Monday, 13 March 2006

Just one word

I've just installed Office 2003 and, to be fair, it was incredibly straightforward. Insert disc; enter serial; wait; done. For what is one of the most complex pieces of software commonly available, that is pretty impressive.

Unfortunately, that's where the problems start. I had forgotten how much `I know better than you' there is about Word and its friends. The full horror only returns when you have to remember how to turn all that nonsense off, again. It's nanny software: here, let me help you with that, did you mean this?, can I make that ugly for you?

Microsoft have, understandably, produced a lot of `features' that people may find convenient. But because they have constructed something over years, in archeological layers, there's no single place, no design model. Some features are defined by registry keys, some are in, others live in yet more obscure files shared across office or program specific. It's a mess and it's hideous to mess with.

So today's law of software is `when you improve it, don't just add features, add the management of those features consistently'. Think how much time the microsofties must spend on maintaining that piece of baroque complexity. Modularity and consistent interfaces are hardly new ideas, after all. Maybe someone should send Bill a copy of Learning to Program in Pascal?


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