[Milton-L] user-interface design

Carl Bellinger bcarlb at comcast.net
Sat Mar 27 19:04:31 EDT 2010

Thanks so much Thorvald. Not only expert, but kind to send both overview and _blue_ links [a standardized color?] to regions where we, now, may hope to find some relief.
   Towards abandoning Outlook Express, my two initial concerns: 1) will the new tool scoop up all the key stuff in my current situation, for instance, will it import all contents of my "address book, AND the whole 'directory' tree --including the names I have given to each directory,  in which I've sorted all emails which I have saved --over many years; 2) Unlike outlook Express, does the tool,  via a process native to itself [and as easy as one two three]  concatenate messages I've saved, either by letting me select individual messages and select the sort parameters (eg by date, or subject, or author), or by itself running thru the whole mass to scoop up what I specify?  
    Thanks again,

PS   For me the most painful thing is a message whose font is tiny and WILL NOT become otherwise no matter how or where I poke at Express's many "options".  And when this tiny 2-point Bodoni ALSO will not "wrap" itself in my screen but instead extends off into the neighboring county somewhere --or in my case off across the Atlantic, perhaps towards Bodoni's native land...    well, anyway...   cheers   -C
  ----- Original Message ----- 
  From: Thorvald 
  To: John Milton Discussion List 
  Sent: Thursday, March 25, 2010 7:59 AM
  Subject: [Milton-L] user-interface design

  On 21/03/2010 01:47, Carl Bellinger wrote:

  Might some kind & experienced & up-to-date expert in user-interface design AND in all major current email technologies please step forward and provide Milton-L a set of carefully pre-tested instructions designed to ensure 1) that the sender while composing and sending, and 2) the receiver when opening and reading, will 3) be looking a screen which will neither make them stressed from sudden weirdnesses nor sick from illegibilities ranging from the mere to the most fantastic, but rather 4) will make them glad that computers have indeed and at last achieved parity with the functions of the IMB Selectric typewriter.


  Hi Carl,

  What you've (quite reasonably) asked for is the Holy Grail of internet user-interface design.  

  Of course, it shouldn't be that way, and I too have fond memories of IBM Selectrics.  I am right this moment (procrastinating from) redesigning one of my websites, so your cri de coeur is one I  echo on (at least) an hourly basis.

  (Because I'm avoiding doing real work this has turned into a really long message.  If (even friendly, non-technical) explanations of technical things make your eyes glaze over, just skip down to the easy, practical suggestion towards the end.  :-)

  No one (I don't think) intentionally sends something that looks like gibberish to them, and if everyone used the same browser or email program then we could be sure that what we post will come out looking just the same on the other end.  However, we all use different internet browsers and email programs, running on different machines and different operating systems -- why, kids these days are even using their phones!  

  While freedom of choice, in this as in other things, is wonderful, it is attended (in this, as in other things) by a degree of confusion, pain and doubt.  

  The solution, though, is perfectly obvious on even a moment's reflection: we need some kind of standard -- a universal grammar of the internet -- so that every browser and email program (whatever else they do differently) will recognise that the instruction to (say) put THIS text two inches to the left of THAT text in one browser means (dammit!) put it two inches to the left in ALL of them.

  Well, those standards do exist.  The trouble is that not everyone follows them.  Microsoft, which has been the biggest maker of web browsers and email programs, has said (not without reason, in some cases) that some of the standards are illogical, and instead of working within the system to change the standard, has (in certain respects) ignored them and expected everyone else to accommodate their own idiosyncratic rules.  They're the biggest, so for the most part people have.  (Which, not incidentally, adds yet another layer of complication, because not everyone's way of accommodating Microsoft's idiosyncrasies is the same as, or necessarily compatible with, everyone else's way of accommodating Microsoft's idiosyncrasies.  Gah.)

  In browsers and email programs released recently (even Microsoft browsers and email programs), things are much much (MUCH) more likely to follow the standards and work well together than they used to.  So, the simple practical step you can take to make 90% of what you do 90% more likely to work the way it should is:


    Use an up-to-date browser or email program, ideally one not made by Microsoft.  


  There are free, safe, easy internet browsers -- Firefox, Safari, and Chrome are the biggest of them* -- which follow the internet standards very well.  Use one of those and most of the pages that look like gibberish will immediately look very much better.  If you have to use Microsoft internet Explorer, make sure it's at least version 7 or 8 -- version 6 is (in internet terms) senescent, and the cause of more problems than anyone knows how to fix.

  There are free, safe, easy email programs -- Thunderbird* is the biggest -- which do a similar job for accessing your email, and are more likely to avoid showing you gibberish than (at least older versions of) Microsoft Outlook.  Setting up an email program is slightly trickier than installing a new internet browser, but Thunderbird is pretty good at walking first-time users through the process.

  Anyway, that's my suggestion, to you or to anyone else on this list who recognises your frustrations as their own.


  * I'm putting links to each of those programs down here -- I nearly put them into the text, in fancy-link form, but not every email program (ha!) handles links perfectly, so this is safer.







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