Sunday, April 9, 2006

Windows XP and Tivo: Don’t Confirm When You Can Undo

For most Windows XP users, attempting to delete a file gets you this:

Are you sure you want to send “[file name]” to the Recycle Bin?

Despite its familiarity, this confirmation has long been scorned by user-interface designers. You can understand why by looking at a better approach from Tivo, which recently eliminated its confirmation for deletes. Then I’ll explain how you can get Windows XP to do the same thing.

Tivo: Doing Delete Right

Before Tivo’s March 2006 software update, if you pressed delete while you had a show selected, Tivo asked whether you really wanted to delete that show. Now, Tivo doesn’t ask; the show just goes away. However, the show goes to an area similar to Windows’ Recycle Bin, where the show resides for a while before permanently disappearing. Thus, if you make a mistake, you can recover the show.

So what’s the benefit? For the 99 times out of 100 where you do not make a mistake, you no longer need to do the equivalent of this:

You: I'd like to delete this show.

Tivo: Are you sure you want to delete that show?

You: Yes, I am sure.

That’s 99 useless confirmation clicks avoided. And for the one time you make a mistake, you can undo it with a few clicks. Thus, the extra clicks are only used for the exception, not the norm.

Windows XP: How to Delete Like Tivo

With its Recycle Bin and its “Undo” menu selection, Windows XP already has a way to undo mistaken deletes. The bad news is that Window XP nevertheless retains the “Are you sure...” confirmation for deletes. The lesser-known good news is that you can configure Windows XP to suppress the confirmation: Right-click the Recycle Bin icon, select “Properties,” uncheck “Display delete confirmation dialog,” and click “OK.” Deleted items will still go to the Recycle Bin but without the confirmation.

If you change that Windows XP setting, deleting files will feel righter, similar to Tivo’s new way of handling deletes.


  1. Thanks! I couldn't remember how to get rid of that delete confirmation and your post about the Trash properties was just what I needed.
    A word of warning though. While I dislike the delete confirmation and I like to turn it off, it has burned me in the past. Windows does not use the Trash for files that are stored on a network drive. If you turn off the confirmation dialog and then delete a remote file, there's no "undo" for it. It's permenately gone.

  2. Ok, how do you access the "undo" function on Tivo? I wasn't even aware of that feature. I thought you couldn't get those shows back (although I _thought_ the files were still there.