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Select file or folder from the same dialog

, 30 Nov 2009
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A relatively straightforward method to give users the option to select either a file or folder using the same dialog, in managed code.



This code demonstrates a way to use the managed FileOpenDialog control (available in .NET 2.0+) to open either a file or a folder from within the same dialog.


For my Open-Source project, I was looking for a control that would allow users to select either a file or a folder from within the same dialog. Having searched the web, I came across a few solutions (one involving calling non-managed code, and one involving a custom-written control). Unfortunately, both solutions didn't work for me. The first one used the FolderSelect dialog (which is pretty inconvenient compared to the FileOpen dialog), and the second one did not provide 100% of the Windows dialog functionality.

I then decided to look into the source code of the WinMerge utility to see how they implemented similar functionality in C++ (and potentially used some native calls). It turned out that the solution was available right inside the .NET framework.

Using the code

The key to getting OpenFileDialog to select both files and folders is to set the ValidateNames and CheckFileExists properties to false (dialog.ValidateNames = false; dialog.CheckFileExists = false) and set FileName to some special keyword to make sure that folders get selected (dialog.FileName = "Folder Selection";).

// Set validate names and check file exists to false otherwise windows will
// not let you select "Folder Selection."
dialog.ValidateNames = false;
dialog.CheckFileExists = false;
dialog.CheckPathExists = true;


// Always default to Folder Selection.
dialog.FileName = "Folder Selection.";

For convenience, I have wrapped OpenFileDialog inside a custom class, FileFolderDialog, and have also added a few helper properties to parse the returned file name.


  • 11/25/2009 - First version of the article published.
  • 11/30/2009 - Updated code to work with Windows 7.


This article, along with any associated source code and files, is licensed under The GNU General Public License (GPLv3)


About the Author

Team Leader
United States United States
Denis Stankovski is a software development lead in a consulting company.

Comments and Discussions

QuestionNubom Pinmembernubom9-Jan-14 22:22 
AnswerRe: Nubom Pinmemberstankovski10-Jan-14 6:06 
QuestionDo you have this code in VB.NET? PinmemberMember 1045754310-Dec-13 4:58 
QuestionThanks, that was exactlly what I have needed Pinmemberben27531-Oct-13 4:38 
QuestionFolder can not be selected Pinmembersunnoheem22-Oct-13 5:41 
AnswerRe: Folder can not be selected Pinmemberstankovski10-Jan-14 6:09 
QuestionLead to Gold PinmemberMilesAhead28-Nov-12 6:34 
QuestionNot able to select folder on Win7 and VS 2008 PinmemberMember 325620513-Sep-11 23:37 
NewsDoesn't work PinmemberMember 418359028-Jan-11 13:01 
GeneralGood but short PinmemberToli Cuturicu19-Aug-10 5:08 
Questioncompatibility issues? PinmemberIGood13-Dec-09 16:37 
AnswerRe: compatibility issues? Pinmemberstankovski22-Dec-09 3:44 
GeneralRe: compatibility issues? PinmemberIGood2-Jan-10 12:44 
GeneralRe: compatibility issues? PinmemberRiz Thon5-Jan-10 20:14 
AnswerRe: compatibility issues? PinmemberRiz Thon5-Jan-10 20:19 
GeneralRe: compatibility issues? PinmemberNayan Choudhary21-Sep-10 0:55 
QuestionHow to get multiple selected folder and file path PinmemberPatel Pranav30-Nov-09 20:26 
AnswerRe: How to get multiple selected folder and file path Pinmemberstankovski1-Dec-09 4:00 
GeneralFilename "Folder Selection." PinmemberAndromeda Shun25-Nov-09 21:33 
GeneralRe: Filename "Folder Selection." Pinmemberstankovski29-Nov-09 12:30 

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