Busy week = light posting

Sorry for the light posting – I’ve been a bit busy with work lately. Monday, my work computer (finally) got replaced with one that doesn’t take a full 2-3 minutes to load a PDF file, which has let me work much faster, but it forced an “upgrade” from Windows XP (which is what the rest of the office is still on) to Windows 7.

There are enough differences in Win7 that it’s disrupted my work flow – I have to learn new shortcuts and ways of doing things – plus I got the 64-bit version (to be able to get 8GB of RAM rather than 4GB) so a couple of the older programs I used don’t work anymore and had to be replaced, which again means learning new ways of doing things. Add to that having to figure out all the little things that I had customized and added over the years (yes, I used the same computer for 5 years straight) that I didn’t think about when I backed everything up, and I’m actually just now getting back up to my previous working speed.

So, just to vent a little:

I hate the Win7 File Explorer. Was there really a need to take away or hide every single useful function? Why does the file tree pane not update when I change directories anymore? Why does the way the files in a folder are displayed seemly change at random? First it’s big icons (which I hate), then it’s a list, then it’s a detailed list, and my changes don’t seem to stick. Oh, and I want the “up” button back, you frelling bastards!!! Seriously, the navigation tool I used the most frequently is just GONE. Why? Is there any legitimate reason for that? Also, while I will admit that “Alt+up” does make a little more sense for a keyboard shortcut for going to the immediately higher-level directory, and “Bksp” makes more sense for going to the previous folder, it’s still a jarring change from using the backspace key for the “up” shortcut.

I’m up in the air about the new taskbar, though it’s better now that I figured out how to thin it down by selecting “use small icons”. I do miss the quicklaunch area, but pinning apps seems to work ok, since it’s quickly apparent if a pinned program is actually running. I keep going back and forth on combining the buttons, though.  I wish there was an “always combine, show labels” option – I think that would be just about right. I’m indifferent about the new Start menu.

I’m just glad I could stay with Office 2003, and didn’t have to downgrade “upgrade” to Office 2010. Why on earth did MS think the Ribbon would be a good idea? Have they forgotten everything we’ve learned about interface design over the last 25 years? The MS Ribbon is a modal interface. Have they forgotten why modes should be avoided if possible? Why can’t I add or remove toolbars based on my needs anymore? At the very minimum, why isn’t there an option to use the classic menu & toolbar interface? Why should everyone who is used to the old interface, and can work quickly and easily in it, have to learn a completely new system that uses a completely different organization? Many experienced users have reported being unable to find functions they use frequently even after several months of use – a true sign of a bad UI design. Many commands are in locations that make no sense. As one user put noted (scroll down to the comment at 1/14/08 @ 1331:

I’ve been using it for almost a year, and it still takes several minutes for what I used to do in seconds. Awful design. “Insert row below” in a table. There is a special tab that comes up called table tools – Great! must be there! NOPE. ok, well, it must be in “insert”, that would make sense. wrong again. maybe i can right click to insert a row. No no no. Page Layout? sorry. its in the last tab – layout! of course, silly me. This is what happens when you have creatives do IA.

[Edited to add:] Another commenter at that same site hits the nail on the head:

It fails to adhere to the main design principle: “Don’t make me think!”

You can’t develop a muscular memory for it – you always need to pause for a millisecond and think: What tab am I on? Which one do I need? Where on that tab is what I need?

You can’t learn commands by screen location like you can with toolbars, because the same location on the screen can be any one of several different commands depending on which tab you have selected. For example, in Word 2003 I know that if I want to make some text bold, the button is in the upper left corner of the screen in the second toolbar from the top. In Word 2010, it’s in a similar location – but only if I’m on the “Home” tab. If the last thing I did was to add page numbering, then that screen location has the “insert table” command! So, if I’ve done a lot of typing since then, I first have to either remember or check which toolbar mode tab I’m in, then switch to the correct mode tab before I can choose my command (and yes, I know I can just right click on the highlighted text and the option is in the popup menu, or I can use a keyboard shortcut – this is just an example to illustrate the principle, not a specific command). This is complicated even more by the fact that the different commands in each tab take up different amounts of space. You have to interrupt your work flow to think about how the next step is executed, rather than simply knowing what it is. [end edit]

Bottom line: the Ribbon sucks! Backwards compatibility extends to the existing user base, not just files. Bring back the menus!

Venting done. Thank you for your patience. To end on a positive note, it’s still wonderful to open a file and see it open right away, rather than having time to go get a fresh cup of coffee while waiting for the program to start.


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