Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Consistency and pulldown menus go away in a new Office version

Couple of genuinely interesting things happening this time.

Microsoft is moving away from pull down menus and toolbars in their next release of Office called Office 12. So no more "I have seen it. But cant find where it is" stuff.

The pull down menu technique was introduced into the office when there were about 150 features. But over the years and several releases as the commands and features grew to 1500, they had to use additional techniques like preferences/checkboxes to present all that stuff. The consequences? Some of them are deeply hidden...and it takes a lot of time to get to them. They realized that the technique no longer works.

In a strange way, the root of the problem has been "consistency". Yeah, consistency with the legacy of the predecessors in the product line. With office 12, they have finally decided to break off from the lineage w.r.t consistency. They began to think what they would do if they had began all over again. (Yeah, I too think Consistency is overrated and Change is good.)

They have reorganized all of the menus into 'galleries' now. The galleries look very task oriented and they actually guide you thru the lifecycle of creation/maintenance of the artifact. Everything is shown upfront in the galleries. No pulldown menus. No hidden features. Did this come at a price of loss of functionality? No. I am guessing they have built lot of contextual intelligence into it.

No annoying clip. There is thing little thing called floaty that comes up when you right-click and gets you most frequently used commands on the selected text. (Behaves little more intelligently than the current right click).

They have also departed from the alt key board shortcuts into something called Overlays. When you press the Fn key or something, you are shown the keyboard shortcuts on the items themselves. (With galleries you have nothing hidden.)

"You tell it what to do and its going to do that." , thats the motto. I think finally, its going to be a fair deal.

There is a great video on the whole thing: http://channel9.msdn.com/showpost.aspx?postid=114720

Why are those Classics?

Why are movies like Gundamma Katha (The Story of Gundamma) and Maya Bazar classics? Both of these movies were adaptations of hugely successive stage plays. When something is a successive stage play, the contents turn out to be nothing less or nothing more, but just what is necessary. Going in multiple iterations helps anywhere, not just in building software. Or may be film making is not very different from building software, both work towards a common goal: appeasing the audience and making money.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

98 BITSians on Map

I did this plot of BITSians-'98 on Google maps this Friday night. Tell me if you think something makes it better.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Ones with Very Long Wait

Two movies indicate a "Very Long Wait" on my Netflix Queue*. K. Vishwanath's Sirivennela and the "Pirates of the Silicon Valley", a dramatized war between Microsoft and Apple. The former has a niche American-Telugu audience (and presumably, Netflix has just one copy of the movie), while the latter probably has atleast a quarter million slashdot geeks waiting for it!

*There are about 110 movies in the Queue, as of Sep 08. Kungfu Hustle had a 'long wait' until its release recently.

Tagsonomy for iTunes

I have a decent collection of M.S. Subbulakshmi. The collection is dominated by two genres: Carnatic and Devotional. The other genres include: soundtracks, bhajans, light classical, Hymns (like Vishnu Sahasranama, Venkateswara Suprabhatham). Bhajans and Hymns fall are partly Devotional genre too. Some of the tracks are more listenable during early morning hours, some contemplative, some very festive (Hindu festive, ofcourse) in nature...

You see where I am getting at? Tags for songs, apart from the genre.

Genre is too rigid a classification and playlists are too cumbersome to achieve all of these listening patterns! I am hoping iTunes 6.0 will have it.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Some lessons from IM Pei's works

I was watching a documentary on the works of IM Pei, yesterday. I thought I would put down some of the things I took from it.
  • Form follows function, except when things are pushed to the extreme. In his case, the HK's Bank of China tower's form followed structure (and not function). The structure enabled him distribute the loads to the four corners, tall ones needed to be counter the effects of things like strong winds.
  • Design for people's needs. So there is no instant gratification from design work. It needs people to actually go around the buildings and live in them to get to know if the design really works.
  • It takes things like hardcore persuasion and persistence to make things like the pyramid at Louvre happen.