Under The Microscope

Concrete Usability

As usual, Daring Fireball knows how to create a controversy. His latest makes the case that Software Usability is hard to do, and furhermore that Open Source Software developers can’t do Usability like Commercial developers can. Nobody is going to protest the first point, but the second naturally has a fair amount of the Linux crowd up in arms. Now we can spend all day arguing points on either side, but I prefer to present a simple, concrete example, without the goal of actually proving anything.That example being, Calendar software. Yes, boring ol’ Calendar software. Calendars have existed from the beginning of history, and Calendar software from the beginning of personal computing. Everybody already knows how to use a real world calendar, so digital versions shouldn’t be that much more complex. There is nothing technically challenging about creating Calendar software, any programmer can do it. So you wouldn’t think that designing good Calendar software would be all that hard of a task, right? I will let the following exhibits speak for themselves:Exhibit A, is “Calendar and Email” from Sun’s Java Desktop System (really Evolution from Ximian). Despite it’s name, Java Desktop System is actually a version of Linux, and supposedly one of the more usable ones at that. 

calendar_sun.jpg

Exhibit B is Outlook 2003 from Microsoft

Outlook 2003

And finally, Exhibit C, is iCal from Apple

calendar_apple.jpg

 Which one would you want to use?

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