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Microsoft comes up for a breath of air (theirs and mine)

I guess I’m going to have to stop waiting for Microsoft to go down the path trodden by so many (VisiCalc, WordStar, dBASE, to name a few). Vista was sooooo bad, and Office 2007 was sooooo foolish, that I thought the end was immanent.
Windows 7 Desktop
I’ve been using Windows 7 since the big beta release – not consistently, but increasingly more often (my machine is set up to boot from either of my hard drives; one has XP and the other Windows 7). I have to give MS credit, they really got their act together on this one. Not only did it install without a hitch (and the install is so much more elegant than XP), but it runs without a hitch. More important to me: for the first time since Windows 95, the changes all seem to make sense. Gone are the “changes for change sake.” For once, even though things have moved, I can find them. And it’s clear that this is a significantly more elegant Windows than XP. Reminds me of the upgrade from Windows 3.1 to Windows 95.

The big question always is this: what’s in it for me? With Vista, the answer was that you paid more (money and psychically), and got less than XP. With Windows 7, you actually get more. I know the compelling reason to change will be different for most people, but for me, it’s actually pretty simple: I can see the fonts on my 24 inch monitor. I’ve adjusted them in XP so I can usually read them, but other things (especially some web pages) get really messed up with the increased font size. Not Windows 7.

Here’s something trivial, but to me, it’s a major indication that actual users (even if they’re within MS) had something to say about this version – it’s what I like to call a rounded edge. If you’re using a dual monitor system and you’re looking at something full screen on the second monitor, you can just drag it to the primary monitor without resizing it (i.e. putting it into a window). This is the kind of refinement that I rarely see in products. (Anybody remember the first release of Paradox? It was full of these rounded edges.)

So, I see hopeful signs. MS isn’t changing things because their usability labs of new users can find things easier, they’re paying attention (finally!) to the installed base who already know how to do things, but who want them done better.

To me, ignoring your installed base is stupid, callous, and – well, I’ll stop there. When I helped design the interface for SuperCalc3 in 1983, I was like a proud father, because even though we introduced a totally new menu substructure, our heavy users never even realized we’d done that. Things just felt “natural” to them. And that’s the way it should be for a product with a big installed base. I want MS to think about me, not about the 14 people who haven’t used Windows before.

This also means that somebody with product-love was running things, rather than a Dilbert-trained manager, which was the distinct feeling I got from recent product releases.

Good work Microsoft!

By the way, if you look closely at the image (click on it to enlarge it), you’ll see that I still can’t get rid of DOS. I’ve got a shortcut in my taskbar for those (frequent) times when I just gotta type.

Posted in Reviews.

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