Zone38 Presents...
Letters to the World

31-Jul-2001

A few days ago I

Filed under: General — codeman38 @ 9:49 pm

A few days ago I ranted about non-intuitive designs for user interfaces; today, while fumbling around trying to find the settings for the Opera web browser, I discovered another example.

Why can’t programmers decide where to put the menu item for Preferences?

Some programs file the command under a menu labeled “Tools” or, better yet, “Options”. After all, the preferences dialog box is a tool that you use to set various options within the program. Other software assumes that since you want to edit your preferences, one’s first instinct will be to look under the “Edit” menu. Now those choices are fine and dandy, yes…but then there are the others.

First of all, I’ve seen a few programs in which the programmers hid the preferences command under the “View” menu. Now, I could understand this decision if you wanted to change only the preferences relating to how one views a document; but otherwise, I think it’s a rather illogical place to put that command. Who in their right mind only wants to view their preferences, without any thought of possibly changing them?

And even worse, I’ve seen one or two programs–such as Lotus SmartSuite and the aforementioned web browser–in which the preferences command has been buried within the “File” menu. Sure, it may be because File is usually the first option on the menu bar and that it’s the first place some people would look; still, though, what exactly does the word “file” have to do with setting preferences? If I wanted to look at preferences related to file management, maybe I’d look there– but going there to set my default fonts, configure my e-mail, and adjust the screen layout? It just doesn’t make sense.

Ah, the joys of computer software. It’s no wonder we get anecdotes like those in Computer Stupidities when things are so unintuitive to begin with…

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