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New Interfaces for Microsoft?

© October 2005 Tony Lawrence

Microsoft tells us that their application interfaces need revamping. Apparently having eighteen kazillion commands buried under three million menus confuses people now and then.

Command line interfaces were hard (so they say), menu driven interfaces were easier, but still not easy enough.

Duh. As at least some of us know, GUI menus make the easy stuff easy and the hard stuff harder. Apparently Microsoft has finally noticed that bit of reality.

So, a new paradigm rides into town.

Oh, wait: it's not really a new paradigm. It's the same old thing with a lot of brightly colored signs saying that it's New. And Improved. And Good For You!

All this really comes down to is more templates, which is nothing new. You point at what you want the end result to be rather than digging through menus. What this is, of course, is "Have it our way" ™ , a marketing method that more than one company has tried and found to be highly convenient, easier on employees, fantastic for controlling costs, and yet the customers always seem to dislike it. Damn individualists! Imagine wanting a hamburger without pickles but with extra mayo - what's WRONG with those people?

There you are at the burger joint, standing at the GUI terminal. It's displaying a lovely picture of a three decker hamburger, dripping with that special sauce, a side of fries large enough to fill a grocery bag, and a keg of soda poured into a plastic cup. Your job? Change that into a plain hamburger with pickles, mustard and mayo, no fries, and a small carton of milk. No menus, just templates. Drag and drop, my friend, drag and drop. You might be able to do that, but it will take a while. Wouldn't it be great if you could just type "hamburger, pickles, mustard, mayo and a milk"? No, no, no - that would be too hard. Drag and drop, that's easy, and somewhere here there's a picture of that order.. or close to it.

My prediction? Real word processing professionals will hate this wonderful new interface.

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Mon Oct 17 13:40:19 2005: 1212   MikeHostetler

Most tech writers I know (and I actually know quite a few) hate Word now the way it is. It works fine if you do what Word tells to you. Once you try tell Word to do something it doesn't want to do, then things get nasty.

The user should never be told by the application what they should be doing! This templating thing sounds like the exact same thing, only more so.

Maybe this will increase the numbers of people migrating to OpenOffice.org -- which isn't perfect, but it rarely tells me what I need to be doing.

Tue Oct 18 07:35:15 2005: 1214   anonymous

IMO anything technical or professional should be written with latex related stuff anyways.

For instance take LyX graphical word proccessor. (link)

It is something that is designed to produce Latex documents and such. But I've know people that were happy to create them with just a text editor.

So then in the end the idea is that the writers take care of the writing, editors take care of the editing, formatters/compositors take care of the that. Instead of like with regular wysiwyg word program were you have to deal with margins, fonts, and the rest.

You can take the same latex file (or a whole bunch of them) and change it to a html document, or a pdf file, or postscript etc etc. I even seen people use it for generating power-point style displays.

Not to commonly used outside of academic or scientific publications though. Professors like it for books and the such.


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