Ways to improve TweetDeck

First let me say, I’m still not convinced with Twitter, but I’m using it and I don’t think I’m going to stop any time soon. TweetDeck is the best client I’ve used so far (I’ve only used Twhirl), but there are a few things that annoy me with it. So I’m writing them here in the hope that someone reads them and fixes them.

  • Page up and Page Down don’t work, ever. Either does the other keyboard ways of scrolling, the Google Readeresque “j” key or using the space key to scroll down. This needs to be fixed, soon.
  • When you have scrolled down and come back to the window later, you don’t want to have to scroll all the way back up.
  • There is currently no way to view someone’s profile. What I do at the moment is add a search column for a user, then click on one their username and delete the search column.
  • There is no way to manage your friends/follower list
  • Not really an interface problem, but TweetDeck is THE worst user of memory on my computer. It leaks memory worse than Firefox 2, and that’s saying something. It has such limited functionality that it’s memory foot print should be minimal.

Some Points about Windows Vista

I regularly get asked about what I think about Windows Vista, I run it on my laptop (a Toshiba R400 Tablet) and this far I’m very happy with it. It definitely isn’t a massive step up from XP (Service Pack 2) it is a major improvement and in my opinion in the right direction. I love the search functionality in the start bar, and being able to click the program you want in the Alt+Tab menu is awesome. I’ve also installed Switcher but I can’t quite get used to using it, so Alt+Tab it is.

Anyway, the point of this post is to highlight 2 things, one I’m very happy with, and another I can’t understand why it is like it is. Firstly, my computer has been blue screening since I got it when it came out of hibernation. Now as a mobile computer I’m forever taking it out of and putting it in my bag, so this was extremely annoying. But, in the hope that it actually worked, I would always click “Report this crash to Microsoft”. Well, lo and behold just the other day I got a notification box telling me that KB94100(?) contained an update and it would fix my problem. Which it did. Woo!

Secondly, I’ve been playing with the power settings on my machine, trying to eek a few more minutes out of it’s already good (not excellent) battery life when I came across this delightful piece of UI.

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Now, why on earth would I want less than 100% maximum processor state when plugged in? This is definitely a situation where the engineers designing the product should have said, we know better than the user and removed any choice. If anyone can give me a good reason as to why this option is there, I would love to know.

MYOB’s Invoice Window

It is the most annoying interface at the best of times and I’m not sure anyone who wrote the software has ever used it. Notwithstanding, the fact that windows in MYOB Premier don’t remember how big they were last time you opened one, let alone last time you ran the program is possibly the most frustrating thing I have ever experienced on a computer.

A few other ideas to make this software remarkably more user friendly.

  • I sometimes want to alternate my search between item name and item code, I really should be able to do that.
  • If I want to go back and change the quantity of the item, before I have selected which item it’s going to be, I should be able to. Locking me into that godforsaken selection box is horrible.
  • What are the chances that I want to be able to look at an old invoice while I’m creating a new invoice? Pretty good I would say, but I can’t do it.

Problems with Google Talk

I like a lot of things with Google Talk, it’s openness, it’s integration and it’s interface. But the one thing that really gets on my goat – when you ALT+Tab back to a conversation, you can’t start typing straight away. Sometimes you can press tab for the input box to get the focus and sometimes pressing tab takes you back to the contacts window. This is completely unintuitive (is that actually a word) and it drives me crazy.

GMail’s Keyboard Shortcuts

One of the basic tenents of a good user-interface is learnability or discoverabilty (I’m sure that’s a made-up word.) Everything should be laid out in an easy to learn way. The problem with the keyboard shortcuts in Gmail is exactly this. Every time I want to try and use the keyboard to do something, I have to go to Help and search for keyboard shortcuts. I realize that this will save me effort in the long run, but it’s not so good to help the novice user.

Date Interfaces

Creating the interface (UI and implementation) for a date is a tricky process. The tradeoff between ease of use and speed is hard. The airline websites often use a dropdown calendar, however that doesn’t work if the form is being used for data entry. Alternatively, a text box that may have some help text doesn’t assist the user much at all, leaving questions such as do I use dashes or slashes. Month or date first? This option isn’t very learnable as a user can’t tell quickly that a date needs to be entered here.

Ideally a combination of the both would be the solution, as sometimes is seen where there is a text box that can then be dropped down to calendar. This however isn’t exactly easy to replicate for the web while still taking into account things like tab order.

Another consideration is when the date has a range, ie. In the past. This user interface should show that future date’s are unacceptable, but at the same time not frustrating users.

As a side note, an interesting way to tell how difficult a solution for an interface is, is to look at how many different implementations exist.

Open Office Preferences Dialog

The OpenOffice 2 preferences dialog boxes are downright terrible. To select which document format to Save As, you have to select “Text Document” from one dropdown box and then change a second dropdown to “Microsoft Word”, then to edit the preference for Calc, you have to change the first dropdown box, which automatically changes the second back to where ever the setting is for Calc. It’s completely unintuitive.

I think it stems from the beginning of their preferences dialog, it has a tree navigation down the left and updates a pane on the right. It seems to be standard to have a tabbed interface for preferences, bringing up a second modal window if necessary. It seems like the OOO guys are sacrificing screen real estate for intuitiveness.