When One More Is One Too Many

In our personal lives, we all had a “cup is full” moment, when the extra annoying bit of comedy from a relative makes us leave the room, or something like that. Fortunately, this is absolutely not what I want to talk about.

For the past few days, I’ve been struggling with tiny things that make my mood swing even faster than driving in Paris (lovely sights, homicidal drivers): the computer doing what it was programmed to think is best.

Dear developers: what’s best for you (or your boss) is not what’s best for me, or every single customer out there. Stop second guessing me.

It all started with the keyboard selection. I think that’s cool that different applications can have different input methods: I had to type things in Russian in Numbers, while my terminal supports pretty much only ASCII, and I need the character viewer in Pages. So far, so good. Then it went down to hell pretty fast. Because at one point in a modal system frame (belonging to some base process, I guess), I showed the keyboard viewer, it popped up (and never out again) every single time a modal window appeared. Closing it before the modal window didn’t change a thing. For some reason, I needed my keyboard on screen pretty much at all times. The solution? Remove the keyboard and character palettes from the input sources for a while. That way it can “forget” about it. Sheesh.

Then I realized every single website I went to with embedded google widgets (calendars, whatever) would show it in French. Because, well, I live in France. That’s nice to try and match my native language, but the language the browser is set to might be a better indication, or the language of the page the widget is embedded in. Because It feels weird to have to switch back and forth all the time between languages, even when you’re fluent in all of them.

Then there obviously is the nagging restore on open. Nice concept, I really like the idea. But there are programs that make it unbearable: The simplest one is Preview. So I receive a document (invoice, photo, graphics for an app), I double click on it to see it. Then I quit the application. Next time I double click something, it loads all the ones I didn’t close before, and adds them to the same window. So you’re showing some concept art to a customer, and he sees the bill you forgot to close… Or Preview takes 2 minutes to load because you were reviewing a 200 pages document. And don’t get me started on Xcode.

And finally, the “shared search string”: you look for something in a web page on Safari, and that’s supposed to mean you’ll be looking for the same terms in every single application? Replacing the grep search term you so painfully assembled? Gimme a break!

Let me be clear, I think all these ideas have merit. I like it that they are available. But if the user (i.e. me) has to go the extra mile to undo an automatic feature pretty much every single time, it could mean that there should be a way to customize the behavior and let the user decide if he wants the feature on, or not. Right?


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