Archive for September, 2006

Word and footnotes

Friday, September 29th, 2006

A small challenge in using Microsoft Word popped up today, when I had a footnote that I wanted to apply to two separate table entries. I first tried the intuitive answer – copy the footnote reference number and paste it in the second location that I wanted. Nope! Next I tried the easy way out – I asked a coworker. Nope, nobody knew how to do it.

I finally threw my ego on my sword and looked in Help… and found it! A 6-step process to create a second reference to a footnote.  Except it doesn’t format it correctly, though the page does tell you that problem… and if you can warn the user about a problem, you should correct the issue in the application.  And the second reference doesn’t behave the same way on mouseover and may have its own peccadillos.

I started playing around with it, and found out that you can right-drag the second reference and choose “Link Here” and it can be duplicated to a third and fourth instance… but it doesn’t work if you right-drag the first footnote.

What do we learn from this?

  1. Consistency: If you’re going to give an option like the right-drag, make it behave correctly.  The “Link Here” option, when used with a footnote reference, copies the footnote… which is the same behavior as a right-drag “Copy Here” has.
  2. Ease-of-use: Don’t make the user go through multiple (6!) steps when there is an easier way to deal with the issue.  While the help entry provided the steps to the result I desired, a more helpful way of dealing with this situation would be to allow me to copy the reference number and then give me a smart tag that let me choose to [a] create a copy of the reference and footnote with a new number (the current action) or [b] create a second reference to the existing footnote.  Or make the right-drag work.
  3. Completeness: Document that you can right-drag a second reference footnote to a new location and get the same result, and reference a link to that documentation in the original Help article to lead the user to all the possible feature uses.

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Living Room Videoconferences For All

Friday, September 22nd, 2006

I know Robert X. Cringley’s column is all about speculation, but his current description of a plan for Apple to introduce living-room-based videoconferencing gave me a moment of “Why didn’t I see that coming?”

Apple has already created the world’s easiest videoconferencing setup and built it into almost every computer they produce.  To make HDTVs with it built in, or even to enable it via the iTV, would make a tremendously compelling user experience… and for me, a tremendous reason to buy their equipment.

I have young kids.  I have brand-new baby cousins on the other coast.  I could spend a couple thousand dollars to travel and see them for one week, or I could spend half of that on Apple hardware and see them every week or even every day.

I have young kids that I hate leaving at home when I’m on a business trip.  What better family experience than a quick videoconference from a Mac laptop to the home living room before bed?

Apple has always been excellent at driving technology where the users need it, whether they know it or not, which has created incredible sales opportunities for them.  If this is real, I could be buying a new HDTV, a new Mac for the house, a new Mac laptop… and that doesn’t even start to cover the relatives’ purchases.

And, if the interface for calling is implemented correctly, it will feel like a steal.  Final pressure will be on the Apple dev team, but if they have even marginal attention to detail and follow the iTV interface already shown in Jobs’ presentation this could be an incredible hit.

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Vista RC1 usability dissected

Tuesday, September 12th, 2006

Paul Thurrott peeled back the covers of Windows Vista RC1 and found some problems with the user interface.  A very good read.

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Netflix and New Movies

Saturday, September 2nd, 2006

When I read about an interesting new movie in the newspaper, I want to be able to add it to my Netflix account – like “Why We Sing!“  – but because they are too new, they don’t show up.  Their movie suggestion page requests (requires?) that they be already released on DVD, which seems mostly reasonable.  Current movies will 99% be released on DVD sometime, so how to fix it?

Implement one of two new functions/features:

  1. Allow people to request movies not yet released and simply put them in a different queued area [probably hard since you can't get 100% of the information for the movie/DVD and adds to staff time searching it out], or,
  2. Allow people to save movie searches as reminders with a future date.  So a new movie coming out, like “Why we sing!”, could be saved as a search ‘why we sing’ that will run again in X months.  Then I could choose to have it remind me in three months to re-search and see if it is in the system yet, or postpone it again if appropriate.  That way the user doesn’t have to figure out a way to remind themselves to search and end up forgetting movies that could interest them.

I’ve already forgotten the title of the HBO Doc that Spike Lee made about New Orleans, and by the time it is on DVD I will have forgotten about it completely.  This feature would enhance user loyalty (since they would have to stay a member to have the system remind them) and would make users happy since they wouldn’t need to remember or track new movies separately.

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