Friday, September 19, 2008

Program Files: Stupid

There are a lot of problems that get under your skin with Microsoft Windows. Let me be clear at the beginning: I do not have Linux installed on any of my machines. As one of my friends once said, "Windows is a good product", and it is. When Windows 98 came out, I thought it was the apex. I slowly and begrudgingly moved to XP (I finally figured out how to turn the Start Menu back to Classic Gray). Now, I am 90% content with my OS.

But there is something that became the norm with Windows 95 (and all subsequent sequels) that all software companies seemed to adopt. I am talking about \Program Files\. Let's break down the old way, first.

Typically, when you installed a game or a piece of software, it needed a new folder. The old way was to type something simple, so it could be quickly typed in command line. Games would be installed in C:\Quake\, so they could be accessed in DOS (via "cd quake", then "quake.exe").

Microsoft decided that the root directory (C:\) had become too cluttered (C:\Windows\ is where the OS is seated). So, they developed a solution (albiet a bad one): Program Files. The horrible thing is that everyone and their dog default installs to Program Files. Without looking I probably have 40 goddamn subfolders in there. They just moved the clutter into an a different closet! Video games, chatting applications and even Microsoft products now have a place in C:\Program Files\i-cant-type-this-right-in-command-line-or-find-it-when-searching\.

Now not all honorable programs want to be in the Prog Files club. mIRC used to be good at this, but they finally caved in. Let me ask two questions: why do you need a separate folder to house third-party (and first-party) apps; and why does it have to use case-sensitive, redundant words?

Let me suggest something for anyone that has more than Solitaire on their systems: C:\games\. I have everything gaming-related here (even oldschool game files). It's easy to type and easy to find. Also, make sure you have a place for downloads (the Desktop is for rookies). I use C:\tasks\, which is easy to find and type. C:\setupfiles\ is where offline copies of all my app installs are.

Another thing about the Desktop. Don't make tons of folders there. Windows buries the Desktop in the root structure, and if you change usernames or login as someone else, expect some downtime and headache.

If you are a developer, understand the KISS principle and stop putting my files into a catchall folder like Program Files!

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