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When creating the list of format filters for a open/save file picker dialog, should the option to show all files (e.g. 'All files (.)') be listed before or after specific format choices (such as 'Text files (*.txt)')?

My gut feeling was that this should always be listed last - but a quick survey of a few different applications revealed that it's often not, so now I'm wondering which placement results in better UX.

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  • To my knowledge it's last as well, but like you, it's a gut reaction.
    – Medinoc
    Commented Sep 11, 2017 at 12:30

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First

This is the most general option, therefore you list it first. If user wants to be more specific and narrow down her selection, then you add all possible options. Keep in mind that this is also needed for meta options and hierarchies.

This is documented in Windows Dev Center Common Dialogs page:

  • For Open File, the initial default file type is the most likely chosen by the target user. The subsequent default should be the last file type used.
  • For Open File, include an "All files" entry as the first item if users can open any file type, or may need to see all files in a folder at the same time. Consider providing other meta filters, such as "All pictures," "All music," and "All videos." Place these immediately after "All files."

And this not only limited to Windows. See Open Office on Mac (it's in Spanish, but you can see the "Todos los Archivos" option as first option)

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same goes for Adobe Photoshop:

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and the list goes on and on

However...

You mention the "Save..." dialog. In this case, it's different since you won't save as "All files". The recommendation is to use the most probable file (for example, if file is .htm, then you save as htm), followed my most common, then all other options in alphabetical order.

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  • You're welcome, glad it helps :)
    – Devin
    Commented Sep 12, 2017 at 1:20

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