Do you ever have the feeling regarding a piece of software that, if you could just somehow get the author to come and watch you try and use it for just half an hour, they would leave the room with wailing and gnashing of teeth, vowing fervently to repent of their usability horrors and not to rest until their product actually worked properly?
I’m currently having that feeling about OpenOffice.org (both Writer and Calc), with which I am attempting to create a document which mixes Hebrew and English text. Substantive rant points follow:
- Putting LTR and RTL text on the same line does totally weird things. For example, you are typing some English, and it comes out fine, but then you type a question mark and it randomly appears at the start of the sentence.
- Copying and pasting between Writer and Calc (to try and put LTR and RTL in different cells) persists in resetting the font to Liberation or DejaVu, even though it was originally Ezra SIL in Writer. This is despite changing all the default styles I can find in Calc to use Ezra SIL as the default font.
- For some reason, “Select All” in Calc and then changing the font widget does nothing (either for font name or size) after you’ve done the above paste, even though it works in test documents. This prevents an easy fix for the above problem.
- The “font colour” tool in Calc doesn’t have the continuous mode that Writer has. Every time you change cell, the colour resets. So if I want to make some text in 50 different cells red, I have to go to the widget and select “Red” 50 times. This means that if you get around the above problem by pasting as plain text, it would take an hour to redo all the text colouring.
I also have this feeling regularly about the performance of the Firefox 3 betas on my desktop Linux machine, which is a 3GHz Pentium 3. It can often freeze for 10 or 20 seconds at a time. And also the regular behaviour of both Firefox 3 and Thunderbird 3 that they crash when I resume from suspend. And the fact that the GNOME start menu takes 20 seconds to open first time, even if you’ve been using the computer for an hour already. And the fact that Pidgin still doesn’t support the up arrow for recalling previously-typed text. And…
I’ve recently been playing Battle for Wesnoth. This game has excellent UI responsiveness and in-game usability. However, they changed the save game format between 1.4 and 1.6, so when I upgraded my laptop to Jaunty, all my saved games “disappeared”. There was no sign of them in the UI, even though the data was still there. If that had been my only machine, I would have cried. However, fortunately, I can put the saves on the desktop and finish my campaign. But not everyone will have two computers, or know how to do that. I’m sure Wesnoth knew they were there, but did it explain what had happened? No…
I feel like a voice crying in the wilderness, “Remember the uuuuuseeeeers….”. And there is no reply but a faint echo.