January 30, 2004
More on dialog boxes
Ever since a few days when Eric pointed out the badness of dialog boxes, it's been on my mind as I work in Windows. I've seen several dialog boxes in Internet Explorer that specifically illustrate Eric's point about how illusory the notion is that the dialog box is offering the user anything like a useful choice.
I've also been seeing them in Word, which is a product I spend a lot of time in. Word 2003 has a thing where they don't pop up a dialog box. Instead, they open up a "task pane" that helpfully
clutters up the workspace offers options relevant to your current context. One I noticed in particular is the "document recovery" pane. When I open Word sometimes, it tells me that it has "recovered" one or more documents (such as normal.dot). Do I want to keep them or discard them? How the heck would I know? I have no idea what it's asking. Please, just make the pane (haha) go away.
When I close Word, I get this:
Well, gosh, I don't know. What changes did I make? Until I know that, I don't really know whether I want to save them. But as you can see, there's no option to "Examine Changes."
As it happens, I'm reviewing the text and UI for a new feature in Visual Studio. Among the text strings for proposed dialog boxes I find this:
There were conflicts during while retrieving files from the remote site. Do you want to continue updating?
Hmmm, do I want to continue updating? Beats me. What would you choose?