[xplorer˛] — Undo workarounds
home » blog » 2 March 2008

"Riddle me this, riddle me that"

Many people wonder why there's no Edit > Undo menu command in xplorer˛ and urge me to add it. How hard can it be? very hard is the short answer.

If you want to understand why it is next to impossible to offer undo capability, think about windows shell in its most generic form. There are many types of "drop targets" that accept file operations, and folders are just one of them. xplorer˛ is the go-between, that passes a bunch of files to the target and does not know or control how the files are dealt with. They could end up in a different hard disk, in a zip file, a remote computer (FTP) or a database. Only the folder itself could possibly undo the operation, and sadly microsoft has not exposed any undo framework API to 3rd party applications — I doubt if windows explorer can undo all conceivable file operations either.

So I'm not just making cheap excuses, undo is an impossible task to contemplate, even for plain filesystem transfers. For extra spice consider copies that are aborted in the middle, files that are irreversibly overwritten or deleted...

On the positive side xplorer˛ offers useful workarounds for the missing undo functionality, for the most dangerous file operations:

  • Accidental deletion. Most of the time files deleted end up in windows recycle bin. To undelete them, browse into the recycle bin, click on the "Date Deleted" column header to see the most recently deleted files and folders, then select them, right click and pick Restore menu command.

    WARNING: Files deleted from many folders, including network, USB sticks and other removable media, do not end up in the recycle bin. You can't undo deletion from such sources. Pay attention to the delete confirmation dialog, it will clearly state that files will be permanently lost. Also make sure you always receive such delete confirmations from recycle bin properties dialog.


  • Accidental drop. We all have done it, dragged a few files over the tree, meaning to drop them onto SomeFolder and just as we were releasing the mouse button the tree autoscrolled and the files ended up in the wrong folder, but which? The latest version 1.71 has a menu item for this very problem: Goto > Drop target will take you to the folder that accepted the last drop, whether intentional or otherwise. Once in there you can reselect the files and drop them where they where supposed to go in the first place!

ADDENDUM: If you are on recent windows (e.g. 10/11) then you can undo many file operations using windows explorer! When you delete or use drag/drop (or copy/paste) to move files in xplorer˛, and you do a mistake, right click on your Desktop screen to access the background menu, and in there you will find the required undo command.

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