"Microsoft's biggest and most dangerous contribution to the software industry may be the degree to which it has lowered user expectations."
- Esther Schindler, OS/2 Magazine
Windows Explorer is probably the most used file manager in the world. Given this, as well as it being such a central, oft-used application, you would probably expect that quite a bit of thought would have gone into it's design, utilizing mankind's extensive experience developing this type of application (e.g. by studying the finer points of the classic excellent file manager, Norton Commander), and that Microsoft would make some reasonable effort to ensure that this important application did it's job well.
If you expected that though, unfortunately you'd be flat out wrong. In the 6 years since Windows95 came out, not only has the badly designed, badly thought-out Windows Explorer scarcely improved at all, it's actually gained a large number of new bugs over the years; many of these, I presume, are from the "benefits of integrating the web browser into the operating system" that we keep hearing about.
Anyway, here are a small handful of the problems I've found with it.
2002-09-25 WinXP: If you select to view the recycle bin, and then try to type a new address in the address bar, your input is discarded every few seconds and replaced by "Recycle Bin" again.
2003-01-02 WinXP: Almost the same problem as the one a bit lower down: I just opened the above HTML file by pressing Enter on it, then closed IE again, and got this error message. It happened every single time I did this with this file.
2002-05-27 WinXP: The plus sign that is usually by the A drive is missing. This sort of plus sign bug in the folder view seems quite commonplace; I have several other screenshots of such problems. They often seem to not be there when they are supposed to be, and vice versa. It seems random to me, has anyone figured out if there is a pattern to it? (On local drives, I know its always wrong on network drives.) Sometimes it helps to Refresh, other times not.
2002-04-13 WinXP: I get this sort of thing often when cutting and pasting files around. In Win2K I used to get it even more often; WinXP seems to have slightly fewer of these problems. I know you may be thinking right now to tell me that "some other program has that file open", but it doesnt, Ive checked, I know for a fact that the only "other" program using this file is the self-same Windows Explorer itself. This file in particular seemed to give problems (does Windows Explorer like to hold .avi files open or something?), I even restarted the computer and tried immediately cutting and pasting this file as the first thing I did. I thought it may have had something to do with the file being on my Desktop, but then I continued to get this problem even with the file being elsewhere. Often the "solution" (i.e. workaround) to this problem is as simple as closing Windows Explorer and opening it again, but sometimes that doesnt work.
2002-02-29 WinXP: I had opened the selected file in Internet Explorer, and after closing IE, tried to select "cut" in order to move this file. I got this error message. Twice.
2002-02-14 Win98SE: Accessing a dual-boot Win98/Win2K machine over a mapped network drive, notice that there appear to be TWO "Windows" folders :) Both of these just accessed the same folder; and a simple refresh made the problem go away. Ah, "refresh", solver of many problems in Windows Explorer.
4 Dec 2001 Dumb copy time estimate (Win98 SE) (I also get this on Win2K often, usually when copying many large files)
8 Aug 2001 Crash while copying (Win98 SE)
This happens once in a while on my Win2K box; the folder view "collapses" and refuses by any means to drop down again - I have to restart Windows Explorer. (Win2K SP2)
23 Aug 2001 Hooray! I first saw this happen once, over a year ago. I pressed escape too hastily before I could take a screenshot, and much forehead-slapping ensued after I failed to get it again. Well, I finally saw it happen again! This time I remembered to take a screenshot. This is the plain old Windows Explorer context (right-click) menu, by the way. (Win98 SE)
Aug 2001 Select "edit/cut" on one folder, then "edit/cut" a different folder. The original folder still appears to be selected. I think this may be fixed in newer versions of Windows explorer. Only took them, what, five years? (Win98SE)
Aug 2001 It seems you cant create a file called "con" in Windows. (Win98SE,Win2K)
Aug 2001 You cant create a file called "nul" either. Powerful operating system design this. ("con" and "nul" are "special" files in Windows. You would think that at the very least, the error messages given would give some indication of this, instead of the confusing nonsense it does give). (Win98SE,Win2K)
Jul 2001 All the icons for the .psd (Photoshop) files are correct - except the one, which looks like an Outlook Express icon! Weird. (Win98SE)
Jun 1999 I clicked on "empty recycle bin". No idea what went wrong.
Two C drives. I also experienced multiple CD ROM drives. This was a clean install of Win98SE.
This error was because of a damaged CD. Whats funny about this message is that it gives an Invalid MS-DOS function error - on Windows 2000! (Win2K)
26 May 2001 Win98 refused to delete this file, giving this error each time I tried. I even did a scandisk, no problems. I eventually deleted it by sharing the folder and deleting the file from a Win2K machine over the network, which did the trick. Strange characters in filename? I dont know. (Win98 SE)
May 2001 Whats with these blank lines after copying some saved web pages? There are actually files there, you can click on them and they reappear. (Win2K SP1)
This happens fairly often when selecting a folder in the tree-view on the left and deleting it, particularly if any "are you sure" messages were shown. Of *course* the page cant be displayed, Windows, I just *deleted* it .. ! This problem first seemed to appear when Internet Explorer was integrated into the Operating System, and Ive seen it on Win98 and Win98SE.. another one of those "benefits of integration", I suppose. I can imagine this message may be confusing to newbies. (Win2K SP1)
Here is another stupid error message that often pops up under apparently the same conditions as the above error, i.e. when deleting a folder in the treeview on the left in Windows Explorer. Note that the folder name referenced in the error message is now rooted to "C:\Windows\Desktop", which is wrong, the actual folder location can be seen in the title of the messagebox. (Win2K SP1)
Going to sit some time through this copy :) ... (I do own that Enya album, by the way, for those of you who think Im pirating music ..)
Create a new folder, give it a name, yet it continues to display the "New Folder" default name. Not a serious bug, but a bug nonetheless.
The first time I run explorer after starting up, only the C drive is there, the other drives appearing only after manually doing a refresh. Not a serious bug, but can be confusing to newbies.
(2002/11: guy writes: "This bug is caused by the interaction of having a cd in a cdrom drive when starting explorer.")
This bug has been around probably since the first release of Windows95, and I guess its not a priority for Microsoft. Try to create a new file where the filename begins with a ".". This is a valid filename; you can create them with a DOS box or the API calls, Windows understands such files if they are there, and filenames beginning with "." are actually common in the Unix world, as this convention is used to denote hidden files. This error message is clearly not intentional - "you must type a filename" implies that explorer merely thinks that you havent tried to type a filename at all. Related to this is the issue of simply skipping files starting with "." when copying folders over Windows networking; watch out for that one, Ive lost stuff because of this.