Design: Attacking Convention

It’s wrong. The way we think about managing files in applications is wrong. And it is wrong for one reason. It lacks conceptual abstraction, simplicity and consistency.

“Wait!” you may say, “the icons are the same in all the applications! We’ve got the sheet of paper for ‘New’, the opening folder for ‘Open’ and the diskette for ‘Save’. We’ve even got a cute magnifying glass for ‘Search’.”

Frak the magnifying glass!

That’s part of the problem. The “New”, “Open” and “Save” icons should be sacrificed on the alter and replaced. New is relatively acceptable, but when we open it is not file we open but a folder. When we save we are not saving to a diskette. And we shouldn’t even be using the term “File” for anything. We are managing “Email”, “Documents”, “Worksheets”, “Presentations”, “Databases”, “Calendars”, “Projects”, “Drawings”, “Contacts” and “Browsers” people! If our applications are single function so should be what we are editing.

When you “Open” you could be uploading or downloading into your computer’s memory. When you “Save” a document, you could be uploading it to a hard drive on the web or downloading it to your hard drive; it could be burning it to a CD-ROM or good heavens even writing to a diskette. I’m not going to draw little hard drives. I’m going to abstract the concepts completely.

I always hated the clipboard metaphor. I just decided to call it a “content block”. You either delete it from your document, copy it from your document, update your document with it or select it in your document.

This is not my final version in the least. But I wanted to put some food for thought on the tabula rasa.

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