Mac OS X 10.5 (Leopard): Open dialog fails to remember Name column width in list view

Posted by Pierre Igot in: Macintosh
November 26th, 2007 • 4:35 pm

To me, the following issue is a reminder that, in spite of the improvements made by Apple in Mac OS X 10.5, the list view mode in the Finder and in Open/Save dialog boxes continues to be treated as a second-class citizen. And as someone who tends to prefer list view to column view, especially in Open/Save dialog boxes, I find this particularly frustrating.

In Mac OS X 10.5, whenever I bring up an Open dialog box, whether it’s in Pages, BBEdit, Word, Photoshop, or any other application, if the dialog box is in list view or if I switch it to list view, I get something like this:

Open dialog box in list view

As you can see in this picture, even if the overall size of the dialog box is more than big enough to display most file names in their full, non-truncated length, still by default the width of the “Name” column is ridiculously small, which means that the width of the “Date Modified” column next to it—the only other column displayed in list view in Open/Save dialog boxes—is ridiculously big.

In this particular example, the overall width of the window is over 1000 pixels. The width of the “Name” column is 240 pixels, and the width of the “Date Modified” column is… 580 pixels. It’s absurd. As illustrated above, the width of the text in the “Date Modified” column barely exceeds 200 pixels maximum. There is absolutely no reason for the “Date Modified” column to ever be wider than 220 pixels.

Yet by default that’s the behaviour you get in Mac OS X 10.5 in an Open dialog box.

And to make matters much, much worse, Mac OS X 10.5 keeps reverting to this default behaviour with the ridiculously small width for “Name” and the ridiculously large width for “Date Modifiedevery time you invoke the Open dialog box again.

In other words, as far as I can tell, Mac OS X completely fails to remember any adjustments that the user makes to the width of these two columns in order to be able to read the names in full. Even if you don’t quit the application in question, as soon as you close the Open dialog box and then invoke it again, the column width are back to their absurd default values.

Of course, Mac OS X has no such problems in column view. If you bring up an Open dialog in the same application, switch to column view, and then adjust the width of the columns by option-dragging one of the column separators (which changes the widths of all the columns at once), then this new width becomes the default value, and Mac OS X remembers it even if you quit and relaunch the application.

And even in list view, Mac OS X actually remembers the sort order chosen by the user (by name ascending, by name descending, by date ascending or by date descending) from one session to the next.

Then why on earth is it not able to remember the column widths in list view? And why does it have such ridiculous default values?

It’s such a fundamental flaw, in such an obvious part of the operating system, that it really makes you wonder whether Apple’s engineers ever use list view at all, or even whether they deliberately mistreat it just to spite old-school Mac users from the pre-Mac OS X days.

It really is that bad.

Out of curiosity, I tried to explore the preference file, to see if I could find this default value of the width of the “Name” column in list view anywhere.

I found a property called “NSNavBrowserPreferedColumnContentWidth” (sic), which appears to be the default value of the column width in column view, but since Mac OS X remembers the column width from one session to the next, it is of limited interest to me.

I also found a property called “AppleNavServices:DefaultFolderX:NameWidth,” which is obviously related to the Open/Save dialog enhancement Default Folder X that I use, but as far as I can tell the value of this property has no impact. (I also tried everything above with Default Folder X off, just to make sure that this third-party enhancement was not the culprit here.)

In fact, I am not even sure that the default column width for the “Name” column in list view is actually recorded anywhere accessible in Mac OS X. I sure wish there was a way to change it, especially since Mac OS X keeps reverting to it again and again. Having to resize this column manually again and again just to be able to see file names in full is properly ridiculous.

5 Responses to “Mac OS X 10.5 (Leopard): Open dialog fails to remember Name column width in list view”

  1. sansnom says:

    Excuse for my poor english!

    For example, with Cinema4D, you can edit preference file:

    At this points:


    {992, 704}
    {992, 704}
    {992, 704}
    {992, 704}

    you can specify origin and size for dialog view window.

    Perhaps this mod can be apply for another apps…

  2. alho0001 says:


    i really hate the date modified column. its so annoying. PLEASE tell me how to do to get rid of it completely.

  3. Pierre Igot says:

    Sorry, I am not aware of any way to remove a column altogether from list view in Open/Save dialogs. It is, after all, quite useful to some :).

  4. alho0001 says:

    I have looked for the open/save dialog .nib files, but i haven’t found anything at all, maybe there is no .nib file. Does anyone know how to edit these standard open save dialogs? I mean, there must be some file on the computer that holds information about just that dialogs appearance. And there must be a way to edit that file. C’mon guys! please help!

  5. alho0001 says:

    Now I’ve found the appkit.framwork folder on my computer. there MUST be a file inside this framework that contains information about how these dialogs are displayed.
    What I want to to is to remove the column headers in the open / save dialogs “list view”. Dont ask me why, please just tell me which file that contains the information that i want to edit.



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