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    One thing I don’t quite get a sense of: is this intended as a generic list or one specific to their product?

    Some items seem like they’d apply to most software (e.g. easy to install). Advanced theming support seems pretty context-dependant.

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      I agree. Also, most of the points in the list could be summarized as “Make it not suck” and as the intro says, even us programmers would like to provide them. The issue is complexity, budget, and/or time constraints. Not so much the will to implement them.

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      I’m pretty sure I care about all of these things. It’s not that programmers don’t care, it’s that they don’t always feel like implementing these things, right?

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        Yeah. About 30% of these things I tend to care a lot about & end up having to campaign to support in projects I work on.

        This isn’t a list of things that programmers don’t care about. It’s a list of things that prototypes are usually missing.

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        “People are just people and want things, but we’re The Developers and we’re lazy”.

        That tooling excuse is even more hilarious.

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          Hilarious that they’ve just… Decided… That Word and Excel are three One True Way for text and cell editors to work.


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            This is a very programmer thing to say.

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              Yep! Because innovation in interface design is bad, and doing whatever Microsoft does is good. Got it.

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                What FLOSS products are innovating in interface design, compared to Microsoft? I’m genuinely interested and curious.

                From personal experience, I’m continually impressed with how well the (now quite aged) ribbon design metaphor works.

                (edit to soften wording)

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                  Well, the most popular design for in-browser editing, as far as I know, is still the kind popularized by PhpBB in the aughties, with a big text-box with a single or double toolbar full of icons for various features (bold, link, etc) either above or below the text box. Even just the use of this metaphor in Google Mail is likely sufficient to place it in the most popular category, and it’s used in many other places as well. This is not how Word lays out its controls anymore, as you mention.

                  Wordpress, an extremely popular free software product, includes a WYSIWYG text editor as a primary user-facing feature. It has a pretty innovative interface that works very well for its niche. It used to have an interface like the one I described above, which it replaced in the most recent major version revision.

                  Wikipedia’s WYSIWYG editor is not very Word-like, in my opinion.

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                    Thanks for clarifying and expanding.

                    I found this series of Word screenshots (warning, Windows fan-site, so very ad-heavy!):


                    As can be seen, up until the Ribbon era (Office 2007), there were buttons and icons for bold, italic, indent, etc.

                    This still lives on in MS Teams to this day.

                    Anyway, my point (which I didn’t make very well), is that Office is way more than just the interface. If I create an Excel file and save it, it appears in the “recent files” list in Outlook’s “attach file” dialog.

                    Office has decent mobile clients.

                    Office as pretty damn good keyboard affordance - hit “Alt” and each menu item is labeled with a 1 to 2 character shortcut, which can be used to apply the effect of any button in the ribbon to a document or spreadsheet.

                    As promised back in Microserfs, I can copy a spreadsheet from Excel and paste it into OneNote.

                    Each “page” I create in OneNote is transparently saved to the cloud (Word and Excel, bizarelly, still have to be explicitely saved).

                    And so on. Replicating this, let alone improving on it, is a Herculean task.

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                      But we’re discussing UI paradigms, not actual functionality. Yes, Office is more than just the interface - literally every program is - but that’s not what was on the list.

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                        You’re right, my brain tends to run away from me sometimes.

                        As a final statement on my part, I’d argue that the ribbon interface was a huge usability step forward for complex software suites like Office. But I also know it was maybe only fully implemented there, and with a big backlash from users, and it does not seem to have had any further development.

                        Thanks for the discussion!

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              Users value familiarity.

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                It’s more than familiarity. Millions of business processes in place today involve Excel or Word. Just this week I’ve had two support issues for our product regarding exporting data to Excel.

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                  Proprietary and poorly specified formats invented with the sole purpose of killing off open alternatives are common, so we should stick with them. Makes perfect sense. ;)

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                    Word and Excel’s popularity are despite their formats, not because of them.

                    Besides, your strawman chronology is wrong.

                    […] in 1983, Microsoft chose to use the DOC extension for their proprietary Microsoft Word format.[1]

                    I challenge you do find any viable alternative open format that’s from the mid- to late 1980s (plain text and TeX/LaTeX doesn’t count).

                    [1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Doc_(computing)

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                      I’ve been talking about their current format, OOXML. Sorry for the confusion.

                      And I’m going to disagree regardless. For an average user, someone who just wants to open and edit documents, not use macros or some unique functionality or anything, handling of the MS formats was the biggest obstacle for migrating away from MS Office.

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                        Thanks for clarifying.

                        I do concede and agree that MS formats provide lock-in. I don’t think that this was their primary function, however. MS formats are what they are because they make MS goals of providing new features, as well as preserving old ones, slightly easier.

                        MS quasi-monopoly is both a blessing, and a curse. It’s a blessing because it’s almost guaranteed revenue, a curse because every change (even vital ones) can be vetoed by a customer, who has, after all, paid for this stuff.

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                          Vetoed by a customer? I wonder why people who bought ForeFront before they went from actively marketing it to suddenly declaring its EOL didn’t veto its EOL.

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                            I’m talking customers like GM or Walmart…

                            But yeah, another thing MS has against them is that they keep releasing products and APIs and frameworks, then abandoning them. Silverlight, anyone?

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                              The opening sections of this article (submitted here) explain what I’m getting at in a much better way!

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                Does this list matter?

                The programmer is responsible for the implementation, the technical part – but is not the one who makes the decision, what features will be implemented in which order and quality. Managers, analysts, designers and salesmen are responsible for such decisions.

                Of course, you can make whole software yourself as a single person. But if you are failing to deliver certain features important for the user/customer, you are not failing in your programmer role, but in your manager/salesman/etc. role.

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                  Definitely agree with “Progress bars for slow/async operations” and would add “Indicators showing how fresh data is”. Apple in particular seems to have an institutional aversion to adding these, which would be fantastic to reduce clutter in a perfect world of constantly-connected, infinite bandwidth devices and bug-free sync procedures, but we ain’t there yet.