Options do not equate complexity

Whenever I have a free option to update my programs to the latest versions for free, I usually take it. Office being one, because it’s such a standard everywhere that there really are no objections that I could reasonably make, even when there are arguably better alternatives out there. Nevertheless, I decided to roll the latest Office to my because why not, I should stay with on top how the latest version works and rolls for the future.

The first problem that came to me was with the installer and its utter lack of any sort of options. Not that the options were hidden, but the fact that there were none. The only thing you could do was to let the installer download all the files from Microsoft’s servers and then install them. No questions asked, not even language.  After looking into the fact a bit, turns out this has been an issue with some other people as well. Not all want the complete Office package, because most of them are just junk. The only ones that I wanted was Word and Excel, and because people still use PowerPoint for some unholy reason, I was more or less forced to install that piece of shit as well.

After browsing the Web a bit, I found out that Microsoft had released a file that unpack an .XML file to a destination. Whyever it needed to be inside an .EXE file is beyond me. This .XML essentially is the base for a config file you can yourself modify to exclude Office‘s elements and change such things as directory installation, language and which bit version you have.

After that a small visit in the Command Prompt to force the installer to use the .XML file and engage the modified installer you’ll end up with less cumbersome Office experience, if such thing exists.

This kind of thing pisses me off as a designer. There is nothing wrong in giving the consumer the power of options if that is feasible. Computer software has always had options with installations and even the dumbest idiot can manage a simple installation. The precedent this new Office installer gives is that consumers are treated and seen as retards that know jack shit about computing and the best option is to take every bit of control away, even from those who would otherwise understand what they’re doing. It’s a signal that Microsoft doesn’t seem to expect anything from its consumers.

There is a section of consumers who do require this sort of installers, yes. However, they are a minority and they should be lifted to the same level as the rest of the main section of users, no the other way around. Forcing a consumer group to dumb down their products and their uses creates products encourage this sort of ineptness with modern technology. It’s like using the microwave because you can’t be arsed to learn how to cook properly.

That’s the crux here. People don’t seem to be willing to learn anything what they seemingly don’t need. Even options are regarded as a complex nuisance. Again, I know I’ve harped on this issue multiple times in the past, but the more we see general, common consumer products being tied to a noose and their nature neutered for the sake of flowing use, the more products will be built into a box. While computer driven cars most likely will become a standard thing in the distant future, the simple thought of not having the control all the time on an icy road in the middle of buttfuck nowhere in the woods scares the living shit out of me.

Pretty much anything is like a lathe. The basic idea is dead simple; it spins stuff that you can chip stuff off. It becomes complex when we start to take into account the variables in the speeds and masses, and the different blades and so on. However, as complex as a lathe seems, it simply as a lot of options one needs to learn how to use the best in order to work with the machine. The exact same applies everywhere in our lives, and it doesn’t take hundreds of hours to learn the basics how to make the best of some program or even your OS. It just takes that want to learn and then utilise that gained knowledge, but the knowledge the consumer deems unnecessary they will gladly disregard. One thing less to remember.

That’s why alternatives exist. Nature hates an empty niche, and business market follows this same line of thinking, unless financially too risky or too expensive to realize. You won’t see free flight tickets, for example. Office might have multiple options to work with, just like Windows has. I intend to switch to some Linux distro in the future, so these options become more relevant at some point in the future. A lathe has options as well, but whereas you can quickly work a missing piece with a lathe, working by hands takes loads more time. The result might not be the same in the end either, as human mistakes are more prone to happen with handiwork.

While this is more or less an anecdotal post, I must add that I have been asked to remove certain elements from designs I’ve worked on to lessen Possibilities of misuse due to ignorance, essentially removing options the consumer may select due to some mistake or error, and then end up doing something he did not intend with the product. That’s why manuals exist, and despite people saying they don’t need manuals, everybody needs to read at least one once in their life to get started somehow.

I guess what I’m trying to say that you should always demand options for your product, be it a program or some other. It only benefits you and allows you the freedom of usage you’d otherwise lack, and even when you think you don’t want it, it gives you the power to have that option in general.

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