A Place for Everything

It never fails; Every time I reinstall Microsoft Office on, I completely forget about the fact that it creates a folder called Microsoft User Data inside my Documents folder. This is just unacceptable. I sync my Documents folder to several computers, and I only want actual documents in there. After all, this folder is explicitly designed to store documents, not settings. There’s a nice little folder called Library if you want to store your application settings somewhere. Or if you’re bound and determined to ignore the OS guidelines, you can just store your settings inside your completely unnecessary /Applications/My Application folder.

So, if you try to delete this offending Microsoft User Data folder, it just gets recreated whenever you launch Office. A quick search brings up all sorts of ways to work around this. You can move the folder while the application is running, and sometimes the application detects and saves the new location. You can move the folder to ~/Library and set up a hidden alias to point from the ~/Documents/Microsoft User Data folder to ~/Library/Microsoft User Data folder, and then you can hide the alias using SetFile. If you do enough digging through the comments of various posts, the easy solution bubbles to the surface. If you just move the entire folder to ~/Library/Preferences, Office will detect it there on startup and load it, and leave your Documents folder pristine.

Not Just Microsoft

Microsoft isn’t the only company guilty of misusing this folder, and it doesn’t just happen on OSX. Back when I was in pc-land, I remember games trying to constantly take over my Documents folder to store not just game saves, but all sorts of settings (log files, downloaded maps, configuration files, etc).

This problem is apparently persisting to this day, as the recent Starcraft 2 Beta puts a nice fat Blizzard folder in Documents, storing maps, replays, campaign progress, system information, graphics settings. Steam just launched for the Mac, and lo and behold, I’ve got this silly Steam Content folder in my Documents. Thanks guys! I really wanted every game I download via Steam to be stuck here.

Some of the tricks I discovered for Office work equally well for these other offenders. Sometimes its just easier to set up exceptions for these folders in my syncing process. Other times I’ll just uninstall the software making a mess, especially if I don’t need to use it often. I’ve been sorely tempted to move all of my actual documents to a completely different folder, but that would irk me to no end.

Update 10/2011

Blizzard was nice enough to move the offending files out of the Documents folder and into the Library folder in this patch.

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