Thursday Jun 28, 2007

Half Baked User Friendly

I guess since Windows 98 or so, it's the default in Explorer not to show you file extensions. Probably Microsoft hoped they could beat Apple in user-friendliness and thought that the icon would be good enough to show you the filetype. And maybe that would have been OK, if it had been implemented correctly (as a set of meta-data) like on my good-old NeXT.

It can't be that I'm the only one who completes every Windows install by: a) go to 'Folder Options' -> 'View' and unselect the 'Hide File Extensions', then b) take care that Explorer and the MS-DOS box are not hidden deep down in the 'Accessories', but are icons on the Desktop, part of the toolbar, and in the main of the Start menu. I guess I've done that now a hundred times. And it annoys me that with each and every newer Windows version, this stupid UI design is still there.

Tonight, this whole thing went a step further, and even more bizar. On a latest-greatest Windows Mobile phone, an application failed and wrote its results to a logfile (let's call it abc-xyz) in the root directory. I tried to open the file by double clicking it, but I got a pop-up that I had to open the application first and then open the file. OK, so I started 'Mobile Word', clicked 'Menu', then 'File' and found a wide range of options (like New, Save, etc.) but not 'Open'. Duh ....

In the options screen I discovered that there is a feature to select what types of files Word Mobile will show me, which even includes 'All Known FileTypes'. Mmmm, that sounded good, but still no luck. Finally I discovered that my file was in reality called abc-xyz.log, but the extension was, as explained above, not shown and secondly a .log file is appearently not a "known filetype" for Windows Mobile. When downsizing Explorer to the Mobile platform, it seems they had to drop the option 'Show All Files'. As if there is not enough memory for all the other bloatware.

But OK, I got closer to a solution. Let's simply rename the file to 'abc-xyz.txt', or even '.doc' and then all will be fine. Ehhh, not so!! Word still couldn't see the file. That was when I discovered that the rename in Explorer had rebaptized my file into 'abc-xyz.txt.log'. Which makes sense when you keep the .log part hidden, but it is absolute BS if the result is that you can't open a simple log file anymore. All in the sake of user friendliness.

You start to wonder how much usability testing has been done on a feature like this. And even more what audience the Windows developers had invited for these sessions. It's my guess that these were not a group of power-users and that the software developers were thinking that if the UI was good enough for them, it would be more than good enough for more sophisticated people. WRONG!!!

Long story short, in the end the only way to open my logfile in any application was to copy it from the phone to my desktop and use some editor to open the file and see its five lines of content.