Anyone who likes their Documents folder to contain only things they place there knows that the standard Documents folder is completely unsuitable for this task. Every program seems to want to put its settings, data, or something equally irrelevant into the Documents folder, despite the fact that there are folders specifically for this job1.
So that this doesn't sound empty, take my personal "Documents" folder as an example. I don't ever use it, in that I never, under any circumstances, save anything into this folder myself. And yet, it contains 46 folders and 3 files at the top level, for a total of 800 files in 500 folders. That's 190 MB of "documents" I didn't create. Obviously any actual documents would immediately get lost in this mess.
My question is: can anything be done to improve the situation sufficiently to make "Documents" useful again, say over the next 5 years? Can programmers be somehow educated en-masse not to use it as a dumping ground? Could the OS start reporting some "fake" location hidden under AppData through the existing APIs, while only allowing Explorer and the various Open/Save dialogs to know where the "real" Documents folder resides? Or are any attempts completely futile or even unnecessary?
1For the record, here's a quick summary of the various standard directories that should be used instead of "Documents":
RoamingAppDatafor user-specific data and settings. This is the directory to use for user-specific non-temporary data. Anything placed here will be available on any machine that a given user logs on to in networks where this is configured. Do not place large files here though, because they slow down login/logout in such environments.
LocalAppDatafor user-and-machine-specific data and settings. This data differs for every user and every machine. This is also where very large user-specific data should be placed.
ProgramDatafor machine-specific data and settings. These are the same regardless of which user is logged on, and will not roam to other machines in a network.
GetTempPathfor all files that may be wiped without loss of data when not in use. This is also the place for things like caches, because like temporary data, a cache does not need to be backed up. Place your huge cache here and you'll save your user some backup trouble.
"Documents" itself should only ever be used if the user specified it manually by entering a path or selecting it in a Save dialog. That is the only time it is ever appropriate to save stuff in "Documents".