usability II

Following on from my writing about usability and its various forms, I was thinking about usability and excel in the shower this morning. I hope that idea isn’t excessively frightening – but yes, I think about things in the shower, and yes, on this occasion it was excel. Frankly, this is slightly alarming to me as well.

One of the things that’s a little old fashioned with the big malumba software like excel, and word and others, is that for the average user 75% of the content is never used. This costs the user twice. First the software occupies the your harddrive like some sort of obese blob from outer (out of?) space. Second, you have to pay for software you don’t use or need.

To an extent, photoshop addresses this by allowing actions and plugins – little software snippets which extends the application in new and useful ways; or if the user doesn’t find the snippet useful, they can simply delete it, and the basic software remains unaffected. One of the things I’ve really appreciated with implementing this writing space is the ease of installing and using the many plugins. Some have worked well, and I use them, and others have been not so brilliant, and I’ve simply deleted them – great.

So, what I’m proposing (and would love to see) is an epic scaled software, like excel, with plugins to extend the the capabilities and capacities. So when I need to do a pivot table, or auditing, or whatever else I can just download the plugin and clip it into place. The one I’d most like to see is a separate plugin for spell checking in word. I’d like to remove the US English – permanently, and replace it with the New Zealand English. I’d also love to see a grammar plugin that looked as though people had worked on it in the last ten years.

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