The One with the Thoughts of Frans

The Prettiness Disease

The following post on the MyOpera forum spurred me to complain about something I call the prettiness disease. By this I mean adding features that either don’t help usability or actually impair it just because it looks good (according to some). A prime example is most of the features added to Mac OS X as compared to preceding incarnations, but Microsoft and the open-source community have also bought into it.

[…] the thing that most annoys me about [combine always, hide labels] is the fact that it removes the ability to simply click the taskbar icon to minimize/maximize. […] This is the case only, when taskbar buttons are not set to the default ‘combine always, hide labels’. Then it needs CTRL-click to directly switch to the last visible window of a ‘grouped’ application. This is standard Win7 behaviour also with IE8. So, if you disklike the current behaviour disable grouping of taskbar buttons for now. Perhaps there might be an option within Opera later on…

I don’t care for the “combine always, hide labels” setting in Windows 7. I think it’s a failed copy of Apple’s crappy dock, where looking pretty is the only thing that counts while losing out on usability.

Oh wow, look how clean this looks, with all the pretty icons. No text. Whoopie. Now try to identify your windows when there’s 10 different ones. What’s that, thumbnails? Oh how useful, now I can really spot the difference between my 10 directories filled with files, my 10 web pages on the same forum, my 10 text documents in my word processing application, and so on and so forth. There’s a reason I give my directories names, you know. The same applies to just about any other application. The icon only identifies the application, the text-based title identifies what the heck it actually is. Thumbnails would only work the way Microsoft seems to think they should work in Windows 7 if all I ever opened was pictures.

It’s easy enough to combine a text-based title with thumbnails (for those who like thumbnails) and flashy effects (OK, I admit that as long as they’re shorter than a second I don’t completely dislike effects like burning or fading windows, things that light up, etc), but writing your own Compiz plugin is near-impossible without completely reverse-engineering the code (documentation? comments? what’s that?), and for Windows that situation isn’t very different, at least for me.

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