I bet somebody got a really nice bonus for that feature


I often find myself saying, "I bet somebody got a really nice bonus for that feature."

"That feature" is something aggressively user-hostile, like forcing a shortcut into the Quick Launch bar or the Favorites menu, like automatically turning on a taskbar toolbar, like adding an icon to the notification area that conveys no useful information but merely adds to the clutter, or (my favorite) like adding an extra item to the desktop context menu that takes several seconds to initialize and gives the user the ability to change some obscure feature of their video card.

Allow me to summarize the guidance:

The Quick Launch bar and Favorites menu belong to the user. There is intentionally no interface to manipulate shortcuts in the Quick Launch bar. We saw what happened to the Favorites menu and learned our lesson: Providing a programmatic interface to high-valued visual real estate results in widespread abuse. Of course, this doesn't stop people from hard-coding the path to the Quick Launch directory—too bad the name of the directory isn't always "Quick Launch"; the name can change based on what language the user is running. But that's okay, I mean, everybody speaks English, right?

There is no programmatic interface to turn on a taskbar toolbar. Again, that's because the taskbar is a high-value piece of the screen and creating a programmatic interface can lead to no good. Either somebody is going to go in and force their toolbar on, or they're going to go in and force a rival's toolbar off. Since there's no programmatic interface to do this, these programs pull stunts like generating artificial user input to simulate the right-click on the taskbar, mousing to the "Toolbars" menu item, and then selecting the desired toolbar. The taskbar context menu will never change, right? Everybody speaks English, right?

The rule for taskbar notifications is that they are there to, well, notify the user of something. Your print job is done. Your new hardware device is ready to use. A wireless network has come into range. You do not use a notification icon to say "Everything is just like it was a moment ago; nothing has changed." If nothing has changed, then say nothing.

Many people use the notification area to provide quick access to a running program, which runs counter to the guidance above. If you want to provide access to a program, put a shortcut on the Start menu. Doesn't matter whether the program is running already or not. (If it's not running, the Start menu shortcut runs it. If it is already running, the Start menu shortcut runs the program, which recognizes that it's already running and merely activates the already-running copy.)

While I'm here, I may as well remind you of the guidance for notification balloons: A notification balloon should only appear if there is something you want the user to do. It must be actionable.

Balloon Action
Your print job is complete. Go pick it up.
Your new hardware device is ready to use. Start using it.
A wireless network has come into range. Connect to it.

The really good balloons will tell the user what the expected action is. "A wireless network has come into range. Click here to connect to it." (Emphasis mine.)

Here are some bad balloons:

Bad Balloon Action?
Your screen settings have been restored. So what do you want me to do about it?
Your virtual memory swap file has been automatically adjusted. If it's automatic, what do I need to do?
Your clock has been adjusted for daylight saving time. Do you want me to change it back?
Updates are ready for you to install. So?

One of my colleagues got a phone call from his mother asking him what she she should do about a new error message that wouldn't go away. It was the "Updates are ready for you to install" balloon. The balloon didn't say what she should do next.

The desktop context menu extensions are the worst, since the ones I've seen come from video card manufacturers that provide access to something you do maybe once when you set up the card and then don't touch thereafter. I mean, do normal users spend a significant portion of their day changing their screen resolution and color warmth? (Who on a laptop would even want to change their screen resolution?) What's worse is that one very popular such extension adds an annoying two second delay to the appearance of the desktop context menu, consuming 100% CPU during that time. If you have a laptop with a variable-speed fan, you can hear it going nuts for a few seconds each time you right-click the desktop. Always good to chew up battery life initializing a context menu that nobody on a laptop would use anyway.

The thing is, all of these bad features were probably justified by some manager somewhere because it's the only way their feature would get noticed. They have to justify their salary by pushing all these stupid ideas in the user's faces. "Hey, look at me! I'm so cool!" After all, when the boss asks, "So, what did you accomplish in the past six months," a manager can't say, "Um, a bunch of stuff you can't see. It just works better." They have to say, "Oh, check out this feature, and that icon, and this dialog box." Even if it's a stupid feature.

As my colleague Michael Grier put it, "Not many people have gotten a raise and a promotion for stopping features from shipping."

Comments (132)
  1. Tom says:

    Great article, and I appreciate your frank views on this topic.  I am glad that someone is looking at things from the perspective of the user.  Like you, I am also annoyed by all the clutter of worthless links that applications install into the various areas of the shell.  High-level device drivers (those that also contain applications) are the worst offenders, IMO.

  2. Sean says:

    Updates are ready for you to install. So?

    So install them.

    I actually do like this message, because I have my automatic updates set to only download and notify me that they are there. Because if I have them automatically install I run the chance that my computer will be forcefully rebooted should I be away from my desk during those 5 minutes that I am asked if it should reboot, killing every running program wether or not the information is saved (and occationally corrupting databases).

  3. Mal says:

    @Sean

    I think the point is that the message should say "Updates are ready for you to install. Click here to install them."

  4. "(Who on a laptop would even want to change their screen resolution?)"

    Someone who uses external monitors, and bounces between one on their desk and projects in conference rooms with different optimal resolutions.

    Still doesn’t excuse the video card manufacturers, though.

  5. Raymond Chen (a longtime engineer at Microsoft) wrote an article today lamenting peoples abuses of some…

  6. Damian says:

    Ahem, language bar? And, eh, what about MSN messenger?

  7. J says:

    Different usage patterns for different people, I suppose…  When I install a program that I know I’m going to use frequently, I usually tell it NOT to put an item in the start menu and ONLY put an icon in the quick-launch bar.

  8. Dewi Morgan says:

    I have to say that I much appreciate some "do nothing" notices. The important thing is that they should notify me of *uncommon( events.

    "Your clock has been adjusted for daylight saving time."

    I love this one. Which is what prompted this comment. It happens twice a year, so it’s not a biggie. I don’t have a TV, I don’t tend to read newspapers. This notification is the only way I know to change all my clocks. I appreciate it. Perhaps it should be turnoffable, but on-by-default seems right to me for such uncommon notifications.

  9. Vorn says:

    "Your clock has been adjusted for Daylight Savings Time, by moving one hour back.  If you haven’t already, now might be a good time to change the settings on your other clocks."

    Better?

    Vorn

  10. Andrew Feldstein says:

    I second what Eric said, and he should have added that Outlook also insists on putting itself in the notification area–thus "to provide quick access to a running program."

  11. Neal says:

    The first thing I did after installing XP was to go through all the settings disabling all the annoyances that I could.  No more balloon tips, no quick launch bars, etc. and a clean fast interface with no slow eye candy.  Also gone are the context menus that my video card just had to install…

    TweakUI and group policy editor are my best friends, followed by regedit and XPLite to rid windows of all the stuff I’ll NEVER use but that Microsoft refuses to let me uninstall because some misbehaving app that I’ll never install expects it to be there.

    Now if I could just get rid of that damn pinball folder that would even force its way back with system restore turned off. :)

  12. Adrian says:

    I whole-heartedly agree with Ray on the philosophies here.  I wish more software companies would put the end-user first.  If you build a huge base of loyal users, business strategies and partnerships will follow.  You don’t want to optimize for business case at the expense of the user.  So few software companies get that.

    My least favorite balloon tip is "You have unused icons on your desktop."  (1) No, I don’t.  (2) When you dismiss it, it pops up a second time a few seconds later.  Grr!

    I hate the printing one, too.  It doesn’t tell you when the print job is finished, it tells you when the data has been sent to the printer.  That’s not actionable.  Here at work, the printer can take more than five minutes to warm up and print once it has received the job.  At home, the printer is 12 inches from the monitor.  I know when the job is done.  Please stop blocking my status bar with the redundant balloon tip.

  13. G D says:

    My biggest peeve is Symantec’s moronic Anti-virus notification balloon.  

    First, it’s not actionable: "Oh, hey! I automatically installed your anti-virus updates!" Great.  Thanks.  Why are you ringing the "Everything’s OK!" alarm?

    Second, and far more heinous, it steals the focus when it’s clanging away on the everything’s OK alarm!  That is the most godawfully irritating thing on the planet when you’re typing a document or in a full-screen game.

    Third, I can’t even find a way to turn that horrible notification balloon off.  I’m planning on getting my antivirus from a different vendor next year because of this single, solitary UI irritation.

  14. Scott says:

    How about Quicktime?  Why does Quicktime even have an icon in the notification area?

  15. Mitch Tenderson says:

    Raymond:

    I mean, do normal users spend a significant >portion of their day changing their screen >resolution and color warmth? (Who on a laptop >would even want to change their screen >resolution?)

    I do. Typical day: Use the laptop on the train to my office. Arrive at work and plug in an extra monitor (change resolution!). Go home and use laptop on train (change resolution!). Plug in tv since I use my laptop as a DVD player (change resolution!). Use laptop in the room with network connection (change resolution!).

    So yes, people actually do change their resolution, especially on laptops. And my video manufacturer’s context menu is much easier to use than XP:s confusing five step dialog.

  16. BryanK says:

    I feel the need to point out that Raymond often writes this type of article to point out the errors of various Microsoft programs to the people concerned, without specifically mentioning them.  I’d bet that he was thinking about Outlook, possibly the language bar, and probably MSN messenger.  But it looks like he only specifically mentioned notifications from the shell.

    (Except for the video drivers.  For those, it’s probably obvious to us who he means in those comments, but he still didn’t specifically say.  I’d bet the legal people are happier that way.)

    (G D: I don’t know much about them, but I’ve heard good things about both Avast and AntiVir, regarding the viruses they detect that some of the more well-known AV programs don’t.  Might be worth a shot at least; I believe both are free downloads.)

  17. Jonathan says:

    Your clock has been adjusted for daylight saving time. – So it means I don’t have to change it manually like they said on TV, good for me!

    Updates are ready for you to install. – Should add "when you’re ready to install them and probably reboot, click here"

    "Who on a laptop would even want to change their screen resolution?"

    When 2 people share it:

    • One uses the hi-DPI native res
    • The other has limited sight, and like a lower res, and doesn’t care about scaling artifacts.

    That’s what happens with my desktop computer (which has a fixed-res LCD monitor).

    On a related note, everytime my laptop comes back from suspend/hybernation, it waits a few seconds and then pops the "wireless connection unavailable" or something. No amount of unchecking "notify me" will rid me of it.

  18. JamesNT says:

    In order to stop all this abuse of the user interface in Windows, the following companies should be destroyed by thermonuclear means (listed in no particular order):

    1.  Real Networks
    2.  Symantec

    3.  Mcafee

    4.  Intuit

    5.  Act!

    6.  90% of all the crap at download.com

    James

  19. What’s happened is that the notification area has become the UI for applications that often run in the background so that they can be accessed without taking up MORE taskbar real estate with a application button.  Examples on my computer include Process Explorer, TaskMgr, ActiveSync, MSN Messenger, Communicator, the ISA firewall client, KerbTray, volume control.  In general, I like the "quick access" nature of most of those (and the "idiot lights" feature of the network connection icons), and I could get rid of a number of them if I wanted to.  Hunting for equivalents in the Start Menu would normally be more painful, and Quick Launch can’t update their tooltips or images the way notification area icons can.

  20. foxyshadis says:

    The notification area has become the "quick access" tray, for better or worse, and it’s probably time to adapt to that. The problem is that the taskbar becomes too cluttered with all the framing and text junk with more than a few appliations open, even with grouping, and the start menu is simply too cluttered in general, with application links spread over dozens of vendor-specific folders. Once you’ve identified the icon, that’s all you need to find it in the future, whether it’s in the tray, taskbar, floating dock, whatever.

    Media players that think it’s a great idea to put controls in the tray are beyond help, though, and need a swift kick.

  21. David Walker says:

    On my Windows XP Pro SP2 system, the Update notification DOES say:

    "Updates are ready for your computer.  Click here to install these updates."

    I don’t know why this item is in this list.  On the other hand, the Outlook icon and the Quicktime icon and the Office Language Bar spamming valuable user real-estate are certainly offenders, and they should be dealt with.

    I know that Raymond doesn’t work with the Office group, but it would be great if they would invite him, just once, to give a talk to their developers about just such things as these.

  22. foxyshadis says:

    Mitch, you need to get some video profiles set up, if your drivers are broken enough that they don’t autodetect the second monitor and load your settings automatically. ATI and Nvidia both have that capability, no clue about Intel "extreme" graphics.

    Oops, Aaron and I both said the same sort of thing. ;)

  23. Mihai says:

    <<automatically turning on a taskbar toolbar>>

    I have a good reason to want to turn on Quick Launch automatically. And that is because from time to time Win XP "forgets" that I want to show the Quick Launch and the Desktop in my task bar. So I would like to put something in autostart to make them visible.

    <<adding an icon to the notification area that conveys no useful information but merely adds to the clutter>>

    Just installed (yesterday) the "MS VS 2005 IDE Enhancements," and now I have an "Event Toaster" icon, no menu, no option to remove it, no info on what is that stuff supposed to do.

    <<Your clock has been adjusted for daylight saving time. Do you want me to change it back?>>

    Yes!!!

    I have a multi-boot system, and switching between XP (my normal working partition) and 2000/Vista (used for testing) pushes me back 3 hours. Although since very early days there is a bit in the CMOS to mark if DST is in effect (byte  0x0B, RTC status register B, bit 0: daylight savings enable)

  24. Quentin says:

    If only Microsoft would follow their own interface guidelines…

  25. Garry Trinder says:

    "Just installed (yesterday) the "MS VS 2005 IDE Enhancements," and now I have an "Event Toaster" icon, no menu, no option to remove it, no info on what is that stuff supposed to do."

    http://blogs.msdn.com/aaronmar/archive/2006/07/19/671687.aspx

    What is Event Toaster and how can I use it?

    After installing the power toys, you may notice that every time you launch Visual Studio 2005, a small toaster icon appears in the system tray. This is the notification icon provided by event toaster. This power toy allows you to perform an action (e.g. playing a WAV file, showing a balloon, running a VS macro, etc…) when a given event happens in Visual Studio. The options can be configured from the standard Tools-Options dialog under Powertoys/EventToaster/General. You can also disable the event toaster from here.

  26. Daev says:

    Doesn’t "actionable" mean "something we can get sued for doing"?

  27. Nekto2 says:

    > The rule for taskbar notifications is that they are there to, well, notify the user of something.

    ;) So how about ActiveSync, SQL server, network connection status (you could set – "always show") and even Volume control?

    So there is need for some other interface area. Just rename "notification area" to "background tasks status and device status area" and introduce new "notification area" :)

    And for display controls – there should be some other area where all new actions could be put to.

    If there only could be feature to "Mark this item as annoying" :) Which will 1) delete this item from menu/tray etc, 2) remember that and never allows it to reappear, 3) send to MS this so they will show diagram of most annoing icons and menu items :)  Including MS one ;)

  28. bw says:

    Raymond so why there is so much crap in Windows XP? Eg. some god damn animated animals in the search box, does windows is made for some kids?

  29. Darryl says:

    This is the best blog entry I’ve read in months.  Well put.

  30. Ben Cooke says:

    For ages I held on to Windows 2000, steadfast in my belief that Windows XP offered me nothing I needed that I didn’t already have. A few months ago I bought a new PC and accidentally ordered Windows XP Professional with it, rather than transferring my (retail!) Windows 2000 licence to it, so I figured that I might as well give it a try since I’d paid for it.

    On Windows 2000 I always used to use the old "NoDesktop" thing in the explorer "Policies" area in the registry to hide the desktop icons, since they serve no purpose for me except to give me something to delete every few months. When I first installed Windows XP, there was an item on my desktop context menu for "Show Desktop Icons", which was ticked on. I ticked it off and the icons went away. "Great!", I thought, "Microsoft added an offical way to do this!". However, a short time later I noticed that my icons had come back again and now the menu option isn’t there anymore. I’m not sure what happened to it. I investigated a little, but in the end just went back to the old-fashioned policy technique instead. Occasionally I get a notification icon telling me I have unused icons on my desktop, which always makes me chuckle. But where has the official option gone? I did a survey of some of the Windows XP machines at my office and some of them have it but some of them don’t. What gives?

  31. Raymond: Good post. I just hope you forwarded it to the MS company roster :P

  32. cereal says:

    I don’t mind the Intel graphics driver adding stuff to the desktop context menu – better there than the systray.  But you’re right, several seconds every time to initialize is supremely annoying.  I feel your pain.

  33. A says:

    "too bad the name of the directory isn’t always "Quick Launch"; the name can change based on what language the user is running."

    Are you sure? The text for the context menu item is localized, but on the 3 non-English versions of Windows I have, the actual directory name is in English.

  34. Dan Ridley says:

    You know, re-reading the comments from the linked three-year-old post was pretty amusing.

    My favorite: ‘Personally, I’m glad the Office folks abandoned the "drawing the Microsoft logo in the title bar" feature.’  

    My second favorite: ‘I saw the screenshots of Longhorn, it uses really cool GUI.’ (Amusing because it was September 2003.)

  35. Cody says:

    "too bad the name of the directory isn’t always "Quick Launch"; the name can change based on what language the user is running."

    Is there a way we can choose the directory name such that programs can’t "guess" it?  Then the hardcoded Quick Launch directory can be emptied or have all permissions removed as necessary?

  36. Stu Smith says:

    Now I know I’m not the only one to be annoyed about this sort of thing, I thought I was becoming a grumpy old man. Every day I turn on my laptop, and every day I get two balloons: wired ethernet is not connected, and wireless is connected. Big suprise, that’s how I use my laptop. Sigh. I wish I could turn them off, they drive me batty.

    One little idea: perhaps Microsoft could write a decent installer framework, and provide something like pre-packaged, signed, installer wizard pages to use (eg "Choose program shortcuts"). If only these MS-signed pages were allowed to access certain areas during setup, and no others, we could be sure that a setup program had asked the user if they wanted something added. A step towards reduced unwanted browser add-ons etc?

  37. Alex says:

    "There is no programmatic interface to turn on a taskbar toolbar"

    Sometimes I think Microsoft is divided into separate lands. While one guy writes "don’t touch user’s taskbar", other guys are creating damn Windows Desktop Search’s search bar which is turned on by default!

  38. Sadly, this post is the exact reason nearly the first thing I do after installing Windows XP is go into the registry and turn the balloons off permanently.

  39. Ryan Bemrose says:

    > (If it’s not running, the Start menu shortcut runs it. If it is
    already running, the Start menu shortcut runs the program, which
    recognizes that it’s already running and merely activates the
    already-running copy.)

    Raymond, doesn’t this very behavior cause the problems with “A single-instance program is its own denial of service” (http://blogs.msdn.com/oldnewthing/archive/2006/06/20/639479.aspx)

    [Um, I never said that it was a problem. -Raymond]
  40. UFies.org says:

    A nice article on the MSDN Blogs The Old New Thing entitled I bet somebody got a really nice bonus…

  41. macbirdie says:

    "If you haven’t already, now might be a good

    time to change the settings on your other

    clocks."

    >

    Better?

    Other clocks? My PC has more than one clock? Where do I set them up?

    The time change notification actually says that you can click the balloon to see if everything’s ok after the change.

    Oh, and the Media Player knows how to turn it’s toolbar on, but at least it asks politely if I want to enable it when I minimize the player.

    MSN Messenger’s notification icon is there all the time, even when nothing’s going on. Other communicators to that too, though. And none of them turn off the icon when restored.

    Notification area is simply yet another Windows shell convenience abused. Nothing new.

  42. walter t says:

    <i>You do not use a notification icon to say "Everything is just like it was a moment ago; nothing has changed." If nothing has changed, then say nothing.

    </i>

    … I’m reading that and looking down at the taksbar icons that are displayed by default by Outlook and SQL Server.

  43. Gabe says:

    Maybe somebody from Office is reading this blog and will be able to respond with why on Earth Outlook needs to have a icon in the notification area to say that it’s running. And best of all, even the Office help tells you that to turn it off, just go into "Customize Notifications" and set it to always hide that icon.

  44. Andrew says:

    One the subject of useless notifications, why does Microsoft OneCare insist on telling me every day that it is uptodate?

    This can only be a marketing feature to keep pushing the application into the users consciousness every day so they are more likely to renew their subscription each year.

  45. Bob says:

    When I built my latest computer my most frustrating experiences were with the overfeatured drivers and software included with the hardware components.  1.5 GB worth of disk space eaten by DVD utilities.  The entire .net framework so my Samsung LCD monitor could show its easy adjust menus.  Several hundred MB for Nero so I could write a simple CD.  Gone, gone (along with .net), and gone.

    Two years later: I use my front panel buttons on the rare occassion that I tweak my display.  I still don’t own a single piece of software that requires .net.  I copy DVDs with a 400KB piece of shareware and create CDs with an 800KB piece and don’t miss a single feature.

  46. John Knoeller says:

    I think I have that 2 second delay desktop menu ‘feature’.  Could you give any advice on how to remove it?  Perhaps an article on how one figures out who the culprit is when the desktop menu takes a long time to show up?

  47. ColinA says:

    The thing about icons in the notification area is that they have become expected to be "quick activation" buttons (as in Winamp for example), and many, many programs allow you to remove the taskbar button and put it in the system tray.  What strikes me about this is that it’s much like word usage.  Sure, you didn’t intend it to be used that way when it was created, but everybody does now so that’s become a de facto standard usage.  I’ve never noticed anyone click on a shortcut expecting to activate an already-running program… it’s just not what people expect.  Even if it was, I tend to expect any running program with a UI to give me visual feedback that it’s running (even when hidden).  The notification icon accomplishes this.

    Indeed, I as a user have come to expect that programs I leave running constantly don’t clutter my taskbar but instead take up far less of that expensive real estate by residing in the notification area.

    Shouldn’t the goal of user interface design be to link actions with results that users expect… like activation and feedback that the program is loaded via the notification area?  If so, why would this be a bad thing? :)

    Just my thruppence (inflation).

  48. J.Marsch says:

    I certainly agree with your post, and I have to say (as some others have) that Outlook is probably one of the more annoying offenders.

    (note, I’m just feeling your pain here, I know that you can’t go tell the Outlook team what to do, and that it really isn’t your fault/problem, and I recognize that Outlook is a really large and successful product built by a team of really hardworking and intelligent people.  But I’m going to complain anyway  ;)

    Every time I get an Outlook update from MS updates, I find Outlook has forced itself back into my quicklaunch bar.  And what’s more, there is always an outlook icon in my task bar notification area — I just just in case I would rather double-click it, instead of alt-tabbing or clicking on the running task — both of which require less effort than targetting a small icon and double-clicking on it. I get a second icon in the notification area if there is actually new email in my inbox — do I really need notification icons for one application?

    Just my 2 cents.  

  49. For John Knoeller:

    -Open the Start menu, click on Run, then type regedit and click OK.

    -Find the following registry key:

    HKEY_CURRENT_USERControl PanelDesktop.

    -Find the string value MenuShowDelay, then right-click Modify and edit the value.

    -The default value is 400.  The lower the number, the faster menus open.  I have had this key set to 50 on my office PC, my home PC, and work laptops for years with no ill effects I can detect.

  50. Ryan says:

    How about the McAffee task bar icon that actively tries to sell you on additional products even though you have those products, and to top it off it has an alarm (ding! ding! ding!).  Using the taskbar icons to promote, ughghghg. I am sure someone got a nice bonus for that.  Worst is its on my tv computer and at 3am I hear DING DING DING.  Yes I shoudl disable it but its there to remind me NOT to resubscribe to McAffee, ever.. again…

  51. Doug says:

    Daylight savings time balloon:

    The action is "double-check to make sure the computer did the right thing."  Though that might be redundant for 99% of the world (the computer knows my time zone rules better than I do).

    For me, at least, it is useful.  It tells me that Windows has adjusted the Real Time Clock on my computer, and reminds me that if this is not the first time this has happened on this computer (I triple-boot), I’ll probably need to change it back.  (Why can’t Windows just use UTC so it doesn’t have to mess with my RTC?  Grr…  Backwards compatibility strikes again!)

    Virtual memory size increased:

    The action could be "make sure all of your programs recovered correctly" and "maybe increase your swap file size or close some programs".  But you’re right, this isn’t clear.

    Updates are ready to install:

    Click here to install them.

    On the other hand, I don’t care that a Wireless Network has been detected.  Duh, I just came home.  Of course Wireless networks are detected.

    I think the result of all of this is obvious:

    Not everybody is the same.  So the notifications MUST be configurable.

    The one that annoys me the most?  "No Wireless Networks were detected."  Duh.  I just turned off my WiFi adapter.  What did you expect?  Maybe I should turn it back on to make my WiFi adapter feel loved?

  52. Bert Ealzey says:

    Balloons are annoying and intrusive period. Off with them and make the world a better computing place.

  53. Eric says:

    And yet, every time you download an update to Outlook 2003 (such as a Junk Filter update), it *still* reinstalls the stupid Outlook icon in the Quick Launch Bar. I think I’ve now removed it several hundred times (between multiple computers, reinstalls, etc).

    If even Office gets it wrong, there’s not much hope for the rest of the world.

  54. Dean Harding says:

    The Outlook icon is good because it lets you "minimize to tray." In fact, that’s what most of the tray icons I have set to "visible" are. There’s Outlook, Process Explorer, the CruiseControl.NET monitor thingy.

    I guess there is a point here, though. Outlook could have an option to hide itself completely (except when I’ve got a new unread message) and only pops up again when something happens – or I click the "Outlook" icon in the Start menu if I want to write a new mail myself.

    "I bet somebody got a really nice bonus for that feature."

    I say the same thing when I read about anything to do with DRM. Sorry, I couldn’t resist :)

  55. John Knoeller says:

    To Todd Derscheid, thank you, but that’s not the delay that Raymond was referring to and I was asking how to disable.

    Basically, someone has installed a desktop menu extension that takes a LONG time (2 seconds or so) to do something everytime I right-click on an item in the Windows Explorer.  I have no idea which product did this, nor do I know what they are doing when they take up 100% of the CPU, and I would like to know how one would figure it out.  Once I know I may decide to remove it, or I might decide that whatever it does is useful enought to keep.  (unlikely, but I could happen).

  56. Igor says:

    The Quick Launch bar and Favorites menu belong to the user.

    AMEN! Couldn’t agree more. I would just add that the HDD also belongs to us. And the Desktop. And the Start Menu. And… well you get the point.

    …change some obscure feature of their video card.

    Well, there is a problem. Vista moves already not so easily accessible display properties to more obscure place in the control panel. So now they will have a valid reason to add the context menu item although there is no excuse for the delay.

    Many people use the notification area to provide quick access to a running program, which runs counter to the guidance above.

    This is where I disagree with you Raymond. Having quick access to a running program is good thing. You can right click on a program icon and tell it to check for email or to download a file for you. You can’t right click in Start Menu to accomplish the same thing. Also, navigating through the Start Menu is harder especially if it is cluttered.

    Doesn’t matter whether the program is running already or not.

    Well it wouldn’t mind if the program had the ability change the icon context menu or the default action for the click and double-click on its icon while running. That would be an UI improvement. For example, Outlook icon could launch Outlook if it is not running, but clicking on it while it is running could bring it up and you could get access to its features from the changed context menu.

  57. Dean Harding says:

    Oh, and as for having a "non-Quick Launch-Quick Launch" bar, if you right-click on your taskbar, then Toolbars, and New Toolbar… you can point a toolbar at any folder you like. Just copy a couple of shortcuts in there and you’ve got a Quick Launch bar that nobody can touch! They can install whatever they like in the "real" Quick Launch folder, but you’ve got it hidden. Cool!

  58. Bob says:

    I really hate that wireless network in range because if you’re on the fringe of the network it will keep popping up.

  59. dave says:

    How is the implied action of "Your print job is complete" any different from "Updates are ready for you to install?" At least the latter says *who* is supposed to take the action.

    Since upgrading to IE7 on my notebook I was getting the VM balloon at least once a day, and *that* one is annoying.

  60. Revenant says:

    Maxime Haineault: "seems you are a complete moron and don’t want to restart now. But don’t worry, a clever Microsoft employee just got a promotion by creating a system wich will bug you every 2 minutes to restart your system. Now let’s see who will win!"

    I use a low-tech method which I’m sure is not recommended:

    Start | Run | net stop wuauserv

    This stops the Automatic Updates service, which means it can’t pop up bloody annoying balloons. Yes, I know I’m running in a Frankenstate, and I won’t get extra updates while it’s stopped, but honestly, I have almost never had a problem because of it.

    About the only times I restart these days are when I need to install new hardware or when I get sick of multiple programs nagging me.

  61. Novous says:

    Oh yeah, that’s great and all. But where was this sound advice back when Windows XP–the archaic operating system written years upon years ago–was still in beta?

    I congratulate you on finding another niche to complain about in XP.

  62. Igor says:

    @John Knoeller:

    It is most likely nVidia desktop context menu extension.

    1. Right-click on desktop, then Properties.
    2. Settings Tab, Advanced button

    3. Tab with the nVidia icon and the name of your card

    4. In the tree on the left click on Tools

    5. Uncheck Enable desktop context menu

    However, I would like to ask Raymond why "New" context menu takes so much time? I find that annoying as well as the delay you get by mousing over View|Toolbars and View|Explorer Bar in Internet Explorer 6.

  63. Igor says:

    If you uncheck both "Show icon in notification area when connected" and "Notify me when this connection has limited or no connectivity" for a network connection, you still get annoying "The cable is unplugged" baloon. How come?

  64. max says:

    Americans tend to think that EVERYBODY speaks english. If that would be true, why do you think Windows and google and msn and Photoshop are edited in plenty other languages.

    I work for an american company in Mexico and use the language tools a lot since english keyboard does not have special carachters as é á ü etc.

  65. Centaur says:

    +1 against “You have unused icons on your desktop”.

    No, I don’t, these are not icons (as in .ico files), they are shortcuts.

    “Okay, you have unused *shortcuts* on your desktop.”

    Yes, I do, because some misbehaving installer has placed shortcuts on my otherwise clean desktop.

    “So, you seem to want them off…”

    Yes, I want them off.

    “So, *click here* to…”

    To move these useless shortcuts into an equally useless “Useless shortcuts” subdirectory? What happened to good old Recycle Bin (which I personally always keep disabled, so whatever you move there simply disappears, no second thoughts, you’ve decided… decided…)?

    But, if I close it, it will pop up again.

    Okay. I click.

    “Oops. I told the system to move them, but it said, ‘ERROR_ACCESS_DENIED’.”

    Of course it did. Because I installed that software as Administrator, and it littered over the All Users desktop, not mine, and we wouldn’t possibly want to disappoint some other poor user of this computer by moving his cheese (never mind that I’m the sole and only user of my PC), would we? So the shortcuts in question are writable (and movable) by Administrators, and I am currently just one of Users, and I can only read and execute them. (Off with their heads! Oh, that doesn’t count as an execution, what a pity…)

    So, no can do. “Well, do you want at least to hide them?”

    Can I?

    “Uhh… no.”

    (*Sigh*) Dismissed, then. See you next month…

  66. bcdef says:

    The OSX application Growl, a notification manager that allows you to customize which events you want to see pop up, as well as how they look, presents a way for third-party developers to plug into the notification system without being abusive. This is currently a key void in the Windows operating system IMHO.

  67. bcdef says:

    FWIW, a Windows alternative: http://www.fullphat.net/

    (doesn’t stop the abusers of the system level notification system though, I believe)

  68. DriverDude says:

    steveg is right, it’s usually some marketeer who decides their software is just SO GREAT that everyone will want it to always run ALL THE TIME (no Startup shortcut), that it is PERFECT so there is no reason to disable it (no Startup shortcut), and will be the only program running (plenty of RAM for .NET), and is so IMPORTANT that shortcuts must be placed EVERYWHERE – desktop, start menu…

    Can you tell I’m pissed…

    The worst is they provide no remedy when something goes wrong. (Hello, Creative…?!?)

    Just for fun, compare the UI for Nvidia’s gaming 3D video cards versus their business Quattro cards. The gaming cards have a pretty settings UI and they tell you, in no uncertain terms, that that pretty UI is so great and will be the only one available in the future.

    Their business video cards use the older style dialogs, without the fancy UI and eye candy. The business UI is faster and all the settings are easily accessible.

    Matrox does the same thing, a pretty UI for consumers uses .NET 2.0, and a standard UI for "server" users. It’s all about image.

    I would love to hit them over the head with this clue-by-4s. Thanks, Raymond.

  69. Ulric says:

    Well, it may have been called the ‘notification area’ in the spec, it’s now the de facto area for programs that are always running in the background.  Like MSN, skype, the volume control, rss newsreader, etc.  Applets or services as oposed to the application task bar.  It naturally leads to a widget bar..

    Personnally, I haven’t been fighting them or the quicklaunch..  context menus on the shell are deadly to performance, though.  I think they are what cause people to re-install windows, they are what makes it feel sluggish.  Nothing worse than a context menu timing out of a network license check or update check.

  70. WindowsUser says:

    Can’t say that I agree with the poster.  I actually find certain bubbles like "Your clock has been adjusted for daylight saving time" very helpful.  Just last weekend it reminded me that we’re back in winter time.  In fact, I believe this kind of "notification" bubbles is what the system tray was made for in the first place.

  71. Matt Green says:

    Lets not forget applications like Java, Realplayer, or Quicktime that think they are *so* important that a control panel needs to be installed for them, in addition to two desktop icons, a tray icon, a quick launch toolbar addition, start menu group, and an entry into the favorites menu.

    Quit trying to brand my computer with your tripe.

  72. sergio says:

    My contribution to the subject:

    ATI Catalyst video card drivers need for a few stupid dialogs the whole &%$ NET framework and *permanently* use a lot of RAM (up to 100 MB, they run at startup und just remain in memory and stink) only to be able to show these dialogs, if and when somebody decides to see them. Hello, ATI fools, a few dialogs can be fitted in 20 kilobytes (five thousand times less than what you spend, and probably ten millon times faster), and they don’t need *any* memory permanently.

  73. Archangel says:

    As usual, you’re right in so many ways.

    One of my favourites was a system tray icon supplied with Intel’s graphics drivers that allowed users to change their screen resolution etc, similar to those desktop context menus. When I met this beast (several years ago now) it was on a co-worker’s machine. As it turned out, they hadn’t bother to implement the nicer features of the proper dialog, such as only showing displayable resolutions and the 15 second restore thing.

    The user in question seemed to think his 17" CRT might be capable of 1920×1200, so chose that from the list. Predictably, it wasn’t, but it didn’t restore itself – he ended up raising a call with tech support and going home.

    Incidentally Raymond, laptop users do occasionally want to change their screen resolution – if you’ve got a high-resolution or widescreen (or both) laptop, projectors often refuse to play nicely with it. I agree entirely that it’s not something you want on a "convenient" context menu though!

  74. Aaron, it’s a nit, but the volume icon (like the clock and a couple of other built-in icons) is actually built into the shell, it doesn’t take up a process (although if you click on it, sndvol32.exe is launched).

  75. "My biggest peeve is Symantec’s moronic Anti-virus notification balloon."

    Hmm – I hadn’t noticed that one.  I was probably too frustrated at the time by the background automatic virus signature update progress meter dialog popping up in my face (system modal of course – the old "please stop work for 10 minutes while I do an automatic background update" trick).

    Symantec are now regarded as a thing of the past, for me.  A distant memory of more naive and paranoid days.

  76. Maxime Haineault says:

    What a word of truth..

    And it’s getting so much worst with time, it’s exponential.

    I’ve received a brand new dell laptop after a quick configuration windows was running with around 50 most useless softwares pre-installed by dell .. and about 15 shows up in the tray, that’s ridiculous.

    I had things like Microsoft SQL Service Management in my tray .. I mean, what in hell I’m suppose to do with that ? What it have so important which require me to support the vision of its ugly icon 10 hours a day, and worst, giving it even a fraction of my system resources ?

    But the best of all at this is still Microsoft.

    "you’ve just installed IE7, which is such an HUGE upgrade that you really should restart your computer now. What do you want to do ?"

    later ..

    "you have clicked later, however it is strongly recommended that you restart now … blah blah blah"

    still later, I’ll take the "risk"

    "seems you are a complete moron and don’t want to restart now. But don’t worry, a clever Microsoft employee just got a promotion by creating a system wich will bug you every 2 minutes to restart your system. Now let’s see who will win!"

    f*ck y** !

    Hell. Take 2 identical PC and start an update race between Firefox 1.5 to 2 and IE6 to 7. I swear you’ll never want to use a microsoft product again. It’s like it has been made to take the maximum imaginable amount of time to install.. Maybe some IT departments likes that it take so long ? :P

  77. David says:

    What about that damn balloon that Outlook pops up when it has some sort of minor connection slowdown ? "Outlook is sending or recieving data from the Exchange server" or somesuch.

    Gods!

  78. steveg says:

    It’s the twats in Marketing that get the bonuses, not the geeks. "We need our [Quicktime|MSN|WMP|Intel|Nvidia|ATI|Office|.*] logo on the screen. It’s IMPORTANT! **** usability, I don’t even know what that is."

    Personally I hope whoever decided the Office 2007’s File Menu should be the Office Logo menu almost chokes to death on a ham (or lettuce if they’re vegetarian or don’t eat pork) sandwich. How did they "solve" this? They renamed the feature from File menu to Office menu. Morons.

    It’ll get worse when Your Favourite App imitates the Office 2007 interface and has their crappy logo for the file menu.

    Morons.

  79. JamesW says:

    I pretty much agree with everything that has been said here. Especially the desktop icons balloon. That bottom right corner (assuming a standard taskbar position) is just a chaotic mess. Balloons, toasters, icons for crap I don’t care about, all jostling for space and attention. After a reboot I have spend time killing them all. :(

    Another annoyance is the lack of standards for systray^Wnotification area icons. Do I click on it or right click to get something to happen? Will it raise an app, or some pop-up menu? Who knows!

    Quicktime has always puzzled me, it’s not as if they’re trying to replicate something from OS X. If it was about advertising, why not stick iTunes there too? Perhaps they are intentionally making Windows that bit more annoying. If so, then the broken Microsoft mouse control panel on OS X is probably pay-back.

  80. I hate ballons.

    "A wireless network is in range" so what? I work in a large city where there are loads of the damn things and I DON’T want to connect to them all.

    "Print Job complete". I know.I hit Print didn’t I? If there is a problem the printer will tell windows and windows will tell me.

  81. Nekto2 says:

    Take 2 identical PC and start an update race between Firefox 1.5 to 2 and IE6 to 7.

    But IE is not just a web browser such as FF :) IE is half of OS ;)) Many software depends on it’s components.

    There is intentionally no interface to manipulate shortcuts in the Quick Launch bar.

    Don’t you think that it would be better to implement such an interface and make a special user control interface so he will select to show only those he actually need and hide (not delete) others? :)

    ..and learned our lesson…

    so the lesson #2 is that it will be abused either way :) Better to implement anti-abuse. AFAIK same thing as to allow overwriting DLL in system32 and then replace it with corect one several seconds later.

  82. Michiel says:

    The System Tray is quite a good bit of UI. It can shrink on the
    taskbar, it can autohide together with the rest of the toolbar, users
    can find it and they do understand it. Now, if Microsoft would just
    take the Excel route and acknowledge this use, everyone would be happy.

    What is still needed? Let’s put the user in control. That is to say:
    automatically add an ‘exit’ option if it is missing from the context
    menu. This is a hard kill, no vetos. Add a ‘hide’ option which will
    hide the icon. Perhaps for the worst offenders, add a ‘Remove this
    program’. That will add an incentive to keep your stuff out of the
    System Tray. And since it’s the Shell group, not the Office group, they
    can make Office play by these rules as well.

    The tricky bit: figuring out the offender. This is not very hard, if
    you reverse the logic. Only allow programs with an ‘Add/Remove
    Programs’ entry to appear at all.

    [Replacing one unsolved problem with a different unsolved problem. -Raymond]
  83. Alex says:

    best rant in a long long time!!!!

    awesome article.

  84. Rachael says:

    John Knoeller, I have exactly the same problem with the right-click context menu taking ages to load (except it’s more like 10 seconds than 2).

    I would be very grateful if Raymond did an article on how to fix it.

  85. Dean Harding says:

    how to fix it

    Uninstall the program that is installing the menu items.

  86. required says:

    "Your print job is complete. Go pick it up."

    Heh. In the Good Old Days we used to get them delivered to us. Mind, that was 20 years ago.

  87. Tim Smith says:

    It might go against the design of the shell, but from a user’s perspective having outlook not in the task bar can be a good thing.

    I have a quote from you, Raymond, that states that if a user doesn’t use a feature the way it was intended then you should either educate or change the design.  [paraphrased]  I think that quote is valid here.  

    Also, there are always going to be edge conditions where what is best for the user goes against what the software design intended.

    [Everything is a balance. Do you add every feature that even one person asks for? Even if it harms others? -Raymond]
  88. required says:

    Actually I think Ian is right. What I want to see in the taskbar are those programs I am working with – VS, IE, and so on. Everything else is a distraction when I switch from one to another. Having (for example) a mail client notify you from the notification area is, IMO, a better way. Maybe though Outlook should be split into two – something that fetches the email and notifies you, and then you can choose to start Outlook or not. Umm. A bit like fetchmail and mutt. <runs away>

  89. JamesNT says:

    When are you people going to learn to NOT go up against someone who is:

    a.  Smarter than you

    b.  Has access to billion dollar research documents on what does and does not work regarding human to computer interfacing.

    c.  Carried out half that research himself.

    James

  90. BryanK says:

    My O2003 teammates do get that network balloon help, even though we don’t have a bad network configuration.

    I am going to guess here, and say it’s something to do with an enormous email coming in, and getting scanned by an email anti-virus or anti-spam solution that takes tons of resources to do its scanning.  We have several Outlook users on 2003 that get that dialog whenever our mail server gets bogged down trying to scan an enormous email.

    Yes, we should put limits on the sizes of incoming messages, just like a lot of our customers do.  But these are the same customers that send us 20MB messages and expect them to get through (after they’ve bounced back a 10MB message the day before), and if we did put a limit on all emails, we have one VP that would complain very, very loudly as soon as he missed one message because of that.  Sigh.

  91. Nekto2 says:

    [It goes in the taskbar. That’s what the taskbar is for. What you’re
    asking for goes against the design of the shell. Maybe you’d be better
    off with some other operating system. -Raymond]

    Then why MSN messanger is not like this? :) It hangs in systray.
    Ok… same way do icq/yahoo/other IMs…, but MSN is Microsoft product,
    so why it is violating own design?

    [You’ll have to ask the MSN Messenger team why they decided to violate the shell team’s design guidelines. -Raymond]
  92. Cody says:

    "but MSN is Microsoft product, so why it is violating own design?"

    Raymond has discussed this a thousand times:  He doesn’t make every design decision for every team.  Some of these posts are at least partially pointed at the appropriate teams within Microsoft.

  93. David Walker says:

    JamesW: "After a reboot I have spend time killing them all. :("

    Search Google for "startup.cpl".  Install it, then go to the Control Panel, and use Startup to turn off the things that you don’t want to start up the next time you reboot.  Then you won’t have to spend time killing them the next time you reboot.

  94. Nekto2 says:

    i want Outlook running most of the time, so that it can notify me of an Email. i don’t want it on the task bar.

    Just use: http://en.softonic.com/ie/32372/TrayIt! or one of any other such program :) (note that "!" is part of URL)

  95. Nekto2 says:

    He doesn’t make every design decision for every team.

    I see. And this article clearly stated:

    "I bet somebody got a really nice bonus for that feature".

    So I will not argue.

  96. Cooney says:

    Tim:

    I have a quote from you, Raymond, that states that if a user doesn’t use a feature the way it was intended then you should either educate or change the design.  [paraphrased]  I think that quote is valid here.  

    The taskbar is a basic part of the shell. Besides, how would you locate the outlook window if it was offscreen and wasn’t in the taskbar?

  97. kokorozashi says:

    Each of our products installs a whole application whose only job it is to establish a task bar icon. All this icon does is open one of several control panel applets. When I first discovered this, I asked why we had it when the control panel was perfectly available. The answer was that the control panel is too obscure and users can’t find our applets. Of course, if you buy this, it implies that users can’t find ANY control panel applet, which seems unlikely, but regardless of logic the perception is that this inability costs us money, not only in time spent by our support folks coaching users into the control panel but also in the difficult-to-quantify pocket universe of word of mouth regarding our products’ ease of use. Ever since then, I’ve been trying to find time to add functionality to this app to actually justify its claiming of the real estate, but of course that kind of effort is never funded. Why am I telling this sob story? To provide some real-world background info on how these things actually happen. It’s not always an evil branding conspiracy.

  98. Ian Boyd says:

    Using Outlook as the example.

    i want Outlook running most of the time, so that it can notify me of
    an Email. i don’t want it on the task bar. It’s not *supposed* to be in
    the notification area. And i want a way to see that it is running.

    Now invent the user interface.

    [It goes in the taskbar. That’s what the taskbar
    is for. What you’re asking for goes against the design of the shell.
    Maybe you’d be better off with some other operating system. -Raymond
    ]
  99. I think the issue of "feature ownership" is really important. As your final paragraph asks – who ever got paid for doing less? I see the same issue in my own filed (processors) – see my blog

    http://bloggershepherd.blogspot.com/2006/11/less-is-better.html

  100. Ulric says:

    I find the ‘new mail’ icon stressful and it deconcentrates me, but contrarily to what *I think* is implied here, it’s a fault in Outlook to not allow me to turn that notification area icon off.  As oposed to a fault in the concept.

    I went back to outlook 2000 after trying 2003.. My O2003 teammates do get that network balloon help, even though we don’t have a bad network configuration.  That really seems to be unnecessary and distracting!  

    The default mail notice which shows a message preview, as well.. I don’t know what they’re thinking, it’s like the Outlook Team thinks everyone’s priority should be email.  It’s not.  People would call if it needed to be addressed immediately

  101. Steve Loughran says:

    outlook users can turn off all notifications (show exchange server warning messages/show network warnings/show network connectivity messages)

    Personally I turn off all email notifications. There is nothing more amusing than someone getting explicit adult spam email notifications while their laptop is giving a presentation. Furthermore, I know I’ve got email, I dont need to be reminded. It would be like a popup going "your software project is late"

  102. Nishanth says:

    The only thing comes to my mind is what Frederick P. Brooks quoted in "No Silver Bullet"

    "As a software product is found to be useful, people try it in new cases at the edge of or beyond the original domain. The pressures for extended function come chiefly from users who like the basic function and invent new uses for it."

    Probably it should have been software feature ;-)

    -Nishanth

  103. Leo Davidson says:

    Two comments on the notification area:

    1) None of this would really matter if the feature introduced in XP that allows you to selectively hide and show icons actually worked, but it’s completely broken, hiding icons you want to show and showing icons you want to hide arbitrarily. My guess is it gets confused by items whose icons and/or tooltips change, but maybe the bug is more subtle than that. It’s still odd to think that it hasn’t been fixed after all these years. Does it work in Vista?

    2) As people have said, the notification are is useful for a bunch of things and the mess that is the Start Menu is no alternative. I think the important thing is that users get a CHOICE. If you don’t want a certain icon in the tray then you should be able to turn it off and I’d be inclined to not use any program which *forces* an icon down there. But I have nothing against, and often like, programs offering icons down there, even if they’re more status than notification. (i.e. They indicate something I want to be able to see at a glance and often interact with, but which may not change all that often.)

  104. Michiel says:

    Only allow programs with an ‘Add/Remove Programs’ entry to appear at all.

    [Replacing one unsolved problem with a different unsolved problem. -Raymond]

    Not really. The ‘different unsolved problem’ you are referring to
    are entries that do not mention their install location, an optional
    field to support applications from NT4.

    So – if c:notplayingbytherulesoldapp.exe wants to create an
    icon, and it doesn’t appear in Add/Remove Programs, it’s denied.
    Exactly the same happens if it does appear, but doesn’t have a correct
    install location. The logic here is reversed. If the install location
    is missing, you can treat it as if the entire ARP entry is missing.

    Yes, this breaks apps without enough information.

    Now, if this really is deemed unacceptable (and  remember, put
    the users interest first) one other solution is a user-controlled
    blacklist. The user can often tell the OS precisely which icons should
    go. Just refuse to start the offending program (slap a deny ACL on it).

    Vendors may like the idea of making an extra $3 on all the garbage
    they put in the system tray, but that means the Windows Experience for
    new users is a whole lot worse. Many customers will blame Microsoft for
    the poor behavior, so it’s only fair if you become more stringent.

    [The information in Add/Remove Programs isn’t
    enough. The Add/Remove Programs registration doesn’t give you the path
    to the EXE. If you are only interested in the icon, you still have the
    problem that the notification interface uses HICONs but Add/Remove
    Programs uses icon paths, and even if you somehow manage to fix that,
    you still have the problem that a program that uses multiple
    notification icons (and most of the do) would need to have multiple
    Add/Remove entries, one for each icon. And programs that generate icons
    dynamically are totally out of luck. -Raymond
    ]
  105. Ian Boyd says:

    "

    Using Outlook as the example.

    [It goes in the taskbar. That’s what the taskbar is for.]

    "

    The answer should have been having an Outlook Email checking service; and notify me if there is any.

    Kinka like the Microsoft’s "Automatic Updates" program doesn’t run in the taskbar (even though that’s what the taskbar is for).  

    But at the same time, we don’t want every program installing itself as a service. What the UI needs is some way to have programs that run all the time, but not take up taskbar real estate – just like Automatic Updates, Windows Messenger, Print Spooler, Windows Firewall, etc.

    The UI feature i’ve wanted for a decade now is a way to "hide" some applications into a "Running Programs" folder on the desktop. Maybe instead of a folder, they could be hidden to a small area on the taskbar-bar – collapsed if you will; showing only the icon. Perhaps it could be next to the Notification Area, which currently shows icons of a running, but hidden, program.

  106. silkio says:

    just a note about the DST issue; sometimes DST doesn’t start when the computer wants it to. For exmaple I believe here in vic, aus, the government decided to start DST earlier, like a month earlier, so it’s handy to know if the computer automatically adjusted itself.

  107. silkio says:

    He doesn’t make every design decision

    for every team

    Maybe he should.

  108. Igor says:

    >It goes in the taskbar. That’s what the taskbar is for

    Raymond, I disagree.

    Using Alt+Tab to switch between active programs you then have to skip over Outlook each time. IMO it is better off as a tray icon.

    Which reminds me to inform all those bitching about Outlook — Outlook 2003 *can* minimize to tray without having taskbar button — just right-click on the icon and check "Hide When Minimized" option.

    While you are at it, you can also disable network connectivity warnings and even email alerts (which I like very much because I can instantly delete stupid messages without having to read them).

    Raymond, would shell team consider implementing default icon context menu replacement for running applications?

    I also like the idea for adding Terminate and Hide to the context menu of all tray icons. Of course, it should be possible to turn it on and off in control panel or in taskbar properties.

  109. Cody says:

    >He doesn’t make every design decision

    >for every team

    Maybe he should.

    Then he most definitely would not have enough time to tell us about all the decisions he didn’t make!  Though it’s not a bad solution, I’m sure.

  110. Michiel says:

    Call me stupid, but I still don’t get it. I just checked my
    registry. I see many InstallLocation’s below the
    WindowsCurrentVersionUninstall key. Let’s create a set ‘SIL’ of these
    install locations. Now if an EXE that wants to put an icon in the
    system tray, check if the EXE is either in or below a folder from the
    set ‘SIL’.

    From my earlier example: oldapp.exe can create an icon in the system
    tray iff its InstallLocation is set to (a prefix of)
    “c:notplayingbytherules”

    Dynamically generated icons are completely irrelevant.

    Any program that doesn’t include an InstallLocation will lose its icon. That I find acceptable. The key is not exactly new.

    The entire idea of the ‘designed for XP/Vista’ programs was that
    Microsoft offered a smooth upgrade path if developers ‘paid their
    taxes’. “InstallLocation” is just such a tax. Don’t be overly afraid to
    hurt a few tax dodgers.

    The only issue I do see is that some EXE’s will be allowed to put
    icons in the system tray because they “share” a directory with another
    EXE.

    [Oh, I thought you wanted them to register the
    icon itself. Mind you, this means that programs that use ClickOnce and
    XCOPY-deployment cannot display notification icons. And what about
    shell extensions? -Raymond
    ]
  111. BryanK says:

    Michiel:  But you can’t trust the return address.  You can’t trust the calling executable, either — code injection prevents that.

    http://blogs.msdn.com/oldnewthing/archive/2004/01/01/47042.aspx

    http://blogs.msdn.com/oldnewthing/archive/2006/02/03/524071.aspx

  112. Anon says:

    Things that annoy me

    "This USB device can perform faster". Old laptop with USB 1.0 ports, and no chance to add USB 2.0. Why doesn’t it have a ‘show this dialog in future’ checkbox when you click on it, that disables the balloon and dialog when unchecked, for those of us that have no chance of USB 2.0.

    "The USB device was unsafely removed". Ok, Win2k only, and fixed in XP. Mind you, does XP warn when the write buffer was not emptied on Mass Storage Class drivers, or does it stay quiet even if you corrupted the FAT? Probably tricky to handle the general case at the driver level though.

    "Network connected at 100Mbps"/"Wireless Network Unavailable" balloons coming out of standby. Yeah, it’s impressive for the first few times, but when you click on it there should be a dialog with a ‘show this dialog when connected checkbox’ to disable it when you know it works.

  113. Going nuts says:

    PLEASE disable language bar & ctfmon on xp sp3.

  114. 640k says:

    [Oh, I thought you wanted them to register the icon itself. Mind you, this means that programs that use ClickOnce and XCOPY-deployment cannot display notification icons. And what about shell extensions? -Raymond]

    At startup an app can write additional values to registry (in the unistall key). My company’s app does this to change ClickOnce’s uninstall behaviour.

    [Woo-hoo, another program that requires administrator privileges. -Raymond]
  115. 640k says:

    [Woo-hoo, another program that requires administrator privileges. -Raymond]

    No, the key is at: HKEY_CURRENT_USERSoftwareMicrosoftWindowsCurrentVersionUninstall

    Which actually makes me wonder. Why does ClickOnce apps have it’s registry keys in a completly different place than Add/remove programs expects? How can it work?

    [Shows how much I know about ClickOnce. Okay, so what about shell extensions? -Raymond]
  116. 640k says:

    Can shell extensions be installed without administrator privileges?

    [It’s not the administrator thing I’m concerned about with shell extensions. Shell extensions don’t run in a specific process. They run in whatever process loads them. -Raymond]
  117. Norman Diamond says:

    Tuesday, November 07, 2006 11:51 AM by Going nuts

    PLEASE disable language bar & ctfmon on xp

    sp3.

    Please don’t, since it’s frequently needed in cases where keyboard shortcuts can’t be guessed or when the pronunciation of a Kanji can’t be guessed.

    However, please reenable full functionality when the language bar is minimized to a single icon.  In Windows 98 and 2000, and NT4 or 95 with Office 97 or later, the language bar minimized to a single icon.  Left-clicking the icon displayed a menu for input mode (hiragana, katakana, hankaku katakana, zenkaku Ro-maji, etc.).  Right-clicking the icon brought up a cascading set of menus with all options available.

    In XP and 2003, to still have the language bar usable, it has to be minimized to 4 icons instead of 1.  In Vista it has to be minimized to 5 icons instead of 1.  Yeah, I’m also wondering who get really nice bonuses for these increased requirements on wasting valuable real estate.

    Tuesday, November 07, 2006 9:40 AM by Anon

    "This USB device can perform faster". Old

    laptop with USB 1.0 ports, and no chance to

    add USB 2.0.

    I also wish to disable that dialog, even though I DO have a chance to add USB 2.0.  Yes XP, I do know that I was too lazy to plug in my PCMCIA-to-USB2 adapter this time.

    "The USB device was unsafely removed". Ok,

    Win2k only, and fixed in XP.

    Broken in XP.  Here’s why:

    Mind you, does XP warn when the write buffer

    was not emptied on Mass Storage Class drivers,

    or does it stay quiet even if you corrupted

    the FAT?

    It stays quiet even when you corrupted the FAT or the NTFS structures.  Of course Windows can corrupt the NTFS structures enough by itself, but still I don’t recommend taking extra chances.

    The next time you connect the device there might or might not be a message in the system log reporting the corruption.  Or if it’s an internal IDE drive that you didn’t disconnect, then the next time you power on there might or might not be a message in the system log reporting the corruption.  I think it was better when Windows did warn users to at least make the effort to avoid corruption.

  118. Jules says:

    One thing that clearly shouldn’t have a programmatic interface to change is the context menu in the disk management MMC tool.  I’ve never seen anything documented about one.

    Yet I have a laptop that has a partition on it that produces an empty context menu when you right click, and on which none of the usual commands work.  Diskpart won’t mount it because it says it doesn’t have a volume on it, yet disk management says it has a FAT32 volume.  All I want to do is back up the data it contains (it’s conveniently sized so it would all fit on a single DVD-R) so that I can delete it and use the space myself, yet for some reason the laptop manufacturer has decided to deny me the chance to do this.

  119. "Bad features were probably justified by some manager somewhere because it’s the only way their feature would get noticed. They have to justify their salary by pushing all these stupid ideas in the user’s faces." (The Old New Thing)…

  120. Mike says:

    Well, Windows Update just installed IE7 and, surprise surprise, it spammed itself into the Quick Launch bar. (It also stretched the QL bar to fill 90% of the taskbar while leaving the taskbar locked and the sizer hidden, which would probably stump most non-technical users.)

    Raymond, I appreciate that you’re not responsible for this, but perhaps you could make a cutting remark next time you pass someone who is.

  121. To John Knoeller,

    Yeah, I realized that right after I hit submit, and was too embarrassed to post an immediate mea-culpa.  I would suggest pulling down a copy of Process Explorer via the new Sysinternals website and finding the guilty party that way.

  122. Daniel Fortunov says:

    I don’t really agree with all of your Bad Balloon examples

    Balloon: Your clock has been adjusted for daylight saving time.

    The Action would be: Make sure it is accurate.

    Balloon: Updates are ready for you to install.

    The Action would be: Install them!!!

    I don’t really see how you can fault these balloons in light of your previous example of “Your new hardware device is ready to use.” “…So start using it.” — that seems a bit weak.

    So, if I understand what you’re saying, the argument is that an informational notification must be actionable. What, then, is the mechanism to notify non-actionable (but important) information to the user? Or would you argue that anything that’s not actionable is not important to warrant a notification?

    [If it’s not actionable, then the message is just annoying. -Raymond]
  123. Don Hopkins says:

    You could make the daylight savings time notification actionable and more informative by saying: "Your clock has been adjusted forward for daylight saving time. Enjoy your extra hour of sleep." or "Your clock has been adjusted backwards for daylight saving time. Enjoy an extra cup of coffee."

    -Don

  124. Norman Diamond says:

    > If it’s not actionable, then the message is

    > just annoying. -Raymond

    I agree, but look again at the examples.

    Tuesday, November 14, 2006 6:22 AM by Daniel Fortunov

    > Balloon: Your clock has been adjusted for

    > daylight saving time.

    > The Action would be: Make sure it is accurate.

    That is true.  In a country that doesn’t have daylight savings time, where Microsoft has seen fit not to define a time zone so users have to guess which neighbouring countries they can choose from in setting their time zones, it is important to notice this balloon and change their settings.

    > Balloon: Updates are ready for you to install.

    > The Action would be: Install them!!!

    That is true.  I did exactly that action on two machines a few hours ago.

    [And that’s exactly my point. The balloon needs to say “Click here to install them”. I thought I made this point in the entry. -Raymond]
  125. Annoying is as annoying does.

Comments are closed.