Don't Pollute User Space

Vincent: Yes, you should put them there and yes, if you’re so worried about users finding it, you should heed Apple’s advice and provide a “Open Saved Games Folder” option in your game to quit fullscreen and issue a nice ShellExecute(“explorer.exe the-quoted-folder-path-here”); exit(0);.

Or use Vista’s Games Folder functionality, which gives you another way to let users interact with saved games (with nice thumbnails too).

There should be very, very few reasons for anyone to put data in ~{My ,}Documents. We have %APPDATA%! (On the Mac, Microsoft is the only one I know that breaks this rule.)

I have 13 ‘My something’ directories under My Documents. And it’s a computer I installed only 3 months ago.

Wait there’s more: Out of these 13 My… subdirs, only 2 contain files I created. And in both cases, it’s simply because the app didn’t give me any (obvious) choice (which might actually not be such a bad idea).

A very good point, some Applications go further and create folders for this stuff even though there are no files for it. On my Apple;

Microsoft User Data - Not sure what this is but contains a folder relating to Entourage which I’ve never even run and an MDB file (!!!)
iChats - Again never used it
Roxio Converted Items - It’s empty and I’ve no idea what would ever get saved here

Also, in my actual user directory I’ve got;

which are all empty and are therefore useless debris.

Sometimes I’ll delete these folders and they’ll come back again (Roxio!) other times I’m wary because something could break in the future (Microsoft)

Why would anyone care what’s in their My Documents folder? Either ignore what’s there, or create your own folder for your stuff elsewhere. Usually My Documents is on the C drive, and I try and keep my C drive small and store my data on another drive.

Also, it’s not really user space as that already has a perfectly good definition. I know Jeff likes to come up with breathless, exciting headlines like Don't pollute user space but it comes over a little drama queeny.

What’s so weird is that there are no guidelines for this, not from Microsoft or anybody else. How are developers suppose to do the right thing if nobody defines the right thing?

This, I think, is Microsoft’s biggest mistake in regards to this.

Also, installers shouldn’t put shortcuts to the application on the desktop! That one really annoys me.


This is one of my pet peeves, and the main one is the rediculously annoying Cyberlink folder, that recreates itself everytime you start up PowerDVD. I just gave up deleting it…

I unlike most people I know don’t keep things on my desktop and don’t store things in “My Documents” I have folders I created for this …

This means the My Documents folder contains only the cruft that programs put there and the Desktop folder (which I don’t display as Icons on my desktop…) only contains shortcuts to programs which I don’t pay any attention to.

Seems I have several meg of files in their, but I treat it like the various temp folders (Why is their not one temp folder…!)

I don’t think “User Space” is meant to be a “term” per se, I think he means to use the English words, ‘user,’ and ‘space,’ not the single Term “user_space” Some people really like to split hairs.

Cheers for this post.
The commenter who noted that WinXP has no default folder for Saved Games is also correct, however, that there really isn’t a clear solution to that. Pleacing the Saved Games folder inside C:\Program Files\Game\Saved_Games\ isn’t a bad idea, but users might have to actuallly read the documentation, if that were the case.

I really hate when Apps do this, and doubtlessly is best to avoid junking up User Space, if possible.

This is a problem that hit also Mac OS X. In my personal folder I’ve a lot of hidden directory and files (from pure *NIX apps) and under Documents directory I’ve some folder created by installed apps.
For example, these are files and folders I’ve in my personal folder:
and these are files and folders I’ve in my Documents folder:
Dati utente Microsoft/ (created by Microsoft Messenger)
RDC Connections/ (created by Microsoft Remote Desktop Connection)

And for Microsoft it took only… How many years to copy this nice convention from *nix? :slight_smile:

Oh my, the grave danger of “user space” pollution. What’s next, crusading for kibibytes?

“(My) Documents” is NOT pure user space on Windows. Many, many programs (including many by Microsoft) automatically save all kinds of stuff to this directory tree. Just accept that as a fact, and save yourself the stomach ulcer.

If you care enough to want your own separate user space, just make a new directory that only you know about. Then you can simply add a link to the Documents folder for easy navigation.

Jeremy: Pleacing the Saved Games folder inside the C:\Program Files\Game\Saved_Games\ isn’t a bad idea…

Uh, well it is if your users are running as standard users and don’t have permmissions to write to that folder…

Yup, I agree - it’s very annoying. I’ve got so much crap in my Documents folder that I’ve created another folder to use instead. As Chris says, that works.

But he seems to miss the point - I shouldn’t have to.

People use Documents and Settings for their stuff? Yes it is nice dialogs default there but if you create your very own user space you can then guarantee no pollution except by yourself. I have been making a c:\projects or c:[name] with my stuff forever off the root. It helps keep things tidy.

It’s interesting seeing that Apple guideline in the original post because my documents folder on my mac is also riddled with folders I didn’t create!

Max: “There are very, very, VERY few Linux programs that do this, and they’re almost all commercial.”

That is not true:

In my Linux home folder applications frequently add .xxx folders and files - hiding them doesn’t stop them being there.

It is accepted practise.



I remember having this discussion with a game developer (since their game makes a saved game folder under “My Documents”), and they pointed me to Vista programming guidelines that they reckoned required them to save this data there. I didn’t quite agree with the interpretation, but the problem is that the guidelines aren’t at all clear, especially for games where users don’t expect to have their immersion broken by a standard file dialog appearing when they choose “save game”. I’m afraid I can’t find the guidelines at the moment, but my interpretation is that:

Any data that the user might need to treat as “documents”, such as saved games and custom levels, should go in the personal (My Documents) folder hierarchy. Documents can be copied, emailed, deleted, renamed and moved.
Any files in the personal folder hierarchy must have file associations, be recognisable to the user, and should work when opened no matter where they’re moved to by the user.
It does not seem to be mandatory that the game allow the user to choose where in the personal folder hierarchy the files should go.

The main problem with using a folder other than My Documents is that My Documents has the special privilege of appearing just off the root “Desktop” of the folder hierarchy, and many applications will default to it when you choose “Open” or “Save as” from the file menu. It can be awkward to navigate to other folders. The worst case is when an application makes you choose a folder with the folder browsing dialog - it doesn’t have the shortcuts to common folders down the side that the file browsing dialog does, and may not even let you type in a path. (Under XP, anyway. Maybe Vista fixes this?)

Another common thing that really pisses me off is the default directory to install apps/games. Almost all uses C:/Program Files/Stupid Company Name/App Name. Why dear god? I don’t care if Adobe PhotoShop is in the same folder as the Adobe Acrobat Reader. The matter is worst when you do not know what company made that program you want to find.
Thank god it is possible to change that before the installation, but how does a normal user install a program? Yes, I agree, Yes, Yes, … , Yes (in 2 or 3 seconds).

Who stores personal data and files in “My documents”? Not me. I have a seperate drive to save my files. “My documents” is more like my junk folder.