Windows Live Essentials 2011: where’s the file menu?

One thing I think Microsoft nailed in Office 2010 is making it easier to use & explain: we brought back the “File” menu that was disguised as an orb in Office 2007 (the  proper name is “Office Button”)

Yes, “File” as in “How do you print? You click File then you click Print.” If you missed this, there was no “File” in Office 2007. Well, no matter, it’s back in Office 2010.

It’s interesting that the hot-off-the-presses Windows Live Essentials 2011 beta apps, which have an Office-like feel, haven’t caught up on this change, and are stuck in a very awkward spot between Office 2007 and Office 2010:

OneNote's file menu
(OneNote 2010, the coolest application you never used, has a “File” menu.)

Windows Live's non-descript menu
(Windows Live Photo Gallery 2011, the other coolest application you never used, has a, um, well I guess it’s a menu.)

I suspect the Windows Live team built on foundation laid for Windows 7 apps, which came out when Office teams had made the from “orb” to “tab”, but hadn’t got as far as bringing the text “File” back.

Please Windows Live team… bust that foundation up and do it right. This button has no reasonable name. It looks like a desk phone, I suppose. At least the orb was describable as an orb!

Usability: The unclose button

Elevator door open and close buttons in this style don’t work for me:


Open and closing doors don’t have a vertical line. A vertical line represents a future where doors are closed. The buttons say:

Imagine what’s done is done, but we can go back in time: would you unclose, or close even more?

I suspect the writers of the do-over & button-pushing oriented TV show LOST like elevators.

If what the The New Yorker says is true, that the close button is often a placebo:

In most elevators, at least in any built or installed since the early nineties, the door-close button doesn’t work. It is there mainly to make you think it works. (It does work if, say, a fireman needs to take control. But you need a key, and a fire, to do that.) Once you know this, it can be illuminating to watch people compulsively press the door-close button. That the door eventually closes reinforces their belief in the button’s power. It’s a little like prayer. Elevator design is rooted in deception—to disguise not only the bare fact of the box hanging by ropes but also the tethering of tenants to a system over which they have no command.

then pushing both buttons is a good appendage-saving strategy, and might work as well as trying to figure these buttons out in a hurry.

Accidentally searching for inputs

It’s amazing how search engines are wrapping some sites with a task-oriented interface that trumps the site’s own interface.

The accident: I type “” as “fedex.copm” into the Address bar by mistake, and hit Enter before I even see what I did.

What happened: The search engine which handles the DNS lookup failure ( on my computer) provides a whole navigation layer on top of the “best match” (aka “most clicked”) result (which is, obviously) including "Track", but more importantly the input field I was going to look for when I got to FedEx, "Track a package”:

Picture of Bing search result for fedex.copm

I see this, past in the tracking ID I had, and I’m done. Really slick.

I’ll call out Bing here once again: Bing’s fantastic & you should use it as your default for this reason & others.

Some thoughts:

  • Do users really look beyond even the “Best Match” line and see & use these tasks? I do, and it’s a huge timesaver.
  • Browsers will eventually (and I think in the case of Google Chrome, are) strip even the search page layer away. (Why not show the Track a package input field as an option when I type the  "fedex.cop…" into the browser’s address bar?) Now, is it better for users that a browser do this, or the functionality stay in the resulting page?
  • If browser integration is better for users, what’s the existing or emerging standard for this that all browsers can implement?