Why Scripts Folders Get Deleted

Early on when I started using PlayCanvas I accidentally deleted my Scripts folder. One of my partners did the same thing weeks before I did it and he had no clue what had happened. I was a bit lucky and was able to figure out what had happened. It comes down to a combination of some very bad behavior in the Editor as well as user inattention.

I recently did this again and deleted a complete scripts folder while cleaning up a finished project. Fortunately, I had forked the project specifically for the purpose of cleaning out old files since I know that such cleanup can easily lead to erroneous deletions. So I had a perfectly good “live copy” and only lost a bit of my clean-up work. So, no files were ultimately lost. But it annoyed me that I could make this same mistake again even though I knew about this “trap.” So I went back and double checked the Editor’s behavior, and I now consider this to be doubly poor design because the Editor’s behavior virtually invites the user to make the mistake. Here’s an outline of what is happening and what has probably caused the deletion of a LOT of Scripts folders.

The problem starts when you look at the selection of a folder in the Assets panel. There are actually states for a selected folder. I’ll call one “soft” and the other “hard”. With a soft selection, the folder is highlighted orange and the folder contents are shown, but nothing is shown in the Inspector panel. If you click the folder again, the folder name is back-shaded with a dark gray band and the inspector panel will now show information about the folder. And this is is where the problems begins.

If you right-click a script while the Scripts folder is hard selected, you will get the context menu for the item you right-clicked over - as expected. That menu will show references, give you the option to edit, and to delete the file. But if you choose “delete” from this context menu, you won’t delete the script?!?! You will actually delete the entire Scripts folder!!!

In fairness, the Editor will warn you that you are about to do this. But that warning is visually the same as the one given when you delete an asset except that it says “Delete Folder” instead of “Delete Asset”. So you have been warned … but in the most subtle and misleading of ways. The user would have no good reason to expect that he’s deleting a folder, and will be mentally assuming that the warning is about the file he’s asked to delete. We’ve all been habituated to click-through these warnings. So the user clicks Delete and loses all of his scripts in one fell swoop.

The situation is worsened by the fact that the right-clicking over other kinds of assets does not result in this behavior!!! So the user’s normal expectations are further reinforced when the user repeatedly has no problems when deleting other kinds of assets… It is only when an Asset of type “.js” is right-clicked over that we get this problem. So when a user has just gone through the repetitive task of deleting many objects, materials and images and then moves on to do the same with left-over and legacy scripts, he is doubly likely not to notice the warning that he is about to delete a folder. It is a new and unique behavior from the editor.

Possible solutions:

  1. Don’t let a context menu for a file switch its context to a folder for when deleting from the context menu. That’s just horribly unexpected behavior.

  2. Make the warning for all folder deletions visually different from the one used for asset deletion. Maybe put lots of red color on it. Perhaps a big “STOP” sign.

  3. Require two step confirmation for folder deletions. It probably isn’t necessary to go to the extra steps of typing out the command as is done (super good design BTW) for deleting projects. But a second panel that says something like. “Hey - you are about to delete a FOLDER that has XXX number of files!!! Are you sure you really want to do this?” would stop most people in their tracks because they could hardly help but notice that the change in pattern from one confirmation panel to two. Maybe put a big red “STOP” sign on this panel as well.

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Thanks @wturber for outlining this behavior and sorry for the inconvenience this has caused. That behavior you’re outlining doesn’t sound like it’s by ‘design’. It mostly sounds like a bug. So we will look into this.

Also are you able to use the checkpointing system? If yes I suggest taking checkpoints often so you can restore your project to a previous state if necessary.

I agree that “design” is almost surely the wrong word. “Function” or “action” would be better.

I will look into the checkpointing. We are newbs to the programming world. We implemented various manual schemes. Manual archiving each night, saving copies of scripts locally before any major surgery, and forking to either preserve the project when certain stages of completion were achieved or to allow someone to bang away with multiple changes with minimal risk.


We have deployed a fix for this - please let us know if you have any issues

Seems to work fine. Thanks for making the fix.

I still think that it would be a good idea to have some kind of double verification for deleting a folder - especially a folder that is not empty.