iCloud Directory Sort by Modified Date Bug

I’m going to call this a serious bug because like so many things that Apple is doing lately it breaks their HIG and basic usability heuristics.

In a discussion on severity ratings at a recent meetup in Charlottetown I mentioned how an increasing amount of non-severe ratings add up to cause harm to a customers experience with a product, but it’s difficult to get buy in (for change) from stake holders, as when viewed alone these are minor issues. I think Steven Garrity described as “death by a thousand cuts”. I wouldn’t characterize the issue I am having as minor, but many of the problems I see with Apple’s UI are, but collectively they show that usability is not the priority in once was.

In my “work” directory I sort all folders by date modified. This allows me to have the most immediate projects, files, and such always at the top. I find this reduces my cognitive load when having to think of names or by sorting alphabetically. This has worked for me for years, I’m sure is an accepted and common method for others, and is respected by every service I have used. Except for iCloud. I use this scheme through-out MacOS, with the exception of the downloads folder which I sorted by Date Added.

I wrote recently that I was running out of space on iCloud and Google Drive hadn’t synced properly for months. Despite getting some great suggestions I dropped Google Drive and went with iCloud for all my work files, until I could spend more time with the suggested alternatives.

But what iCloud did is change all the modification dates on all the top-level folders within the directory to the upload to iCloud date. Ok, I guess they were technically modified. It’s confusing, much in the same way that opening a file can change the modified date (because often opening a file changes some meta-data). Few understand these nuances of course.

What makes this worse is that despite working on files within the folders, the folders modification date does not reflect that some file or folder within has been modified or something added. This may or may not be now technically correct, but it is absolutely different from the behaviour you have elsewhere throughout the MacOS and different from what I have read in the HIG. The modified date on a folder represents not just the folder itself but what is contained within (changing the folder name does change the modification date). Dropbox respects this, Google Drive does, and in fact I’ve never seen another service not. So as result this behaviour is inconsistent and does not match the users mental model, resulting in confusion, moderate frustration, and a poor experience.

Perhaps the excuse is that this is simply iOS design principles spreading to the Finder, in iOS you are supposed to downplay file handling as much as possible. Whatever the reason, it’s a mistake and wrong.