I am creating an application that does various things to one or many image files specified by the user.

I have the form in the image attached which shows the user their system directory tree (as the app is in development it only shows H:/ drive)


I only want the tree to show the images that are in the folders, which it does currently (see in the root directory that there are three image files, there are other files in H:\ of different types that are excluded from the view)

I don't know if it is confusing for the user to see empty folders (IE no image files inside) although I would think that it is less confusing than ommitting those folders completely?

Another thing is, if the user clicks the box representing the root directory (H:) that selects all the displayed files and folders below but they could empty, so selecting that folder is not going to do anything.

Root Directory Expanded

Can anyone offer advice on what the "best" method is here for allowing a user to select multiple picture files from various folders in the directory tree?

2 Answers 2


I'd recommend disclosing that you're only showing files of a certain type, but don't alter the users' folder structure.

Let's take a look at how Windows handles file uploads when the file type is restricted:

Empty folder

The folder structure remains unchanged. \Documents\Timesheets does contain files, but none of them match the restriction imposed by this upload prompt (must be an image file).

Keeping the folder structure the same helps the user to retain perspective of where they are in the document tree. They are more likely to recognize the same arrangement of folders they've seen again and again than they are to recognize a temporarily pruned one.

Showing only image files.

However, if you or, more importantly, your users feel that there is value in hiding folders that don't contain images, then a simple checkbox could give the user this ability (as an opt-in feature) while still being explicit about what's going on.

hide folders feature

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  • Thanks for your response. Your example of the windows file explorer has confirmed that not changing the structure is the way to go. I think I need to change the text color of the files to differentiate between files and folders which should be an improvement
    – SE1986
    Commented Nov 17, 2017 at 12:41

Whether or not this is confusing depends on your audience. Remember, always frame these problems within that context. From there you can always test as needed. You could test it super simple like, asking your less technical friends (or whoever would be using this software) a question like... say... "when I try to upload a video post to Facebook, it shows most of my folders as empty. Do you know what's going on?" and see what kind of responses you get.

On another note, is it not possible to show the directories this way? (see below).I always preferred it since it's (1) how we regularly browse our computers and (2) I can copy/paste the file path there too, in case I don't want to go searching.

enter image description here

Best luck! Hope I can help

  • 1
    Thanks for your help. The reason I didn't go with the file explorer is that I want users to be able to choose files from multiple locations at once, Using a file explorer would mean having to open it multiple times for multiple folders. To be honest, I guess users could select one folder, do the processing on the image file(s) and then click the browse button to process files in another folder. I am creating an app which renames files based on their exif tags so I am hoping the target audience would be more "savvy"
    – SE1986
    Commented Nov 17, 2017 at 12:48

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