Friday, July 24, 2009

User Friendly is an Oxymoron

I would like to take all the computer programmers who writer "user-friendly" word-processing software, lock them in a room, and not let them out until they have written one thousand times with pencil on paper: "I will program computer software so it is easy to use and understand. And I will write a Help menu that answers every question a user might have."

Nothing frustrates me more than having to learn how to do in a new program what I know how to do in another program. It's the reason why I stick to the old version of a piece of software until I absolutely have to upgrade to a new version. Let me explan:

I've been using MS Works for over ten years. Up until two months ago, that was the version that I got with my first desktop computer back in 1998. I loved that program. I could make it sit up and beg. I can do things with that program that you wouldn't believe. One of the things that I can do with it is "Word Art". That's where you play with the fonts and give it shadows and outlines and other cool effects. A really handy function for making flyers, brochures, and other nifty desktop publishing things.

But, when my computer died at the end of May and I had to get a new one, the new one came with Vista. My old version of MS Works is not compatible with Vista. But, wait the new computer does come with the newest version of MS Works. It sucks. Everything I could do in the old version, I can't do or figure out how to do in the new version. I have already spent several hours trying to figure it out and have not succeeded.

Why don't I just use Word? I hate it. Everytime I have used Word in the past few years, because I've had to for one reason or another, I have spent several very frustrating hours trying to figure out how to do something super simple. It wants to make everything complicated. And I end up screaming at the monitor, "NO! I didn't tell you to do THAT!" I'd rather go to the dentist and have them drill on my teeth without novocaine, than use Word. If something absolutely has to be done in Word, then I save my file in RTF format, upload it into Word, and save it in Word format. It's less aggravating that way.

My son suggested that I download Open Office. It's free and I can save the files in PDF format. Unfortunately, it's a lot like Word.

All I want to do is design the Title for Emerald Tales. That's it. I'd like it to look pretty. I know what I want it to look like. If I could use my old version of MS Works, I could do it in fifteen minutes. I have spent several days and many hours trying to figure out what is so simple to do in MS Works the old version, in Open Office. It took me two days to figure out that "Word Art" is called "Font Works" in Open Office. The help function was no damn help in figuring that out. I discovered it when I randomly clicked on a button wondering what it was for.

So, I've spent five or six hours playing around with "Font Works" trying to get it to do what it should be able to do, and I haven't figured it out, yet. Can you say "frustrated"?

There is something seriously wrong with a computer program when an engineer who knows how to program a computer spends two days trying to do something really simple and then discovers it by accident. Then spends several hours trying to work with that tool until giving up in frustration.This is not a new problem with the computer programming industry. It's been like this since Bill Gates designed an operating system in his garage. It is past time for them to stop making their computer programs so damn difficult to use and learn the definition of "user friendly."

*climbs down off her soapbox*

1 comment:

  1. I am sooooo with you on this. I recently bit the bullet and upgraded from MS Word '03 to MS Word '07...and I'm still doing a *headdesk* every five minutes because the interface is*SCREAM*

    GAH. Maybe instead of spending all their time making it pretty and "sleek", they should spend a little extra time making it SIMPLE, and RELIABLE, and NOT CRASHING IF YOU DO SOMETHING WRONG-like.

    BLARG. I feel your pain, sistah.