May 08, 2006

What the h___ is Word talking about?

First, before you think I’m picking on/picking a fight with the folks at Microsoft, let me point out that the title of this post could be a sort of software Mad Libs, where “[product]” (including “Photoshop”) could replace “Word.” More on that in a second. But first, an Airing of Grievances:

Just now I double clicked a .DOC attachment sent to me in email. Entourage dutifully launched Word, and I glanced over the document, then hit Quit. Here’s where the fun begins. “Hey, your Normal template has changed,” says Word (or something to that effect); “Would you like to replace your Normal template?”
Uhh… no? (I didn’t make any changes to any template, so I probably shouldn’t replace something that sounds pretty fundamental, right?) I hit “No.”
“Okay–please choose a folder for saving the new template.”
Um, what? Again, I don’t want to save anything (since, again, I didn’t create or change anything). Hit “Cancel.”
“Hey, your Normal template has changed. Would you like to replace it?”
What? What the hell are you talking about? Fade out.

I’ve bothered to write this for a couple of reasons. One, I’m sure the process I just experienced makes sense to someone on the Word team, and it probably makes sense even to some Word power users. Heck, it probably opens up all kinds of powerful possibilities. But for a guy simply trying to open and read a file, then move on, it’s bizarre & unnerving. Just what have I done to my software, and why?
More importantly, though, it illustrates the disconnect between developers/power users & ordinary mortals just trying to get something done. Features made for one perplex the other, and once you’re an expert, it’s hard to see with a fresh perspective.
Back to the original point: you could easily substitute “Photoshop” for “Word” and cite plenty of examples that baffle newcomers. Imaging is complex, and whether it’s a color profile warning every time you open a file, or a “Do you want to maximize compatibility?” dialog every time you save (more on that soon), plenty of Photoshop functions are hardly self explanatory. Trouble is, we’ve been around the tools for too long, and we know why things are as they are. That makes it tough to see through new users’ eyes.
So, at last, my plea: If something in Photoshop (or another Adobe app) gives you a moment of “Wha…?,” please let us know, okay?
Thanks,
J.

Posted by John Nack at 6:42 PM on May 08, 2006

Comments

  • Jim Dalrymple — 7:54 PM on May 08, 2006

    That was a funny post John — well except that it’s really not funny.
    This happens to me quite a bit and then it just stops. It would be nice to help you, but I have the same gremlin.

  • John Dowdell — 8:34 PM on May 08, 2006

    I hear you. It’s easier to make interfaces from a developer’s viewpoint than from a user’s viewpoint.
    Components and frameworks help. But it’s still possible to get a wacky logical interaction in there, one where a reasonable first-time user would find themselves blocked.
    … gives “accessibility” a whole new meaning, that does…. :(
    (Something in email changing a desktop preference? That’s really bad, regardless.)

  • skipc — 9:31 PM on May 08, 2006

    The “no pixels selected” warning in APS is my pet peeve. You accidentally touch you graphics palatte and have to hit the return/enter key to dismiss it. Provide a general preference to turn the warning off in Display and Cursors…skip

  • Matthias Lilke — 11:51 PM on May 08, 2006

    Well, I’m not really sure if this qualifies or should just be filed in the RTFM section.
    I recently upgraded to Photoshop CS2 from CS. I seem to get a lot of messages about pixel aspect ratios on images I created in CS. At first I was flabergasted. I just want to open the picture! Leaving it on default didn’t change anything, so I was happy. To me, however, pixel apsect ratios are of no interest. I’m no video guy :-)
    [Weird--I don't know what would be causing that. I'll see what I can find out. --J.]

  • George Penston — 1:27 AM on May 09, 2006

    When working with a rather complex Photoshop document with a moderate amount of layers and layer groups, Photoshop CS2 (and CS) often selects hidden layers within a layer group, if the Auto Select Layer option is checked.
    It’s not at all apparent to me why Photoshop does this. Why would I want to select a hidden layer? And what criteria did it use to decide to select this? A certain level of opacity? This seemed to change from the layer selection behavior found in Photoshop 7.
    So I’ve resorted to disabling the Auto Select Layer option and deliberately selecting Layers through the palette or using the Command key. It’s a shame since the Auto Select option seems like it would come in handy if it worked as I expect it should.

  • Philip Colmer — 1:40 AM on May 09, 2006

    I’ve recently upgraded from CS to CS2. I opened a document that I’d previously worked on in CS that consisted of some images and some text.
    CS2 then prompts me with something about vectors and I’m given a choice of yes or no. If memory serves me correctly, clicking no leaves grey warning triangles on the text layers. Clicking yes doesn’t and doesn’t *appear* to have had a detrimental effect but then I didn’t understand the question I was being asked …
    Can we at least have a Help button on these windows so that we can get a better explanation of what we are being asked?
    [Great suggestion. Photoshop Elements has contextual help in many places, and Photoshop should try to add the same support. --J.]

  • brandon — 6:42 AM on May 09, 2006

    Not using Office for the last few years has been one of the best software decisions I’ve made. I installed Open Office and haven’t had a single Word problem since.

  • Joshua Dickens — 6:48 AM on May 09, 2006

    The ability for any word document to change your Normal template is a big issue — this sounds like the document you opened might have been infected with a Word macro virus. (Hard to believe those are still around, but it’s possible).
    Macro viruses propagate themselves by changing your normal template to include themselves, so the next time you create a new document, it’s infected. Word didn’t always warn you that your default template had changed, making it quite easy for macro viruses to spread.
    So I guess it’s a good thing that you got the prompt you did — though not a good thing that MS Word files are still carriers of disease!

  • John Davies — 9:29 AM on May 09, 2006

    I get annoyed when I use help to search for a feature and get the help, but it doesn’t tell what menu to use to get to the feature.
    I’d also like to see Photoshop help, for example, have some built in AE translation. So if I type in Colorama, it says “You’re in Photoshop, Skippy, so you should really be looking up X.” Displacement is something I use somewhat regularily but is that the Photoshop or AE term?

  • Leon Sandoval — 10:07 AM on May 09, 2006

    Nice, look at a lame feature that has plagued all of us, John.
    As for Photoshop- I think newcomers pretty much “triple-take” when they see this dialogue box:
    Automate>Batch> click on “Override Action ‘Save As’ Commands. It greets you with:
    ———–
    When this option is on, files will be saved to the destination folder only by “save as” steps in the action. If there are no “save” or “save as” steps, no files will be saved.
    ————
    Makes sense to a power user, but for someone running their first batch, it’s a little… “WTH?”
    -Leon

  • Jeffrey Tranberry — 1:55 PM on May 09, 2006

    George Penston,
    If you have a file that exhibits hidden layers being selected with Auto Select Layer in CS2, email me so you can send me a psd file: jtranber(atAdobe.Com). That shouldn’t be happening. That said, with Auto Select Group turned on or a Group being selected manually in the layers palette, hidden layers are selected by proxy of the parent group being selected. Is that the behavior you don’t like?

  • Diogo Mendes — 11:58 AM on May 10, 2006

    In Photoshop CS2, when we use the Tranform (Ctrl+T; Command+T) we need to confirm the changes by going to the little tic in the supperior bar. Why can’t we just do it with Return or Enter? ;)
    [You should be able to use Return or Enter. They work on my Mac, and I haven't heard other reports of them failing. Maybe try trashing your preferences to see whether that helps. --J.]

  • Jeffrey Tranberry — 1:54 PM on May 10, 2006

    Diogo, [Esc] also works to cancel the transform.

  • Diogo Mendes — 3:40 PM on May 10, 2006

    Ok, my mistake.
    I’ve formated my pc yesterday, and now it’s working.
    But in my previous install it wasn’t. (I’m really sure, because it was irritating me so much…)
    Anyway, just try’in to help. :)

  • Shangara Singh — 3:27 AM on May 16, 2006

    Diago — You need to hit Enter/Return twice if you have inserted the cursor in one of the text fields to change a value in the Options bar.

  • Shangara Singh — 3:39 AM on May 16, 2006

    Here’s one: when you convert to another color space, Photoshop always asks you if you would like to flatten your layers first and, by default, has Flatten selected. I’ve never, ever wanted to do flattne my layers and I cannot dismiss the dialog permanently. Furthermore, you cannot even use the Tab key to select Don’t Flatten.
    [Good point, but two things: 1) On Windows you should be able to tab over to "Don't Flatten," but that's not something the Mac allows. 2) On the Mac (and presumably Windows) you can hit "D" for "Don't Flatten."]
    Oddly enough, there is a Flatten Image option in the Convert to Profile dialog, which I can use should I be saft enough to lose all my editing capabilities. Therefore, the warning just seems superfluous and unnecessary.

  • Shangara Singh — 8:26 AM on May 16, 2006

    Thanks for the tip, John. There’s no clue on the Mac to say you can use “D” for Don’t Flatten or “C” for Cancel (at least in Windows, letters are usually underlined to indicate a shortcut). Does this mean we will still have to go through an unnecessary step in future versions or will you consider the Flatten button in Convert to Profile sufficient and either provide a Do Not Show Again button in the warning dialog or remove it altogether?
    BTW, I meant “saft enough” and not “safe enough” in my last comment.
    [We don't consider it an unnecessary step, given that changing color mode changes image data and could alter a document's appearance. That said, adding a "Don't Show Again" checkbox sounds reasonable. --J.]

  • Shangara Singh — 11:53 PM on May 16, 2006

    Here’s another one: when you use Blend If on a layer, there is nothing to indicate that you have used it. Can be very disconcerting to see a layer behave oddly if you have not marked it with text. A small icon to indicate Blend If has been applied to a layer would help.

  • Hanford Lemoore — 8:13 PM on June 08, 2006

    Here’s one:
    The button labeled “new” in the gradient dialog should be labeled something more like “create preset”. “new” makes me think I’m going to get a brand new, blank gradient to work on (like creating a “new” document does), and that it won’t appear in the list of presets until I press the “save …” button.
    Every time I open the Gradient dialog I make that same mistake, clicking “new” immediately and not realizing what I did.

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