of the selected folder is then returned.
To display a folder explorer UI to the user, a FolderBrowserDialog instance is created and the ShowDialog method is called. This shows the modal dialog containing the folder browser control (tree) and an OK and Cancel button. If the user selects a folder and clicks the OK button, the ShowDialog method returns DialogResult.OK and the SelectedPath property contains the full path of the selected folder. If the user clicks the Cancel button, the ShowDialog method returns DialogResult.Cancel.
The RootFolder property can be set to the full path of the folder which is to be displayed as the root of the tree control of the folder browser component. For example, if this property is set to Environment.SpecialFolder.Personal, only folders from the 'My Documents' are displayed in the tree, so the user can only select 'My Documents' or its sub-folders.
Prior to displaying the folder browser control, the SelectedPath property can be set to the full path of a folder causing that folder to be pre-selected in the folder browser tree. For example, when this property is set to "c:\", the node corresponding to the c:\ drive is pre-selected in the tree when the dialog is first displayed.
If the ShowNewFolderButton property is set to true, then, in addition to the folder browser tree control, and the OK and Cancel buttons, the folder browser dialog also displays an additional 'New Folder' button which when clicked, creates a new folder under the currently selected folder.
While the folder browser component is a handy way to allow the users to browse and select folders, it suffers from many limitations, some of them preventing the component from being of practical use in applications.
The most visible drawback of the folder browser component is that it displays its UI in the form of a modal dialog. When shown, it blocks the rest of the application until the user has chosen a folder. As long as the dialog is displayed, no input (keyboard or mouse click) can occur except within the dialog box. The user must click the OK or Cancel button before input to the calling program can occur.
This is a very annoying and limiting feature of the FolderBrowserDialog. Users are very likely to be irritated and annoyed when they have to interact with a modal dialog every time they have to explore and select a folder. A non-modal UI control which can be put inside of one of the applications's own forms or dialogs is a much more user-friendly way of displaying the same UI.
No Virtual (Non-file system) folders
The FolderBrowserDialog does not allow the user to select virtual (Non-file system) folders such as the Control Panel or My Computer. It only allows the user to select a file system path such as "c:\" or "c:\windows".
The component does not allow the user to select files. This is a major drawback since there are many circumstances where the user may need to select a file while still using the tree UI to browse to that file.
Limited Choice of RootFolder
The root folder of the folder browser control can be only set to one of the 'special folders' defined by Windows such as the 'My Documents' or 'My Computer'. This is a major limitation since this means you cannot set the root folder to a path such as the "d:\" drive.
No Multiple Selection
The folder browser component does not allow multiple folders to be selected.
No Check Boxes
The folder explorer tree in the FolderBrowserDialog cannot show check boxes next to nodes. Ability to show multi-state check boxes can be a very handle feature for such a control.
The FolderBrowserDialog has no support for filtering. For example, it is not possible to display only network folders or only shared folders or only folders starting with the string "Documents" or files having a particular extension.
No Custom Controls
When using the FolderBrowserDialog, you are only limited to the actual folder explorer tree control, the OK, Cancel and New Folder buttons and the description label. It is not possible to add custom controls to the dialog box. This can be useful in many circumstances such as when you want to show a thumbnail/preview of the selected file/folder or any kind of additional information.
No Appearance Control
The appearance of the FolderBrowserDialog and its constituent controls cannot be changed. Neither can attributes of individual folders show in the folder explorer control be changed. For example, it is not possible to change the background color of the tree control or to set the font and color of individual nodes/folders in the tree.
No Custom items
The FolderBrowserDialog cannot display external/custom items in the folder explorer tree. For example, it may be necessary to display items from an FTP location in addition to the file system items. This is not possible with the FolderBrowserDialog.
The FolderBrowserDialog allows unhindered operations on folders. The user can rename folders, do drag-drop operations and display the context menu and invoke various operations. In many cases, it may be necessary to limit or altogether prevent such potentially dangerous and irreversible operations, however the FolderBrowserDialog provides no way of doing that.
The FolderView Control brings a Windows Explorer like folder browser component to your applications complete with AutoUpdate, dragdrop, icons, contextmenus, Non-file system items, default key-handling, infotips and renaming. It features powerful behavior control and customization functionality that takes it miles ahead of Windows Explorer by adding features like filtering, checkboxes, custom items, multiple root nodes, dragdrop control and customization of default contextmenus, displaynames, icons and infotips.
The FolderView control is a UI control which can be dropped right inside your own forms and dialogs. A non-modal file & folder browsing/selection experience right inside your own dialogs and forms is something that users will appreciate and find intuitive and simple.
Additionally, FolderView overcomes all the limitations of the FolderBrowserDialog and provides far greater and advanced features and functionality than the FolderBrowserDialog. The following table is a quick comparison of the FolderView Control with the FolderBrowserDialog.
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