Thursday, February 25, 2010

Okay, one last check... yup. [Enter]. What? No! Stop!

Microsoft, I'm a Linux guy.  I like community-sourced software, and dislike behemoths that force people into a certain way of doing things.  Having said that, I like Windows 7.  It's really quite slick.  Lots of little things have been fixed, some of which I didn't even realize were "broken" until I saw them repaired.  Well done.  Oh, except for one thing...

Sometimes you just can't predict when things will appear on your screen, and input gets misinterpreted.  Like today, I was logging into my distance learning MBA program using IE8.  IE8 has been slow recently, something I intend to troubleshoot, but my remedy for now is to default to Firefox.  So I loaded IE8, started typing in the URL, and got tired of waiting for that "Internet Explorer is not the default browser" window to pop up so I hit enter, thinking that I would be able to stop the browser from loading my home page and instead load something useful.

As has happened many times before, the instant that I hit [Enter], Windows started drawing another box.  I have no idea what it said, and since it was on my screen for less than a quarter of a second, I have no idea what was chosen when I hit the Enter button.  All I know is that the URL field did not receive that carriage return.

No, it's not the first time.  I'm sure all of my readers know of situations where they were in the middle of typing something and a window launched at just the wrong moment.  My own mother confirmed this the other day, speaking of those times when you hit Enter and just half a second later (or less) the outline of a window appears.  ...and at that point you know your keyboard's input was redirected to that window instead of where you just were.  Sometimes that means I have made a change to my computer I don't know how to reverse, since I don't know what it was called. 

So Microsoft, is there some way that keyboard input could get switched over to a window after the window has been drawn?  After all, no human can truly answer yes to a question they haven't seen yet or have seen for less than 1/10 of a second.  That's my "missing use case" for this post -- somehow, despite improved calculators, better start menus, better taskbars, and searchable program lists (yay!!), this usability detail got missed, and it drives all of us nuts

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