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Adding utility to one of the more overlooked aspects of Windows
Published on July 26, 2006 By Zoomba In OS Customization

Ever wish that when you were going to open or save a file that you had a few more options to choose from?  Do you find the standard open/save dialogs difficult to read when there are a dozen or more files listed?  Coming to the rescue of frustrated users everywhere, Stardock presents the Enhanced File Dialog utility, a product included with that brings power and user customization to yet another aspect of the Windows Operating System.

Enhanced File Dialog is an application enhancement utility that replaces the standard Microsoft Windows file open/save dialog screens with a much more feature-rich interface.  It improves the usability of possibly the most used dialog screens in the entire operating system by giving you items such as a Recent Folders drop-down, an easier to read file list, an application quick-launch bar, a search button and a customizable sidebar to add your favorite folders to for quick and easy navigation.

Compare these two screenshots showing the file open dialog at first glance:

Classic Windows Open Dialog Enhanced Open Dialog

At first glance, the most obvious improvements are in the file list.  In the classic view, files are listed as Name + Extension (i.e. document.rtf) and there are no sort options or visual divisions between items in the list.  The second picture showing the enhanced dialog looks more like the detailed view you would see in Windows Explorer, breaking the file list down into columns such as Name, Size, Type and Date Modified.  This view can help eliminate guess work when trying to figure out which version of a file you want to be working on.  No more guess work on whether it's Q1Financials_a.doc or Q1Financials_b.doc that you need to be working on when you can clearly see that one of the files is from last year.  Also, to make it easier to read all of the additional data provided, the file list is divided by grid lines.

If you take a closer look at the two screenshots, you'll see three additional differences in the enhanced dialog:

  • Recent Folders list
  • Enhanced Sidebar
  • Quick Launch Bar
    • Search
    • Enhanced Dialog Settings
    • Application Quick-launch buttons

The "Recent Folders" list is a drop-down menu that will show you some of the most recently access folders.  This makes it easier for users who are working in multiple applications save related files together.  For example, a web designer may want to save an web page file and some images to the same folder.  Both the graphics editing and web page editing applications likely have their own default save locations that will pop up when opening the save dialog.  Once you've saved within one of your applications, you can then select that folder from the Recent Folders list when saving from the other application.  Saving the user the time and trouble of digging through countless folders to reach a folder they've already recently worked in. 

The enhanced sidebar adds several more options over the standard one.  Instead of having to go to My Documents to reach folders such as My Music and My Pictures, they're included in the list.  Additionally, through the settings menu, or by simply dragging and dropping onto the sidebar, the user can add any folder they like to the list.  A student who stores all their class papers on F:\My Papers\ could add that to the sidebar and make the open/save process much easier. 

Finally, the Quick Launch bar gives you three primary functions:

  1. Search.
    If you want to search for a file within a given directory, you can browse to it via the open/save dialog and launch the search utility via the magnifying glass.  It will default to searching that folder.
  2. Enhanced Dialog Settings.
    There are a number of settings the user can change to suit their needs.  This is where you can add applications to the application launch bar, custom folders to the enhanced sidebar, as well as specify which applications you do not want to use Enhanced Dialogs, or alternately specify applications you want to especially force to use it.  Additionally, it will save dialog window sizes for applications that have a habit of defaulting to a very small dialog window.

    Please note: some applications like Microsoft Office do not use standard file dialogs and will not be extended by Enhanced File Dialog.
  3. Application Launch Bar
    This is just like the Quick Launch bar you can enable on the Windows taskbar.  You can add application shortcuts to this bar through the settings.
Quick Launch Bar
Recent Folders List
Enhanced Sidebar


While a small tool in scope, Enhanced File Dialog brings a great deal of power and flexibility to a key piece of every Windows application.  If you've customized your desktop with WindowBlinds, modified your context menus through Right Click, and built yourself a replacement Taskbar with DesktopX and ObjectDock, then why not dig in and improve your file dialogs too with Enhanced File Dialog!

Some additional screenshots of the utility settings:


Comments (Page 1)
2 Pages1 2 
on Jul 26, 2006
I love Enhanced Dialog.  But boy, it pisses me off that it resets itself every time I update.  Due to that, I haven't customized for a while now.
on Jul 26, 2006
Enhanced Dialog is one of my favorites too. It makes downloading & saving so much easier...

BlueDev- I was complaining about the same issue in another thread. Then I ran today's update (v. 1.00.001) & it didn't write over my settings.

[aside} You can also backup the 3 ini files in the ED folder & use them to update the new ini files-- easier than trying to remember & re-configure.
on Jul 26, 2006
Ive always wished there was a way to put my personal folder in that window as a option to save things too instead of haveing to navagate to it all the time. I think this would be great!
on Jul 26, 2006
Thanks for the article, lots of great information here!
on Jul 26, 2006
The updates overwriting previous files has been... adjusted. I think, as of today. Not EFD's fault, just how things were setup on the server. Drag your personal folders into the Places tab on the settings window. Myself, I also remove some bits from the Quick Launch tab. I tend not to launch Outlook Express to fetch my mail from my file dialogs, but the option is there.
on Jul 27, 2006
The second picture showing the enhanced dialog looks more like the detailed view you would see in Windows Explorer

Not to sound to critical or to harsh but, other then the grid, there is nothing there that windows doesn't already do, making the detail view the default view is nothing to marvel over. What would be great, is replacing the drop down box that shows your current location with a drop down box you can actually type a location into(ie. same as Windows Explorer).

Other then that, the program looks like it has a great deal of potential.
on Jul 27, 2006
Please note: some applications like Microsoft Office do not use standard file dialogs and will not be extended by Enhanced File Dialog.

This is the only disappointment I have with EFD. I love the extended features of EFD, and I have it installed. But I rarely get to use them since I spend almost all of my day working in MS Office, in one form or another.
on Jul 27, 2006
Wheres sound packager?
on Jul 28, 2006
This is great, it's exactly what I needed!

Oh, and why the heck doesn't Microsoft use the open dialog they designed, in their own software?!
on Aug 02, 2006
Does EDF treat File Open and File Save As dialogs separately?

Not doing so is one of the biggest annoyances of File Dialog programs like this.
on Oct 18, 2006
How about a version for Vista? It needs it real bad.
on Oct 18, 2006
I would assume that all of the apps in the current suites will be supported some time after Vista is released.

More importantly, I hope that Stardock continues to support and develop new apps for XP users who are not on the bleeding edge of Microsoft's marketing push.
on Feb 22, 2007
"More importantly, I hope that Stardock continues to support and develop new apps for XP users who are not on the bleeding edge of Microsoft's marketing push."

I would second that. I'm not up for jumping to Vista just yet, though it is really "pretty". I'm waiting for at least SP1 to come out.
on Jun 13, 2007
It would be nice if any of the images in the article worked.
on Jun 13, 2007
I am unable to view the images as well, using FireFox with a clean cache

It's My Secret
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