13Aug

Microsoft and violating the user’s expectations

Posted by Elf Sternberg as Design, programming

I don’t usually do Microsoft Windows. Unfortunately, company policy at the office for ${DAY_JOB} requires that I have a copy running somewhere so I can participate in the company calendar because the company, despite having a Unix background isn’t capable of actually running a Unix-based calendaring solution. So I keep a vmware image of Windows XP running quietly, down in the toolbar, and check it at set intervals throughout the day.

This morning I went to examine my calendar only to discover that Windows had “updated” itself sometime in the night and I had to log back in. When I had, I saw the usual array of icons on the left. I scrolled through them until I found the one for “Email,” and, this being vmware and a little slow as images are being pulled off-disk (over NFS, ouch!), I right-clicked to pull up the context menu.

And I couldn’t find “Open.” I’ve been using various operating systems for years. My attentional awareness is optimized for that icon (refer to Scott McCloud’s Understanding Comics, a book which ought to be on every web developer’s bookshelf, for the discussion on how the word is the “ultimate abstract icon”), “OPEN”.

After a second of confusion, I realized there was an entry on the menu, “Read email…”

Thank you, Microsoft, for once again taking a familiar pattern and warping it to your own perverted ends. Everyone knows how to “open” a letter, or a mailbox. Why Outlook has to be different is not beyond me: you’re just trying to ruin the experience for everyone else.

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