Microsoft Word Auto-Complete: Get Your Hands Off of My Writing

So anyway, I was writing something for a job application, and I began a new line by writing,


as in, "Take a moment to something something something." But this is what Microsoft Word's Auto-Complete suggested for me:



AS IF I NEEDED HELP TO THINK OF "TAKE CARE." THANKS A LOT, MICROSOFT. I mean, first of all, how many times when you write "take" is it because you are going to write "take care?" Maybe once out of every 100 times? 200? Even if we're talking about the times that you begin a new line with "Take," it can't be better than one out of 10, can it?

And let's just say, for the sake of argument, that I had been meaning to write "Take care." It just makes me feel slimy to think that my computer is giving me little hints on what heartfelt things I can say to end my letter.

Auto-complete is probably Word's most hated feature. Because, most of the time, it changes something from how we intend it to something entirely different. And even when it does guess right, the user is usually surprised, and spends a few seconds trying to figure out what just happened, thus losing the 0.5 seconds that would have been saved by auto-completing words like "care." And in the worst-case scenario, it will make changes (numbered lists, I am looking in your direction) that the user then has to battle for ten minutes to get them to look how he wants them to look rather then what Word decides the user must have intended.


In Defense of Burnt Aqua

Ever since Apple released iTunes 5 yesterday, it seems like every blogger has taken the opportunity to jump on his or her high horse and complain about how the look of the application is a departure from Apple's Human Interface Guidelines. "Why do you torture us so?" they ask, as if having to face one more application whose windows don't look like all of the other windows was going to make them cry. It's seriously getting out of control how much is being made of this.

The argument goes, I guess, that if Apple goes and changes the look of every application, that "the HIG will have no meaning," and that once Apple sees fit to change the look of each application, it's a slippery slope to the point when developers, encouraged by their loose interpretation of the HIG, will head out and use, willy nilly, whichever design suits their fancy. Which would result in usability being damaged for the average user, who apparently gets confused when applications look different.

Can I just say, I don't mind at all that they look different? I realized this looking at the screenshot posted over at Ditto. It's supposed to show just how insane it is that there are so many different looks for windows, but when I saw it, the thing that occurred to me was, "That's really cool." Each application has its own look, which is logical, considering they all do different things. Why should an internet browser look exactly the same as music editing software? Don't designers try to use familiar physical metaphors, like buttons and desktops? So shouldn't the look of their app be tailored to fit what it does? Are all these rhetorical questions bothering you yet?

The key, I think, is that they share the same visual cues for the functionality that is the same between them. It is confusing when some applications quit when you close a window, and others don't. It would certainly be a problem if the little buttons for closing or minimizing a window started to look different. But if all of the applications behave in the same way, then it's not obnoxious to me at all that they look different. In fact, I like being able to pick my Mail.app window out of out of a cluttered stack of windows. If they all looked the same, I'd have to really look at it to know that it wasn't iTunes or Safari. I can see just a little corner of my GarageBand window peeking out from behind all of my other windows, and I still know it's GarageBand. That seems to me to be a pretty good (and useful) accomplishment.

As for the threat of developers who don't know anything about design suddenly feeling liberated to throw together bizarre, unusable applications, their apps always looked like butt. They were ugly in aqua. That's why nobody uses them. So let's stop complaining about apps that look good.