Too Clever?

English: A woman typing on a laptop Français :...

English: A woman typing on a laptop Français : Une femme travaillant sur un ordinateur (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Some modern software annoys me because it tries to be too clever and as a result it ends up being slow, or a pain to use.  Take the software I use to quickly crop images or convert to mono – in order to get to the image I want to edit it insists on showing me the contents of the folder the image is in, and all the subfolders and the folders around it, all indexed, tagged, thumbnailed and so on.  If there’s a lot of images it can be a while before you can double-click the one you want, especially if it keeps moving around the screen as it arranges the other images it finds into date order like some overly nervous assistant who’s just dropped all your pictures on the floor.  The problem is that I haven’t found a way to change this behaviour yet.

Then there’s autocorrect in many programs which insists on changing two initial capitals into title-case, or inserts a capital where you’ve used lower case because it assumes you’re just a sloppy typist, which I might be, sometimes.  EXcept when I’m typing a POSTCODE.  (WordPress thankfully doesn’t have this yet.)  Oh, and the annoyance when you start typing a chapter and the first line contains the chapter number, after typing a few paragraphs you look up and find that they’ve all been turned into a numbered list.

I know this is all useful for beginners and it can all be turned off somehow but these things were all there in the past but they weren’t automatic, people read the manuals, we created lists on the fly as required, in the very old days we indented lists after typing them and proof-read what we’d we’d written.  Yes.

Often too software is locked down to prevent novice users changing settings that they’re not supposed to even know exists and for those of us who can and like to tinker with the settings that’s annoying too.  What we need is a little switch that says novice/experienced which switches on an old-fashioned, go find it yourself mode, put it behind a “here be dragons” warning like Firefox’s about:config page if necessary but at least give us something to turn off the pseudo-intelligence in one go.

In my own experience it’s more frustrating finding a way around the automatic stuff than finding out how to do these things as you go but as more software is designed for inexperienced users to use without needing to read instructions it can only get worse.