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Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Smart Software

I went to open a file that was in my "Recent Workbooks" list in Excel 2013.
  1. I selected the file.
  2. Excel "helpfully" tells me that the file isn't there, which is fine.
  3. Where Excel 2013 gets dumb is when I return to my "Recent Workbooks" list and the file is still listed! Why can't Excel 2013 be "smart software" and ask if I want to have the file removed from my "Recent Workbooks" list so that I don't have to see it again?

  4. And, sure, I can right-click the file and get a pop-up menu with the option to remove the file. How does the user know that there even is a right-click option? There's no clue as to its existence in the user interface!

This all reminds me of the arguments at a previous employer. In a nutshell, rather than have buttons to indicate the available functionality, all the functionality that could have been on a button - like Add, Change, Delete - were hidden on a right-click menu. When I argued that the user wanted to do their work and not have to discover functionality, Microsoft was thrown in my face. "Look at Windows Explorer. They don't have buttons for what the user can do." If I were in that argument now, I'd say, "And how many resources are available to a Windows user to locate information. There are (now) youtube.com videos and websites dedicated to using Windows. The software we were arguing about does not have any of those resources available. And, who's to say that the design of Windows Explorer is the best example for our software's design?"


Some people want to go back in time and change the course of history; today I feel like going back and winning an argument.

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