A couple of years ago, links this article went round the office as an example of how bad Vista was, and how not to design software. It didn’t sit well with me.

Anyway, I ran into it today and re-read it, and this particular point stood out:

So now we’ve got exactly one log off button left. Call it “b’bye”. When you click b’bye, the screen is locked and any RAM that hasn’t already been copied out to flash is written. You can log back on, or anyone else can log on and get their own session, or you can unplug the whole computer.

…as the culmination of his whole argument. To me, in context, it just reads as a “reductio ad absurdum” against the very showing why Microsoft did the RIGHT thing in making a flexible UI.

Then again, I am at least a sigma, and maybe two, into the “control, customizability and flexibility freak” side of things when it comes to computers. I run Gentoo Linux on my server, and if I pitched Windows on my day to day machines, it would be for Gentoo (or some other very customizable Linux distro) and not for something more out of the box like Fedora or SuSE (let alone the MacOS!)

The REALLY interesting question, to my mind, is how do you design an interface that scales in depth – to be accessible enough for someone newly sitting down at a system to be able to use it while at the same time allowing an experienced user to optimize his or her own processes – for one trivial example, I don’t want to have to pull the battery in order to get a “real” shutdown or hibernate of my laptop before a flight or a long day away from it: how long it’s going to be before I need it again is something that the software isn’t going to know, but I’ll usually have a pretty good guess of when I shut down.

As these things go, I’ve found Microsoft’s “big” products (Windows and Office) to be some of the better software out there in that respect, although I haven’t needed to play around nearly as much with Office customization since I moved to Office 2007. Vista and Windows 7 were (IMO) HUGE UI improvements over 2000/XP in my view.

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