Monthly Archives: May 2014

An Open Letter to Microsoft’s New CEO

Dear Mr. Nadella,

Congratulations on being the new Microsoft CEO. Are you going to make them fix the bugs (some of which have been around for ten years)? Will there be patches to fix bugs? Or will we still have to purchase a new version of Office/Windows to have non-security bugs fixed, only to discover that some of the more egregious and hateful bugs and UI annoyances still have not been addressed, and that “new version” yet again means “the UI has been rearranged,” often with pre-existing functionality now unavailable or painful to access?

In case you don’t know what I’m talking about, let me itemize a few things that come to mind.

  • Pressing Escape while editing an email causes Outlook to try and close the window, leading to a dialog asking, “Would you like to have this window close and lose what you’ve been doing the last half hour?” The editor window for an email message is a window, not a dialog box. A windows doesn’t close in response to Escape. This is called a Common User Access Rule. Microsoft needs to start adhering to those rules. They’re rules for a reason.
  • Pressing Page Down and Page Up in Word sometimes causes the screen to shift, and then shift back, giving the impression that the user is moving through the document when, in fact, no progress is being made at all.
  • Word thinks that a quote following an em-dash should point outboard rather than inboard.   As in, “What the –“
  • The spellchecker should understand that if Nadella is a properly spelled word, then so is Nadella’s.
  • Changes in taskbar arrangement and other settings should be persisted immediately, not when the system successfully shuts down.
  • Windows Explorer continues to be treated as an afterthought, with few options for user-customization. In particular, there’s no way to turn off of the Libraries (and other miscellanea) that clog the tree view. Having Explorer be both the user’s interface to the physical machine AND the operating system’s shell is dumb, and it helps explain why Explorer does neither well.
  • Eliminating the desktop mode of Windows shows how inflexible and brittle the underlying software is, as well as how insular and out-of-touch the software development process is at Microsoft. It’s called software for a reason. It shouldn’t be “one size fits all.” If you want to support handheld devices, fine. Why does that mean you have to stop supporting desktop users? Apple and Google both like to shove the “one true way” of doing things down users’ throats. Microsoft can differentiate itself by not doing that!
  • It takes way, way too long to “Configure” and “Prepare to Configure” Windows before and after yet another forced restart.
  • When I choose to delete three files totaling 12K, I don’t expect to see a dialog box show up that says “Calculating….” Calculating what, exactly? PI to three billion decimal places? Given the speed and power of modern machines, what could possibly take long enough to justify opening a dialog box, never mind having the dialog sit there for ten or fifteen seconds “Calculating…”?
  • List views should remember their settings.
  • Right clicking on something should bring up a context menu that, in addition to “What’s this?”, should offer the option to configure whatever was clicked on, up to and including the option of “Stop Doing That.” (In Word, for example, right clicking on the Zoom control on the status bar would offer the option of disabling the shortcut key sequence that causes the text to suddenly shrink by ten percent.)
  • When I explicitly open Task Manager and tell it to shut down an application, that’s what it should do. I don’t expect to wait a minute before Task Manager tells me the application in question isn’t responding, especially when – in some cases – the application IS responding, and will react to a polite “Please Shut Down” message by opening another ten copies of itself.
  • The Windows Registry needs to be phased out. That thing has been a source of system corruption and performance problems since day one. It is a generic solution to dozens of specific problems, each of which should be handled in a domain-specific way, thereby reducing the ridiculous and opaque HKEY-REF A328B8879-…-22E33F44G that points to an entry that points to an entry that might or might not have anything to do with why Office can neither be uninstalled, reinstalled, or repaired, and only a Microsoft specialist with a list of keys could ever go in and figure out why. Here’s a quote taken from the social.technet forum of microsoft.com:

“Windows … require[s] complex entries in the Speech Token section of the HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE registry. We have not found a single Voice installer that makes the correct entries in this registry nor have we located anyone who knows the details of what is required. There is an extensive description of the registry entries….”

How much of that do you need to see before you realize something’s broken?

  • The “Extended” tab on the Services applet is a joke. It serves no purpose other than to force users to first switch to “Standard” view, before then double-clicking on the “Name” column to expand it (yet again) so that it shows more than the first twelve characters of the service name. At the very least, “Extended” should be made the optional view, not the default, thereby saving the world at least a million mouse clicks a day.
  • Support configuring high-quality audio through the operating system. If I connect a receiver to the HDMI output of my video card, I should be able to convince Windows that the receiver is an audio-only output device, not a third monitor.

 

Don’t get me wrong. I realize bugs like these are trivial and tedious and far below the cool, exciting work that Microsoft engineers have come to expect. Still, some of us are hoping you will place professionalism and attention to detail above “Gosh, isn’t it cool, Spiffy?”