Updating this to provide the short answer, after email exchange:
Set user option
icicle-file-sort to the sort order you want, e.g.,
(Leaving the rest of the original response, below, in case it helps someone.)
I'm not sure what's going on, so this isn't much of an "answer", so far. You can follow up by email if this becomes a back-and-forth (not good for emacs.SE) - use
M-x icicle-send-bug-report for that. That's probably the best recourse. (You might want to start with that, and ultimately delete the question here or add an answer.)
It's presumably not important, but I guess you have some custom key bindings, because neither
C-` is bound by Icicles by default. It sounds like you've maybe bound
icicle-change-sort-order (which is
C-, by default). I guess you did that by customizing
icicle-completion-key-bindings. But you say that you have no customizations (no occurrences of
icicle in your
custom-file). So this is one thing that's unclear to me.
Do I understand the problem correctly to be this?
By default, when using
icicle-find-file (for example), Icicles tells you that sorting is
alphabetical, but the order is z-to-a, not a-to-z. Does this happen also for other completion, besides file-name completion?
If you then use
C-, by default) during completion, to change the order, and you pick
alphabetical, the problem is corrected (sorting becomes a-to-z). Does it then stay corrected, so that the next time you use
icicle-find-file (or another completing command) the order is a-to-z?
Here are some things to check:
Can you reproduce the problem if you start Emacs using
emacs -Q (no init file, so no use of
custom-file)? If so, please send a recipe to reproduce the problem:
If not, start by bisecting your init file (which might then mean bisecting
custom-file), to find what is creating the problem.
nil? (If so, what is it?) If so, try resetting it to its initial value of
nil, and see if you can find out where it gets set to non-
nil (starting with your init file).
The value of option
icicle-sort-orders-alist. You can modify it, but see the doc string. This is the default value, after you've loaded Icicles (it's not the value shown in the
defcustom, which is
("by abbrev frequency" . icicle-command-abbrev-used-more-p)
("by previous use alphabetically" . icicle-historical-alphabetic-p)
("by last use as input" . icicle-latest-input-first-p)
("by directories last" . icicle-dirs-last-p)
("by directories first" . icicle-dirs-first-p)
("by last use, dirs first" . icicle-dirs-and-latest-use-first-p)
("by file type" . icicle-file-type-less-p)
("by last file modification time" . icicle-latest-modification-first-p)
("by last file access time" . icicle-latest-access-first-p)
("by last use" . icicle-latest-use-first-p)
("by 2nd parts alphabetically" . icicle-2nd-part-string-less-p)
("case insensitive" . icicle-case-insensitive-string-less-p)
("proxy candidates first" . icicle-proxy-candidate-first-p)
("extra candidates first" . icicle-extra-candidates-first-p)
("special candidates first" . icicle-special-candidates-first-p)
("by flx score" . icicle-flx-score-greater-p)
("alphabetical" . icicle-case-string-less-p))
HTH. Sorry for the trouble.