The standard directory pickers are as follows. They have a long input box with the current chosen directory, a '...' button next to it that opens a directory picker to chosen a new direcotry.

Why is this '...' button required? Why not simply open the directory picker when the user clicks to input box? Would this be bad UX?

  • Could you please post a screenshot? Not everyone is on windows, and it may also depend on the exact version of Windows you are using. Oct 20, 2011 at 13:52
  • The same thing with 'Browse...' instead of '...' google.co.uk/…
    – Randomblue
    Oct 20, 2011 at 13:55
  • I've noticed Google Chrome has tackled this by removing the input box in favor of just a browse... button. I prefer this solution honestly, as most users won't navigate to a file purely by text, and those that do can do so via the OS based "browse for file" window that comes up
    – Ben Brocka
    Oct 20, 2011 at 15:14
  • Could you show a Google Chrome example?
    – Randomblue
    Oct 20, 2011 at 15:28
  • Copy pasting a very long deep directory url is much easier the clicking to it. So the ... is required for 'pro' users.
    – Barfieldmv
    Oct 21, 2011 at 9:32

3 Answers 3


The input field is really just a place to show the file name/path of the file you chose, it's no longer in fashion to let the user actually type into it it seems. Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox and Internet Explorer have already taken note of this and implemented alternate solutions.

Firefox is the closest to your recommendation: enter image description here
They maintain the standard text input/button combination, but clicking either will open the "Open" file dialog window from your OS.

Chrome has taken the opposite of your suggestion, and ditched the input field in favor of the button: enter image description here

Internet Explorer 8 (somewhat infuriatingly) gives you what appears to be an input field but you can't actually type into it.

enter image description here

Clicking that input field does nothing, nor does typing, even though the "type" cursor appears. Double clicking the input field brings up the Open File dialog as everyone else does.

It's also important to note that the standard file open dialog window often includes this ability to directly type out the file name, so this functionality is almost always included even if you only use the dialog window.

enter image description here Perhaps more important is to consider exactly how many users are going to be able to and want to type out the exact path to an individual file with no typos or mistakes.

I don't have any figures, but unless you're dealing with mostly Linux users I would severely doubt a plurality of your users are going to use such a method. The File Dialog allows you to view the context of your current window, manually drill down/up through folders, see every individual file in a nice GUI, and it lets you manually type out the file name. How do you plan to compete with that UX?

As the three most popular browsers all completely eschew the idea of using an input field to manually type out the file path and the standard File Open dialog gives you the option to do that same exact thing I think it's becoming quite clearly unnecessary to include both elements, it's likely a holdover of the old web that the input field is there at all.


The "Browse..." button allows you to browse to a folder (using mouse input), whereas the edit box allows you to type in (or paste) a folder name (using keyboard input). Having the directory picker pop up as soon as you click the input box would cause 2 problems:

  • You cannot copy-paste folder names any more
  • You cannot type in folder names any more
  • Users don't expect that clicking an edit box pops up a dialog.

That's why you need a button and an edit box.

Ps.: I assume that with "directory picker", the following dialog is meant:

enter image description here

This dialog does not allow you to type in a folder name as others mention.

  • 1
    The browse button in every desktop OS I've used lately also allows you to use the same address bar style folder navigation as well. Mouse is the default navigation but keyboard style is still possible, and in fact navigating from the keyboard via the windows (for example) file browse window allows you to verify that the file is where you think it is by showing you the folder you're in before you select the file.
    – Ben Brocka
    Oct 20, 2011 at 15:25
  • Actually (as per my answer) none of the three major browsers allow any of the functionality you mention (except the File Open dialog box gives you that ability anyway), so I'm not sure how the average user would expect these input boxes to work, as they function just like @randomblue suggests in popular browsers. Would be interesting to test.
    – Ben Brocka
    Oct 20, 2011 at 20:03
  • @Ben Brocka: There is a difference between the commonly known "File Open" dialog, which allows you to select a file, and the less known "directory picker" wich allows you to select a folder. Oct 21, 2011 at 5:44
  • 1
    This Directory Pickers is one of the most irritating feautures ever for users that know the path, have it in their explorer and only want to copy paste it.
    – Barfieldmv
    Oct 21, 2011 at 9:33
  • @Barfieldmv: Not if you combine it with en edit field, which is exactly what this topic is about. Oct 21, 2011 at 9:51

Our desktop application designed for computer experts show an editable input field with the file/directory chooser button right beside it. The input field makes it easier to:

  • enter hidden paths (which the OS X file chooser does not show)
  • allow to enter exact paths (the OS X file chooser, for example, follows symlinks)
  • easily edit parts of the paths if just something minor has changed
  • allows easy copy-pasting of file names

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