I asked this question on Stackoverflow and has been redirected here. Sorry about cross-posting.

I am writing a financial application and I need to write a specialized file open dialog for the user to be able to load stock data files in two different formats: Computrac and CSI.

My dialog has a list view where I need to show these data files.

The format of CSI files can interpreted in three different ways and I need to ask the user which way they prefer. For that I am planning to have a drop down box in each CSI row that the user can change.

The Computrac format can be interpreted in two ways, and for that I have a checkbox.

I am thinking to place these checkboxes/dropdowns in a separate column and show them only for selected item(s) and hide them for unselected items. Below is the screen shot.

My question to the usability experts: is this confusing? Is there a better way? Showing them for every item would make the table crowded, would it not? On the other hand, when there is no selection, the user won't see these controls at all and would not know that they are there.


This file _import_ dialog is a wizard. The first step asks the user to select a directory where to search for data files. The second step is shown in the screen shot. It gives a list of files found. They may not necessarily be in the same directory.

The user can import more than one file. The imported data are going to be stored in the program's database in a unified format that removes differences between CSI and Computrac. So to start working with data the user will first have to import them and then open a particular data series from the program's database.

So adding a third step to the wizard that asks whether they want to ignore DOP files or to select the price extension scheme makes little sense if they want to import multiple files.

I do not like having data import options in every row and since I do not expect users to import data often, maybe it is better to have an "options" button in this screen that would let the user to set import options that would apply to all files imported in this dialog invocation? Kind of like the third step suggested by Erion below...

Please give me your opinions.

alt text

  • 2
    What's the reason you made the screen blue and orange? It's rather hard on the eyes like this.
    – Rahul
    Commented Oct 10, 2010 at 9:50
  • these are the colors of the original version of the program. i am not writing it from scratch. but the original version was written for MS-DOS and VGA screens, so there the colors felt different. i am new to design. i am a software developer, so i would appreciate any suggestions.
    – akonsu
    Commented Oct 10, 2010 at 15:11
  • This question states it asks for opinion. Asking for opinion is not allowed here.
    – Rob
    Commented Jul 28, 2019 at 11:58

1 Answer 1


The first thing that comes to mind: why don't you let the choice of "how to interpret the format" to a second step? A bit like Excel, when it imports documents from another format.

Benefits of using a second step:

  • the Open dialog is not crowded with options; no need for user to make decision until it is really required
  • you have space to show all the options via buttons, selectable with a single click. So the user knows what her/his choices are. (Plus, drop down requires two clicks)
  • buttons have bigger area to click on => by Fitts' Law, it's easier to click on them. (But make sure the controls can also be selected via Tab on the keyboard, not just via mouse)

Also, do you need to show the path for every file? What about letting the user navigate to a folder and listing the files inside that folder only? (Bonus points if you make it usable via keyboard only, like Mac Finder)

Ask you users - or observe them - to find what their hierarchy is; maybe instead of filesystem folders they would prefer a hierarchy based on choosing the currency first, then Name, and then see the list of files for those two filters? Or, make the Open dialog based on filters for Currency, Period, name etc. and then show the files matching those filters regardless of where they are in the filesystem.

Your title says "Select A data file", but your image shows TWO data files being selected. If that is a multiselect open, then you should reword the title to "Select file(s) to open" or sth similar. You don't even need to use the word "file" - instead use whatever name your users have for these data collections. And, always respect the conventions of the OS for selecting multiple files, i.e. ctrl-clicking, shift-clicking, click-and-dragging etc.

Last point: What is the difference between Back and Cancel?

  • thanks for your response. i have edited my question to clarify.
    – akonsu
    Commented Oct 10, 2010 at 15:27

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