back to article The crime against humanity that is the modern OS desktop, and how to kill it

The sight of a former executive laying into their old company is rarely less than delicious. And when that company is Microsoft, the exec is head of user experience, and the complaint is about the solid slab of sadness that is the Windows 11 Start menu? This calls for not just regular salted popcorn, but truffle-oil popcorn on a …

  1. TonyJ Silver badge

    It does suck

    I installed Windows 11 on my daily runner because, working in EUC as we like to call it these days, it's always handy to see what will be coming down the line in corporate refreshes.

    And yes, it's better than 8. But then what the fuck wasn't/isn't better than that?

    Windows 7 had it nailed, I think, personally. It looked good. It was purely functional. Everything was where you expected it to be and it wasn't trying to search the internet every time you typed into the search bar. No drip feed of data back to MS, no Cortana etc etc - basically Windows 95/2000 but a bit prettier.

    Windows 11 just confuses. The start button moves as you open things. Ok, that's not too much of a problem but it just feels a bit odd.

    Start a command prompt with Windows key+R and type cmd and you get, as you'd expect, a command interpreter. Shift-left click on the taskbar icon and instead of spawning another command shell you get a PowerShell window.

    Settings are still all over the place.

    It seems to be a resource hog compared to previous versions. Just sitting with a few browser tabs open and a copy of a small Excel sheet open and the fans on my laptop soon go mad.

    I hate the behaviour where if I hit the Windows key and start typing - previous versions of Windows used to start populating the search bar and would (usually) find the application I wanted. Not this version - it just tries to go to the application with the first letter I typed. I have to take extra steps to click in the search box.

    I hate the reduced functionality - I've got it back with third party apps but right-click the taskbar and I want Task Manager there.

    Every version of Windows since 7 has been a step - well several steps - backwards in terms of usability.

    And if it frustrates and confuses long-term professionals, how does it make ordinary users feel?

    1. Tom7

      Re: It does suck

      I agree that Windows 7 was the peak of Windows usability. 10 was sort of okay and sort of not. I haven't used Windows regularly since 7.

      IMO the current Ubuntu / GNOME desktop gets it right. I'm keyboard-centric so the 'super key + start typing' thing works really well for me; it's the Windows 7 scheme without the folder-structure to fall back on.

      The only drawback I could understand is that it doesn't work very well for touch. The Android-like page after page of unsorted app icons is not exactly usability plus.

      I think the author has missed one of the key reasons that OS makers keep on messing with desktops - they're still searching around for a desktop metaphor that feels equally natural when you're sat at a screen, keyboard and mouse as it does on a tablet or phone. Moan as much as you like that tablet UIs have no place on the desktop, but personally I have a laptop that folds around into a tablet and turns into a touch screen. Which UI metaphor should it use?

      1. TonyJ Silver badge

        Re: It does suck

        "...ersonally I have a laptop that folds around into a tablet and turns into a touch screen. Which UI metaphor should it use?..."

        That's simple enough to answer, I think:

        In laptop mode it should be the desktop experience.

        When you fold it over to be a tablet, it should use a touch-based/mobile style interface*

        A phone style UI doesn't work on a desktop with a mouse and keyboard - see Windows 8.

        *Ideally the user should be given the choice here - I know some people would prefer not to use tablet mode, per se.

        1. gadget00

          Re: It does suck

          That was called Windows 8 or “tablet mode” and it bombed hard. Even Apple is still trying to figure this out and have not joined their OSs as 1. It really is a hard problem, but again is it really something to strive to? Convertibles also haven’t been that much of a success as a form-factor. Disclaimer: I have one, but I had a SurfacePro before and I wanted a “real” laptop and not a flimsy keyboard/touchpad. Barely flip it to use it as a tablet; have an actual tablet instead LOL

      2. ThatOne Silver badge

        Re: It does suck

        > personally I have a laptop that folds around into a tablet and turns into a touch screen

        How many personal computers out there do that? Very few? Statistically near to none?

        This is an edge case, which does indeed require a special configuration, but you don't have to (should not) force that special configuration upon everybody. Most computer users are sitting at their desk in front of 2-3 huge monitors and don't really care about touch and small screen usability.

        IMHO "tablet mode" should be a special installation option, if not a special version of the OS. But of course marketing sees it differently, tablets are hip, tablets will take over the world, just wait. Never mind reality, never mind the Trough of Disillusionment, one day my tablet will come.

        (If you ever wondered how many here have one of those convertible tablet-laptops, just count the downvotes...)

        1. J. Cook Silver badge

          Re: It does suck

          Windows XP Pro had a Tablet edition, which turned on a few additional bells, whistles, and gongs that were otherwise optional in the standard edition; It was OK, but the machines I had that I used it on were not daily drivers for me. (they were originally bought for Marketing to allow their guest services staff to roam around and sign guests up for the loyalty program, which would have worked fine except that the app that the loyalty program used was very much desktop-centric and did not work terribly well on a tablet-centric UI. I ended up using it during inventory audits when marketing handed the four or five of them back to IT with "these were OK, but they ended up not working out for us" at 2and a half thousand US pesos each.)

          1. Nick Ryan Silver badge

            Re: It does suck

            So many people have forgotten about Windows XP Tablet Edition. It was pretty much stock Windows XP but with stylus support for scribbles to text conversion and a popup keyboard.

            Using it as a touch interface sucked, but that was largely due to the legacy of pixel based interfaces, the worst of these tended to be dialog windows and in particular settings windows... Microsoft in other words.

            If application user interfaces were designed for scalable output in the first place then they worked well. Unfortunately unless using the Borland tools, a scalable native user interface was really hard. Microsoft Visual Studio only promoted and encouraged appalling interfaces and the drive to bork the model of modal desktop applications into web page applications just made everything worse.

            Not helped by Microsoft changing the Windows GUI composition interface every couple of years, leaving an abandoned trail of 80% complete debris everywhere, with the remaining 20% of missing functionality being cobbled in place by individual application developers.

            Even the current fad for "dark mode" is a complete exercise in total and utter stupidity. Why/how? 32 bit windows had system colours, for example button face, button light edge, button dark edge, button text and so on, and an application only needed to use the system colours and it would be largely compliant with any Operating System level colour changes. For example changing to a "dark mode". Custom coloured elements such as icons were an outstanding problem, but Microsoft's braindead fix for this was not to implement anything sensible, it was to hard code it's own applications in whatever colours it felt like (rather than letting the Operating System do it's thing) and the death of custom colour schemes shot into mainstream. Then later as application developers cobbled their own "dark mode" into every individual application, which is as stupid and unproductive as it sounds, did Microsoft consider vomiting into windows a "dark mode" configuration which, of course, would require the rewrite of every application that did its own thing because of Microsoft previously dropping support for Operating System level colour schemes.

            1. Piro Silver badge

              Re: It does suck

              I have an old Pentium III-M tablet running XP Tablet edition that still works. Classic. The handwriting recognition was not totally awful, but of course the overall experience was just XP with a stylus.

              1. eric654

                Re: It does suck

                I have a Dell Axim running Microsoft Pocket PC v 4.2 It sounds pretty similar, XP with a stylus. Completely organized with easy-to-find settings, and sadly made obsolete by smart phones.

                1. Nick Ryan Silver badge

                  Re: It does suck

                  I can't remember the brand that I had, Asus possibly. As a PC it was pretty lacklustre but it had a nice enough display and was reasonably portable to carry around and show things on. It did feel a bit pointless compared to just using a laptop though.

                  Two or three years earlier I had use of a micro laptop type device - again it wasn't fast but it was incredibly portable and very good for demonstrating software on as it was small enough when closed to fit into a large jacket pocket. The power supply had to go into a different pocket of course... Essentially an EEE PC form factor just many years earlier.

        2. LDS Silver badge

          Re: It does suck

          Actually MS too is selling those PCs - the Surface line - and it's not alone, they are not edge cases at all. After all even people using more than one monitor are not the majority of users.

        3. tekHedd

          Re: It does suck

          >> personally I have a laptop that folds around into a tablet and turns into a touch screen

          >

          > How many personal computers out there do that? Very few? Statistically near to none?

          Lots. My SO is a teacher and the district has been exclusively giving them touchscreen convertibles for several years now. It's not fancy, just a bog standard workhorse PC. I assume they buy them by the pallet. Once you've worked with one you really won't want to go back.

          Apple really needs to get with the program, but they would prefer you to just switch to iPad and stop pretending you have any control over your computer at all.

        4. doublelayer Silver badge

          Re: It does suck

          I don't think that's the right approach. It should be optional, but I've seen enough devices that can do that that it makes sense to have a tablet UI which can be enabled. The problem with deeming it optional or even unused is that it's easy to assume your use case is everyone's, and it's not. For example, you've given this idea of the average computer user:

          "Most computer users are sitting at their desk in front of 2-3 huge monitors and don't really care about touch and small screen usability."

          That's not the average. That's you. It's also everyone in my office, because we're all programmers. A lot of others have one screen. Sometimes huge, sometimes medium sized. Then, we have a lot of people who really do just use a single laptop-sized screen, especially those who work from home and didn't get extra displays from their work. Many of them might like having lots of extra display real estate, but some don't see the advantages and many more just don't have that as their setup. Those people may not be using them as tablets, but they do care a lot about small screen usability. I can't tell you how large each group is, but I can tell you that they're larger than you make out.

          1. Terry 6 Silver badge

            Re: It does suck

            Agreed. I know an awful lot of single screen, PC or laptop, users and they're representative of vast numbers of others. Almost every teacher, for starters. And NHS clinical staff (speech therapists etc.). And most small business users. And of course home office users. Most people don't work in corporate environments, and come to that, even the ones I do know mostly use a single screen in the office and a laptop when wfh. Many don't have space for anything else either.

            1. VicMortimer

              Re: It does suck

              Home office users? Seriously?

              My home office setup is seven screens. And that's just at the desk, that doesn't count the server consoles across the room.

              (Ok, I'm probably a bit of an edge case, but I don't know anybody with a home office that only has one screen.)

          2. Piro Silver badge

            Re: It does suck

            I know in the company I work for, everyone from HR or accounting to the technician remoting in to customer's systems has 2 large screens, the idea is to keep the desks as identical as possible.

          3. M.V. Lipvig Silver badge

            Re: It does suck

            The entire telecom industry uses multiple monitors, and it's almost impossible to do the job with fewer than 2. And, that's using a laptop with a docking station.

        5. GraXXoR

          Re: It does suck

          "Most computer users are sitting at their desk in front of 2-3 huge monitors and don't really care about touch and small screen usability."

          That's the register reader in you talking.

          I too have a quadruple monitor set up at home and used to rock a triple head setup during my short stint as a system engineer for a small investment bank in Tokyo in the late noughties.

          The fact is laptop numbers are comfortably ahead of both desktop AND tablet numbers combined and they tend to have much smaller screens.

          If you are just talking windows then tablet numbers fall off and you're left with about double the number of laptops to desktops.

          Some of those users will be plugging their laptops into docking stations at work, what with WFH being popular over the last two years.

          Currently the most popular resolutions are 1920x1080 neck and neck with 1336x768 which together account for over 40% of the population.

          According to Statista the majority of second screen access in the US is performed by an additional device... i.e. a "smart" TV or a tablet / smartphone style device.

          Moreover, most campus or school type devices appear to be Surface style foldables which do double duty as PC/tablets, so the majority of future computer users will likely be accustomed to this type of device.

          1. PerlLaghu
            Coat

            Re: It does suck

            > I too have a quadruple monitor set up

            Ditto.... however I've gone back to a single monitor. Admittedly, it's a 50" 4K telly - so it's not a kick in the as$e off the 2x2 grid of 23" monitors I used to have.... and there's no big black cross right in the middle of my view-space - WIN!

            Yes, it doesn't have a great refresh rate - but I don't play games on it.

            Yes, the laptop always needs to have the monitor position set when I restart.... but that's once or twice a day, and I can live with that.

            .... but screen real-estate - you can't beat it!

      3. Spanners Silver badge
        Happy

        Re: It does suck

        Which UI metaphor should it use?

        Sitting on the table right now, it is doing a desktop. If I disconnect the keyboard and sit in a chair, it is a tablet.

        I think ChromeOS has this fairly comfortably sorted. Now are the two the best they can be?

      4. Peter X

        Re: It does suck

        IMO the current Ubuntu / GNOME desktop gets it right. I'm keyboard-centric so the 'super key + start typing' thing works really well for me; it's the Windows 7 scheme without the folder-structure to fall back on.

        Unity desktop was good once they'd ironed out the bugs; here you had Super work similar to GNOME, and Super + A (works in Ubuntu 22.04) bring up apps, but Unity also had Super + F which I personally found really really nice for easy access to recent files.

        Plus Unity was good for easily adding things like /tmp/ or ... my (at the time) Truecrypt mount point to a list of places not to remember. With bloody Linux-Mint in particular, my recent files is always full of a ton of crap in /tmp/ largely including Meld comparisons which I don't even care about at all!

        So... whilst I quite like Ubuntu/GNOME these days, I did find Unity a little more keyboard friendly.

        1. Nick Ryan Silver badge

          Re: It does suck

          Like many others, I ditched distributions that inflicted Unity on users as the desktop. It was barely usable for any serious work, with more than a couple of applications running at once it became an interface from hell by way of navigation between them and launching a new application. It did get better with considerably higher screen resolutions, but that only served to demonstrate the appalling core design of the user interface. When the developers just told everyone to STFU and that they liked it and anybody who didn't could just go elsewhere, we did. It's not that they couldn't have improved it, but they actively chose not to.

      5. John Smith 19 Gold badge
        Unhappy

        What use is it you wonder???

        Simple.

        Every time they change this s**t it means people (and by people I mean large corporations) to retrain their staff.

        Books and other media need to be rewriten to reflect the changes.

        And of course it means anyone trying to make a compatible UI has to chase your changes.

        No matter how non-sensical they are.

        And of course corporations can't give it up because (all those con-sultants say so) the costs will be soooooo much higher than just bending over and taking it.

      6. Enric Martinez

        Re: It does suck

        Gnome works in the same way since quite a lot of time ago (I use Fedora 36). And once you get used to it, it's pretty simple.

        KDE went a bit into the background lately, but besides of ultra-weird stuff like workspaces, etc, it its operation is very basic and much like in Win95 : Start button in the left-hand corner a menu and that's it.

        And it can get even more basic if you go to Mint or other distros. I have no idea why the author says that Linux desktops change that much. Even Ubuntu's older Unity desktops worked pretty much like Gnome. And you can's say that Gnome is difficult to use, specially when you have to watch an explainer just after installing it. And it's basically just: Space Bar, click. Done.

        Actually, the same for Apple. For all the changes in icons, etc, you could start using any version of OS X if you were used to OS 9.

        I haven't had the pleasure to work with Win11 yet, but I don't think it would take me more than 10 minutes to figure it out.

      7. DuncanLarge

        Re: It does suck

        > for a desktop metaphor that feels equally natural when you're sat at a screen, keyboard and mouse as it does on a tablet or phone

        They wont find it. I did a Human Computer Interaction module during my CS degree and I can say that:

        These devices use DIFFERENT metaphors. There is no overlap, which is why it never works.

    2. FIA Silver badge

      Re: It does suck

      It's an interesting argument. I recently re-installed W95 and really had to think for a second when hitting windows key and typing didn't do anything.

      Windows 7 had it nailed, I think, personally.

      Ahhh, but pre Win 7 then Win 2K had it nailed. :)

      I think this tells use that maybe gentle evolution is better than Windows 8 UI overhaul. (as in the features you just end up using without realising it, like the type to search thing in the start menu.)

      1. Updraft102 Silver badge

        Re: It does suck

        Win2k was the peak of UI for me, with the one caveat others have mentioned that the search field should be present in the start menu and should be focused on opening of the menu.

      2. Richard 12 Silver badge

        Re: It does suck

        There are several things in Win 11 that are demonstrably long-proven to be crap, actively user hostile and ought to have out some Microsoft manager on a desert island with a single bullet.

        To name two:

        - You do NOT move important UI items between interactions. Show/hide is fine, but never move. (Muscle memory)

        - You put the most important pointer-driven items in the corners. (Easiest to hit.)

        Both of these also apply to touch - corners can be found without looking, and everybody hates it when stuff moves out from under them.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: It does suck

          You do NOT move important UI items between interactions. Show/hide is fine, but never move. (Muscle memory)

          You mean you don't want the keyboard to automatically remap so that when you press the q key it automatically remaps to be become u since you are almost bound to type that next and it would avoid you needing to move your finger to find it?

          Gosh

          You do surprise me.

          1. Nick Ryan Silver badge

            Re: It does suck

            That is pretty much the mentality of these worthless UI designer who think that moving user interface elements on an interaction is a good thing. It's like a never ending and extremely frustrating game of pin the tail on the donkey. Except in this case the donkey is the UI designer.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: It does suck

              My point entirely and I suspect Richard's.

              It's like the QWERTY keyboard layout. It might be shit as it is but everyone has grown up knowing where the keys are so if you move them you'll just confuse people.

              If you keep moving things you'll keep confusing people.

              Having thing moved to a convenient place might help new users but experienced users know where stuff is and don't want to have to look at the system to check. Typist are taught to work with the keyboard hidden from view, it doesn't stop them working, their fingers have learned the position of all the keys and they don't even need to think about it.

              All controls should be like this.

              Once you've become familiar muscle memory should take over.

              If you can't do that then you can drop the task into the background and concentrate on the real task at hand.

              My job isn't to drive Word, it is to create the content I'm tying into Word.

            2. AdeV

              Re: It does suck

              Hah - I remember writing a program waaay back in the mid 1990s (using VB3 no less), which moved the "OK " button away as your mouse got close to it...

              Good to hear that Microsoft have finally caught onto this technique!

    3. Piro Silver badge

      Re: It does suck

      Yeah, Windows 7 was peak Windows design. I enjoy it every time I go back to it, compared to 10. Oh well.

    4. elDog

      Use Open Shell on Windows 10 (and I think 11)

      Looks and feels like WIndows 7. Plenty of customizations also.

      1. TonyJ Silver badge

        Re: Use Open Shell on Windows 10 (and I think 11)

        "...Use Open Shell on Windows 10 (and I think 11) ..."

        A valid response to the audience here/tech minded individuals, but:

        1 - And I personally think this is *the* most important bit - you shouldn't have to! If you're using third party utilities to make the UX fit the ideal from 2009 then that entire UX is wrong

        2 - Not happening in a corporate environment. It's a big enough battle getting any OSS in let alone something that changes the UX/UI from defaults

        3 - Also would be unsupported by MS so point 2 becomes even more valid

        1. Stuart Castle Silver badge

          Re: Use Open Shell on Windows 10 (and I think 11)

          Re: "Re: Use Open Shell on Windows 10 (and I think 11)

          "...Use Open Shell on Windows 10 (and I think 11) ..."

          A valid response to the audience here/tech minded individuals, but:

          1 - And I personally think this is *the* most important bit - you shouldn't have to! If you're using third party utilities to make the UX fit the ideal from 2009 then that entire UX is wrong"

          True. I'm happy enough using Windows 11, but I think the Windows UI peaked around Windows 7 time. In general, I'm of the opinion that customisation is good, but you shouldn't have to do it to get a usable system.

          "2 - Not happening in a corporate environment. It's a big enough battle getting any OSS in let alone something that changes the UX/UI from defaults"

          Also true. I work in a corporate environment, and have tried repeatedly to get more open source into use. Apart from some niche cases, I've been almost entirely unsuccessful. To put it bluntly, they want someone they can take action against if a given product fails. They also want the legal protection given by the Sale of goods act and other laws.

          "3 - Also would be unsupported by MS so point 2 becomes even more valid"

          Adding to that, I find that if you do anything unsupported on a device that is covered by some sort of warranty or contract, and it goes wrong, the supplier just blames what you've done and either refuses to support it, or charges a small fortune to remove what you've done and fix the problem. Not tried that with Microsoft, but I've no reason to believe they'd be any different.

          1. JohnTill123

            Re: Use Open Shell on Windows 10 (and I think 11)

            I hear this a LOT from chattering manglers: "they want someone they can take action against if a given product fails."

            Have you read the EULA? You have NO rights. Do you have the slightest idea how many lawyers that M$/IBM/whoever has on staff just to make absolutely and positively certain that you will never succeed in any kind of action against their employers?

            1. Nick Ryan Silver badge

              Re: Use Open Shell on Windows 10 (and I think 11)

              A typical software EULA effectively reads:

              Out the generosity of the bottom of our bank accounts we, the vendor of this application, have graciously decided to let you borrow a copy of it. This application may not currently work or even ever have worked as we described and almost certainly not as you want it to work. Tough shit.

      2. Antron Argaiv Silver badge
        Linux

        Re: Use Open Shell on Windows 10 (and I think 11)

        Seconded.

        Got a new Win10 lappy from work. Spent almost a day, turning off all MS's "helpful" cr@p and apps. Then, installed Classic Shell, and all my other fave apps (V41 rules) and turning off more "helpful" features that default to enabled (apparently, they haven't learned about defaulting autorun to off yet). And, then, all the cr@pware that comes with an HP laptop...my GOD! (and this was supposedly imaged by my company?)

        Got it just the way I want it now, except for the periodic large blue boxes they pop up randomly when I'm trying to get something done, and require me to click their "got it" button. Apparently, they are "teaching tips", and they are seen as helpful, so there's no global way to shut them off.

        Microsoft, having finally gotten Windows to the point where it's reliable enough to be usable, seems now to be working on making it as annoying impossible to use.

        Dabbsy probably has something to say on the subject...

        1. Nick Ryan Silver badge

          Re: Use Open Shell on Windows 10 (and I think 11)

          "Imaged by your company" is probably translated to "asked HP to provide the OS installed".

          Something that has been true for decades: Always, always reinstall Windows from scratch and never take the OEM provided installation. This removes the stupid drive partitioning, the trial applications, the shovelware, the annoying OEM customisations and logos and all manner of other junk that is easiest to repair just be nuking from orbit.

          1. VicMortimer
            Flame

            Re: Use Open Shell on Windows 10 (and I think 11)

            Cool.

            But I had to set up a new Windoze 11 laptop for a client recently. And that wasn't happening.

            See, the generic Windoze ISO had no drivers for whatever crapass NVMe drive they were using. Not Windoze 10 (which I'd intended to use) nor a fresh download of Windoze 11. I couldn't find the drivers on the manufacturer website either.

            So I ended up having no choice but to use the OEM installation.

            Not that it matters much these days anyway. Windoze detects that you're running on whatever OEM hardware and puts the shovelware back on. You have to remove it per user.

            (I know, whatever giantcorp that has the 'enterprise' version probably can get that crap fixed. But I don't operate in that space, I'm purely dealing with small businesses.)

      3. AliBear

        Re: Use Open Shell on Windows 10 (and I think 11)

        Even better - use StartAllBack. OK, it costs couple of quid (but free to try out), but it just offers SO many options to make W11 properly usable. And nice looking too. And no, no connection to them.

        OpenShell gets half way, and I use it for occasionally used PCs.

        /A

      4. Mr Larrington
        WTF?

        Re: Use Open Shell on Windows 10 (and I think 11)

        This ^^^^.

        Except — terrible Luddite that I am — mine most closely resembles XP.

    5. Mostly Irrelevant

      Re: It does suck

      Once you go into the taskbar settings and turn off the stupid centered taskbar Windows 11 is basically just WIndows 10 reskinned, which is to say basically where you expect things you be. But I think I'm a lot more accepting of minor changes than most people because I use Mac, Windows and Linux all the time so small changes don't throw me like they seem to with some people.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: It does suck

        "which is to say basically where you expect things you be."

        My neighbour's kids wanted me to get a DVD to play on their W10 laptop. They nearly learned a few naughty words as I kept getting foxed trying to do what should have been a very simple task. It was a pleasure to get back to my own W7 system afterwards.

        1. Antron Argaiv Silver badge
          Thumb Up

          Re: It does suck

          VLC works where Windows Media Player (or whatever they're calling it now) can't find a codec.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: It does suck

            Yes - I eventually discovered that someone had installed VLC - but it didn't start up automatically when a DVD was inserted.

    6. jmch Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Re: It does suck

      "Windows 7 had it nailed"

      This. That's why I use a Windows 7 skin

      1. Col_Panek

        Re: It does suck

        My Windows 7 skin is called Linux Mint.

    7. Sin2x

      Re: It does suck

      I'm still using the same Windows 7 install from 2009, not kidding.

      1. cantankerous swineherd

        Re: It does suck

        connected mine to the snake pit for Windows 7 sp 1 and it hasn't been anywhere near it since.

        the virus via usb thing doesn't seem to have reached me. yet.

      2. MachDiamond Silver badge

        Re: It does suck

        "I'm still using the same Windows 7 install from 2009, not kidding."

        My PC is the same way. I use it for CAD/CAM work and do not have it connected to the internet. I have a Mac laptop as my daily driver and a MacPro (the small cheese grater) as my production machine which also has W7 and linux installed.

        W7 does all I need it to do. If it were skinnier, I'd like it more.

    8. jeffdyer

      Re: It does suck

      "Just sitting with a few browser tabs open"

      Yes My Win11 does that on some things - but yes, it's the browsers not the OS

    9. Bruce Ordway

      Re: It does suck

      >>> Windows since 7... several steps backwards in terms of usability.

      I blame the current mess on those who have been compelling developers to leverage an OS for desktops, tablets and smartphones.

      I say forget other devices, I just want an OS working on a DESKTOP.

      Phones and tablets may be great for some things but...

      I believe getting any real work done will require a desktop?

    10. DuncanLarge

      Re: It does suck

      > Every version of Windows since 7 has been a step - well several steps - backwards in terms of usability.

      Well after 7 came 8 and as far as I can tell that wasn't a step backwards, more like it fell over onto its back and tried to grab onto thin air to pull itself into a cloud.

  2. Cederic Silver badge

    windows 11 makes me cry

    I still don't understand why Windows 11 won't let me display application names on the taskbar. I still don't understand why Windows 11 insists on grouping all application instances together on the taskbar.

    No longer can I leave a browser window open on CricInfo and use the taskbar display of its title to track the cricket score.

    No longer can I tell which friend just messaged me on (instant messaging system of choice) because I always have them in different windows.

    No longer can I tell at a glance anything that's running because they're all displayed as silly icons.

    Yes, I'm a grumpy old man.

    1. Dave K

      Re: windows 11 makes me cry

      Couldn't agree more. I often work with multiple spreadsheets open. In Win 10 and earlier, I can see the filenames in the taskbar next to the Excel icon and a single click brings up the sheet I want. In Windows 11, it's a case of hovering over an icon until a popup appears and only then can I see the names, move the cursor again and select the one I want.

      Doesn't sound like much, but when you're switching back and forth between sheets dozens of times a day, this extra work and extra delay all adds up into a disappointing user experience.

      The OS is supposed to allow people to carry out their work/access their programs as quickly and efficiently as possible. Windows 11 clearly fails at this, it's as simple as that.

      1. keithpeter Silver badge
        Windows

        Re: windows 11 makes me cry

        Microsoft claim to use telemetry to tweak their software affordances.

        Just wondering if the tendency of what we might call 'power users' similar to parent and grandparent post to either block telemetry or work in organisations that don't allow information back to Redmond might be causing bias in the data.

        Jakob Nielsen always recommended testing UIs on a handfull of people, ignoring what they say, and watching what they actually do. But the softies sacked all their testers.

        Icon: grumpier by the day

        1. Binraider Silver badge

          Re: windows 11 makes me cr

          That’s an interesting observation.

          As far as i can tell I have that telemetry blocked in OS (server2019) and at router too. Though it’s impossible to really know what is sneaking through.

          The work laptop (10 enterprise) sends an awful lot too. Much caught and blocked by a pihole when WFH.

          I am basically of the opinion now that if it’s on your Windows PC, it is probably compromised at some level. Mileage with other OS varies. The TV seems to be the next worst offender for spyware and putting two and two together to make 5 in its ad selection.

        2. AdamWill Silver badge

          Re: windows 11 makes me cry

          "Jakob Nielsen always recommended testing UIs on a handfull of people, ignoring what they say, and watching what they actually do."

          The GNOME 3 devs actually did several usability studies exactly like this as part of that design process.

          And that's how they came to design the UI that's famously beloved of Reg commenters!

          1. keithpeter Silver badge
            Windows

            Re: windows 11 makes me cry

            @AdamWill

            Also the Ubuntu Unity people did some user testing.

            It depends on the definition of your user group. I suspect Gnome/Unity people were targeting people new to the system.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: windows 11 makes me cry

              Kodak famously ran user trials of a new Tri-X film. They showed ordinary users prints rated fro different ASA values. The user groups' opinions decided the final ASA rating when the film went on sale.

              Serious photographers realised that the user groups were preferring the grey-ish prints they obtained from local small shop developers. The serious photographers had to derate the ASA to get a good black/white dynamic range.

              1. Patched Out
                Windows

                Re: windows 11 makes me cry

                Way back when, I was in a camera club which hosted a guest photographer who was also a film tester for Kodak. He did not mention this story, but did say you would get better results shooting TRI-X at 200 ASA* and pull processing it** rather than shooting at the rated 400 ASA.

                * ASA was the defacto standard for rating film speeds, later to become an ISO standard

                ** For non-photographers - Pull processing is shooting a film at a lower (slower) ASA/ISO setting than the film is rated for, then developing the film for a longer time to compensate. Push processing is the opposite - Shooting the film at a higher ASA/ISO than rated, then developing for a shorter time. Films used to come with detailed datasheets including developing time/temperature charts for this purpose.

                1. Neil Woolford

                  Re: windows 11 makes me cry

                  When I 'pushed' film it was by (under)exposing at a higher (faster) ISO setting and then extending the development time.

                  So a nominally 400 iso film (Tri-X, Delta 400, Fujipan 400, whatever) would be used with the light meter set to 800 or 1600iso (one or two stops more sensitive) and then the development time extended. This would generally produce reasonable shadow detail but could run into problems with 'blocked' highlights and of course much increased apparent film grain. (Choice of developer and working dilution also had effects on characteristics. I seem to remember Kodak HC110 being quite good at the job.) The resulting negatives could be challenging to print well.

                  I did quite a few years of theatre photography in the pre-digital age of photography...

                  Even in the studio, some transparency materials (Fuji 64T???) could give a touch of extra 'snap' if pushed about a third of a stop, my E6 lab recommended that as routine. 'Pull' seldom had any great benefits in my experience.

                2. Fifth Horseman

                  Re: windows 11 makes me cry

                  And some films were just made to be abused... Ilford HP5 being the classic, but there are others. Nominally rated at 400ASA, but could be pushed out to 3200 with the right developer (Microphen?). Loads of film grain, but *nice* grain.

                  It worked the other way round, too. I once went out on a road trip using an old (pre-DX coding) Cosina camera using HP5, totally forgetting that I had been using 50ASA Pan F before. The negatives came out as pretty much solid black blocks and really should have gone straight in the bin, but after a lot of faffing in the darkroom I did get some prints. They were 'different', but quite beatiful in their own way.

          2. Baximelter

            Re: windows 11 makes me cry

            GNOME 3 is NOT beloved by me. I found my bliss when I settled on XFCE4 with the simple application menu and a good file manager. (Dolphin, XFE or Thunar will do.) Nothing else is needed.

            1. CRConrad

              Oh shocker, NOT beloved you say???

              Get a dictionary and look up the terms "irony" and "sarcasm". HTH!

        3. milliemoo83

          Re: windows 11 makes me cry

          "Jakob Nielsen always recommended testing UIs on a handfull of people, ignoring what they say, and watching what they actually do. But the softies sacked all their testers."

          Well yeah... why should they pay to ignore people's feedback when they can use us and do it for free?

      2. CRConrad

        Ever heard...

        ...of Alt-Tab?

    2. Sorry that handle is already taken. Silver badge

      Re: windows 11 makes me cry

      As a grumpy old man in training, this truly sounds like a fucking nightmare.

    3. VeryRealHuman
      Alien

      Re: windows 11 makes me cry

      Even though I'm a youngster by the standards of this forum, I can say that even though I do believe that 11 is pretty and all, I can't help but feel like it's a version of Windows made for macOS users. Because that's what it is.

      1. keithpeter Silver badge
        Windows

        Re: windows 11 makes me cry

        @Human

        I'd personally say Apple Want To Be people who can't afford the premium.

        Acute observation.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: windows 11 makes me cry

          There is a long history of Windows, Linux, and Phones copying Apples fail ideas (transparency, thin-o-philia) while ignoring any good ones (e.g. make the tablet 4:3 not 16:9)

      2. Twilight

        Re: windows 11 makes me cry

        I would disagree. I like MacOS (except no focus-follows-mouse). From what I've seen and read, I do not like Windows 11 (I've kept telling MS "no, I want to stay on Windows 10").

        However, I need a new personal computer before too long so may be stuck with Windows 11 :(

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: windows 11 makes me cry

        > it's a version of Windows made for macOS users. Because that's what it is.

        Not quite. It's more a version of Windows that provides shinies that Microsoft's marketing people think will appeal to people who might otherwise be seduced by the appearance of MacOS.

        Real MacOS users appreciate the speed and efficiency of the OS for actually doing stuff and - just like Windows users - rail against the creeping tide of small changes that steadily detract from that productivity.

        Basically Apple is catching Microsoft fast on the pointless and unnecessary UI change front.

  3. DrBobK

    System 7 - the horror, the horror.

    I used to use, and program for, System 7. You'd be lucky if it stayed up for a whole day - it just crashed on me for no apparent reason even when just using it for word processing. SunOS3.5, on the other hand, stayed solid for months despite my imposing all sorts of horrible 'optimisations' on it using bits of 68K assembler I barely understood, embedded in C. Moral of the story - simple UI good, stable OS better.

    1. DarkwavePunk

      Re: System 7 - the horror, the horror.

      I had high hopes for CDE as a platform back in the day. It may look "ugly" to some but it does the job. Hell, even OLVWM is functional...

      1. fromxyzzy

        Re: System 7 - the horror, the horror.

        OpenLook was a really nice, lean interface and I'm still annoyed that they dumped it unceremoniously in favor of CDE/Motif. Motif was one of the most bloated kludgy things I've ever seen even to this day. I still have a programming manual for it, volume 5 of I think 9? Just for the desktop interface!

    2. Downeaster

      Re: System 7 - the horror, the horror.

      System 7 wasn't all that stable. Especially the different versions of System 7.5. Things got better with System 7.6 and the different versions of System 8. Mac OS 8.6 to me was the peak of the original Mac OS. It was stable and worked well. OS 9 wasn't bad either. I agree that operating systems are changing too much. Also too much vendor tie in whether it be Apple or Microsoft. All want you to stay inside their "walled garden: and buy products from their stores (Apple or Microsoft). I'd rather choose my own software.

      1. Dr. Ellen
        Windows

        Re: System 7 - the horror, the horror.

        Ah, the horror of the walled garden. I wouldn't mind buying a new computer, but they come with Windows 10 or 11 -- and have been "fixed" so you can't put Windows 7 on them. I'm still using Windows 7. If nothing else, Microsoft has stopped improving it.

        I started programming on an IBM 704 back in 1959 or 1960. I'm eighty now, and tired of learning new languages and interfaces. So it's old computers, and that's okay -- people are throwing them out. So I can grab them and train them in my ways. It's cheaper.

    3. Stork Silver badge

      Re: System 7 - the horror, the horror.

      The article was about UI more than what happened beneath the surface.

      The original Mac UI was based on studies of what people actually did, by Guy Kawasaki AFAIR. There were reasons for design decisions, not just “I like the look “. Apple then broke with a pile of them with OS X.

      1. ThatOne Silver badge
        Facepalm

        Re: System 7 - the horror, the horror.

        > There were reasons for design decisions, not just “I like the look “.

        Today the reasons are "I'm an Artist! You are just too stupid to understand my genius, but one day History will vindicate my choices."

        1. fromxyzzy

          Re: System 7 - the horror, the horror.

          Well, that, or "I need to justify my continued employment but everything already works."

      2. keithpeter Silver badge
        Windows

        Re: System 7 - the horror, the horror.

        @Stork and all

        " I used to joke that Steve Jobs cared deeply about Apple customers from the moment they first considered purchasing an Apple computer right up until the time their check cleared the bank."

        https://asktog.com/atc/the-third-user/

      3. Sin2x

        Re: System 7 - the horror, the horror.

        The original Mac UI was stolen from the Xerox UI

        1. timrowledge

          Re: System 7 - the horror, the horror.

          Meh. Some of it was, kinda. I know (many of) the people on both sides of that. It’s more complicated.

        2. swm Silver badge

          Re: System 7 - the horror, the horror.

          "The original Mac UI was stolen from the Xerox UI"

          This is not quite true. Xerox gave away the UI to apple.

          Top management wanted to impress Apple (or something) and arranged a tour of Xerox PARC for Apple researchers. All of the researchers at Xerox objected but they were overridden. The Apple people came in and liked what they saw and duplicated it. Meanwhile Xerox decided that there was no copy machine division that could handle the new technology so it was not appropriate for Xerox.

          When Xerox finally realized that maybe this technology might be valuable they sued Apple (I think they were sued for fraud!). But PARK couldn't prove the dates when various software pieces were developed because the software wasn't under change control and the whole thing fizzled.

          Same thing happened with LASER printers. "We make our money with copy machines and don't have room for LASER printers." We had to bolt our laser stuff on copy machines which really weren't designed for LASERs. There were no stable attachment points for the LASER 'sled' so the result was not as good as a clean sheet design would be. etc. etc.

          Then some high-up manager needed office space and made the librarians of the technical library throw all the technical books into dumpsters (without giving them time to donate the books to other libraries) so he could have the space. etc. etc.

          Don't get me started on the STAR office system.

        3. Stork Silver badge

          Re: System 7 - the horror, the horror.

          I think the basics of mouse, icons and desktop Apple got from Xerox. But they put a lot of work into details; one is that the menu went all the way to the edge of the screen as it is easy to find, you don’t overshoot.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: System 7 - the horror, the horror...total BS

      Well as someone who was at the launch in January 1984 and started dev on my first shipped MacOS product a few months later and shipped my last product that ran on MacOS 27 years later I call total BS on your story. Ran a whole bunch of dev teams too. My MacsBug time alone ran to many thousands of hours.

      Whenever I heard the "my Mac crashes all the time" it always turned out the user had installed a whole bunch of unstable and crappy 3'rd part INIT's or extensions. Or if a developer they were some juniorish type who did not have a clue what they were doing. "Well I always did this when writing K&R on BSD so why does it not work here..". Never having actually looked at the logfiles on their BSD box. Turned out it did not work on the equivalent BSD boxes either.

      Yeah, I remember the Sun 3's. And SunOS. Great if you did not actually have to write end user software for ordinary users. Which is who bough MacOS systems by the millions. And could not afford the eye watering prices of Sun boxes. I assume you never actually had a buy a Sun3 box out of your own pocket. Sure SunOS was "stable". because it did not have to do very much compared with the MacOS. Of the 1200 odd API calls in MacOS System 7 almost 900 did stuff that SunOS could not be arsed to do. You know, all the "irrelevant" stuff that made shrinkwrap application software usable by ordinary people.

      Here is the actual story of how good MacOS classic was. In at least 30K hours of dev time on that MacOS (with a good 10K at asm level) I knew of only one single crash bug in the published public ATRAP API of MacOS releases between 1.0 and 7.6.1. ROM code tripping a full Deepsh*t Error. And that was the region scanline transition count bug. Fixed in 1.1. Thats it. Sure there were problems using private API's and some of the later packages had odd edge cases but for the core API used by all applications - Bullet proof. If you knew what your were doing. In my experience since the mid 1980's all the whiners about how "unstable" the MacOS was for dev work did not have a clue what they were doing. And could not be bothered to read the fantastic docs written by Caroline Rose. Still by far the best platform docs ever written. The first edition of Inside Mac.

      After 8.0 it got a bit sketchy but by that stage it did not matter much as the Nexties had taken over and the old codebase was dead. So all ISV skrinkwrap software dev apart for upgrades ground to a halt. Although it took the Nexties over a decade to finally kill it.

      So if your System 7 Mac was unstable it was you, not the machine, that was at fault. Now Win16/32.. thats a different subject. Just look at a machine and it would crash. And the APIs.. You had to QA the documented arguments before you used them to see if they actually worked. Having looked at the Win32 OS source code, not all that surprise.

      1. C R Mudgeon

        Re: System 7 - the horror, the horror...total BS

        Re. the claim of MacOS Classic's crashiness, and the counterclaim about the quality of its system code:

        Was there memory protection?

        I'm not in a position to comment on the relative quality of the MacOS Classic vs. Windows pre-NT system code, as I never developed for either one. So I'll provisionally take you at your word that Apple's software was far superior (mostly because that accords with my anti-M$ biases, but that's another issue).

        That said, in my experience, if a system doesn't have memory protection, it's crashy as hell, because a botched pointer dereference (for example) in application code can bring down the whole system -- and even if the system appears to have survived, it should be deemed corrupted and rebooted anyway. RSX-11M, Amiga, MS-DOS, even UNIX-like OSes that ran on 8086-based PCs. Is there a reason that memory-protection-less MacOS would be any different?

        Unless there is, even if Apple's code were truly flawless, that wouldn't invalidate the OP's empirical observations about the stability of the running system.

        In short, it might well be that you're both right.

        1. Binraider Silver badge

          Re: System 7 - the horror, the horror...total BS

          OS 9 was crashy AF. Mid spec early iMac.

          That same machine we used,the OS X beta by preference; but it did take an age to boot.

      2. Zack Mollusc

        Re: System 7 - the horror, the horror...total BS

        Sorry to have to correct you, but I used win16/32 on a lan with several machines spread over 3 floors and I can catagorically say that you didn't have to look at them to make them crash. Just leaving them unobserved to do a simple task would make them crash.

    5. C R Mudgeon

      Re: System 7 - the horror, the horror.

      "Moral of the story - simple UI good, stable OS better."

      This is a false choice. Why should it be impossible for there to be a stable OS with a simple UI?

      1. GraXXoR

        Re: System 7 - the horror, the horror.

        "Moral of the story - simple UI good, stable OS better."

        Nowhere is it stated that these are mutually exclusive.

        I think he is saying that if your have a decent UI that is good, but if one HAD TO compromise then one should plunk for stability.

        Of course, "Why not both? /shrug/" is always the best but not always / very rarely possible given the current penchant for draconian bean counters.

    6. Paul_Canada

      Re: System 7 - the horror, the horror.

      Unpopular opinion: I like the current macOS 12.x. 90% of my use it keyboard shortcuts. E.g. Spotlight to open apps. I attached a custom shortcut to Launchpad (⌥+space).

  4. Sorry that handle is already taken. Silver badge
    Mushroom

    Skeuomorphism

    It was the loss of skeuomorphism in (Windows) UI design in general that was the beginning of the end, IMNSHO. Now everything looks flat and bland and unintuitive, UI elements are difficult to discern from everything else, as a result there's far too much empty space between them and interacting with the system is generally just a frustrating experience.

    Add in the specific case of Windows from Win8 onwards, the window manager is a total buggy mess that constantly glitches out when it's trying to draw things, which makes the whole experience even worse.

    WHAT WAS WRONG WITH THE WIN95-WIN2K DESIGN LANGUAGE?

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Skeuomorphism

      "WHAT WAS WRONG WITH THE WIN95-WIN2K DESIGN LANGUAGE?"

      Nowt!

      And, contrary to what Rupert says Linux desktops (always excepting Gnome) have remained pretty consistent - differences between the various DEs but on the whole they seem to roll on from one iteration to the next. The one thing that I lack from KDE3 is the ability to specify a corner rather than an edge to unhide the panel (is that tool-bar in Wondows parlance? The thing across the bottom with icons on it.).

      Given the right collection of artwork for buttons, colours etc. a KDE desktop can look very much like something from the W95/NT/W2K era. In fact that's just what mine looks like except the desktop icons & fonts look a bit better then the W2K that lurks in a VB. That and multiple workspaces.

      The theory behind splitting the interface from the implementation was that the interface could remain stable while the implementation could be changed for improvement. This releives consumers of the interface from having to change to keep up with the mplementation. Microsoft seem to have turned that on its head: the interface is changed for dis-improvement whilst the implementation doesn't necessarily change that much (or so we are reassured from time to time).

      1. Electronics'R'Us Silver badge
        Windows

        Re: Skeuomorphism

        The theory behind splitting the interface from the implementation was that the interface could remain stable while the implementation could be changed for improvement. Have +1 on me.

        Decoupling the display from the data was (should still be) a fundamental rule for many of the diagnostic packages I have written. I have seen horrible code that mixes the two together and attempting to improve the underlying functionality was a hair pulling exercise as all the formatting assumed certain display elements would be of a very specific style.

        My view, which was from the *nix mantra of 'do one thing and do it well', served me well and should be beaten into UX developers with a heavy object.

        Decouple data / processing and interface. Simple really. A shame that this eminently sensible rule is not followed.

        1. Jimmy2Cows Silver badge

          Re: should be beaten into UX developers with a heavy object

          Don't blame the UX developers. 99% of the time they're just doing what they're told by the designers, who in turn have been told to do this by management after getting development ideas from marketing.

          Blame the managers who allow this shit to happen. Blame the marketers for constantly breaking what works just to stand out and be different.

          You want stuff that works? Let the trained engineers design it. Tell them what you want the end result to be. Don't tell them how to get there. Don't tell them what a fucking button should look like (or not look like).

          You want stuff that's a usability nightmare and haemorrhages customers? Keep going with management and marketing. Simple as that.

          MS knows they have a vast monopoly so losing a few rabble-rousers doesn't bother them. Hence they pull this shit because they can and everyone must follow. Whether they like it or not.

          1. GuldenNL

            Re: should be beaten into UX developers with a heavy object

            You are 100% spot on. MSFT was a customer that my team supported as leads in the CRM space 20 years ago. We heard all sorts of botching & complaining about "new boss wants to make a mark!" asking with suggestions of how they could yellow Bill Gates lawn instead of ruining there UI (most often whinged about,) or something else.

          2. C R Mudgeon

            Re: should be beaten into UX developers with a heavy object

            While I upvoted your post, it's more complicated than that.

            "You want stuff that works? Let the trained engineers design it."

            You want an interface that sings? Engineers are likely not to be the best people for the job -- two different skill sets. Case in point: git. It's an incredibly useful piece of software, and I've ended up using it for my personal revision-control needs, but its UI was designed by kernel developers, and it shows, and not in a good way.

            As I understand it, what was good about Apple stuff's user experience came about because Jobs wouldn't settle for less than excellence. He could be a right asshole, or so the stories go, but what he brought to the table was a relentless insistence on quality.

            Same with Disney, or so I was told once. It seems that somebody got curious about why their animation quality had gone so downhill since the glory days of Pinocchio etc. He went to the Disney studios and interviewed a bunch of people, and found that the answer boiled down to this: the old man died. Walt Disney himself wouldn't settle for less than excellence, but the new bosses would.

            So I do definitely take your larger point: that the way to get excellence is: (1) insist on it, (2) pay for it, (3) hire excellent people, and (4) get the hell out of the way and let those excellent people do what they excel at -- including keeping other departments (e.g. marketing) off their backs.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: should be beaten into UX developers with a heavy object

              While I broadly agree with the points you and the original "heavy objects" poster make, I feel like the real core of the problem is cutting the flow of bad ideas coming in from "the powers that be" who insist on inserting themselves between the UX team and the customer, and the power struggles between bottom tier creatives that are chasing trends and fashion.

              A good UX team's core work is side by side with the software architect, helping flesh out the requirements analysis of what the software needs to do and translating that to how a user can productively get their day to day work done. Then they can stencil out the parts where there is room for set dressing to keep the marketroids happy. That's where separating the UX and back end code is supposed to help. It's also where good UX programmers shine. It's a skill. Respect. In a heathy team, the person with the most say is the one that can put themselves in the workers shoes and make their live easier and efficient, and everyone else on the UI team should be following their lead.

              Sadly, the risk became reality, making it cheaper to make UX changes created an incentive for endless cosmetic UX redesigns that hurt usability, as graphical tweaks happened with minor versions, but customer experience research was either done for major versions(out of date), totally decoupled from releases(waste of money AND out of date), or not done at all(ok, It IS the cheapest option).

              So when in doubt give them a big shiny splash screen that only runs once. Or point to the corner and shout "Squirrel!" and then put out pastry service in the break room, roughly similar effect IMHO. Or you know, beatings with heavy objects from the backend team, but that's how you end up with a GUI that was clearly build by backend engineers that would have rather been doing ANYTHING else.

      2. msobkow Silver badge

        Re: Skeuomorphism

        I've used KDE in the past and quite liked it, but the way they handle screen drawing makes it a no-go for X2Go clients, which are necessary from time to time as "extra users" in my testing (specifically, I have an X2Go client configured for 1080p resolution for simulating client systems that displays quite nicely in a window on my much higher resolution desktop.)

        My personal favorite is Mate. Simple, effective, uncluttered, and easy to customize as much as I want or need to (which isn't much. I'm not into a bingy-boingy-flashing desktop)

        1. fromxyzzy

          Re: Skeuomorphism

          Hear hear with regards to Mate. Gnome before they started trying to reinvent the wheel endlessly.

    2. ThatOne Silver badge
      Devil

      Re: Skeuomorphism

      > WHAT WAS WRONG WITH THE WIN95-WIN2K DESIGN LANGUAGE?

      Too 90ies. To be cool you have to be new and different. Not better, just different. And new.

      Marketing has to justify their pay, else the engineers will end up running the place. And to justify their pay they have to prove they're working, doing something, even if it's just shuffling things around: Shuffling things around can justify a good salary if you sugarcoat it nice enough...

  5. Mike 137 Silver badge

    Unfortunately no...

    "The OS is supposed to allow people to carry out their work/access their programs as quickly and efficiently as possible"

    The sad reality is that the OS is supposed to maximise the revenue stream of the vendor (hence the move to 'subscription'). A secondary purpose seems to be a PR exercise with other vendors as its target public - one-upmanship within the vendor community. Whether or not an OS serves the user is immaterial once you have a monopoly or you're a member of an effective cartel.

  6. Captain_Cretin

    Peak Usability

    While I agree that the Win7 menu was the peak; I still feel that WinXP was the peak for actual OS user experience overall.

    There were things I could do under the hood in XP that were a LOT more difficult to do in Win7, and virtually impossible/impossible in WIn10.

    My first experience of WIn10 was so bad, I went back to Win7 for another 4 years, and my second experience required the use of a Win7 OS PC to fix an issue with the Win10 machine's SSD, because the Win10 OS wouldnt let me fix the error, no matter how many permissions I gave myself.

    If Win11 continues the removal of user control, you might as well call it " WinNanny "

    1. LDS Silver badge

      Re: Peak Usability

      Let's remember that with XP one could click the "?" icon in a dialog, then a control and get a quick help about it. Then Microsoft decided to kill the Windows common help system, and then "getting help" became a mess of sources and display formats - including getting random results from Bing.

      1. ThatOne Silver badge
        Unhappy

        Re: Peak Usability

        > "getting help" became a mess of sources and display formats - including getting random results from Bing.

        There is no help in Win11 anymore. Clicking on it always opens a web page (in Edge!) which usually doesn't tell you anything useful, and/or is hopelessly outdated since Microsoft constantly shuffles things around.

        Now I wouldn't mind if they hadn't killed the old help engine, breaking some older programs which used it creatively to display tooltips.

        WinXP was definitely peak user experience.

        1. Falmari Silver badge

          Re: Peak Usability

          @ThatOne "Now I wouldn't mind if they hadn't killed the old help engine"

          MS did not kill it they just don't use it, like others they use HTML for help most of the time. The old help engine is still there even in Win 11. Only the new software applications we create use HTML, older ones still call CHM files for help, new features in those applications will have the help in CHM files.

          One small utility app that we still ship, which we have not modified (except for rebranding/localisation) in the past 7 years, still has the (?) help feature.

          1. ThatOne Silver badge
            Unhappy

            Re: Peak Usability

            > The old help engine is still there even in Win 11

            Sorry but I'll have to disagree: WinHlp32.exe is definitely missing in the Win11 "Home" my laptop came with. Missing as in "not present on the computer".

            It might be still there in "Pro", "Enterprise" or "Emperor protector of the Faithful", but in bog-standard "Home" it's definitely gone, and there is no way to get it back except download it from rather suspicious 3rd party links on the Internet.

            Yes, I obviously made an Internet search when I discovered the problem, and found all kind of workarounds which all assumed the file was still there, just not installed/activated. It actually isn't there anymore, at least on my version of Win11 Home.

            1. Falmari Silver badge

              Re: Peak Usability

              I did not know it was not included in home. It is most certainly there in win 11 pro in the windows dir.

      2. GuldenNL

        Re: Peak Usability

        Aren't random results the target of Bing?

        Someone tell me if I've been arguing about the intent off Bing!

      3. AndrueC Silver badge
        Meh

        Re: Peak Usability

        I'll have to play Devil's advocate here but if I want help I will open the browser and use my favourite search engine. There's a place for help files for specialist software but even then you can generate them from the same source as the PDF for the manual and a web site so that gives two other ways to access the information. So they are useful to users of specialist software and those who are often offline. Except that those users will likely receive training and therefore probably don't need much help.

        An in-built help system was useful 'back in the day' but these days I'd say it's an anachronism. Certainly for something as publicly available and widely used as an operating system. I don't think I could even agree on 'it's nice to have'.

    2. A.P. Veening Silver badge

      Re: Peak Usability

      I still feel that WinXP was the peak for actual OS user experience overall.

      Only after SP2 came out, until that time Win2K was better.

    3. This post has been deleted by its author

    4. J.G.Harston Silver badge

      Re: Peak Usability

      There were things I could do under the hood in XP that were a LOT more difficult to do in Win7, and virtually impossible/impossible in WIn10.

      Proper full screen. mode con cols=80 lines=25, runs as full screen should give me EIGHTY BLOODY COLUMNS AND 25 BLOODY LINES!!!! This is (one of the many) reasons I keep my XP installation going for connecting to remote machines like my PDPs 'n' stuff.

  7. Al fazed Bronze badge
    Flame

    What an wonderful article.

    Someone actually lambasting the shite we have to use these days. When I tell people I do IT, they move along to talk to someone else. That's how fucking bad this has got. Once upon a time people would queue up to ask me, "how do you do such and such on my ****** (name of device). Now they know before hand that after 30 years in the industry, my response will be, "how am I supposed to know that ?" or "what makes you think that I know how to fix it ?".

    Every criticism I read in the article is absolutely true, it's a sodding pain every time, relearning what RIGHT CLICK doesn't do any more.

    I used to think that computers would help to level the playing field for someone with a disability, now their disability is made worse by their choice of computer hardware amd accompanying software.

    One good thing has come out of all this "messing about" though, it's called MX Linux. It's free, it leaves the other OSes that I have tried - in the ditch.

    The only point of concern being that the STOP/START button is now at the top left corner of my screen - at the far end of a vertical task bar.

    Vertical task bar ? OK, no real issue.

    But why move the START/STOP button ? Because they can........

    ALF

    1. elwe

      Are you sure the top left isn't just the default? I would be surprised if you can't move the elements around as you like.

      I am using Mate in a slightly non standard config, well at least it was when I configured it. Since settings are in a file in my home directory I just get what I want OS release after OS release, new PC after new PC, as I just carry the settings files over. My config might have become standard over time, or not. I haven't seen standard for many years.

      1. Arbuthnot the Magnificent

        You can move everything around on it, MX defaults to the XFCE desktop which is very customisable.

      2. Al fazed Bronze badge
        Happy

        Yes of course I can, but why should I need to, it is 2022 isn't it ?

        ALF

        1. find users who cut cat tail

          I like the button on the top. So you have to move it because of people like me. You are welcome…

          Anyway, the important points are (a) you can move it wherever you want (b) the default is not actively annoying/harmful.

    2. eric654

      "it's a sodding pain every time, relearning what RIGHT CLICK doesn't do any more"

      It's in the article: right click is for "Share with Skype"

  8. LionelB Silver badge

    Not the only game in town

    The Windows 95 desktop model, fine, familiar and ubiquitous as it may be, is not, and never has been, the only game in town.

    Personally, for example, I don't actually want a "desktop". It doesn't work for the way I work. I don't want icons on a metaphorical desk, because they're always obscured by windows - lot's of windows (I multitask ferociously). What I do want is multiple workspaces, a responsive window manager which stays out of the way, and a menu/taskbar/keyboard shortcuts to manipulate windows and access applications. I get that on Linux with an old-school, lightweight, minimalist window manager (Fluxbox in my case, Blackbox before that) which I have used happily for over two decades).

    Then there is the NEXTStep/Window Maker/Mac OS model - doesn't work particularly for me, but clearly does for many.

    1. boblongii

      Re: Not the only game in town

      "What I do want is multiple workspaces, a responsive window manager which stays out of the way, and a menu/taskbar/keyboard shortcuts to manipulate windows and access applications. I get that on Linux with an old-school, lightweight, minimalist window manager (Fluxbox in my case, Blackbox before that) which I have used happily for over two decades).

      Then there is the NEXTStep/Window Maker/Mac OS model - doesn't work particularly for me, but clearly does for many."

      I use WindowMaker with multiple workspaces for exactly the reasons you gave; what doesn't work for you about it?

      1. LionelB Silver badge

        Re: Not the only game in town

        I did try WindowMaker for a while as it happens, and quite liked it; just liked the Blackbox/Fluxbox model more. (As I recall, I found the placement and function of the WM desktop buttons a bit counter-intuitive. Pretty slick, though, and very self-consistent.)

      2. Al fazed Bronze badge
        Happy

        Re: Not the only game in town

        Sorry, for some reason I read "Widow Maker" ??

        Must have been remebering about how long it takes to set up a desktop and configure all the personal tweaks on the apps, like "please do not send my info to anyone, er I mean anyone".

        ALF

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Not the only game in town

          Sorry, for some reason I read "Widow Maker"

          That is the F104 Lockheed Starfighter. Something else that was successful Like Windows because of backroom deals between "important" people.

          1. C R Mudgeon
            Mushroom

            Re: Not the only game in town

            I can't resist putting in a plug for Robert Calvert's satirical 1974 concept album about that whole fiasco, Captain Lockheed and the Starfighters. Brilliant.

    2. gv

      Re: Not the only game in town

      Now and again, I run IceWM on my Linux machine for that Win95 hit.

      1. LionelB Silver badge

        Re: Not the only game in town

        He, he. It was (is?) certainly lightweight and functional, but hardly (to put it politely) terribly, ahem, visually appealing, even by WIn95 standards.

        1. Sin2x

          Re: Not the only game in town

          IceWM while extremely lightweight is skinnable so you can make it look exactly like Windows, see: https://www.box-look.org/p/1648821/

    3. Zolko Silver badge

      Re: Not the only game in town

      What I do want is multiple workspaces, a responsive window manager which stays out of the way, and a menu/taskbar/keyboard shortcuts to manipulate windows and access applications

      that's basically KDE.

      Good article, but it forgets that there is life outside of Apple/Microsoft/Ubuntu/RedHat. I don't want to start a flame-war, but all the OSs and desktops that suck and are a moving target are made by US companies, while the only one being made by Europeans - KDE - does exactly what the article describes. I'm having the EXACT same desktop look and feel since 15-20 years on all the computers I had in that time. Stable and functional (if I forgive the beginnings of the KDE 4 area)

      1. LionelB Silver badge

        Re: Not the only game in town

        Not sure KDE counts as "lightweight", but sure... I occasionally use XFCE or LXDE/LXQt.

        1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          Re: Not the only game in town

          Go back a week or so and find Liam's article where he weighed various DEs. You might be surprised.

          1. LionelB Silver badge

            Re: Not the only game in town

            I probably I read it, and was probably not surprised; over 20+ years I've run the gamut of Linux desktops... and come to the same conclusion: I don't really want a desktop. I just want a decent window manager, multiple workspaces and ergonomic access to the functionality of my system.

      2. Def Silver badge

        Re: Not the only game in town

        I would actually love to be able to use KDE.

        I tried installing it on my Ubuntu work PC the other day, but it just crashed repeatedly on startup and I couldn't figure out how to fix it. So now I'm stuck with that piece of shit GNOME with a ton of KDE apps that don't work also installed. (Which I'm slowly clearing up when I get time.)

        1. gerryg

          Re: Not the only game in town

          Really? Then it suggests you have failed to install Ubuntu properly. Or did I just fall for the flamebait

          1. Def Silver badge

            Re: Not the only game in town

            I installed Ubuntu by following the prompts in the installer. If that failed to install Ubuntu properly, that's hardly my fault.

            I have had trouble with other Qt applications before on that machine, so something somewhere is very broken. But I doubt it's due to anything I've done.

        2. MrBanana Silver badge

          Re: Not the only game in town

          Installing KDE on top of an existing Ubuntu instance may get a little funky. I've never had a problem with a full install of Kubuntu from the very start.

          1. Def Silver badge

            Re: Not the only game in town

            Yeah, I know that would be the best option. It's just the issue of finding the time, backing everything up, and spending a day reinstalling everything.

            1. Kobus Botes

              Re: Not the only game in town

              @Def again.

              "...finding the time, backing everything up, and spending a day reinstalling everything..."

              A couple of tips:

              When you do a new install, set your home folder on separate partition, or, better still, another drive. That way you need not worry about your data when reinstalling or installing a different OS. That said, backing up data is always a good practice, but in eighteen years of using Mandrake/Mandriva/Mageia I have never lost any data because of an OS install or reinstall. Just make sure you manually configure your drives/partitions: i.e. do not choose the Automatic option.

              I am sure most (if not all) Linux flavours allow you to do a custom install, at which time you can select at least a large proportion of software you want during install. And having your home folder separate means that tweaks/customisation will still be there. But even installing everything from repositories post-install will only take an hour or so (if that).

        3. Kobus Botes
          Boffin

          Re: Not the only game in town

          @Def

          "I would actually love to be able to use KDE."

          The best KDE implementation (at least for me) is by Mageia. I tried Fedora some years back, which was not bad either. Else try OpenSuSe - their KDE flavour was also very good (although it is more than six years ago I played with it - time flies),

        4. Claverhouse Silver badge

          Re: Not the only game in town

          Try PCLinuxOS. Old-fashioned, and with some quirks --- as has KDE --- but ultra stable once installed.

    4. LionelB Silver badge

      Re: Not the only game in town

      lot's of windows

      Damn, I hate it when other people do that...

    5. eldakka Silver badge

      Re: Not the only game in town

      On win10 when I need to do real work, I fire up WindowMaker via CygWin. So I still have the Win10 desktop for the 'office' and gaming stuff, but also WindowMaker for the 'real' work.

    6. flokie

      Re: Not the only game in town

      I was a big fan of Blackbox - and when I had to use Win XP for work I managed to find a BB4Win setup!

      But as you mentioned Blackbox/Fluxbox/Openbox are "only" window managers.

      I recently got a laptop on which I installed PCLOS Linux, and I tried the Openbox community edition. Getting a compatible taskbar and widgets etc so I could see Network manager, battery levels, and all the things you'd expect from a fuller desktop proved more work than I was willing to undertake, and in the end I settled for the KDE edition. The difference between a "window manager" and a "desktop environment" isn't just a few icons.

      1. LionelB Silver badge

        Re: Not the only game in town

        I was a big fan of Blackbox - and when I had to use Win XP for work I managed to find a BB4Win setup!

        Crikey, I remember that. Kind of glitchy as I recall, bit of a square peg in a round hole, but kudos to the porters for the effort :-) Seems like it actually still exists (last updated 2012).

        Re. Openbox, you might've got more joy with a more "desktop-y" installation, like LXDE or LXQt. In fact I usually install XFCE, LXDE or LXQt for access to system configuration stuff I'd have difficulty tracking down as stand-alone. But I've honed my Fluxbox setup over the years - taskbar, widgets and all (well actually the evergreen Gkrellm - and no! I don't use that horrid skin!), so I can now set it up pretty quickly.

    7. EBG

      yes ..

      Exactly the way I work. No use for the desktop whatsoever. Apps opened by shortcuts, and default store to a common "scratch" folder.

  9. Arbuthnot the Magnificent

    Desktops

    When I first decided to flee the worsening mess of MS UI, like many others I went to Ubuntu. I tried the various desktop editions, found Xubuntu and said "this is the one for me". I've long since moved on through many different versions of Linux (and indeed BSD) but I always stick with good old XFCE, because it's the closest thing to the Win9x / XP interface I grew up with. Much respect to those who want the whole "minimal window manager" thing with a million keybindings, whatever works for you, but I want a start menu and shortcuts!

    1. LionelB Silver badge

      Re: Desktops

      Well, Fluxbox does give you an (absurdly configurable, natch) applications menu (right-click on desktop or <Alt><Esc>). With shortcuts, if you want.

      The thing about these kinds of environments is that they do demand an investment in configuring and personalising them; but once you're done that you'll never think about it again. (Unless you're an inveterate configuration-fiddler, of course. Almost managed to wean myself away from that, because I have, y'know, actual proper work to do too.)

      1. Arbuthnot the Magnificent

        Re: Desktops

        I did briefly play with the Fluxbox version of MX Linux on a rather low-spec spare machine I had, and it was pretty good. After 10 years on XFCE though I'm just too lazy to learn something new...

        1. Al fazed Bronze badge
          Happy

          Re: Desktops

          I thought XFCE is the default on MX Linux ?

          What ever desktop it is, it's better than any of the alternatives I have seen and tried over the years

          ALF

          1. Arbuthnot the Magnificent

            Re: Desktops

            "I thought XFCE is the default on MX Linux ?"

            It is, but there's a Fluxbox option. You can select it from the login screen on the XFCE version, or there's a separate Fluxbox spin.

        2. LionelB Silver badge

          Re: Desktops

          The killer feature of Fluxbox for me is tabbed windows - really handy for organising your workspace and avoiding visual clutter. (As I recall, the first WM to implement tabbed windows was pwm, followed by pekwm; the former also does window tiling, although I've never really got on with that.)

  10. Pete 2 Silver badge

    Coding is the easy part!

    > You cannot pick up a phone to Ubuntu and scream "Stop! Stop! In God's name, stop!"

    And you cannot complain to any of the Word, or lookalike, designers that when you want to edit a document, that is the one thing the Edit tab does not let you do!

    I am just waiting until the inevitable time when a user, looking for assistance, clicks on Help and the application just laughs at them.

    The underlying issue is that designing a good interface is difficult. Making it intuitive requires talent - that almost all coders lack. And having it reflect a sensible workflow seems to be nigh-on impossible.

    1. Dan 55 Silver badge

      Re: Coding is the easy part!

      I couldn't disagree more. Between 85 and 2000-ish, a developer could get the GUI right if they were observant enough to pick up how the standard software worked, were armed with their particular GUI's bible, and cared about their own software's look and feel.

      Nowadays not even the creator of a GUI can follow their own rules and we have UX designers who are more interested in sparking joy than following a style guide, and thus we are left with the unusable mess on our desktops that we see before us today.

    2. Al fazed Bronze badge
      Thumb Up

      Re: Coding is the easy part!

      I think that re inventing the desktop over and over is a big mistake.

      There are fucking serious security issues unresolved in evry OS and some are being re invented with each new batch of hardware/firmware. Why aren't these desktop developers skills being diverted into some useful area like solving OS and application security issues ?

      ALF

      1. stiine Silver badge
        Facepalm

        Re: Coding is the easy part!

        I hate to tell you this, but they wouldn't be any good at it, at all.

        1. Jimmy2Cows Silver badge

          Re: Coding is the easy part!

          Why not? Are you implying they somehow wouldn't be able to learn new skills and make a meaningful contribution to platform security?

          Don't know what "developers" you're used to, but most are highly skilled and adaptable. Sure, there are some lazy ones, the same with any industry. But please don't tar us all with the same brush.

          [Full disclosure: Software developer for nearly 30 years]

          1. Def Silver badge

            Re: Coding is the easy part!

            It's not always about skills though. It's about what areas of development you enjoy working on and are naturally good at.

            In the last 30-odd years (plus ~10 years before I got my first job) I've worked on just about every aspect of software development. In the games industry 30 years ago you had no choice but to be able to do anything and everything and ever since then I've been able to turn my hand to pretty much anything at a push.

            For example, I really enjoy Interaction Design from both the design side (which I suck at - but I can tell you where you suck too) and the interaction side (which I like to think I do better than most) and working with UI - from both implementing the underlying engines to working with users to create intuitive usable interfaces. I could easily do this all day long. I've also written audio engines for games in the past. Do I want to do that again? No. I hate working with audio.

            But not everyone is like me. A lot of people, more so these days, specialise in one particular area and couldn't do anything else competently even if their lives depended on it.

      2. Terry 6 Silver badge

        Re: Coding is the easy part!

        Never mind security. There's a bug in Windows that has been there since at least Win 7. It means if you choose your own Recycle Bin icons they won't change when you empty/add a file until you refresh the desktop/reboot.. Until you edit the registry and add ,s at the end of the path to each icon. And if you change teh icon you have to do it again.

        Why it needs that ,s and what it tells the OS is beyond my knowledge.It just does and is well documented.But what really beggars belief is that it's never been fixed. In all these years.

      3. J.G.Harston Silver badge

        Re: Coding is the easy part!

        "This house has crappy wiring, why aren't the decorators diverting their effort into fixing it?"

  11. StrangerHereMyself Bronze badge

    Agree and disagree

    Windows is an unholy mess in UI terms because Microsoft altered the Windows UI in a vain attempt to conquer the mobile platform space. Now Windows' UI is a smorgasbord of touch and mouse interface elements.

    I disagree that the Start menu was "done" since I think the "Search" oriented menu is a great improvement over having to search and click through dozens of menu's.

    1. Paul Crawford Silver badge

      Re: Agree and disagree

      The win95/2k start menu idea was great, but the MS habit of grouping programs by company and not application type (as seen with Linux) was a bit dumb.

      Win7 has been OK for me, stable and not too stupid but still a bit odd to find where control things were hidden from w2k/XP.

      Recent experience of win10/11 leaves me bitterly disappointed and thankful for Linux, even (dare I say it) with systemd's infestation.

      1. StrangerHereMyself Bronze badge

        Re: Agree and disagree

        I too think Linux has reached parity with Windows with Linux Mint Cinnamon.

        I've migrated several acquaintances and family members to it and rarely update it yet never receive any complaints (well, not quite the truth: my brother has been complaining that some YouTube video's play too slowly so I'm gonna update his Mint installation in the near future to see if that helps).

        1. Antron Argaiv Silver badge
          Linux

          Re: Agree and disagree

          Reached parity?

          It's a long f*cking way ahead of Windows in three ways:

          1. The UI doesn't change with every release

          2. It doesn't spy on you.

          3. It doesn't update unless you want it to.

          (Happy Mint 20.3 MATE user)

          1. alan.worksync
            Gimp

            Re: Agree and disagree

            Linux Mint + Cinnamon user here.

            After doing some distro hopping, I have to say that if LM didn't exist, I would almost never use my personal laptop.

            My productivity has almost halved when I had to switch from W7 -> W10. The loss of a grabbable Title Bar (they're almost all cluttered with controls now), the flat, monotone windows that blend into other windows, the ease at which one can accidently misclick a button. W10 is an utter hellscape compared to W7/WXP/W2000/W95.

            When I go to my LM machine, it just works, and helps me to work on things.

            W11 is an untenable situation. I think that many companies (more than MS would like to believe) will eventually switch over to OSX once W10 LTS is over. It's such a bad OS/DE, any sane company will look at the next best alternatives to not kill worker productivity even further...

      2. Def Silver badge

        Re: Agree and disagree

        The Windows 10 start menu is pretty much perfect in my opinion. An alphabetical list of applications on the side, search when you start typing, and a completely user-configurable area on the side for whatever you want to put there.

        The start menu Windows 11 is just fucking garbage of the highest order. And the Windows 11 taskbar is equally shit.

        1. Dave K

          Re: Agree and disagree

          The Win10 Start Menu is OK, but it has its flaws. It doesn't obey Microsoft's accessibility settings (cannot turn off smooth scrolling for example), you cannot disable the silly headings for every letter in the alphabet in the application list, there's no direct link to Control Panel, and the default live tiles are gawdy and distracting (albeit they can be disabled thankfully). It also looks incredibly flat and bland too.

          Additionally, it takes considerably more keyboard presses to get to Suspend or Power Off compared with Windows 7 - Winkey, Right, Enter to shut down in Win7, compared with Winkey, Tab, Down, Down, Down, Down, Down, Enter, Down, Enter in Windows 10.

          It works OK (especially compared with the mess in Windows 11), but the rot was beginning to set in...

          1. Richard 12 Silver badge

            Re: Agree and disagree

            Try Start, Esc, Alt+F4, Enter

            The first part gets focus onto Explorer (task bar), so Alt+F4ncan shut down.

            I think this has worked since XP, but it might be older.

            1. Def Silver badge

              Re: Agree and disagree

              I just press the power button on my keyboard when I'm done for the day. The machine drops into hibernation until I press a key in the morning to wake it up.

              On my laptops, closing the lid does the same thing.

            2. milliemoo83

              Re: Agree and disagree

              Correct. Also fun fact, if you manage to give Start menu focus in Win95, you can actually close it with ALT-minus, and picking close.

      3. LDS Silver badge

        Re: Agree and disagree

        Windows itself actually does nothing - it's up to installers to create the Start menu structure - they are just folders. Grouping application by companies was simpler easier because you have not to dictate a namespace and force every installer to abide to it. As most people were already used in DOS and Win 3.1 applications ending in folders with a company name, it was the easiest path - without the need to categorize each and every application. There's always

        What MS removed was the way to easily customize the Start menu.

        1. ThatOne Silver badge

          Re: Agree and disagree

          > What MS removed was the way to easily customize the Start menu.

          Yes, back in the good days it was possible (even if many didn't do it) to customize your Start menu and have everything cleanly organized in easy-to-find folders and subfolders, instead of having to scroll through a hundred irrelevant menu entries, or worse, search for something you should know where it is...

          Imagine you're needing LibreOffice Writer. Place the mouse cursor on Programs, let it unfold, click on "Office" folder, click on the "LibreOffice" subfolder, click on the "Writer" program icon. 4 small mouse movements and that's it.

          Mint has a nice Start menu, although it would be nice if it had another level, as some categories ("Office") get quite crowded, especially since some programs (LibreOffice...) have half a dozen entries all on their own. It would be nice to be able to stuff them all into a "LibreOffice" subfolder to unclutter "Office".

      4. Jimmy2Cows Silver badge

        Re: grouping programs by company and not application type

        Grouping by application type in Windows would definitely be useful, but who decides what "type" your application is?

        And an application can be many types simultaneously e.g. CAD, modelling, simulation and analysis. Or editor, compiler and debugger. Should the same app be listed under mulitple categories?

        1. Kobus Botes

          Re: grouping programs by company and not application type

          @Jimmy2Cows

          "Should the same app be listed under mulitple categories?"

          Mageia/KDE (Plasma5) does it that way.

          LibreOffice Draw, for instance, appears under Office and Graphics, whilst LO Maths appear under Office and Sciences.

          Tellico (a little collection manager I use to manage my library/book collection, lives under Development and Office. LO Base, weirdly, is only found under Development.

          1. J.G.Harston Silver badge

            Re: grouping programs by company and not application type

            I have TextPad under

            Programs -> Office -> TextPad and

            Programs -> Tools -> TextPad

        2. J.G.Harston Silver badge

          Re: grouping programs by company and not application type

          "but who decides what "type" your application is?"

          MEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

          *NEVER* the OS or application writer.

    2. Twilight

      Re: Agree and disagree

      Who has to search through menus? Just set up the start menu in a way that works for you. I rarely have to go more than 2 levels deep and almost never have a menu that needs to scroll. I use Start11 on Windows 10 to get the Windows 7 start menu back.

      1. J.G.Harston Silver badge

        Re: Agree and disagree

        Agreed. I've tidied my Start menu to be almost consistanly one level deep, except for Programs -> Office -> MSOffice, Programs -> Office -> OpenOffice and Programs -> Office -> LibreOffice, and various "helper" stuff, for instance Programs -> Programming -> Vinculum (program) and Programs -> Programing -> Vinculum Support (folder)

      2. ThatOne Silver badge

        Re: Agree and disagree

        > I rarely have to go more than 2 levels deep and almost never have a menu that needs to scroll.

        Depends on how many different programs you use, and how many separate modules each program has (like office suites: LibreOffice for instance is 7 separate modules).

        So yes, those who only use an office suite and a browser can brag about having a tidy Start menu, but there is little personal merit in that. Other people will be cursed with several program suites and dozens of small tools, and will have to find a way to nevertheless keep some order in their Start menu.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The desktop should be the cognitive USB-C

    ah, but do you mean the cognitive data usb-c, power+data usb-c, power/usb2.0 speed usb-c, 3.1 data+power (but only upstream data, downstream power) usb-c 3.0, or perhaps the ultra-speed usb-c 4.1 which can be any of the above combined, and more. Many more.

    1. ThatOne Silver badge
      Unhappy

      Re: The desktop should be the cognitive USB-C

      Yes, USB is a bad example. I'm trying to keep up, but sometimes I'm slightly lost as to what can connect to what, using which cable. Till recently they all looked different enough, but now there are those "you'll never know why I'm not suited for what you're trying to do" ones.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: The desktop should be the cognitive USB-C

        well, you can connect everything with everything! But you might not get what you wanted / hoped for, i.e. power, but no data, data at 2.0 speed, but no power, etc.

        1. 43300 Bronze badge

          Re: The desktop should be the cognitive USB-C

          Quite - USB-C is a really bad example. With previous iterations of USB (and the things which have been rolled into USB-C like display cables) you could normally see if it was going to work: if the plug fitted, then normally titwould work.

          With USB-C and the assorted protocols which use it, it's a total lottery - and even if Device A and Device B are compatible, they might not like the cable you are using to connect them - but you won't know until you try as one cable looks much like another...

      2. NeilPost Silver badge

        Re: The desktop should be the cognitive USB-C

        … and a painfully limited number of USB C ports… I want a simple USB C hub that gives me some more USB C ports, not a plethora of older USB 3.1 ports plus assorted of SD card, HDMI, VGA. Power via USB C is great, but moronic if you subsequently lose that port to charging your laptop and have to hang an Xmas tree USC C hub precariously from it - with only 1x USB C power thru on it.

        I so like my recent USB C to Displayport native cable just bought, though you need a specific level of USB for it to run. Has resurrected some good - but HDMI-less ‘business’ monitors that were VGA/DVI/Displayport. More elegant that USB C to Hub to HDMI to a chunky HDMI to DVI cable.

        USB C - wiggle, wiggle, wiggle precarious USB C hub connectivity, snap.

  13. Jay 2

    Yeah I agree on a lot of this. Only got Win 11 on a VM so I can play a few games. The first few boots etc were painful as I had to figure out where all the settings etc were. A hangover from Win 10 when as well as the old skool Control Panel we now also had Settings. And to add to the confusion they looked different, so not even MS could keep things standard.

    The other day I was messing with an Ubuntu VM (other distros are available) and with its default GNOME setup I just couldn't easily figure out how to get the icon of a folder than contained pictures to give me a preview of said pictures. Win and MacOS can do it (albeit with some tweaking sometimes). After much messing about I just flipped the VM to use KDE instead and my problems were solved.

    It seems many people who design/approve GUIs etc nowadays are too busy wanting to do new new/disruptive things just because they can or they feel the need to justify themselves. What it really does it just throw out all the good stuff that is there for a reason (it works) and then piss everyone off. I mean the Win 8 and Unity crap where more than one person decided that we should have touch-based designs for a desktop. I mean seriously, WTF were they thinking?

    1. ThatOne Silver badge
      Devil

      > the old skool Control Panel we now also had Settings

      And you didn't yet discover the third hidden control panel, which only appears on full moons...

  14. lvm
    Devil

    That's 50's american cars all over again

    What Microsoft was doing with windows UI since NT4/95 is not progress, it's change. Mindless and pointless - just like those cars with lots of new chrome and fins every year on top of the same horrid stuff underneath. And they are not alone - look at Android, IOS, Gnome, KDE...

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: That's 50's american cars all over again

      I'm looking at KDE, right here in front of me. I don't see any of this stuff piled on stuff that mention.

      1. lvm

        Re: That's 50's american cars all over again

        Out of those I mentioned KDE is the best by far, but not completely free from the 'I was made to look new, not to be useful' stuff. KDE 3.5 was the daddy, after that - decadence. Plasma sucks.

        1. MrBanana Silver badge

          Re: That's 50's american cars all over again

          I've used KDE for many years but I've never paid any mind to the Plasma thing. I've probably touched upon a few times by accident, but it doesn't seem to do anything to help with my workflow. Maybe I'm missing a trick, but at least it isn't MAcOS, which drives me insane at least once a day.

      2. chololennon
        Unhappy

        Re: That's 50's american cars all over again

        "I'm looking at KDE, right here in front of me. I don't see any of this stuff piled on stuff that mention"

        Well, I really love KDE, I was using it for about 20 years. Currently I use Trinity Desktop in a netbook and Plasma in several modern PCs.

        Having said that, my rant: the other day I updated my main laptop to the latest stable KDE, 25.4 (openSUSE 15.4)... OMG! it is bl**dy buggy (compositor crash all the time, widgets lost their configuration after reboot, fill mode does not work in Gwenview, etc, etc), awful new redesigns (hamburger menus everywhere), new start menu!, task bar with icons... I spent nearly 5 hours to configure it in a familiar way (dolphin is practically unrecognizable with its default configuration). Why the necessity to change things all the time, to look like Windows in every aspect? It is so buggy that reminds me the worst years of KDE 4, and, IMHO, it is so buggy because the developers are more interested in adding new designs/stuffs than delivering stable releases.

        1. Citizen99

          Re: That's 50's american cars all over again

          I'm a happy user of Trinity (fork of KDE 3.5 in case any reader of this hasn't seen it before) on workstation and laptop. On Devuan BTW.

          A fine suite of convenient tools, and no intrusive irritating eye-candy. Windows 7+Classic Shell 'on the metal' for the 0.1% of the time I might need it (retired,so no commercial requirements pressure) ; W7 and XP in virtual machines.

  15. Colin Critch
    Thumb Up

    My OS/Computer journey

    My OS/Computer journey

    Mechanical calculator, sharp calculator, casio calculator, ZX80, ZX81, Dragon32 (6809e), pencil batch cards and basic, Commodore 128, Spectrum 48K, CPM, Amiga, VAX, PrimeOS, Self build 286, DoS, OS2Warp, GEM, Windows 3.1, Windows 95, NT, Windows 2000, Windows XP, Xandros, Windows 7 ( last good MS OS), Ubuntu, kubuntu, Linux mint, Fedora Cinnamon ( which is where I am happily now).

    1. Jim 59

      Re: My OS/Computer journey

      Liked this list. Composing my own indicated Colin and I are about the same age, with common points including Dragon 32, Vax, Ubuntu, Kubuntu, but I stayed on Mint, with the '95-like MATE desktop.

      1. Colin Critch

        Re: My OS/Computer journey

        Hi Jim, many thanks. I forgot to mention the Symbian operating systems around the 2000s. I do feel pretty ancient but still get to write firmware. With regards to desktops originally went with KDE but moved away because it was a bit unstable at the time then moved to Cinnamon. The only reason I went to Fedora is that it seemed quite rock solid and a bit less bloaty than the Ubuntu derived OS. I also enjoyed writing applications in Qt. Now I'm looking at rust to see how it scales, so still keeping busy. What happened to the original star wars film in 1977? Bring back the real glass lightsabers Disney and remove that post CGI!

  16. Roger Greenwood

    +1 for the Sluggard reference

    Proverbs 6:6 Go to the ant, thou sluggard; Consider her ways, and be wise

    (Used by John Wyndham for his story "consider her ways", which I recommend, having read it about 45 years ago...)

    1. call-me-mark
      Pint

      Re: +1 for the Sluggard reference

      Have a virtual pint for the Wyndham reference.

  17. Wade Burchette

    "The OS companies have insulated themselves from user pain"

    Microsoft and Apple's customer forum websites are less than helpful. They know how to give boilerplate answers; they don't know how to think. Often the correct answer comes from someone else, not a Microsoft or Apple employee. Apple has no problem censoring answers that hurt their profit. (Source [1] and [2])

    As for Microsoft: someone will say "I need help! I already tried this, this, this, and this." And the first answer from Microsoft is "We are sorry you are having trouble. I am a Microsoft certified employee, and I am here to help. Have you tried this, this, this, and this." The Microsoft employee just gave a canned, generic answer and didn't read. The person already said they did the things you told them to do!

    All of it is so frustrating.

    If ever I meet the person behind the ribbon, I will have a long conversation with her ... and it won't be "have a nice day".

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: "The OS companies have insulated themselves from user pain"

      In short, "the ribbon" was all about promoting the LCD whimsy of an idiot, hyphenated-name token female. An equivalent is every Affirmative-Action and "woke" garbage decision that we see today. Hiring dummies in the name of "diversity" is worse than ever.

      Unfortunately, the token's object-model-breaking BS was shoved down everyone's throat. Her LCD skid mark across applications has undermined countless years of customer work and alienated power users worldwide.

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: "The OS companies have insulated themselves from user pain"

        I've always assumed that having been forced into the corner of standardising file formats MS couldn't keep up their usual trick of evolving them so as to force any would-be compatible S/W to be in perpetual catch-up mode. Instead they forced their users to learn a new UI whether they wanted to or not so that in a few years all the ribbon-native users would find it harder to transfer across the compatibles. Or at worst, it would force the developers of the rest to play catch-up on UIs.

        1. J.G.Harston Silver badge

          Re: "The OS companies have insulated themselves from user pain"

          They even break file formats.

          I've just had to spend quite some time digging into the exact hows of how MSWord renders RTF files in different versions (programmatically generated data, worked fine for 20 years, identical files flow from column to column, page to page differently, which is a right bugger when the content is columnar data), and dig into the how of getting it to stop it.

    2. ThatOne Silver badge

      Re: "The OS companies have insulated themselves from user pain"

      > The Microsoft employee just gave a canned, generic answer and didn't read

      To be honest, that's just standard Customer Support procedure worldwide, isn't it. Cut & paste is the only way an untrained intern can handle many hundred support requests a day anyway, and if you look at the numbers, all those request have been replied to, so everything is fine: The Customer Support department is doing an excellent job.

      Add to that that many of those annoying customers will get frustrated and won't insist, and the problem is truly solved (Our problem, not theirs. Who cares about them anyway, they have already paid).

    3. innominatus

      Re: "The OS companies have insulated themselves from user pain"

      Only today I had cause to curse the inventor of the Office ribbon as I wasted valuable minutes I won't get back searching for an option I knew existed but didn't know the stupid little icon it was hidden behind. Text menus may be passé but I speak English better than pictograms and hieroglyphics!

      1. Antron Argaiv Silver badge
        Thumb Up

        Re: "The OS companies have insulated themselves from user pain"

        For added enjoyment, let's take away the "hover" interpretation of what the icon does.

        Hmmm...maybe this is it..."click"

        FORMATTING C:

        Nope...

        1. J.G.Harston Silver badge

          Re: "The OS companies have insulated themselves from user pain"

          And... technology is giving us screens that are wider and wider. What shall we do? I know, let's use up loads and loads of the up/down screen estate!

          Some of the document working I now do it's like looking through a letterbox - and it even inflicts websites, with a fixed, immovable, irremovable banner across the top of the screen.

      2. Fred Daggy Bronze badge
        Mushroom

        Re: "The OS companies have insulated themselves from user pain"

        I would almost (no, I actually won't) forgive the ribbon, if one could just move the freaking ribbon to the right or the left.

        Start bar was movable, so should the ribbon. I have SO much screen real estate on a big monitor, but it's wide. As has been nearly every monitor for the last decade or more. But NO, we are going to use only the real estate at the top of the screen, forcing me to scroll around my document. Placing it conveniently to the side would let me actually see both my document and then play pin the tail on the ribbon option.

  18. coward02913

    UXtards to blame

    It's these "designers" that came in and started to impose their aesthetics on everyone, choice be damned.

    Tyranny of the designer. Fashion over functionality. Form over function. The god awful Bauhaus design, which is what inspired Material Design. Low information density, excessive padding, limited color palettes and low contrast text. Stupid animations adding deliberate latency to your interactions, thus slowing you down.

    You should take it up the ass and enjoy it, that's their mantra. Forget about customization or user preferences. And if you don't like it, you dislike change, even though the changes make it clearly a worse product.

    It all started around 2008 when the iPhone first came out and Microsoft Office implemented the ribbon interface. And we now have a whole field of UX (User Experience) which is all about "delighting" the user and puts emotions and feelings above rational, logical design. The triumph of the feminine (emotions, feeelings) over the masculine (rationality, logic).

    https://uxdesign.cc/designing-for-emotional-delight-4c96e0bf00f4

    1. LDS Silver badge

      "Form over function. The god awful Bauhaus design"

      Actually Bauhaus promoted functionality over form.

      "Low information density, excessive padding, limited color palettes and low contrast text."

      This is an effect of bringing old typographical conventions into UI design. One of the problem of actual IT is the web brought to it people used to design street/magazine ads. And they became in charge of UIs.

      But a UI is very different from an ad - an ad requires few large images and text to capture attention, but it is static - an UI instead has to convey all the information a user need in a given context and let they operate on them easily.

      Even on the web, there's a big difference from a websites that needs just to be little more than online ads, and web application that should be designed to work with them. But just like MS is still looking for the Grail of the One UI to rule them all, web people too think a single UI design is good for everything, and clueless developers abide.

      1. coward02913

        Re: "Form over function. The god awful Bauhaus design"

        https://cordmagazine.com/country-in-focus/germany/bauhaus-when-form-follows-function/

        "The Bauhaus concept – reduced form, simplicity and functionality – influenced all creations – from the designs of book covers to home lighting, furniture, interior decoration etc. The Bauhaus legacy was replaced by postmodernism and other styles, but it is now trendy again around the world."

        1. Al fazed Bronze badge
          Unhappy

          Re: "Form over function. The god awful Bauhaus design"

          We are now in the age termed "Brutalist"..........

          ALF

    2. hoola Silver badge

      Re: UXtards to blame

      Your last paragraph is actually the crux of everything that is wrong.

      Everything is focussed on "The User Experience" and this is now more of a marketing department than operational.

      In order to sell things there has to be change. Change is always for the better (in the real world we know that is not the case) so endless improvements to the UI are pushed out. The other huge issue is that most of the people who devise or develop these abominations (and I am talking about any UI, not just a PC) is that they assume perfect eyesight on a 40" monitor running a million pixels of resolution in a dark room.

      Not a f*****g colour screen on a parking machine that is 6" x 3", the buttons don't line up and unless the sun is at exactly the right angle, cannot be read.

      Or the ATM machines that have a mix of button and touch but not both for all the functions.

      Or removing the boarder on an application window like File Explorer so by default you have white on white.

      Everywhere you go we are presented with completely unusable or incomprehensible interfaces based on screens. My favourite is some parking machines in Wales that only show Welsh so you have a massive queue of people trying to enter their reg number, search and then pay, in Welsh!!!!! At that particular site I discovered by accident that there is an NFC contactless pad at the barrier. So you just drive out and the system know who you are because there is a camera pointing at the number plate. No need to do anything but wave a card!

      None of the people who develop this shite actually try to use in the real world.

      Sorry. end rant, but but as you can guess, this really winds me up.,

      1. coward02913

        Re: UXtards to blame

        Yes, so sad to see once beautiful interfaces go to shit completely.

      2. Rosie Davies

        Re: UXtards to blame

        Well...you could learn Welsh, you're in Wales after all. You'd not even need to learn much Welsh to operate a ticket vending machine.

        Rosie

        1. Jimmy2Cows Silver badge
          Joke

          Re: UXtards to blame

          Come on, most Welsh people don't actually know Welsh any more. You can't expect outsiders to try if even the majority of the locals don't bother with it.

          Apocryphal. Not sure how true that assessment actually is, but I've heard it many times from many different sources over the years.

        2. Rosie Davies

          Re: UXtards to blame

          I thought that would get me some down votes, which is a bit sad really - what's wrong with learning the language of the country you're visiting? I learned a bit of Welsh when I moved here (because I didn't want to be one of 'those' people) and it's a right giggle, more people should definitely give it a try. It's very, very different from English in all kinds of fascinating ways.

          Rosie

          1. schermer

            Re: UXtards to blame

            Upvoted you for this :)

            Much to my dismay I am addressed in English in half of the city center shops in the capital of my country. Somehow alot of people think it is "cool" to use a foreign language :(

          2. CRConrad

            Nothing, except...

            what's wrong with learning the language of the country you're visiting?
            ... except as I understand it, Welsh isn't the language of the province[1] of Wales. English is.

            ---

            [1]: Come back and call it a "country" again when it has a seat in the UN with all the real countries.

    3. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: UXtards to blame

      And we now have a whole field of UX (User Experience) which is all about "delighting" the user and puts emotions and feelings above rational

      And yet even there they fail. Nobody here is delighted with their offerings. They may have succeeded in generating emotions and feelings but not good ones.

    4. ecofeco Silver badge

      Re: UXtards to blame

      Blame marketing. Blame the client. Blame the coders. Most UX designers don't have a choice.

      1. that one in the corner Silver badge

        Re: UXtards to blame

        > blame the coders

        WHAT?

        Blame the coders for coding up what the UX designer told them to do?

  19. PaulRC

    The answer is among us...

    As a USER who knows I could be more productive, I use Win10, MAC OS, POP-OS and try to be as OS agnostic as possible. However, I believe the answer to the request for UX stability has already been given.. ChromeOS!

    Ohh but that does not really work so well with the multitude of nefarious devices. A further clarification :

    - ChromeOS with a keyboard

    - iPadOS with a tablet

    - Symbian80 for phones

    - BezosOS for e-ink e-readers

    and last but not least

    - a padded cell for VR. :)

    1. milliemoo83

      Re: The answer is among us...

      "As a USER who knows I could be more productive, I use Win10, MAC OS, POP-OS and try to be as OS agnostic as possible. However, I believe the answer to the request for UX stability has already been given.. ChromeOS!"

      No RISCOS?

  20. chivo243 Silver badge
    Windows

    So what went wrong?

    Too many people had to justify being busy... let's make change for the sake of change, not for the sake of benefit...

  21. Long John Silver
    Pirate

    Windows has become portal to "consumer" services

    Windows "Home edition" is oriented towards serving "consumer needs" i.e. to aiding Microsoft and "trusted partners" together with general advertisers to peddle their wares. That obviously impacts the start menu because it is the one location all users must visit from time to time.

    A savvy user can disable some of the tacky nonsense but not all. People demanding potential total control over their devices seek out another OS, preferably open source. Nevertheless, loading the latest Windows (sourced unofficially) as VM on a Linux system offers source of amusement to people blessed with a 'black' sense of humour.

    1. coward02913

      Re: Windows has become portal to "consumer" services

      That is the crux of it, it's that the computer, which was mainly a tool for professionals, has been turned into a consumer product and with that has come all this bullshit, including the bad UIs but also the targeted advertising, surveillance and other nasties we have nowadays.

    2. disgruntled yank

      Re: Windows has become portal to "consumer" services

      Grrr. When I got a laptop last year, I spent an hour or so zapping every Amazon/Dropox/Windows Store thingy I could find.

      1. Ken Hagan Gold badge

        Re: Windows has become portal to "consumer" services

        You'd have been quicker wiping it and installing Windows from a USB stick. That takes much less than an hour.

        But it does rather assume that you have such a stick handy and obviously 99% of users don't. Sad, really. The ability to erase crap and make devices usable again is now a kind of superpower possessed by a handful of users.

        1. milliemoo83

          Re: Windows has become portal to "consumer" services

          Or skip the USB stick entirely - shrink Windows partition by a few GB (or tw*t the factory recovery partition), format new partition as FAT32, mount ISO, drop contents into new partition root, reboot and select boot device.

        2. ecofeco Silver badge

          Re: Windows has become portal to "consumer" services

          Ah yes, but the updates can take the rest of your life.

  22. ComputerSays_noAbsolutelyNo Silver badge
    Coat

    On UX stability

    Imagine a world in which auto companies act like the software companies.

    "You made you're driver's licence on a Ford? Sorry, you can't drive a GM, but we can offer you a re-fresher course with a type-certificate. If you add the licence for Toyota, get 50% off for your BMW re-fresher"

    I guess the bean counters in the software houses are in awe, when they change car brands and everything works as expected in the new car, and the driver's licence remains valid.

    Icon: I am off for a walk, and since rain is to be expected, I take my personalized rain-protection garment, for which I have a professional subscription. If I upgrade to the executive-enterprise plan, I may even use it in snowstorms. However, I am content with using it in rainy conditions only.

  23. aerogems Silver badge

    Agree and Disagree

    While I agree that there's little that can be done to improve the desktop metaphor with computers, I don't think we should just stop trying to come up with anything better. Sort of like when Microsoft took the time to really rethink the whole mobile interface and came up with the live tile interface. They were unfortunately too little too late, but the idea was no less brilliant. I would love to see something similar done for the desktop world.

    One of the things I wish the open source world would do more of is just throw things at the wall to see what sticks. They don't have shareholders to answer to, they are limited only by the amount of free time and personal interest of developers. Start trying out any whacky idea in a new experimental window manager and see what happens. Some idea may seem good on paper, but then not so good when you actually put it into practice, just like some other ideas might seem really stupid on paper but turn into brilliant new innovations.

    1. LDS Silver badge

      Re: Agree and Disagree

      The problem is someone at MS instead of saying "Excellent, this is a great touch UI for our Surface tablets and their 10" screens - now, when we are in desktop mode what are you going to do? This doesn't work in desktop mode on a 27" monitor" - said "Cool! We have a new UI! Enforce it on every user on every kind of machine!!! Including servers!!!!".

      1. aerogems Silver badge

        Re: Agree and Disagree

        While a bit on the hyperbolic side, there is a kernel of truth in what you say. Trying to shoehorn an excellent mobile UI onto a desktop was a really bad move, though the intent was to try and move more into the tablet and 2-in-one space which didn't really quite pan out. And I'm not sure why they would do it again by using the unfinished Win10X UI for Win11 when the lessons of Win 8 are still within recent memory. I like a lot of the where they are going with Win11, but charitably it's maybe 60% complete right now. Another year or two of development and it probably would have gone over a lot better.

    2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Agree and Disagree

      "One of the things I wish the open source world would do more of is just throw things at the wall to see what sticks."

      They've done a fair amount of that and do you know what happens? For the most part users stick with what works for them. For a few that may be exploring the latest shiny. For the rest of us it's KDE, XFCE or whatever. It's particularly noticeable that when Gnome decided to make big changes between versions 2 & 2 the response was not just one but two new projects, Cinnamon and Mate to preserve the original UI. There should be some lessons in that.

  24. Auntie Dix Bronze badge
    Thumb Up

    Third-Party "Classic Shell" and "Open Shell"

    Magnificent machinations that mitigate Microsoft's miserable "Metro" menu mania!

    1. Downeaster

      Re: Third-Party "Classic Shell" and "Open Shell"

      Start 10 and Start 11 from Stardock Software are also good. Just installed Start 11 on a couple of Windows 11 machines. It brings back the Windows 7 Start Menu. Well worth the $5. Open Shell also works well but I don;t think it works on Windows 11.

  25. jprupp

    I like change

    Something that would definitely not cut it for me would be if my GNOME computer somehow felt like Windows 95. It's not that Windows 95 was bad, but interacting with modern GNOME is a lot more pleasant.

    Change and variety are good. Devices are evolving. Handheld computers are now dominant. Desktop and laptop computers have high resolution screens with faster processors and memory, window contents are indirectly sent to displays through compositors, and that allows for designing interfaces that weren't possible before.

    I'm glad that UI evolved, that modern GNOME exists. I like the tiling system on Windows 11, and the smooth crisp OSX with beautiful fonts and icons. Please give me more. It may eventually happen that user interfaces settle, but that day is not today, and it was definitely not in 1995, thank God.

    1. coward02913

      Re: I like change

      Absolutely, as long as other options are available. The problem is when there is a monopoly or when everyone makes the same change. And especially if the change can be seen as a backwards step instead of an improvement.

  26. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Even iPhones are going that way - losing what made iOS special in the first place

    I have a simple metric I apply to my work environment: how much gets in the way before I can do something useful?

    Yes, it's easy to rant at Microsoft for its many, many, MANY (etc) sins against simplicity from flat out changing UIs without as much as a by-your-leave consultation with actual users (no, ACTUAL users, not focus groups high on sugar or worse), not only with the Office ribbon but also with the [Hey, you can dop this] many [Did you know you can do that now?] popups [If you click here, something magical happens (that you would normally do with a keyboard shortcut, but that would be actually USEFUL so we removed it)] that [Did you know we now move the cursor out of your way] keep getting in the [If you want to see all those features again, click here] way of actual work. Frankly, the [censored] in Marketing who came up with this without adding an adult mode (and who would probably also would have done this) should be tarred, feathered and stuck in a place so he or she could be pelted with rotten eggs and vegetables. But I digress.

    Once upon a time, we had smartphones. They did email, contacts, appointments and occasionally they would even manage a phone call. Sure, limited feature set and umpteen platforms to choose from, but they did the job. The iPhone did not introduce anything new other than make all of that functionality simple to access. Well, OK, few noticed it also broke the monopoly on networks by making THEM pay Apple to have it instead of manufacturers having to buy their way into a network, but that wasn't what sold the thing - it was pure usability. For anyone who has ever tried to set up a conference call, it did it with two buttons. It had a menu system that was simple because it deliberately did away with all the complexities that only looked impressive but did nothing to make it more useful.

    And the're losing that, big time. Now it's swipe from this edge to do X, that edge to do Y, swipe ab-so-lu-te-ly straight up (do not deviate from that small line or it won't work) to get from an app to the main screen and, oh, if you want to use the phone they lost that one handy feature that appeared in the interim: a fingerprint reader that meant you went from locked phone to straight in by simply holding the home button with your thumb. Now it's 'let it look at face', swipe up - an extra action that requires usually two hands. Or 'Dammit, my Watch has seen the phone and unlocked it while it's in my pocket so I now have to lock it again before it randomly bumdials someone". Stupid.

    MacOS is in this respect at least still more or less the same as the first OSX that I encountered in 2006 when I switched. That wasn't the plan, but its instant usability, lack of marketing BS and ability to talk Open Standards won me over. Open the lid and be able to get to work immediately still applies, and trust me, I have worked with WIndows long enough to appreciate the massive difference. There is thus very little chance you will see me use WIn 10/11 or any other Microsoft product willingly, and thankfully I don't have to.

    But Apple is starting to move towards UI changes for no good reason too now, and it's not a good development.

    1. Dan 55 Silver badge

      Re: Even iPhones are going that way - losing what made iOS special in the first place

      MacOS is in this respect at least still more or less the same as the first OSX that I encountered in 2006 when I switched.

      That's what you think you remember but they've been boiling the frog:

      A retrospective look at Mac OS X Snow Leopard

      A retrospective look at Mac OS X Snow Leopard - Addendum

      Follow-up: the feedback on my articles about Snow Leopard, and more about user interface design

      1. stiine Silver badge

        Re: Even iPhones are going that way - losing what made iOS special in the first place

        re: boiling frogs. That's the whole point. Change slowly enough that you don't notice the changes. As opposed to the Microsoft cliff-edge approach.

        1. MachDiamond Silver badge

          Re: Even iPhones are going that way - losing what made iOS special in the first place

          "Change slowly enough that you don't notice the changes."

          If you happen to buy a new computer every year with the latest OS since last year's computer is incompatible with the present OS, you don't notice the changes as much. If you tend to run what you have until the wheels fall off or you need to upgrade that one crucial app and therefore everything else, the frog boiling metaphor doesn't hold.

          1. CRConrad

            That's probably why...

            ... Microsoft followed Apple into having the OS update itself continually both between and across more or less "major" version changes even when the wheels haven't yet fallen off. The frog-boiling is a conscious and deliberate act; intentional, not accidental.

  27. MacroRodent
    Linux

    Linux desktops

    Sure, major desktop projects like Gnome like to change things, but you also have the choice of using stable alternatives. XFCE still has much the same UI it had originally, in fact it largely follows the original CDE. That is it's niche: a desktop for people who don't want to waste too many resources on frippery, and have better things to do than learn a new desktop every few years.

  28. Kurgan
    WTF?

    Words of truth

    I use Linux Mint with Cinnamon exactly because it's more or less "windows XP style". I also install Open Shell on every windows PC for the same reason. And 90% of my users want Open Shell for the same reason.

    This nonsense that is the new windows interface, the new control panels, the new hiding places for the old windows settings, and the duplication of the same settings in old an new places and forms is damaging both the users and the sysadmins.

    Oh, and don't forget the "flat gray on gray" colour/style madness. Where it's actually impossible to visually find buttons and also to READ THE ACTUAL TEXT or see if something is actually on or off.

    And of course the "simplified" interfaces, where there are 3 buttons at all, and all of the other functions have been hidden because otherwise people find it too hard to use a program. (Office, I'm talking about you)

    1. coward02913

      Re: Words of truth

      The designers must be living in some kind of filter bubble where everyone is just the same and likes the same aesthetic. And anyone who disagrees is ignored or even shunned. I absolutely wouldn't be surprised that this conformity has its origins in social media. So it's not just limited to the political conformity we're seeing nowadays (e.g. the Woke/LGBTQ+ stuff), it's also affecting design as well. Everyone is chasing the latest "trends", more than ever before, in a social media fueled popularity contest?

      1. Terry 6 Silver badge

        Re: Words of truth

        For me it's not about individual aesthetic- it's about individual working pattern. Some people use two or three programmes regularly and don't even need a start menu. It's just a couple of icons on the desktop ( or even type part of the name into a space.)

        Some use a range of well known big packages and may well go to a publisher's start menu folder and select the one they need e.g. Microsoft Office/Word

        Some of us, though, use a wide range of programmes, mostly each one infrequently, because we don't perform the same tasks week in week out, and maybe use less well known, or just several, programme publishers' offerings. We need a Start menu that can be arranged by function. One week maybe I'm creating training materials and need some graphics software to work with images and add simple text. Another week I might be setting up an assessment pack and need some DTP and WP software. Next month I may be editing a video of some interactions and need editing s/w. And for each of these or many other activities some software is better than others for some aspects. Like Irfanview for selecting and cropping a photo. Photoshop Elements for editing an image/creating a composite or Paint.net to make a new image or image component. And so on. And an alphabetic list of unhelpfully named programmes mixed with unhelpfully named publishers folders is a nightmare when I'm trying to find the programme that I'd last used six months ago to perform a specific function.

  29. LenG

    The most scarey phrase in a product update description

    "Exciting new user experience"

    If you see this, run. And it is not just computer OS's. Virgin Media recently updated the interface to their TV box. There are now several screenfuls of lines of small pictures taken from the show they represent. Not that you will recognise most of them unless you are a real TV fanatic.

    The general idea behind most modern interfaces seems to be make them as bright and flashy as possible and leave plenty of opportunities to advertise (even if they call it "recommended for you".

    As for windows, I spend quite a bit of time with each new release, if I take it, trying to make it look as much like win2000 as possible. I've been moderately successful with Win 10 but you need to resort to settings, registry hacks, group policies and third party software to get close to anything I find accessible.

    Win 11? Unless it changes dramatically I can't see myself ever taking it voluntarily. TBH almost the only thing I need even win10 for is gaming, I can do everythign else I want on linux and I don't even have to pay for it.

  30. Al fazed Bronze badge
    Boffin

    Old Skool

    Whilst studying for my BSc in Information Technology I remember reading some stuff that had been written by IBM researchers with regard to software development and cycles of development which are intended to continually improve the application being developed, by removing bugs.

    Apparently there becomes a point in any project's development cycle where entropy gets a say in the matter, because there's a point arises where following this method actually starts to introduce more issues than are being solved and after this there's a definite downward trend in overall product quality as a consequence.

    Wish I could remember the term that IBM employed for this issue, without needing to look it up.

    ALF

    1. Ken Hagan Gold badge

      Re: Old Skool

      Is it just software entropy?

      Whatever, it seems perfectly reasonable and is one of the principle motives for re-factoring, the other being technical debt.

  31. Will Godfrey Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    Best I ever used

    ... was RISC OS on the BBC Archimedes. Minimal but attractive desktop, and the holy grail: Drag and drop just about anything to anything else - always with a distinctive icon.

    1. skswales

      Re: Best I ever used

      Pretty much every single day in the 'modern world' of non-RISC OS systems I find myself with a window open showing the directory I want to save stuff in and curse the designers that don't allow a quick drag from an application to that 'directory viewer'.

  32. oiseau Silver badge
    Facepalm

    Marketing and corporate greed

    The reason for the unholy UX mess with no signs of converging is, of course, marketing ...

    Ah, yes ...

    The marketing departments and their marketing droids, those utterly despicable abortions of nature.

    In the same category as beancounters.

    Their only purpose is to sell.

    Anything, their mother if necessary.

    Obviously, they respond to a boss, who in turn responds to management, who in turn responds to upper management, who in turn responds to a C?O, who in turn responds to the board who in turn ...

    You get the idea.

    But here's the thing®: none of them give a rat's toss about what they sell, who they sell it to or for what purpose, much less the consequences it may eventually have.

    Their main objective is only the end of year bonus for increasing sales and shareholder's profits.

    It boils down to nothing but corporate greed at its best.

    O.

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Marketing and corporate greed

      The mysterious thing is that no matter how disliked the product they still sell.

      Or maybe it's not so mysterious. They have effective monopolies. If the user is in their walled garden then they have no option. That in turn explains why there is so much diversity in the FOSS world. There is no walled garden.. There are options and we take advantage of them.

      1. oiseau Silver badge
        Facepalm

        Re: Marketing and corporate greed

        ... not so mysterious.

        I was about to say something along those lines.

        They have effective monopolies.

        Exactly.

        Although in the case of monopolies (like MS and Apple to name just two) they don't sell, they just push.

        eg:

        "This is it, check it out, our fantastically revamped all new version.

        Say what? Don't like it? It sucks? Crashes once every hour? Want the previous version?

        Sorry, no-can-do. It's no longer supported."

        Been going on for decades.

        O.

      2. coward02913
        Mushroom

        Re: Marketing and corporate greed

        But Lennart Poettering and the GNOME team are working to take that all away from you...

  33. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Just more clickbait drivel..

    Its obvious the author knows absolutely nothing about the end user software market. Its history. Or how it is developed. And its very obvious he has never actually worked in the business. Developing and selling end user application software to desktop users. Because if he actually had any relevant experience he would not have written something that was so bloody stupid on so many levels. Because 99% plus of the people who buy and use desktop application software are not like him. Or the people he talks about. Or the people who read TheReg for that matter.

    Whenever I work on commercial skrinkwrap desktop application products for ISV's we have the ordinary end user always in mind. And how to make the best of the UX model for whichever target platform we are developing for. To make its as easy and straightforward as possible for them to get their work done. If you had any experience of the pre GUI application software, all command line and text menus, and the huge problems ordinary users had gaining even a basic grasp of a limited set of functionality, then you might start to comprehend what a huge leap forward GUI's were. And remain. Fire up Worstar2000 under a MS/DOS box emulator and see how far you get without reading the manual. Very carefully. Its a pretty big manual. After a week or two you might get the hang of it. With some hard work.

    Just because some minute fraction of computer users prance around complaining about how GUIs offend their sensibilities, well, who cares. In the end user software market, which is what we are talking about, mass market desktop software, your opinions are utterly irrelevant. Because the only thing that matters is how easily ordinary users, our customers, can learn the subset of the functionality they need to get their work done as quickly as possibly. And GUI's have been a huge success for the last 38 years since the first mass market GUI was shipped. Its a user interaction model that works really well. For people who have to get work done.

    1. martinusher Silver badge

      Re: Just more clickbait drivel..

      Actually, I hate to pop your bubble, but most GUIs really do suck. You use them because you have to, because There Is No Alternative. I'm an old geezer so I've been with these things since the begging, the time of the CUA, and all I've seen is a succession of programmers with too much time on their hands and no imagination -- they just keep reinventing the wheel. and invariably making a pig's ear of it in the process.

      A lot of this is due to the restrictions in technology. GUIs are a cheap and cheerful way to make an interface, one that can be grafted onto small computers. Because of this we have two sorts of interfaces -- the GUIs that were built as applications on operating systems (Unix and beyond) and those used to kludge OS like behavior on non-OS systems. (Windows, Apple) The latter led to the culture of totally integrating the GUI with the system -- there's no particular reason why a particular GUI should be tied to a particular OS except that the programmers working on it don't understand distributed architectures. Applications writers are the same -- their code is stuffed full of polling for events, its why a typical application st.utters and freezes if a network connection isn't 100%. (its also resource greedy so it doesn't take much to slow it)

      Anyway, idle hands make the Devil's work and I suppose if we stopped generating GUIs and trying to tweak the "user experience" then an awful lot of people would find themselves out of work.

      1. oiseau Silver badge
        Pint

        Re: Just more clickbait drivel..

        ... there's no particular reason why a particular GUI should be tied to a particular OS except that the programmers working on it don't understand distributed architectures.

        Finally ...

        +1

        And a case of fine ale for you.

        O.

    2. keithpeter Silver badge
      Windows

      Re: Just more clickbait drivel..

      Noone mentioned WordStar or DOS and the original article (OA) took as its starting point Windows 95, a full GUI with WIMP &c.

      I recollect the little MS booklet that came with my Gateway Pentium 75 with Windows 95 installed. It had a series of simple clear activities that you worked through using the file manager, Paint, Wordpad and so on to produce a printed document. About 50 small format pages, and the whole GUI explored, and the ALT keys (Alt-F S and all) introduced.

      My reading of the OA was that we could do with a basic common denominator GUI to allow people to get their work done. Precisely not the random stuff we had using DOS/ncurses TUI programs.

      I think you may be tilting at windmills.

    3. Ken Hagan Gold badge

      Re: Just more clickbait drivel..

      minute fraction of computer users

      I know lots of normal people. Really, I do. I don't think I know anyone who doesn't think computer interfaces suck donkey balls. They tell me about it, unsolicited. They ask me if there is a reason. Sadly, telling them that their UX suffering is caused by prima donna designers and willy waving contests in management rarely improves their mood.

    4. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Just more clickbait drivel..

      " If you had any experience of the pre GUI application software, all command line and text menus, and the huge problems ordinary users had gaining even a basic grasp of a limited set of functionality, then you might start to comprehend what a huge leap forward GUI's were."

      Puts hand up.

      Yes, I was there.

      As analyst programmers, DBAs & sysadmins we could see the command line but the users didn't. The users got a text menu system to take them to applications and the applications also had text menus. No faffing about with mice, everything could be done from the keyboard. You might not grok this but it was an efficient way of working. So were the text-based,curses driven IDEs we used so we didn't necessarily spend as much time at the command line as you might think.

      And there were far less queries of "How do I do....?". What you need to realise is that the commentards here are all too often on the receiving end of those queries. I can only assume that your ivory tower insulates you from those. We see your failures and are all too familiar with them.

    5. CRConrad

      Tell me you didn't read the article without telling me you didn't read the article

      Yeah, GUIs have been around for about forty years. But what the article said wasn't "GUIs suck!". What it said was that GUIs were at their best, essentially finished, twenty years ago, and most change since then has been frivolous and detrimental to usability.

      In short, it said current GUIs suck compared to what they could have been and used to be. And in this, the article was obviously perfectly correct. So your rant had pretty much nothing to do with this article. Learn to read, numbskull.

  34. Barry Rueger

    Sigh... you can always tell the people who don't use Linux.

    From version to version, from OS to OS, and in the case of Linux seemingly from moment to moment, these things shift and shimmer.

    I can happily report that the Mint Linux that I'm using at this very moment is 98% exactly the same UI that I used a decade ago. And that consistency is exactly why it has been my tool of choice for many, many years.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: ... exactly the same UI that I used a decade ago

      I very much agree with you about consistency.

      But as an fvwm afficionado, I can't help feeling that a decade isn't all that long, really. :-)

  35. plrndl

    Marketing Skills

    There is only one reason why a “marketing person” needs to change a product, and that is incompetence. A person with real marketing skills can sell a given product to a desired market.

    The person who needs to copycat whatever is currently trendy in marketing circles has no marketing skills whatsoever.

    1. martinusher Silver badge

      Re: Marketing Skills

      I've worked with some great marketing and sales people over the years but unfortunately they're very much in the minority. It figures, since the obvious first and only product they sell is themselves. Few seem to have genuine smarts beyond that, many applying the 'cut scene' product methodology (where the barn is raised in a handful of cut scenes over 20-30 seconds in the movie...). Its all easy, its all just one more tweak and they know everything that humans can know. The real ones are like gold, cherish them and we'll all make a fortune.

      (Same goes for IT people -- the number I've worked with who actively enabled my work is vanishingly small. )

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Marketing Skills

      The person who needs to copycat whatever is currently trendy in marketing circles has no marketing skills whatsoever.

      You just summarised Microsoft's approach to not only marketing, but also product development.

  36. bish

    Reactionary but...

    El Reg writers do like a reactionary rant, don't they? The thing is, I think the constant evolution of the desktop is kinda fine. I support a wild variety of people doing weird and wonderful stuff, so switch between Windows, macOS and a good handful of different Linux distros with different desktops throughout my workday, and merrily get on my way getting work done without much cause for cursing or confusion: the important thing is that despite differences between one system and another, within themselves they have a mostly coherent, consistent approach to structuring and organising stuff, and so I find it pretty painless to get around.

    Of course, when I say Windows, I mean Win10 Pro. I'm beginning to have more encounters with 11 and as far as I can tell, Microsoft has just accepted that alternate releases are traditionally garbage, and so set out to build the shonkiest, stupidest experience this side of Millennium Edition. It's just so broken, so riddled with stuff that would feel weird and worrying in a beta, and they're actually pushing it out as a daily driver. It's actually preinstalled on devices for sale in shops! I honestly find this hard to believe - every Win11 box I encounter, I have to check Windows Update, just because it seems so improbable that this isn't an early test build, but no, they're really shipping this utter mess and having the bare-faced cheek to call it an operating system. To be clear, I can still do everything I need to, it's just that the OS is *constantly* getting in my way and slowing me down, *adding extra steps* to processes that were often already a little bit convoluted (but bearable) in 10.

    So yeah, the Evolution of the Desktop is a disaster, for Microsoft. Everything else is just fine by me.

    1. martinusher Silver badge

      Re: Reactionary but...

      Bet you're right handed. Its not the mouse that's the problem, either. (No, you don't have to reverse the buttons, that's a right hander's reaction to "Oh, I've got to support left handed people". Its much more subtle than that.)

      Incidentally, the fundamental problem with GUIs is that people only have two hands. That's why the two finger typists prefer them. Touch typists are much, much, happier when they don't have to take their hands off the keyboard. This explains why some programmers won't switch to the latest GUI even though it highlights syntax in rainbow colors -- they need a command set that uses standard keyboard placement.

      (That brings me to another GUI frustration. I've lost count of the number of times I've been given a text box to type in and my typing -- which isn't particularly fast -- has completely overrun the software. This confirms my theory that most programmers can't type.)

      1. Terry 6 Silver badge

        Re: Reactionary but...

        Interestingly, over the years I've lost my touch typing skills. I put that down to the poor ergonomics of having various desks,keyboards and screens at different heights ( and widths). It's not so much my fingers' memory as my confidence that has gone away.

      2. bish

        Re: Reactionary but...

        I'm actually left handed, and I touch type. GUIs are made for the majority demographic - it would be nice if more and better accommodation was made for lefties, but it isn't and, as I said, I can get on with my day just fine. And sure, back in the day I did everything on the keyboard, but when you've 30+ tabs open and are copying from one near the left and pasting to one near the right, the mouse is bloody useful.

        Everyone thinks they have all the answers and if only they were in charge we'd have a Utopia - UX isn't easy, and for the most part, the people doing it for the big OSes do a decent job of making it self-explaining. Except Windows 11, obviously.

  37. Boris the Cockroach Silver badge
    Holmes

    Consider

    the car market for a bit if you please.

    Would the car be as popular as it is if the makers changed the layout of the controls every time a new model came out

    "NEW! EXCITING! MORE MPG! its the Ford fustercluckenburger... now with the throttle pedal on the left and the clutch on the right and reverse gear where last year first gear was"

    How many would they sell? (althought with a name like fustercluckenburger I guess it would appeal to someone)

    Now lets goto the computer GUI... and many many many moons ago I created an RS232 comms program... and although the back end of it was improved over time, the one thing that never changed once the testers were happy with it was the GUI why? because it hid its complexity behind the simplest user interface I could think of.

    Which was a send button, a recieve button and a row of buttons to pick the machining cell the data was going to/coming from.

    The users didnt need to know (or even cared) about the clever multi-threaded aspect of it, or the vertical parity byte generator(that was a swine to do until recursion occured to me) or when the thing was updated for even more multi-threaded cleverness so long as the GUI stayed the same.

    This is the lesson m$, apple and others have forgotten, and also why so many people struggle with computers when they should be an easy to use tool that increases your productivity rather than spending 2 hrs trying to find where the OS creator has hidden the advanced printer settings THIS time.

    1. ecofeco Silver badge

      Re: Consider

      Gospel truth right there.

    2. Binraider Silver badge

      Re: Consider

      Didn't Mercedes do a model where reverse was where first gear should be? Not a decision they stuck with for long.

      Test drove a Kia a while ago. Perfectly decent car, however, muscle memory means that going to use the indicators required thought not to just waft the wipers at people.

      Simple solutions with the least steps in between trigger and action seem to be a forgotten art form when you can put a dozen PLC's into things and pray they talk to each other correctly without bugs.

      (P.S. with semiconductor supply chain shortages why the hell would you NOT try to design out the number of components you need again).

  38. jo.bloggs

    Engineers

    Yeah, they are doing the Lotus Notes UI deterioration.

    Mind you, it is not at all the same lean, driving forward bunch of clever and savy geeks there today - Windows product managers are some talentless Indians, the types who do canban tickets in Jira just to pretend they are working.

    It should have long since started integrating raspberry Pi and IoT sensor kits, even GUI based development environments and robotics - but since 2005 they have been pulling back into being an IT department for Fortune 500 whilst new tech is for someone else to do and to market.

  39. Blackjack Silver badge

    I like Mint and Cinnamon, but Windows 11 is... ugh.

  40. Lars Silver badge
    Happy

    Why does carmakers produce new models more or less every year. Most likely because they have to look new.

    Same with Windows no doubt.

    And I would claim much less with Linux. I have become more or less totally KDE and it has not changed randomly for the worse at all.

    If you want to mix Linux into your rant you have to define which Linux desktop you are talking about or it gets silly.

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      "Why does carmakers produce new models more or less every year. Most likely because they have to look new."

      Yes, but as Boris notes - they leave the major controls alone.

  41. Kev99 Silver badge

    Hear, hear! Truer words were ne'r spoke. Linux is even worse. Why are there umpteen thousand desktop designs? And why are operating systems including so much bovine excrement bits that have nothing to do with operating a computer. Probably all those script kiddies employed by mictosoft, Linus (Torvald? Van Pelt?) and wormfruit want to try to prove they're worth the nickel ninety-eight they get paid to add bloat and float instead of actually making the product better.

    As some wag once said, "Marketing is the process of creating a market for a product never needed or wanted."

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Torvalds does the kernel, not the UI nor even the rest of userland*. So there's one thing you clearly didn't know.

      And do you know why there are so many Linux desktop environments?

      Because the layering of the underlying software makes it possible, because there is no marketing involved so if someone sufficiently talented doesn't like what they're offered they can roll their own and because there are people with different use cases and preferences to keep them all in use.

      * Look this term up if it puzzles you.

  42. unimaginative Bronze badge
    Megaphone

    Too many or too few desktop UIs

    We had Register articles recently complaining (completely incorrectly) that Linux desktops were all like Windows 95.

    Now we have someone saying all desktops should look like Windows 95.

    Linux desktops are flexible enough that you can make them look very like Windows 95 if you want to.

    An example for XFCE

    And a Windows XP look for KDE

    OK, an UI is about more than a look, but the start menu is an important element, as is the taskbar. You can make the behaviour of the desktop more like Windows 95, and use apps consistent with that too.

    No one does that. I do not think it is what users necessarily want. Different users want different things. I do not want a Windows 95 like UI, and my desktop does not look anything like it. Some of the changes are for functionality Windows 95 did not have (e.g. switching KDE activities and virtual desktops).

    There is also a marketing problem - for example if MS never changed their UI it would look bad when compared to something more modern. If Linux or MacOS had a desktop that looked like Windows 95 the reaction of most people would be that they were obviously years behind Microsoft.

    The average user (whether an individual buying for themselves, or management in a business) has no clue about improvements under the hood and will buy on the basis of visible features and bling.

    1. Richard 12 Silver badge

      Re: Too many or too few desktop UIs

      You can update iconography without throwing away usability.

      Since Win95, many would say the only significant improvements to the Windows shell have been:

      - Type-ahead find.

      - Better typography/font rendering

      - Pinning items to the taskbar (not quicklaunch)

      - Taskbar "badges" and "progress" indicators

      Possibly also the "show desktop" button, system tray indicators and a few other smaller additions that some will like.

      The only removal that was an improvement was Quicklaunch, and that was only because pinning serves the same purpose while being harder for developers to abuse.

      Most of the other changes have been cosmetic, which is fine, or actively harm usability, which is not.

    2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Too many or too few desktop UIs

      "The average user (whether an individual buying for themselves, or management in a business) has no clue about improvements under the hood and will buy on the basis of visible features and bling."

      Nobody knows whether there are changes under the hood or not. A change of UI can hide the possibility that there are few or none. But although the first impression might be "Modern" or "Ooo, shiny" the reality soon sets in if usability is compromised or it turns out that resources dedicated to the surface glitz might have been better spent on the quality and functionality of what's actually under the hood.

  43. DrM

    Rule Z

    I have found what I call Rule Z for people offered newer versions of any HW or SW. "Rule Z: If it's new, it must be better, you ought to use it."

  44. Emmeran

    and leave my damn Font alone

    We don't need a new font. Please stop. I use Time New Roman, my wife a different.

    I will not be changing the font my eyes like to read so stop it and go get a real job.

  45. timrowledge

    RISC OS is the only non-awful UI

    I mean, c’mon, get with the program.

  46. Juha Meriluoto

    Just watch the language...

    User Interface: This is for interfacing with the OS to get things done.

    User Experience: This is a load of irrelevant crap used to make a substandard piece of sh*t to look nice.

    1. coward02913

      Re: Just watch the language...

      Spot on, and the UX is driven by marketing... So that the apps have a "brand identity"...

  47. Disk0
    FAIL

    windows lol

    Nevermind the ui, the whole thing is designed cartywompus from the ground up just to torture users. The startmenu is just the big colorful thing they dazzle in front of you, switching it about just so you stay confused and never ask yourself: who would even out up with this crap?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Joke

      Re: windows lol

      > Nevermind the ui, the whole thing is designed cartywompus from the ground up just to torture users. The startmenu is just the big colorful thing they dazzle in front of you, switching it about just so you stay confused and never ask yourself: who would even out up with this crap?

      Don't worry. Soon everything will be done inside Teams and you won't ever need to go to the Start menu.

  48. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Linux MATE

    Eat your heart out, Losedoze

    1. ecofeco Silver badge

      It really is quite nice and no nonsense.

  49. Denial Vanish

    A prime example of this sort of debacle actually comes from where it was least expected: Evangelical Minimalist Jony Ive--oops, that's SIR Jony to you. While Forstall's skeumorphism involved a bit of unnecessary iCandy, iOS functioned fantastically well up until iOS 6. Then Forstall got booted and Ive was promoted to head of software design. What he did to iOS and MacOS since is worthy of a public flogging and/or hanging.

    And while this sounds like heresy, compared to OS 9 and below, MacOS/Unix is an ungodly mess under the bonnet--without even venturing into the terminal. Ever had a look at the library folder(s) alone? More folders and subfolders than you could shake a stick at, and hundreds of thousands, if not a million or so, files per user. And never mind the rest of the system which, of course, has its own library.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Facepalm

      > and hundreds of thousands, if not a million or so, files per user

      Yeah, they should all be consolidated into just one file. Some sort of database to hold everything. We could call it the registry, or similar.

  50. Rmack350

    Friction vs grease

    I spend my day going back and forth between a windows machine and a mac. Ive used windows on a daily basis for about 25+ years and switching back and forth is painful. Physically and mentally painful. Differentiated interfaces creat friction causing me to work slower and heat up faster. Imagine having that friction just between versions of windows!

    Now contrast this with my experience on peppermint linux, which i think is ubuntu and xfce. Its a pretty frictionless experience for me, except for the multiple software managers.

    The goal of ux should be to grease a users experience, not to throw sand in it.

    Ms office ribbon, anyone?

    1. DuncanLarge

      Re: Friction vs grease

      > Ms office ribbon

      ARRRRRRRGGGGHHHHHH!!!!!

      The pain is still there, beneath the surface.

  51. bertkaye

    not just OSes

    Whenever I have to use an Adobe application I regret having the deal with the horror of their UI designs. Early products were pretty navigable but over time they gingerbreaded up the interfaces into baroque mazes. Now the products are designed by offshore workers from a certain hot country better at pooping in rivers than UI designing.

    Parallel to this are the screen interfaces in modern cars. By design they FORCE you to look away from the road. There ws that infamous BMW screen where you have to go six layers down to turn off the cabin fan. Probably so much fun on a heavy rain day.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: not just OSes

      > By design they FORCE you to look away from the road.

      Tesla have a doozy at the moment: there's no way to turn the fog lights on except by bringing up the controls screen, then selecting the lights tab, then turning on the foglamps.

      Just what you want to be doing when you run into a sudden bank of thick fog and you're wondering whether the people in front have kept going or slowed right down.

      1. Nicodemus's Knob

        Re: not just OSes

        Tesla have a doozy at the moment: there's no way to turn the fog lights on except by bringing up the controls screen, then selecting the lights tab, then turning on the foglamps.

        Just what you want to be doing when you run into a sudden bank of thick fog and you're wondering whether the people in front have kept going or slowed right down.

        That's why, in the end I opted for the Jaguar Ipace, it didn't feel like they were trying to save money on individual controls by moving them all to a screen. I rarely look at the screens other than to check range or navigate but navigation and speed limits are on the on the heads up display anyway so still keeping eyes on the road.

        Is it true you can't open the glove box on a Tesla except by using the screen user interface?

        1. schermer
          Happy

          Re: Software with western components

          Yep, that is true. Otherwise a fine car though. You can also use voice commands to turn lights on and open glovebox. Just say: "fog light on" or "open glovebox" and presto!:)

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Software with western components

            > Just say: "fog light on"

            That's not a supported voice command on a Tesla 3 (at least for the 2020 UK spec).

        2. Binraider Silver badge

          Re: not just OSes

          The obsession with software interfaces on cars drives me nuts. The electric Porsche (I forget the name, sorry - crappy names do not stick in my head) has a touchscreen for fumbling around with the A/C controls.

          The problem of A/C control was solved decades ago with a simple dial that you can operate without looking.

          I might also reduced dependency on electronics would make the thing cheaper to build; especially in current market.

          But a clean car with minimal features won't require as much servicing, and therefore revenue. A big part of tesla being covered in sensors is that they can earn money off you, the gullible buyer, for having to calibrate them periodically.

          Yes, I am officially a luddite, and proud of it.

    2. Androgynous Cupboard Silver badge

      Re: not just OSes

      Acrobat is pretty much my go-to example how not to design a UI - buttons on all sides, taskbars that pop in and out of existence, and neutered menus missing 90% of the functionality so you have no choice but to interact with the buttons. And then in the next release, it's all changed!

  52. Pete Franklin

    " instead of just putting it on the desktop" - you download stuff onto your desktop? Are you some kind of monster?

  53. Antonius_Prime

    Great opinion piece...

    And there's even relevant music!

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CPRvc2UMeMI

  54. msobkow Silver badge

    Here's the problem: I want MY favourite layout and options to be the standard shoved down everyone's throat, not YOURS. :)

  55. frabbledeklatter

    Enhanced User Experience!

    I have seventy-seven years of experiences, none of which I want "enhanced", "upgraded", or "improved".

    I stopped Microsofting at Windows 7. Firefox is another serial offender, but Mozilla may have gotten enough blowback by now.

    A simple Linux desktop does all I want and nothing I don't.

  56. Terry 6 Silver badge

    A rule of thumb

    If computer users need to take thinking time away from doing their job to work out where to find or how to activate a function they need to use, then the OS or programme design is sub-optimal.

    (High on my list btw is having a menu item greyed out, with no hint as to why it's greyed out.)

    1. J.G.Harston Silver badge

      Re: A rule of thumb

      My highlight is... the menu item ISN'T EVEN ****ING THERE!

      Import data by selecting "Choose file" (liar! It's Select file"), then from the upload options select "Bulk Import" (The *IS* NO "BULK IMPORT" OPTION!!!!) etc.

      1. ThatOne Silver badge
        Devil

        Re: A rule of thumb

        It's all on their To-Do list. Said features will eventually appear, 2 or 3 versions from now.

        Think of it like those huge billboards proudly advertising that the current piece of post-apocalyptic wasteland will soon be a spiffy mall, luxurious condo complex, or some such.

  57. Abominator Bronze badge

    The problem is Windows chugs. Mac OS and related apps largely do not (unless it's some Electron abomination).

    Modern programs on Windows if you want to call it modern are using heavy new frameworks. Even a basic hello world GUI with .NET or other framework tooling these days does not give you much change out of 200MB when you run it up. That and there are numerous background threads as part of the frameworks all lurking.

    Win32 on the other hand is actually relatively lightweight. It runs on old hardware are it does not require much in the way of resources. That's because its efficient.

    Now Microsoft seems to reinvent the GUI every few years. Each new iteration they mess with Windows and replace management functionality with the new UI frameworks and plumbing. But to make matters worse, not only using slow, buggy frameworks that stutter on even bleeding edge hardware, they also never finish the job!!!

    We all have seen this. Control panels were to admin the box you have to jump between the old and new works which know nothing about each other. It makes for a fucking horrible experience.

    I'm done. I have run Mac's at home for 10 years. I use Linux at work on the servers and Windows on the desktops. But I am slowly porting everything so that I can run it on ARM based Mac's and then I'm going to replace Windows at work for 500 people who want them, by decoupling the need to run Windows. Make it an end user choice.

    Even Outlook is fucked now. It's crashes increasingly common as it gets more buggy with its increasing Web based UI sitting in a Win32 frame. Teams is fucked from the start.

    I am done with Microsoft.

    Desktop is a Mac and I use that to develop for and run production on Linux.

  58. Joe Gurman

    And while we’re at it….

    ….let’s take sledgehammers to the looms, shall we?

    There are certainly a plethora of poorly implemented or downright useless “features” in every modern desktop UI, but there are also a whole lot more features, full stop. Haven’t noticed that the percentage has really changed much.

  59. DuncanLarge

    OMG its like someone read my mind.

    I have been saying all of this essentially for the last 10-15 years.

    this, this, THIS THIS T H I S

    How many more times can I say THIS??

  60. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Please....stop this focus on the OS UI......

    Users buy and use computers because they need the functionality OF APPLICATIONS....

    Repeat after me......APPLICATIONS......

    *****

    But if you want to whine about changes to the GUI............................

    .............please complain about the insanity of changing perfectly good GUI TOOLS in such a way that there's NO BACKWARD COMPATIBILITY.........

    .............Yes....I'm thinking of the idiots who think GTK4 is a useful replacement for the perfectly acceptable GTK3!!!!!

    *****

    The real problem is that idiots who do not care about APPLICATIONS (and by extension, do not care about users)......are influenced only by FASHION.

    End of rant!!!

  61. DrSunshine0104

    One modern thing I want to keep.

    The one thing I do love from the 'modern' UIs is the ability to press the Super key and start typing the application name to launch it.

    Mate is my preferred DE and I wish the 'Classic Menu' had that functionality without resorting to the 'Brisk Menu' which is a bit busy for my taste.

    But, YES! The OS interface should generally only help me launch applications, and access files. Being so 'integrated' with all the applications, my phone, or predicting my text or next action, is a generally negative feature.

  62. IGnatius T Foobar !

    Well written.

    Yes, on the Microsoft timeline, perfection was achieved with the Windows 95 user interface. But of course that was mostly stolen from RISC OS, the idea of a fixed taskbar and a window manager that did not maximize windows on top of it. Combined with the rest of what PARC and later Apple put together ... we never needed to go anywhere else.

    The job of an operating system is to run the selected programs and then GET OUT OF THE WAY.

  63. goldcd

    If you really want to 'fix' your start menu

    Stardock have their "Start"<windows version> app, which pretty much lets you choose which start menu you want on whatever version of windows.

    (The correct answer of-course being the Windows 7 one)

  64. Mac1995

    ClassicShell and other programs did try to fix this...

    My favorite app for Windows was ClassicShell (http://www.classicshell.net/) Basically an application you installed on Windows 7, 8, 10 or 11 to turn the Start Menu back into something you knew how to use.

    It very adeptly allowed you to accept some of the new stuff, while hiding the stuff you didn't want, like the advertising panels and such.

    The one downside is not everyone used it, so if you were asked to help a colleague, you were then looking for the first time, at the abomination that had perhaps been the current Start paradigm for quite a while, and were completely useless. Hmm, perhaps that was another feature - they never asked for your help again!

  65. BPontius

    Microsoft has support.

    There IS support for users on microsoft.com, there is a chat you can use to talk to support. It doesn't cost a thing, I have used it multiple times.

    People pitching a fit over changes instead of learning to adapt to change and overcome the discomfort. I am puzzled by the unwillingness to learn to adapt to the changes in Windows 10/11, but not by switching to Linux and learning a new O/S and software. I would think learning and adapting to the changes to Windows 10/11 would be a smaller learning curve than a different O/S, file system, configuration, software...etc. Seems bass-ackwards to me, but too each their own.

    I have never had any version of Windows upgrade automatically, but I have always bought the Pro versions as far back as they have been offered. There are plenty of things I don't like about Windows 10 and 11, but Microsoft has proven over and over they will do as they please.

    As the Buddha said; "Change is never painful, only resistance to change is painful."

    1. ThatOne Silver badge
      Facepalm

      Re: Microsoft has support.

      > People pitching a fit over changes instead of learning to adapt to change and overcome the discomfort.

      Lubrication helps with the discomfort, I'm told.

      Seriously, you're advocating people should be nice obedient sheep and gratefully accept whatever their Redmond overlords throw at them?

      No, Windows isn't a necessity, it's a legacy. I've been using Microsoft products since the original IBM PC, and worked with all the successive versions of Windows (except v.1), up to Win7. When Win8 was released I decided that Windows had gone to far (down the drain) and switched to Linux. I only temporary came back this year because I bought a new laptop, and thus was able/forced to sample the latest Windows. Color me unimpressed. For someone remembering WinXP and it's user-friendliness, Win11 is terminally dumbed down and sloppy, not to mention the frenetic monetization attempts.

      Example of the sloppiness: At some point I wanted to create a repair disk, just in case, and after finally finding the well-hidden repair disk program, it asked me "Select a CD/DVD drive and insert a blank disc into the drive". So far so good, except it requires a DVD, but you'll have to try a blank CD to learn it... Would it hurt them to mention it, or simply drop the "CD/" part in the prompt?

      (Didn't downvote you though.)

    2. coward02913

      Re: Microsoft has support.

      You could quite easily say the same thing about (anal) rape. Yes, the act itself doesn't hurt, only the resistance does. In fact, the rapist will tell you you should enjoy it. And it's only for 20 minutes too.

      1. CRConrad

        You ALMOST caught the reference.

        That WAS what they were talking about. No need to spell it out. HTH!

  66. MachDiamond Silver badge

    More faster, not more features

    Every so often with a product that has been out for some time, it's necessary to take it apart and clean it up. Every computer I own has more features (all undocumented) than I know about or use. Adding more "features" isn't doing me a blind bit of good and it's slowing down the functionality of the computer. On my laptop, it's draining the battery faster having to complete more tasks just to stay lit. I'd be very happy with the next several OS updates just being about streamlining what's under the hood. It would also save me in having to replace hardware that is still perfectly functional but can no longer do anything useful on the internet. It would save me all of the time and hassle of needing to update all of my software that won't work on the new OS. Of course, the way you find out if the old software works is to update the OS and see what happens. It's hard enough to make enough money these days without having to buy a whole new set of tools every year.

  67. ChadF

    Amen, brother - Hallelujah!

    If there where a double-like button, I'd push it for this one.

    And it seems like everyone wants to be a lemming and jump off that cliff after someone comes along withe latest "modern" UI feature, trying to clone the look and feel of something else stupid.

    For years I avoided using Firefox due to its dumbed down interface, compared to the original usable Netscape (and early Mozilla) browsers, in favor of other Mozilla based ones with a sane UI. Sometimes I would be forced to use Firefox due to too many web developers being unable to create a browser portable website if their life depended on it (in favor of using over complicated and "shiny" UI elements). Then one day I needed a separate browser session for a quick login and decided to use Internet Explorer (which I only ever used long enough to download another browser, or run Windows Update in the old days). And it looks almost identical to Firefox in its layout, and I realized why I dislike the Firefox UI so much..

    And let's not forget some of the lasted devolved trends in UI toolkits.. like accessibility hostile scrollbars. I know! Let's make our scrollbars *reeeeally* narrow and hide them unless you hover over just the right 3 pixels. That is assuming you even know where to try with all these awful flat UIs (you know, like they had in the 70s and early 80s, which they now refer to as "modern", but really are more retro), which make it harder to know where the edges of anything is, and thus where a scrollbar *might* be. And once you've found those 3 pixels to unhide the scrollbar, since they are often translucent, over random content, it can be a pain to find where the handle to drag actual is. Then, once you've made it that far through the scrollbar gauntlet course, unless you have *perfect* dexterity, you often end up clicking on whatever it behind the scrollbar, triggering something you didn't want. So to put some truth to the article's title, one might literally be able to make a case to charge some of these UI developers with disability hate crimes, be it physically and/or visually impaired, as their systematic adoption is actively hostile to the less-abled being able to use them.

    1. coward02913

      Re: Amen, brother - Hallelujah!

      Marco Bonardo and other design "hipsters" to blame for the shitty Firefox interface regressions.

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