I am designing a Windows application that has a dialog that requires the user to select a file, similar to the way you would with an <input type="file"> on the web. However, I cannot think of a non-web Windows app that does this.

  1. What is an example of a (semi-popular) Windows application that requires the user to select a file, and shows the name or path to that file? A screenshot of the UI used for this would be appreciated.

  2. What control(s) exist for implementing this functionality?

Edit: To be clear, I'm looking for example/advice on the file input that a) lets the user click to open the standard Open dialog, and that b) shows the user that a file has been selected, and which file was selected.

  • 2
    If you're looking for which specific control to use in programming code, you're better off asking on StackOverflow. We can advise you on which control users would prefer, though :)
    – Rahul
    Commented May 18, 2011 at 22:26
  • Neither 1 or 2 is about UX design. If by 1 you don't mean the open file dialog in almost any editor then you need to clarify your question. Part 2 is a programming/library question. Commented May 18, 2011 at 22:31
  • @James See the answers below and Rahul's correct interpretation. The design aspect is mimicking common interface for choosing a file and seeing the path. The control will cause a standard Open dialog to appear, but the question is about the display of the control to pick and show the result.
    – Phrogz
    Commented May 19, 2011 at 0:04

4 Answers 4


Here's an example from one of our Windows applications:

Screenshot of a dialog that shows a file picker control (Textbox with Browse-button)

You can type in the path yourself (or paste it) into the textbox, with intellisense; or press the "Browse..."-button to get a file dialog.

  • What about dragging a file into the textbox?
    – user371
    Commented Jun 1, 2011 at 18:17
  • Dragging a file into the textbox doesn't work, but it would be a nice addition (and not very hard to implement). Commented Jun 5, 2011 at 10:42

Any File/Open dialog in any application that opens files meets your description. This is true whether the application is a Windows application or a non-Windows application.

Is this what you're looking for?

enter image description here

It's just a text box with a button right next to it.

  • 1
    He's looking for a file picker, though, not a file opener.
    – Rahul
    Commented May 18, 2011 at 22:28
  • @Rahul: What's a file picker? :) Is it one of those "drag it from the left pane to the right pane" thingys? Commented May 18, 2011 at 22:29
  • The image you have included is what I am looking for. What app is that?
    – Phrogz
    Commented May 19, 2011 at 0:00
  • I got the image from componentone.com/SuperProducts/FilePickerSilverlight. But you can simulate the same control on any platform by putting a button next to a textbox. The button opens a File/Open dialog, and you put the return value into the textbox. Commented May 19, 2011 at 1:42
  • Rahul, this is a file picker. A file opener is used when a file is "opened" for use after selecting the file. This is only "selecting" a file, storing the path of the file for later use. The dialog for selecting the file itself may be the same, but the use case is different. Commented May 19, 2011 at 2:40

I've found that a common convention in Windows applications is to use a button labelled "Browse" to the right of a text box.

As long as the input is clearly a file, you could however simply use an ellipsis.


Upload Resumé: [____________] (...)

Resumé: [____________] (Browse)

As far as I've known, "Browse" is the more common usage.

  • Could you possibly give examples where "browse" is common usage not in webforms?
    – jcolebrand
    Commented May 19, 2011 at 3:37
  • It' a standard convention. For example when you install a program it asks you for an installation path and provides you with a text box and a Browse button. Commented May 19, 2011 at 8:45

To be fair, my experience says that "picking a file" and "opening a file" are two different tasks, from the programming standpoint.

There is a common windows "Open file dialog" (and the corresponding "Save file dialog") that is used by most people, and is especially used by the "native Windows programs" like MSPaint and Notepad.

Once the file(s) has(have) been selected, the program does something based on that.

Is that what you're asking about?

  • 1
    I think what he means is that he wants to have the user pick a file, then display the selected file in a different UI control (eg. the parent "browse..." selector) and let the user continue with his task before committing the selection, like how the file input in HTML works.
    – Rahul
    Commented May 18, 2011 at 22:28
  • @Rahul ~ It does? I ... didn't know there was such a selector in HTML. Is that new to HTML5?
    – jcolebrand
    Commented May 18, 2011 at 22:35
  • No, but you may be misunderstanding me or I'm not being clear. When you click "browse..." a file picker comes up. When you select a file, the "browse..." control now shows you which file you have selected but you haven't actually "opened" that file, since you still need to choose to upload it separately. I think this is what Phrogz is looking for (as to why he would want it, that's a different issue)
    – Rahul
    Commented May 18, 2011 at 22:37
  • 1
    Picking a file is indeed different to opening a file. Picking is only the "selecting" of a file. Opening is both the selecting and use of that file. Picking could lead to upload (as in the case of web forms), and "opening" doesn't even take place on the browser's end. Commented May 19, 2011 at 2:37
  • 2
    @Charles, how do you figure? a) it's longer than a comment, b) he's asking about the control to pick a file, and I'm saying that it's a native "OS" element, and c) when I put this up the question was brand new. I'm going to bite my tongue now. Additionally, there was a moderator not two posts above my last one. If it was truly a comment masquerading as an answer, flag it as such, and let the mods convert it to a comment.
    – jcolebrand
    Commented May 19, 2011 at 20:31

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