In all modern file managers, when you rename a file, it allows you to rename the file on the label in the file manager like this:

Renaming a file on Windows 8

Windows, macOS, and Dropbox's web interface all have this behavior. This behavior makes sense because you are typing a new name with the location of the file in the window manager. Google Drive's web interface, on the other hand uses a dialog to rename files: Renaming a file on Google Drive It seems to me that by using a dialog, they've disconnected the renaming process from the file itself; in a folder with multiple files, the dialog shown would seem to be renaming any file, unless the user happened to notice the blue highlight. Is there a reason for ditching the familiar model for renaming files?

  • Isn't it simply that the GoogleDrive interface is a web design and others are run on the desktop
    – mmmmmm
    Jun 17, 2016 at 15:19
  • I don't think so. Dropbox's web interface does the same thing as the desktop file managers.
    – foxinsocks
    Jun 17, 2016 at 15:26
  • Does Google docs have any validation rules around the rename feature? For example, you cannot have duplicate names? Modals are great when you have validation errors because they can force you to correct the error or cancel the feature.
    – SteveD
    Jun 17, 2016 at 15:58
  • 3
    We can all guess, but you'd have to ask someone on the inside for a real answer. I've always thought this was a poor solution. Frankly, Drive is not a great model for UX patterns -- they can learn a lot from Dropbox. Jun 17, 2016 at 16:37
  • 3
    Since we're all guessing, my guess would be accessibility... keyboard navigation and sending all the right cues to screenreader at the right time with in-place editing is rather tricky. (This feature was delayed for quite some time in a web UI toolkit I use, for just this reason.) Dialogs with text boxes, on the other hand, are simple, well-tested components that usually require no extra tweaking to be accessible.
    – calum_b
    Aug 2, 2016 at 16:19

4 Answers 4


Well, I tried to get the answer from the design team (UENO. Created the interface, the renaming part is as it is since then), They simply can't answer it.

I believe that renaming in a modal doesn't have any specific advantage over inline renaming (they must have a better word for that, which I don't know) renaming inside a modal provide clear context and probably better handling for the web. Modals are part of web design for a long time and fits the purpose perfectly.

Yes, it's not as natural as renaming in OS (or dropbox) but instead of mimicking that behaviour, then went directly with next best option.

Not much for an answer, but that's all I've got.

  • By "model", are you referring to a "modal dialog", or something else?
    – TScott
    Aug 3, 2016 at 15:14
  • yeah Modal Dialogs, that's a typo there. Aug 4, 2016 at 6:24
  • What do you mean by they simply can't answer it? As in, they said that they don't know, or they never provided you with an answer?
    – Michael Lai
    Aug 9, 2016 at 21:17
  • 1
    They just tweeted back saying they can't answer it. Must me some non-disclose policy or something. Aug 10, 2016 at 5:32

Let's go on a journey.

1) Mac : As a user I will select file, click on option of renaming the same, hit enter or click any where. The file will get the name

2) Windows : Same as Mac

3) Drop box : Same as Mac and Windows

Now when it comes to google drive, I think having a modal to perform renaming action allows the following things :

a) See their input value clearly b) Allow them to edit the same if they want to, again having their focus strictly on renaming c) Having a CTA to confirm their action and trust that they actually did that.

Now I don't know about other tech giants but having this in google drive gives user a feel of satisfaction with out hesitation and a feel of trust that they did the action correctly.

"Material design = allow user to see what they want to see at a time of performing any particular action" Said by one of the member who spoke during introduction of material design.


What's the question? Why google is using Modal instead of inline renaming of file.. but what's there to discuss? Everyone is just wildly guessing about it. I think there is no such reason as usability behind this, it's just the way they thought of making it. When you are on web, clicking the file and renaming it might be accidental and the change may sync across multiple user and devices, that is the only reason I can think of, for giving a modal.

  • The first three sentences here do not add an answer they should go in a comment if you need clarification or in the form of a close vote if you think the question is unworthy.
    – DasBeasto
    Aug 4, 2016 at 19:26

The only sensible answer I can come up with is the resources and challenges on implementing between inline vs modal editing. Imagine a file was shared between 10 users and everyone decided to rename the file all at the same time. Probably when they were designing the system there were multitude of what if's challenges should they go for inline editing and lots of maintenance issues. The modal approach removes the layer of complexities and gives more control what actions need to take place.

The lesson here, its not about UX but we also need to consider and balance our resources when implementing the overall design and what would be the impact to the system and to the business as a whole.

  • 1
    +1 for the comment about impact to the system and to the business as a whole, something that is often overlooked but important to consider as a UX designer.
    – Michael Lai
    Aug 4, 2016 at 20:55
  • 1
    Based on what assumption do you suggest inline-editing is more complex / resource intensive?
    – Jonathan
    Aug 5, 2016 at 12:14
  • you have to put things into perspective. at one point you may be right that the difference is negligible when you implement something that is basic and not too complex. however, once you have various requirements it might turn the ball around. another thing jumping to this discussion may require another set of topic what and how you understand by resource and complexities. the short answer. you can associate the inline vs popup to dynamic vs static. its no brainer, that dynamic would require more time and effort vs static.
    – jonT
    Aug 7, 2016 at 5:50
  • the long answer. this can be captured if you are familiar with sequence diagram, activity diagram and data flow diagram during design.
    – jonT
    Aug 7, 2016 at 5:57

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.