Thursday, April 27, 2006

Stupid Smart Software

I couldn't agree more with this post from Daring Fireball.
“Smart” editing features are often more trouble than they’re worth. Many of the common complaints about Microsoft Word, for example, revolve around the on-by-default features where it gets too smart for its own good. (Remember Clippy the “I see you’re trying to write a business letter” animated paperclip from Office 97? Or just try to enter a URL in Word without having it automatically turned into a blue underlined hyperlink.)

Once software starts down this path of guessing what it is the user is trying to do, and then doing something special based on that guess, it must guess correctly nearly every time, because the times when it guesses wrong are so annoying that they far outweigh the extra convenience of the times when it guesses right.

I hate it when software tries to anticipate what you are doing and, unfortunately, even Apple seems to have started going down this route; it is an absolute pain in the arse, and I turn off the "clever" features whereever and whenever I can.

The great thing about Macs is that:
  1. you can usually turn these features off,

  2. it is usually quite easy to find where to turn these features off, and

  3. if you cannot turn the features off, then you can pretty easily write a script, and often a simple Applescript, to turn the bastards off or change the behaviour in some other way.

All of these things are good, and are just another reason why Macs will always whip Windows into submission.


DC said...

You can, however, have tremendous fun with some of these features - altering a colleagues auto-correct dictionary on Word for example so when he/she types "head of department" what actually is appears is "wouldn't follow him to the toilet."

Soupdragon said...

Windows, he de bad man going in de bad fire.
Apple, she de luuuuuurvely miss walkin in de front.

Anonymous said...

Actually you can turn off all that stuff in Windows and Office too.

But perhaps acknowledging that would spoil your Mac rant.

Devil's Kitchen said...


it is usually quite easy to find where to turn these features off

I am sorry, I have used both platforms and there is simply no comparison for ease of use. Are you seriously going to try to pretend, for instance, that Windows networking is as easy as doing so with Macs?

What is all this "create new network place" crap? Why, in the name of god, can't I just put a PPD into a printer description folder and set up a printer that the fucking PC can actually see?

There is simply no contest for ease of use. But perhaps admitting that would spoil your dig at me...


Squander Two said...

Here's a good example of the whole ease-of-use thing: this is what I had to do to switch off a "feature" in Outlook. Jesus wept.

> even Apple seems to have started going down this route

Yes, they have, the bloody idiots. What on Earth made them think that their users wanted them to be more like MS?

Devil's Kitchen said...


Yes, I read that when you first posted it. But I don't use Outlook, because it's poo.

What on Earth made them think that their users wanted them to be more like MS?

The lord only knows. Although we all started to have our doubts when the Human Interface Department was dissolved. Not good news at all.

I'm still far from enamoured by Mac OS X too, or rather third party software running on X. It just feels a lot flakier.


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