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Software Annoyances

Monday, November 22nd, 2010

Arrrgh!  Who at Microsoft thought it would be a good idea to make it impossible to view 2 presentations side-by-side in Powerpoint?

OK, I say impossible – they’ve apparently fixed the problem in the latest version, and there’s an horrendous kludge which means it can sort-of be done in Powerpoint 2007 (see below), but multi-screen displays have been commonplace for years now!

To workaround Powerpoint’s irritating window arrangement, follow these steps:

  • Open the 2 documents you’d like to view side-by-side
  • Click the top-left blob
  • Press the ‘Powerpoint Options’ button
  • Select ‘Advanced’
  • Untick “Show all window in the Taskbar”
  • Press the ‘OK’ button.  Your presentations will be contained within more manageable ‘child’ windows.
  • Irritatingly you can’t drag these out of the ‘parent’ Powerpoint window.  However, you can extend the window to fit your entire workspace, even across multiple monitors (if you’ve set your displays up to span)

What are your biggest software annoyances?   Let us know – we may know a workaround.

Is Google running scared of Bing?

Thursday, June 10th, 2010

UPDATEIt appears that the rotating backgrounds are here for one day only, to promote the ability to change your Google home page background – read this blog entry for more details.

Having used Google throughout today, I’m certainly glad it won’t be like this tomorrow – it’s extremely irritating!

Google is rolling out personalised backgrounds to its home page following Microsoft’s redesign of its re-branded search engine, Bing.

Traditionally Google’s website has been simple and sparse – is the search giant running scared of Bing?

Google's new home page, complete with background image

Part of Google’s appeal has been the simplicity of its home page.  Presented with a just a logo, search box and a couple of buttons, it was a triumph of utilitarian design – we weren’t bombarded with unnecessary choice or distraction.

Over the last year or so, Google has been experimenting with its user interface.  Additional navigation to its vertical search properties – images, videos, maps and so on – have been added, as have pointers to additional services such as GMail and iGoogle.

Recently, Google sought to maintain the perceived simplicity of its home page by only showing this navigation when the user moved the mouse – extra features are “faded in”.

The new background images are an interesting development.  The reason for the backgrounds are unclear; they certainly do not add any functionality.  Indeed, the page looks busier, is less focused on the search box and the text – despite the text shadow effect – is difficult to read.

The Microsoft Way

Bing - background images done well

Microsoft has implemented background images in a much better way.  Using a soft focus and darker colours in areas behind text, text is more readable. They’ve even added a translucent dark black background to the navigation in the “Explore” area to add clarity.  There is a sense of organised layout – compare the tight left navigation and the footer signposting to Google’s increasingly cluttered, unorganised links.

Google – a shrewd move or losing its way?

Google may be gambling that users will like the background images.  They may also be looking for ways to entice users to upgrade from the antiquated Internet Explorer 6 software to a modern browser (ideally Google’s own Chrome, of course!) – this feature is not available to IE6 users.

Donning a paranoia hat, Google may be banking on users not liking the background images.  The only (non-technical) way to change the image is to create a Google account, log in and change your preferences.  Of course, you’ll need to stay logged in for the background image to remain changed, allowing Google to track your searches more closely.

(Conspiracy theorists may also think that the “fade in” navigation and busier layout are intended to draw attention away from the fact that you may still be logged in).

Alternatively, Google may be aware that Microsoft has built a good search product with Bing, and do not want to lose market share.  Bing’s background image is the biggest visible difference between the two – by homogenising the search market, perhaps Google is expecting that users will stick with what they know.

And finally…

Google has reduced the readability of text, its home page is increasingly cluttered and general usability has taken a hit.

To find out how you can improve your Web site’s usability, call Fish.Net’s Web team on 01457 819600.