The compatibility constraints of your side effects: Beeping


Why does the Welcome screen beep if you hit the space bar after the computer has finished starting up?

For compatibility with a side effect of the Windows XP Welcome screen.

A beta tester asked us why we removed the beeps that were generated if you started typing at the Welcome screen after the computer finished starting up. Well, we didn't remove the beeps consciously. That the old Welcome screen beeped was just a side effect of the way the old Welcome screen positioned focus at startup and how it handled unexpected input. When the Welcome screen was rewritten for Windows Vista, focus and input were handled differently, and it so happened that the new way didn't beep under the initial conditions.

The tester in this case was blind and relied upon the beeping to know when the system was ready. The Welcome screen folks had to go back and take extra care to ensure that if you start the computer and wait for the Welcome screen, then hit the space bar, you get a beep.

Comments (30)
  1. mvadu says:

    @Raymond

    The tester in this case was blind and relied upon the beeping to know when the system was ready.

    Good to know that how vast verity of testing happens on a MS product before it hits the market. And how even a small thing matter when your target is wide spread from a layman to brilliant developer. As a software tester I can imagine how hectic must be change control, test case management and actual testing @ MS.

  2. Bahbar says:

    Never has the sentence "It’s not a bug, it’s a feature" been so true :)

  3. Gerald says:

    A warm thank you to the colleagues who took the trouble to implement this.

  4. Then make it an accessibility option just like the various narration options. Why intentionally reproduce bugs to optimize the scenario for a very small percentage of users?

  5. Messiant R says:

    Probably one of the simplest cases of how a bug turns into a feature, with probably the best reason one can think of: accessability for the end-user.

  6. Messiant R says:

    Josh Einstein:

    making it an accessibility option causes unnecessary overhead. And the more options you put, the less the average person is going to find his way through all the options .. the added value of making it optional is too limited is nihil.

  7. J says:

    "Then make it an accessibility option just like the various narration options. Why intentionally reproduce bugs to optimize the scenario for a very small percentage of users?"

    1.  It wasn’t a bug to begin with.  It was the system beeping in response to unexpected input, as designed.
    2.  I don’t understand why you think making the vista screen beep is somehow optimizing the feature for a small percentage of users.  What exactly is being optimized?

    3.  It seems pretty absurd to go through the process of making it an accessibility option.  You’d have to change some dialog somewhere, add language translations, all sorts of help documents (in every language), new test cases to cover toggling the feature, regression tests, and so on and so on… OR they could just make it beep again.

    Yeesh, for someone concerned about optimization, you’ve certainly suggested a very poor way of implementing this feature.

  8. Merus says:

    "Then make it an accessibility option just like the various narration options. Why intentionally reproduce bugs to optimize the scenario for a very small percentage of users?"

    But if those users can’t log on, how are they going to set that option in the first place? The Space Bar is out of the way enough that it won’t worry anyone who doesn’t rely on that behaviour, and those that do find it very considerate of you.

    Like a handrail, in a lot of ways.

  9. AC says:

    @Josh Einstein

    "Then make it an accessibility option just like the various narration options. Why intentionally reproduce bugs to optimize the scenario for a very small percentage of users?"

    Take what you said, and compare it to the scenario he just described. Now bridge that gap with some thoughts.

  10. njkayaker says:

    "Why intentionally reproduce bugs to optimize the scenario for a very small percentage of users?"

    It’s not a bug if they are adding it back for a reason.

  11. mvadu says:

    @Josh Einstein

    Why intentionally reproduce bugs to optimize the scenario for a very small percentage of users?

    If they had implemented in your way then they would have added some overhead to all users for a very small percentage of users who thinks this is a bug. Now as long as you don’t press any keys then nothing happens, if you press you hear a beep to let you know that the computer finished starting up.

    Even if they added a dialog option for this then we might end up in hot discussion on why it is defaulted to Beep, why not No Beep.

    We already have enough dialog boxes and wizards in Windows; don’t think about adding new scraps to confuse people.

  12. Centaur says:

    What was wrong with just beeping once after the system has booted? If I remember correctly, it is called the startup sound.

  13. JS Bangs says:

    I’m sorry, but I’m at a loss trying to imagine how a blind user is going to use a computer in the first place. What sort if input device would they use? How would they navigate?

  14. Nicole DesRosiers says:

    It’s not a perfect solution, but they use screen readers and voice recognition with accessibility enabled applications.

  15. Jonathan says:

    @Centaur

    I think the key difference is that the start-up sound happens after you log in, while the "hit space to make the welcome screen beep" can be used (by a blind person) to determine that the system is /ready/ to let you log in.

  16. andy says:

    JS Bangs: are you kidding? You’ll find some basic scenarios at http://www.w3.org/WAI/EO/Drafts/PWD-Use-Web/Overview.html and use "your favourite search engine" to find more on the subject. Also have a look at http://www.microsoft.com/windowsxp/using/accessibility/opsblind.mspx to see how to configure Windows to suit a blind person. Perhaps you should try to configure a system, cover your eyes and try it out some day?

    Did you that MS Visual Studio is targeting blind people as well? Read on at http://blogs.msdn.com/saraford/archive/tags/Accessibility/default.aspx

  17. MS says:

    "I’m sorry, but I’m at a loss trying to imagine how a blind user is going to use a computer in the first place. What sort if input device would they use? How would they navigate?"

    There is an enormous and very well-received thread on SA forums about a blind man who works on computers for a living (doing SQL/DBA stuff).  (It is in the Ask/Tell area)  He’s using a keyboard just like the rest of us, and he uses JAWS at an incredibly high speed.

    I fail to see why this is "reintroducing a bug."  The original behavior doesn’t qualify as a bug, as it worked as designed, and it hardly causes any issue for the rest of us.

  18. JS Bangs says:

    Thanks to the people who gave info about using a computer as a blind person. That’s something that I’d truly never thought of. Good for the accessibility features that make this possible.

  19. patatjes says:

    It’s frustrating that the startup sound cannot be changed, but for a blind person it must be hell!

  20. Frederic says:

    The testers on Vista were blind? That explains a lot. :D

    I wonder if the blinds are affected as the rest of us with all the new keyboard navigation changes and oddness in Vista (for example the tabbing order the Vista open dialog).  I figure they must be too.  That’s probably a whole other scale of hard for a single QA to get traction.  As in anything, you have to get in with the right people in the right mood and at the right time in the dev cycle.  I need to get that blind QA on my side for Windows 7!

  21. KJK::Hyperion says:

    MS: sup fellow goon, in The Old New Thing of all places

  22. Justin says:

    @patatjes: I was going to say that you can change the startup sound in Vista but now I’ve looked online and found the only way is to hex edit a dll file.

    Though it still can be disabled with the sounds control panel.

    It seems bizarre and stupid to me that they set it up like that.

    It makes the Windows Startup sound setting inconsistent with the other sounds.

  23. Justin says:

    I just looked at http://msdn2.microsoft.com/en-us/library/aa511278.aspx and it says "Exception: You can choose to hardwire sounds used for branding."

    It appears this is a case where Microsoft decided branding is more important then usability.

  24. Nick says:

    A better question might be why the sound that indicates the login failed was removed.  Windows has always played the Stop (or HAND) sound when invalid credentials were given, and now that’s gone with Vista.

  25. Jivlain says:

    JS Bangs: Assume complete visual impairment – a keyboard for input and navigation, and the speakers for output (using a program called a "screen reader" to read out the contents of the screen, along with some ways of interacting with it. There are other options but they are frequently more expensive than even a Jaws license ("Jaws" being a commonly used screen reader).

    This, incidentally, is why it is extremely important to ensure that your programs and websites can be used with only a keyboard. It’s not only über-geeks with fond memories of command lines, but also that for some people, it is the only way they can use that program. Various organisations have been *successfully* sued for failing to make their websites accessible to visually impaired users.

    Partially visually-impaired users might instead use a screen magnification utility (there is one included in Windows, but the general consensus among the visually impaired users that I have worked with is that it is awful).

  26. Xepol says:

    Seems like the wrong solution to a problem you did not know existed…

  27. i wonder who fancied constant beeping in vista’s listview control?

    http://forums.microsoft.com/MSDN/ShowPost.aspx?PostID=1076943&SiteID=1

    i’ve never seen it personally but i got many complaints from my users

  28. pplu says:

    People use your soft in ways that you never imagine. It’s nice to see that MS takes into consideration these little details.

  29. Garry Trinder says:

    There’s a great video on Channel 9 from 2005 about how a Microsoft intern uses accessibility tools to read emails in Outlook and write code in Visual Studio.

    Kenneth Spector – Coding without seeing the screen

    http://channel9.msdn.com/ShowPost.aspx?PostID=17098

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