Windows Vista has a new feature. While it’s always been possible to remove your Recycle Bin from the desktop, Vista saw fit to bubble up the command into the context menu, shown here:

A screen shot of the Vista recycle bin context menu,  with the commands Empty Recycle Bin and Delete circled

I circled a couple commands in that shot, because they consistently confound me (even though I’ve been using Vista for well over 8 months now). One removes items from the Recycle Bin, and the other removes the Recycle Bin itself.

I know what you’re thinking – the commands are pretty straight forward semantically. No confusion there. But take a look at the dialogs that follow each command. If you say “Empty Recycle Bin” with one item inside, here’s the confirmation:

The dialog to empty the recycle bin with one item.  Shows lots of detail about the item,  including a large icon.

And with multiple items:

The dialog to remove multiple items from the recycle bin.  A simple confirmation message with Yes No choices.

Did you notice the title of both of those dialogs? “Delete File” and “Delete Multiple Items.” So is it any wonder that my mental model associates the word “Delete” with the process of emptying my recycle bin?

It doesn’t help matters that the dialog for removing the recycle bin looks somewhat similar to one of the empty dialogs:

The dialog to remove the recycle bin from the desktop.  Another simple dialog with Yes No prompts,  except this one has an extra line telling you how to restore the Recycle Bin.

Take a second to associate the context menu commands with the dialog titles. You’ll learn that you Empty Recycle Bin to Delete and Delete to Remove Recycle Bin. Not straight forward anymore, is it?

So it should come as no surprise that I blazed through that last dialog one day and suddenly found my desktop to be without Recycle Bin. The only way I could figure out how to restore it – ask my office mate to delete hers so I could read the dialog that told me how to restore it.

Her response? “No way! I like my Recycle Bin.”

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The conversation continues...

  1. On August 13th, 2007 at 1:51 am, Jason said:

    I prefer good ol’ “rm -rf”. Hmm, maybe I’m onto something here, as Don Norman’s latest article on his website discusses the return to command line interfaces.

  2. On October 2nd, 2007 at 4:42 pm, Samantha said:

    I just laughed my ass off. Thank you. :)

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