What would you change (first) about Windows' look and feel?

What would you change (first) about Windows' look and feel?

Summary: If you were hired by Microsoft to make the Windows experience less annoying, what would be on your to-do list?


If you were hired by Microsoft to make the Windows experience less annoying, what would be on your to-do list?

Mark Hamburg, the Adobe Photoshop/Lightroom guru recently hired by Microsoft, is tasked with figuring out how to improve the way Microsoft's operating system works.

Hamburg didn't recently join Microsoft to work on SmartFlow, Microsoft's alleged competitor to Lightroom, as I guessed yesterday. Instead, he's working on future OS interface concepts, according to a posting on the ProPhotoHome blog that a reader forwarded to me. According to the post:

"Mark was invited by David Vaskevitch to come lead a team working on the future of OS User Experience at Microsoft.

"This is the way Mark phrased it:

"Now, given that I find the current Windows experience really annoying and yet I keep having to deal with it, this opportunity was a little too interesting to turn down. I can’t imagine doing serious imaging anywhere other than Adobe, but, I needed to do something other than imaging for a while."

This begs the question, what, exactly, is Vaskevitch working on? Vaskevitch is a Senior Vice President and Chief Technical Officer at Microsoft, who has been working with Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates "to develop a focused and unified strategy and architecture for future Microsoft platforms." Vaskevitch is also quite the digital-photography buff.

Given Vaskevitch's charter is to focus on the future, it's not a complete given that Hamburg will be focused on improving Windows. Windows is Microsoft's one and only operating system today. (Windows Mobile, based on Windows CE, isn't technically "Windows," but for all intents and purposes, it is still is part of the Windows family.)

However, there has been scuttlebutt around rumored Microsoft efforts to build a new operating system that isn't Windows at its core. And is Windows Live or virtualized Windows still "Windows"? Maybe, maybe not.

"User experience" doesn't translate exactly to "user interface." It's also about the applications which customers use to achieve a task. But it's more UI than anything else.

So if you were to provide Hamburg with a SHORT list of suggestions as to what you'd like to see changed in the Windows UI, where would you start?

Update: News.com's Stephen Shankland has additional speculation on what Hamburg might bring to the Windows UI table.

Topics: Windows, Microsoft, Operating Systems, Software


Mary Jo has covered the tech industry for 30 years for a variety of publications and Web sites, and is a frequent guest on radio, TV and podcasts, speaking about all things Microsoft-related. She is the author of Microsoft 2.0: How Microsoft plans to stay relevant in the post-Gates era (John Wiley & Sons, 2008).

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  • my list

    Less bulk in the code. Slim it down to make it more efficient and quicker. Why does my Vista 64 bit PC with twice the resources run slower than my 7 year old XP PC with half the resources? Make stuff simplier, get back to basics of what the normal person wants out of an operating system and software. Easy to install/maintain and use. Office 7 is terrible. It is difficult to find your way around an utilize things. It appears that they changed things in Office just for the sake of change. I think Microsoft has done alot of good things making Windows more secure so they need to continue that thought as well.
    • Re: My list

      Interesting to hear you don't like Office 2007. I just finished up a Master's and about 90% of the people were using it and everyone thought it was a great improvement over 2003. I can't recall hearing anything negative except for the small learning curve it takes to get used to it. I find it so much more intuitive and faster to use once you get used to it.
      Question everything
      • Office 2007

        My wife's company just threw away a bunch of already-purchased licenses for 2007 and returned to 2003. Apparently they got tons of complaints from users about stuff being moved around for no reason which was preventing people from getting their work done as quickly.

        My take on their change was that when people use tools to get work done, they don't like you changing the tools for no good reason. Just picture if there was only one company that made hammers and they decided that the next version of the hammer should put the metal head in the middle of the wooden shaft. How many pissed-off carpenters would there be? Would they go back to using their previous hammers and throw the new ones away?
        • Office 2007

          Well I can see people getting frustrated initially, but if they used it for more than a day, they would see the 'Ribbon' concept is much better than searching for one of dozens tiny icons...not to mention functions buried deep in a menu bar.

          If your wife's company's workers just gave it a chance I think they would agree.

          It's hard to make improvements without changing anything. Office 2003 was basically the same as 98, so taking nine years was way too long in the first place.

          Oh...and OneNote is fantastic, it's a shame they didn't have something like that 10 years ago when I was in undergrad.
          Question everything
          • The sensible thing to do...

            The sensible thing to do would have been to offer both toolbars. The old style for the people that have been using Office forever, and the new style for the ones that were just starting. Make it easily user switchable. If the ribbon is truly superior (I hate the @!%*!# thing - I don't have time to waste relearning old tricks), it'll win out. If it isn't, the rest of us can have the improvements without the failings.
            Dr. John
          • look and feel is not what should change about software

            functionalities should be the only things that change when you develop a model.

            car companies have it figured out...

            theres pickup trucks, sedans, mini's etc. etc..

            but with software... your forcing everyone to buy the same model car.

            it doesnt work for everyone.

            i like 2003 better myself. it does everything...

            REALLY... it does.
          • Too much functionality breaks simple UI metaphores

            Functionality is all that should change, until you have so much that people can't find it anymore. If functionality is all that should change, then 2003 isn't your pinacle, 97 is. It's about from then that in each version they added more and more changes to the look and feel to help people navigate the interface.

            http://blogs.msdn.com/jensenh/archive/tags/Why+the+New+UI_3F00_/default.aspx for why they decided to do the new interface.
          • Office 2007

            having used Office 97 through xp I found office 2007 a real pain to use. I have been attempting to deal with is for several months and I still waste more time looking for the items I need thah actually getting any real work done. Fortunatly I only use it at home. My office was smart enough to avoid it.
          • I've a different experience.

            I myself liked it, but it wasn't until the secretarial pool started submitting increasing requests that management pushed through an upgrade a full year ahead of schedule.

            There were of course some percentage who "hated" it, but could never come up with a good reason for. I actually had one lady tell me should couldn't even figure out how to close it down.... pointing out the close button didn't move and is provided by windows, not the app wouldn't sway her opinion.
          • Office 2007

            Ofice 2007 is pretty good for simple/basic word processing, the tools necessary are easily available for the most part.

            Once you start designing documents, or use Office for more technical layout, design, and use features of Office for precise customizing, finding what you need can be ackward and frustrating.

            For instance try custom formatting a table, with 2003, it was a breeze to create and format with the table bar, with 2007 you have to go back and forth from several ribbons to get the same work done. Also, some commands seem to be orphaned, and instead of having more, smaller strips, they are just stuck into Page Layout or other odd strips.
          • Keyboard shortcuts

            I would largely agree, but if you're stuck with 2007 I would recommend learning the keyboard shortcuts well, as it helps a lot with this sort of thing.
        • You're saying that people can't adjust to new things?

          If people are getting so lazy that they can't learn how to adjust to new and improving technology, they should simply just go back?
          That sounds kinda sad to me.

          Like many users have said, it's been of a learning curve, but if you'd actually put some effort, you'd find it's all pretty logical.

          Besides, MOST of the common commands of any word processor, appears right under Home tab when you launch Word. If you cannot look at the icon and identify what it does (like you would have done for previous versions), then there's something wrong with you.

          There's also this brand new add-on from the Office team, that lets users search for commands from a search box, if they're having that much trouble.

          • Laziness

            Its clear that these people are lazy. If they actually bothered to look at the ribbon for more than a minute, they'd see that is practically the same as the old menus, just on tabs instead.

            For example, "Insert picture" used to be in the Insert menu, now its on the Insert tab. Wow, that was a hard one to grasp.
          • Not necessarily lazy.

            Being forced to learn a new way of doing the same thing, and not having the time to invest in doing so, isn't being lazy. Change for change's sake isn't productive. There are millions of people around the world that have worked with the old menu system for years, that know exactly where everything is, and how it all works, without even having to think about it. When you change the ENTIRE interface, there's a huge hit on productivity.

            There's an old saying that I try to follow - If it ain't broke, don't fix it.
            Dr. John
          • But it is broken

            Changing the UI isn't a small task, and they wouldn't d it just for the heck of it. They did it based on evidence that people were struggling to find their way around the old interface. People were routinely asking for this feature or that feature that was already there, just difficult to find.

            Just because those that use Office day in day out have managed through that to invest the time in learning the old interface really well doesn't mean that it's good, just that they've had time to learn it. And the idea behind the new UI is that, yes you will have to relearn it, but you will be able to learn it quicker than you did old versions. And then those who are coming to Office a-new will also be able to learn it quicker.
          • the ribbon should be customizable, but its not so much

            there should be an option for classic view...

            microsoft is normally good at that.

            there losing money, because their dev team thinks like you do.

            (dice clay) ooohhh
          • Maintaining the forks

            The problem with having a "Classic" view is twofold.

            Firstly, some people won't want to switch immediately for whatever reason (they are practical and haven't given the new UI enough time - why should they when they know the old interface so can do things initialy much quicker, they are stuborn or it just really is worse) so for a much longer time you will have a fork in skills. But at some point they will have to switch (for why see my second point) and we will have all these same arguments again (except just with a few more people better informed about the pros and cons of the new UI).

            Microsoft can't maintain two side by side interfaces for ever. It would last a couple of versions, maximum. It's just too much effort. You have to find places in both interfaces to comfortably fit new features (which leads to the problem with the old interface that the new interface was trying to fix - it's too crowded and complex). It just takes too much effort to maintain.
        • Office 2007 U.I is far superior to Office 2003 U.I

          Although it is disturbing at first,once you get used to it you quickly find out that this U.I is far superior and intuitive than previous office U.I.
          As a matter of fact the team which designed Office 2007 U.I is actually working on the Windows U.I in order to strongly enhance it like they did for Office U.I.
          • 'Intuitive' is keyword for MS employee..

            I still hate the 'intuitive' ribbon that adds more clicks no matter what is claimed.
            John from NO
          • And intuitive Office 2007 is

            I used Office 2007 since its release and in my experience it requires significantly less clicks than Office 2003.