Great Moments in the History of UI Design

Over the fold, a screenshot of Windows’ Vista advanced search interface.

What the hell were they thinking? It is a confused and cluttered mess.

Unfortunately I am trapped on the Windows platform for the moment due to commercial reasons. The best pairing of hardware and software (as well as licensing) at present is Apple and OSX. My personal laptop is an iBook for a reason.

Given the UI effort above, I am not surprised that Google is starting to intrude into Microsoft’s desktop space with the Google Desktop search tool.

The other issue is that since Windows XP, the searching inside files has not worked for me. It does not appear to work in Vista either. It is broken. I end up using grep from cygwin.

If I didn’t have to use VS.Net as part of my consultancy work, I would not have purchased this computer or this operating system. Windows is not disagreeable, though familiarity and personal history with it is counting for less and less, and it still usable for the most part; but it has been surpassed.

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Nicholas Gruen
14 years ago


What’s always amazed me about MS is how antithetical their own behaviour is to their interests. They do know how to make pretty good software, but that tends to be where they’re facing stiff competition – as in the browser market. Yet the very things that they could build an advantage against open source software with – like user friendliness – they fluff time and again. A major aspect of user-friendliness is the help function. It’s quite plausible that you could have two bits of software of equal quality, one open source and free and the other closed source and yet lots of people would be happy to pay for the one with the best ‘help’ function – on the assumption that software is only as good as you get in using it.

So that’s the sort of thing that MS should be excelling at. But alas, it isn’t.

Francis Xavier Holden
14 years ago

I’ve noticed that MS has stopped a lot of discounting on XP – I’m informed that even Student/Teacher /Academic copies of XP are being artificially made scarce and going up in price to force people to Vista.
[Artificially made scarce because knocking out a few XP CDs or allowing downloads is clearly at the margin and must cost about the price of a blank CD + $1 or downloads at the price of a server and bandwidth + online paymnet processing costs]

For years now I’ve used Total Commander from because it’s just so blood good. The best bit is the viewing of two windows side by side. So much so that when I am forced to use the native windows views I get lost and angry. Commander has search and compare and change file names functions and lots more powerful features for ordinary punters and geeks alike.

Download it and try it. It’s true shareware with a nag screen until you pay.

14 years ago

The other issue is that since Windows XP, the searching inside files has not worked for me. It does not appear to work in Vista either. It is broken.

It’s a default option that you can turn off. I found out how to fix it ages ago, but have since forgotten. I can ask around at work if you’re interested.

Dave Bath
14 years ago

I’ve resorted to cygwin’s grep on XP as well, usually under cygwin’s xterm.

If I was a company, I’d skip XP/Vista’s limited search capabilities, especially across a network, and go straight and buy a Google pizza box, because everybody knows how to use it!

(BTW: On my real machines, I use the find tool in Konqueror)

Stephen Bounds
Stephen Bounds
14 years ago

I think Cam’s referring to this user design choice.

But I’ve never been happy with the results even after doing all the “recommended” changes — in any case, it’s not feasible to tweak the registry every time you want to do a decent search on a random computer.

I agree with Dave and Cam’s diagnosis — use grep. (Although it works perfectly well for me under a standard Windows command window, I don’t need to launch any bash or xterm shells.)

14 years ago

Stephen, heh wasn’t aware of that *feature*. I got struck by the svchost update feature on XP this morning too. The problem is that laptop is not mine, it is on loan to me by a client so I can access their network. I had to get stuff done, so I couldn’t send it back to them to get them to fix it, in the end I had to admin it myself. Lost two hours doing it though.

derrida derider
derrida derider
14 years ago

I bought my 85 year old mum a laptop recently with Vista on it. Silly, silly me.

Vista is as stable as XP (ie reasonable, not brilliant – it’s crashed once or twice) and I’m ready to believe it’s a lot more secure than XP. But it’s a real resource hog. Far worse, I haven’t encountered such a user-vicious OS since I used OS/360 with JCL in batch mode in the 1970s! The detailed design really is dreadful – it seems like the sort of product that comes out of an overly-large public service committee.

My poor mum, quite fluent in XP, spends her time swearing at it in a most un-little-old-lady-like manner. As she says, “my TV just works – why can’t this?”. It’s confirmed my decision to switch my home network to Ubuntu.

And, really, how hard is it to write a decent file search utility anyway?