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I'm working on a program that can import data that's exported from another program. I'm using a simple input field with a browse button to open a "Folder Dialog" like this

Import path field

The browse button opens a default Windows Folder dialog:

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Now, the exported data is put in an architecture of folders and the user needs to select a specific folder named "Export_XXXXXX", where the X's are a specific date + ID number.

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What is a good way to inform the user that he needs to select this "Export_xxxxx" folder?

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    If the application already knows that the user needs to select a specific folder, then the user shouldn't need to select that folder; the application should do it for them. – Daniel Beck Jul 27 '16 at 14:08
  • This is not always the case though. If the application is included in the export (in the Program folder), the application will automatically select the "Data" folder containing all the Export_ folders. However, if this is not the case and the app runs standalone, the user needs to manually browse to the correct folder. – DennisW Jul 27 '16 at 14:11
  • I'm afraid I don't understand that response, or why a distinction between "standalone" or "included in the export" would matter here. Can you clarify? – Daniel Beck Jul 27 '16 at 14:16
  • Simply put: The program doesn't always know the location of the folder. So the user needs to browse for it using the Folder Dialog. My question is how I can help the user to pick the correct folder. – DennisW Jul 27 '16 at 14:20
  • Still not following you... If the program doesn't know the location of the required folder, it by definition can't guide them to the correct folder. If what you're saying is that in some installations the user decides where their export data goes, then you should use the windows default file location on first use; and remember what path the user changes it to and automatically select that on subsequent uses. – Daniel Beck Jul 27 '16 at 14:28
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I would place the upload dialog within a color-coded container, that indicates the following states:

  1. Empty. This is awaiting a folder selection.
  2. Invalid. The user has selected a folder, but it appears to be incorrect. This could be checked programmatically with a regular expression or a simple function that parses the string (ignoring the XXXX that represents the date).
  3. Valid. Green according to a successful regex check.

Additionally I provided a suggestion for an "Ignore" button in the invalid state. This is optional and debatable. My reasoning is that your program still isn't absolutely certain the folder is correct based of evaluating the directory path, but a power user may know better. I consider the color coding just to be merely a helpful suggestion, and not necessarily representative of a dead end.

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Will the folder name always be the same pattern?

If so, a simple label or tooltip should help guide the user. Maybe something like this:

File input with tip for finding correct folder

Or, if your app knows what the folder name will be, you could tell the user the exact name to look for:

File input with tip naming exact folder needed

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This sounds like the situation you're describing: Some layout programs (like InDesign) link to external files rather than fully importing them. So when a file gets moved, you have to relink the file by finding its new location. The system knows the filename, but not its location.

InDesign does this with an Open dialog that displays the filename you need to find in the dialog header.

Open dialog

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