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
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