March 28th, 2008 | View Comments
Continuing my observations of mundane details, this little nugget comes from me being bored out of my mind at the airport in Atlanta a week ago. Here is the scenario. I am running Vista Enterprise on my laptop, and it turns out that the Enterprise versions of Vista does not contain any of the standard Windows games. I couldn’t sweep mines, prevent balls from falling to their doom using ink strokes, or even wonder what a Purble Palace actually is.
Whenever I reach a certain state of boredom, though, I just lower my threshold on what can entertain me. It was during this time, I had my Start menu open and I was frantically searching for any trace of something that could entertain me. In doing that, I noticed something interesting. The borders (and only the borders) of your User Account icon that gets displayed in the top-right corner of your Start menu is actually semi-transparent:
In case the above screenshot doesn’t show the transparency clearly, below is a magnified version of the interesting parts:
Notice that the background of the folder icon located in the window behind the Start menu is partially visible through the edges of my User Account icon. The top-right edge of the icon doesn’t seem to be quite as transparent, for the Pictures text is largely cut off with only a very small part of the “e” displayed:
Anyway, I figured this was worth pointing out in case you never noticed these subtle details before. Part of the reason why this fascinated me is how complicated it probably is to create these partially transparent, non-rectangular panels when not using something like WPF. I have some idea on how they may have implemented that using native C++ (I am guessing that is what they used), but I wouldn’t know where to begin to actually write working C++ code myself. The last C++ app I wrote was over six years ago.
In writing this post, I stumbled upon another random observation, but I will save that for another time when I’m too busy to actually write something more meaningful.
In one of my earlier posts, I mentioned that every now and then I notice mundane details in applications I use frequently. My most used application these days is Word, so it only made sense that it would be the featured application in today’s post. Since many of you use Word all the time also, how many of you know where the following menu comes from:
Give up? Let’s zoom out a bit to put the above menu in context:
Nestled between your vertical scrollbar and the zoom slider in the bottom-right corner of your window, you can find the circular button that calls this mystery (at least to me) menu. This menu allows you to browse your document via objects found such as images, tables, bulleted lists, etc. In other words, if you want to go from image to image in your document, call this menu, select the Image icon, and use the previous/next selection arrows to jump between images:
I have been using Word for at least a few hours every day for the past few years, and noticing a feature in the main window itself like this is like living in a home for a while and mysteriously finding a door that leads to a whole new room you never knew existed.
Anyway, I just finished up the Data Binding to XML tutorial, so I figured I would take a break by writing something from my Random stash of article ideas such as this one. Until next time, I’m going to go look around my house to see if there is a door leading to a room that I never knew existed…
There are times, when I sit around playing around with my computer, I begin to notice really mundane details in applications I use frequently. One such detail I noticed recently involves attachments. Let’s look at the scenario that led to me observing this detail and posting about it right now.
I have just written an e-mail in Outlook, and I am attaching an important Word document as an attachment:
Before sending the e-mail, I double check my e-mail to make sure I avoid any embarrassing spelling errors. I then decide to double check my attachment to make sure everything is in order. I already have script_v15.docx opened alongside Outlook, notice I need to make a modification, make the modification, and save the file.
Now, here is where the dilemma begins to appear. Which version of the file is now attached? Is the attached file the version of script_v25.docx that contains my modification, or is the version of the file the same as what it was when I attached it originally to my e-mail message?
There are really two ways of looking at this. If you believe that, when composing your message, an attachment is simply a link to the actual file on your hard drive, then script_v15.docx points to the updated file. The other view is that, when adding an attachment while composing your message, a copy of the file is made and used within the e-mail message. Depending on what happens, sending the message may result in your recipient receiving an outdated version of your attachment.
Now, do you send the file hoping that the attached file is the revised version that incorporated the changes?
The answer is NO. You do not send the file. After some trial and error, attaching the file seems to create a copy of the file in your e-mail message. Making a modification to the original file will not be reflected in the attached file of the same name. The solution? Simply remove the attachment and re-attach the same file again to make sure that the most recent version has been added.
Why this was Emphasized
The reason I wrote this post wasn’t to highlight what I do during commercial breaks while watching Seinfeld. It is to emphasize design decisions all of your applications have. No matter how simple or mundane the feature, somebody out there designed the feature and specified how it would function. This applies even to the the attach file functionality.
Anyway, commercial is over, so back to watching Seinfeld