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Usability & polish

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on June 23, 2005 05:18 PM
The article doesn't cover usability, nor general "polish". Both are quite subjective, and that's probably why.

I think usability is a severe weakness of OO.o. I tend to view the interface of OO.o as an awful clone of a ghastly and cluttered user interface. In other words, Office's UI is quite bad enough, let's not clone it badly to make the situation even worse.

A new UI focusing on discoverability, logical organization, and appropriate informating hiding would be wonderful, but it's not exactly the sort of thing that'd be trivial to retrofit onto OO.o. Nonetheless, the UI is in my view the single biggest problem with OO.o. Hey, I can hope - maybe someone might get together a team for their PHD in user interface usability, or maybe some inspired genius will take it on with the lure of some money from Google.

Polish is the other issue I have with OO.o. There are many places where things you'd expect to work, don't. Note that I've used OO.o more than MS office, especially the later versions, and started using it earlier than MS office too (excepting Word 5). These aren't "what I expect as an MS Office user" expectations, they're "what I expect as a user from a user interface" expectations.

For example, hitting F1 with a function selected in a spreadsheet bringing up help on the function entry bar, not the selected function. I was pleasantly surprised recently to find out that Excel brings up help on the function.

AutoCorrect-as-you-type is another case. While you can disable AutoCorrect in OO.o, it doesn't<nobr> <wbr></nobr>/adapt/ without configuration. If I type OOps, for example, AutoCorrect changes that to Oops. Helpful. Let's say I meant' OOps. I go back and change it. I expect it to stay changed - I did, after all, just UNDO something AutoCorrect did for me. Autocorrect changes it again. I recently checked MS word - and sure enough, if you "show" it that it was wrong to autocorrect that case, it won't change what you just corrected back again.

The little things like this make a big difference - the difference between swearing at the app while you try to do your work, and noticing how the app improves the flow of your work without getting in your way. That's what I feel is missing from OO.o even more than MS Office.

--
Craig Ringer
craig@postnewspapers.com.au (the spam can't get any worse anyway)

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