The Vista Business launch is upon us, and Vista Consumer is coming some time next year. A new version of Office is also right around the corner, and IE7 was released fairly recently. The bidecadial (yup, made it up) Microsoft Update is under way.
But not everyone is planning to rush out and upgrade (even if they can do it for free). Most people have PC’s that can’t handle the requirements. While we’ll probably see everything from Vista TV commercials to Vista the breakfast cereal next year, lots of consumers just won’t want to fork over the cash for the instant upgrade. That said, I do believe that, just like when XP came out, within a couple of years Vista will become the dominant OS.
Until then, however, I think there are some very simple updates to XP, IE, and Office 2003 that could drastically improve the overall computing experience. In no particular order…
- Internet Explorer should automatically fix incorrect domain extensions. Ever go to Google.ocm? Or Yahoo.co.k? Why doesn’t IE just auto-fix (or at least auto-suggest) the entry?
- Outlook should help resolve duplicate contacts. If I have Mike Smith in my address book and get an email from firstname.lastname@example.org, rather than create a new entry, Outlook should inform me there’s a similar one already there. I shouldn’t need Plaxo to do this. Furthermore, there should be a little maintenance tool to help me clean up entries.
- Alarms and reminders must require attention. This one really annoys me – you should not be able to minimize the Reminders window. Ever! The worst is when you do minimize it, and then the alerts pile up and you don’t even notice it in the taskbar. Outlook should force the user to either Dismiss, Edit, or Snooze, and not let you do anything else until one is chosen.
- Office applications need constant Autosave. Why every 10 minutes, or 6 minutes, or 3 minutes? Why not save the entire editing history, and add in a visible timeline to the editing window? Forget saving multiple revisions, just have one copy of the document, and allow me to go back in time if I need to see a prior version. For an extra bonus point, save all the branches too – it’s not as if we’re running out of hard drive space these days.
- Add useful information to the task manager. When you view the task manager, there are tons of processes showing nothing but a process name. Why aren’t companies required to provide useful information about their processes here? How about adding in fields like: company, URL for more info, and a real name.
- Office “lite” or “quickload”. I understand that there are a lot of power users out there, people who live and die inside Excel and PowerPoint. How about lite versions of each Office application with a barebone set of features, such as viewing and editing. Note that I’m not talking about what you install, I’m talking about having an entire second version of the applications that launch extremely fast.
- Use consistent keyboard behaviors. Any idea what F3, F4, and Control-F all have in common? Depending on the application, they are all shortcuts to Find, and all in Microsoft Office and Windows. I’m not even discussing external software providers here, this is all Microsoft turf!
- Provide a Horizontal template for Word. I understand that Word is primarily a word processing application, but with all the fancy tools for drawing and tables and whatnot you can pretty much use it to build any type of document. As long as it scrolls vertically. How about a horizontal template that allows users to build documents that scroll left-to-right. Would be great for creating workflows, family trees, org charts, and storyboarding.
- Smarter cut and paste. Only Word and Excel provide “Paste Special” and even then they are tedious to access. If I copy a table from a Web site into Excel, what are the odds I really wanted to include the table formatting? Shouldn’t that be the Paste Special?
- Don’t make CANCEL the first option in ANY dialog. Ever start a huge download, then while rapidly switching through visible windows, click the space bar or hit enter? Bye bye download window. Bad bad bad.
- Fix Paint or give a simple photo editing tool. I can’t back these stats up, but I’d wager that more than 80% of “image handling” on a Windows PC is related to photo editing. I’d then double-down by saying more than 80% of photo editing is one of: crop, rotate, resize, remove red-eye. The only one you can do in Paint today is rotate.
- Consolidate Messengers. Windows Messenger. MSN Messenger. Windows Live Messenger. C’mon.
- Clean up temp files automatically. I have too many .tmp and ~ocument.doc files laying around. Find them, fix them, get rid of them.
- Allow simple HTML exports. Word, PowerPoint and Excel all include Save As… HTML options. All create these huge bloated files that cannot be easily integrated into other Web pages. If I’ve got a simple table in Excel, odds are much higher that I want it in a different Web page, so there should be a way to bring out the HTML with none of the MS-special style sheets.
- Don’t put email from my contacts in my spam box. I don’t care if the subject line is “Mortgage loans on casinos with viagra and free software,” if it comes from a contact, it’s email.
They might not all apply to you. They might be harder to build than I can possibly imagine. But they’d all improve the computing experience, and I shouldn’t have to upgrade to Vista to get them.