Dotted Lines in Tree

Our product is probably going towards using our company’s common UI. This will probably mean re-writing its GUI in a more Web 2.0 manner, which is nice.

The developer of the company’s common UI library is visiting us this week, so I had a first-time look into the library and trying to use it. BTW, the library is based on prototype and scriptaculous.

I noticed that in their sample page they use a tree that doesn’t display dotted lines that connect the dots. I asked the library developer if I can use our current tree implementation that does use dotted lines, and he said he doesn’t think that’s matter, but forwarded me to the usability guru of the company.

She said that from their experience, the dotted lines adds nothing to the tree usability and should be removed. I planned to say “do you know better than Microsoft” as I remembered Windows Explorer did display dotted lines, but when I took a look, I was amazed to find out that Windows Explorer in Windows XP no longer shows dotted lines in the folder tree (I’m pretty sure those lines were there in a previous version of Windows), and Outlook also displays a tree of folders without dotted lines. I guess this is the new convention of showing trees. There are some Microsoft exceptions for this rule, though. For example, the project explorer in Visual Studio has these dotted lines (from Visual Studio 6 until the recent Visual Studio 2005) as well as the advanced printer settings dialog.

Oddly enough, I can’t find any discussion about it on the web.

5 Responses to “Dotted Lines in Tree”

  1. Ed Says:

    Funny, I just noticed this today too … I was srolling up and down a large s/w development tree and couldn’t figure out if the directories lower down were at the same level as, or supdirectories of, the one I was interested in – because the dotted lines aren’t there anymore!
    Funny how I’d not noticed that they had disappeared before. But now I need them…
    Perhaps they were removed one of those regular updates that come in all the time.
    I found a discussion abous an explorer replacement tool called “Directory Opus 8” where the consensus was that the dotted lines were ugly and useless. Maybe those guys only have small directory trees.
    Hopefully there’s a registry hack somewhere to turn them back on.

  2. Ed Says:

    Apparently it’s a usability improvement (no reason why given though!)

    http://www.microsoft.com/technet/prodtechnol/winxppro/evaluate/usbltyxp.mspx#EIF

  3. Ed Says:

    Here you can find the fix to re-enable it (scroll down through the mindless abuse responses) – no need for a regedit hack, it’s as simple as:
    Tools / Folder Options… / View / untick “Display simple view in Explorer’s folders list” (3rd one down)

  4. Ed Says:

    Forgot to paste the URL for that,
    http://www.velocityreviews.com/forums/t210042-windows-explorer.html

  5. splintor Says:

    Thanks Ed for the replies and the information. Like you, I still don’t see how this is considered a usability improvement.

    I also saw I had some embarrassing grammar errors in this post which I fixed.

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