Stack OverflowMost Astonishing Violation of the Principle of Least Astonishment
[+105] [90] Adam Liss
[2008-10-25 03:33:04]
[ design user-interface polls user-experience ]

The Principle of Least Astonishment suggests that a system should operate as a user would expect it to, as much as possible. In other words, it should never "astonish" the user with unexpected behavior.

In your experience as the "astonishee," what types of systems are the worst offenders, and if you were the project manager, how would you correct the problem?

Bonus if your answer describes how you'd retrain the developers!

why the downvote? - Mostlyharmless
This looks like a poll.. rather than a programming question.. maybe closed soon if Keith gets wind of this one ;) SUch questions (and responses) need to be wikified to avoid undue rep gain.. - Gishu
(3) The ProgNazis or WikiNazis have struck again. I'll through an upvote in to help out. - Lance Roberts
Note from the author: sorry for any offense here. After may years, usability has become a significant part of our New World Order. I'm looking for ways to train and motivate my team--lots of helpful answers so far! Happy to wikify if required. - Adam Liss
(5) upvote to balance nazis that don't understand what's the social aspect of this site. - Terminus
This subject is really really old and boring to death. It's the shady part of all pop comp magazines. People are rude to be astonished by tiny bugs here and there. You have an excellent product, and in one place you say 4billions instead of -1 or something and people go crazy like you're a terrorist - Hugo
Well, not to say that any of my program ever has had any bugs of course. - Hugo
I think people like to be astonished, pleasantly so. Look at the Mac, the design paradigm was "always go with the most fun thing" vs. the most predictable thing. - Genericrich
(12) As fun questions go I'll be damned if I didn't laugh at the title :P - annakata
(4) Look like most of the answers have degenerated from 'astonishing' to 'things that annoy me' - kenj0418
If I copy some plain text into the "Ask a Question" or "Submit an Answer" forms, I lose all the newlines - I have to manually add spaces to the end of every line... Jeff noticed this a year ago but blamed the users. - BlueRaja - Danny Pflughoeft
[+135] [2008-10-25 07:40:44] gbarry

The original Macintosh computer did not have a button to eject the diskette. Instead, you were supposed to ... drag the diskette's icon to the trash.

(6) Ohhhhh ... drag the icon to the trash. Never mind. :-) - Adam Liss
(4) I always thought this was hilarious. Thankfully in OSX the trash changes to the 'eject disk' icon as soon as you start dragging a disk (and more importantly, all the disks have eject icons next to them in the finder), so it's less ridiculous - Orion Edwards
you could select Eject from the menu too! or CMD E. - Tony Lambert
(18) No less ridiculous that your DESKTOP would have a stinking TRASH CAN on it. - Genericrich
(1) @Genericrich: ? What desktop are you using? Can't say I've seen one recently that doesn't have a trash/recycle can on it. - Beska
@Beska, I think Genericrich is complaining about the desktop analogy. Real world desks don't have trash cans on top of them. The trash can is kept underneath or elsewhere, - Oddthinking
(2) How about the fact that if you drag a file that is too big to the trash it deleted it immediately and other times it didn't. I got burned on this one BIG time once with a simple accidental click/drag. - JohnFx
(3) Well, this was in 1984. I don't think big files were invented yet :-D - gbarry
Why, OH WHY, did they call it the desktop metaphor? It should have been called the office metaphor. Who keeps a filing cabinet on their desk? - Qwertie
(2) The other option was to select the disk icon and then choose the oh-so-obviously-named "Put Away" menu item. - Ether
Same kind of issue with formatting a 3½ disk on a Mac in 1988. I remember spending a long time figuring out where I could find this option in the menus ... until mechanically inserting it and getting a popup asking "Unreadable disk, do you want to format it ?" - philippe
(3) The old "diskette in trash" thing strikes again. Putting the diskette in the trash was a SHORTCUT. It's like making fun of whatever GUI you are using now by saying that the "only" way to open a file is to press Control-O. - Pascal Cuoq
@Pascal Cuoq: It's still pretty weird though. - Phil
@Pascal A shortcut eh? What was the long way of doing it? - SLC
@SLC Select the diskette icon, and use menu item "Put away" in menu "File". - Pascal Cuoq
(2) I used a Mac at a Kinko's in the late 90's, and it had an ON/OFF button that stuck out right underneath the eject-button-free floppy drive. I swear, I powered that computer off so many times by accident while trying to get my floppy out, that it's the closest I've ever come to actually picking a computer up and smashing it into the wall. - MusiGenesis
(5) Getting turned off just when you are getting your floppy out :) You must not have been pressing the right buttons :) - Liam
Classic, I don't like Mac's and I'm sure this is just one reason why I started to not like them many many years ago. - Brian T Hannan
[+123] [2008-11-13 21:46:43] harpo

Hijacked focus — an astonishing misuse of multithreading.

iTunes is an example. I close iTunes and start typing in another program. After a delay, iTunes puts up a little window that says "Saving iTunes library." Besides being totally pointless, it steals the focus from what I'm doing. So in frustration I press Alt+Tab to get back to what I was doing. But if the offending window has disappeared in the meantime, then I actually Alt+Tab away from the window I want, meaning that at this point one or two more Alt+Tabs are required to get back, but you can't tell, because iTunes is now completely invisible... and so on, ad nauseam.

It's even worse when the window that pops up presents a dialog with a choice, and keyboard shortcuts, because I can inadvertently select something I didn't want, or indeed know that I'd chosen.

+1 couldn't agree more! - JesperE
(5) I absolutely hate this. I have the same thing happen with ZoneAlarm regularily and more often than not I deny some program web access which means something (usually an install) stops working. - Makis
Yeah, this really pisses me off. Dialogs are always popping up while i'm typing and i end up choosing something and dismissing the dialog before i even see it. All OSes should have an option to disable this. - LoveMeSomeCode
Same as Google homepage stealing focus when I'm typing a URL in Firefox - kibibu
(29) IE 7 and up have this nasty habit. When you start them, the main window appears, along with the address bar. So, you start typing in the address of the site you want to go to. After a second or two, IE finally gets around to "pre-" filling the address bar with your default page (even if that default page us just "about:blank"), and in doing so REPLACES THE URL YOU WERE TYPING. Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr. - Scott Smith
On OS X applications steal focus all the time. It's amplified by spaces because then applications steal focus and drag me to another space in the process. - Regis Frey
It's twice as bad if you've got multi-desktops going. You switch desktops and 3 seconds later, the app steals focus, and you find yourself on a completely different desktop. The most flagrant offender is TextMate. If it's opened a particularly large project or a project that lives on NFS, you can bring it to the top, but it won't actually get focus for 3 seconds. That's plenty of time to switch desktops. The result: You page through your desktops and if you pass over the desktop that has TextMate open en route to some other desktop, it yanks you back. Sometimes repeatedly. - Bob Aman
(10) +1: I hate focus-stealing behaviour. Especially when it steals from a password box. - Kaz Dragon
You could make this answer more general by replacing "Hijacked focus — an astonishing misuse of multithreading" with "ITunes - an astonishing misuse of bits". My personal favorite thing to hate in iTunes right now is the splitter bars that take literally seconds to update, or maybe it's the ads that pop up looking like panels with splitter bars next to them, even though you're wasting your time trying to grab and drag them. - MusiGenesis
Actually, I just realized that focus stealing isn't really astonishing at all, any more than televangelists turning out to be money-grubbing degenerates is "astonishing". - MusiGenesis
Sounds like this sucks and would especially affect people who work quickly. - Brian T Hannan
(3) +1 the #1 reason I don't use windows anymore. I couldn't stand anti-virus applications constantly popping up saying, "look at me", "aren't I special?", "I'm hungry, when are you going to feed me more money", "I'm going to run something in the background now that will significantly slow down your computer 'cause I feel like it". If programming was about getting into a state of 'flow', it's no mystery why many developer can't stand it. Same goes for Windows Update, and 90% of the other apps that come with an icon in the taskbar. - Evan Plaice
+1 for ad nauseam - Nico
[+102] [2008-10-26 04:40:33] JPLemme

The entire OS X UI. I see an Excel window, but when I click Opt-S I get an error because Finder was the (INVISIBLE!!!!) active application. Or I click on Firefox in the Dock, and then I can't find my window because I actually had two Ffx windows open and the Dock only shows me the top one. Or I need to move the left edge of a window and I first have to make it smaller, move it, and then make it bigger again. Or when "Maximize" only makes the window as big as the window thinks it should be. Or when I sort by date in Finder and the file I just edited is half-way down the list surrounded by files with week-old dates. Or when I open up finder for the umpteenth time and I have seven skinny columns that I have to resize AGAIN so I can see the whole filename. Or when I look at my clear keyboard full of the crumbs of the person who had the Mac before me and think "Are Apple engineers allowed to eat near their computers? Yuck!" Or when I hit the "End" key and it just shows me the end of the file, without even moving the insertion point. Or when I double-click on the title bar and the damn window disappears instead of getting bigger. (That one isn't really Apple's fault though, it's just my habits.)

Or when I complain about the Mac on the Internet and all the fanboys scurry out of their animation studios to tell me that I clearly don't understand why all of these annoyances are because the Mac is just better.

(I'm not even sure this post is still on-topic, but boy did it feel GOOD!)

(20) +1. Just because. - Pondidum
(2) The »+« button (that sorta maximize thing) had a ncie behavior with Preview on 10.4 where the window would gradually shrink. You could repeat it until it was quite small (and certainly no longer usable). For some reason the optimum size is always smaller than the current one ;-) - Joey
(11) Counterpoint: The entire Windows UI. - Benson
(2) Or when you can't resize a window by dragging it's edge - it has to be that one tiny little triangle of pixels at the bottom right corner of the window. Or when you have dozens of terminal/gvim/whatever windows open and have to "scrub" the freakin dock to find the right one because all the icons look the same, and there are no labels! Arrgh! - scomar
@scomar: Or when you can't reposition a window by dragging its edge - it has to be that bar on top. That two different systems should do things in two different ways should not be astonishing. - David Thornley
(2) @David: I can reposition a window by holding <Alt> and clicking anywhere. It is astonishing that everyone on OSX always wants to expand their window down and to the right though. :-P - scomar
(1) @scomar: In case we're not being blunt enough, you are being astonished by the fact that the MacOSX UI is different from the Microsoft Windows UI. Your (and JPLemme's) main complaint is apparently that MacOSX does not do things the way you are used to. - David Thornley
Don't forget not being able to resize a window except from a tiny, tiny handle in the lower right corner. - bobobobo
(1) @ David: I don't use Windows, and even if I did, I'm not saying anything is 'better'. I'm just saying why OSX UI sucks (which is what this answer is about) - and from a Fitt's Law POV, it does. To be fair, Windows sucks too, in places. Here are a couple of links that do a good job of explaining why & where OSX and Windows both suck: - scomar
(1) @ David: Don't worry, I've got a link explaining why you're so touchy about OSX criticism too ;-) : - scomar
You forgot, or how the minimize/maximize/exit buttons are at the top-left of the application's title-bar just to 'be different'. - Evan Plaice
Actually havingmused windows, os x, various Linux uis, os/2 and others, I'd cite windows and Linux about the same for pain and suffering. Not so much for the OSs themselves, but because so many of the applications are inconsistent with them. - Derek Clarkson
@scomar: No, you don't. That isn't me. In fairness, you weren't really hitting the "stupid Mac isn't like Microsoft Windows" theme like JPLemme. (If you want clearly stupid, Mac OS before OSX had the close button on the other side of the title bar from the other buttons, and Mac OSX moved them together.) BTW, my reading of Tog's columns are not that he's saying Mac OSX sucks, but that there are serious problems. - David Thornley
[+85] [2008-11-06 19:11:00] community_owned

Copying a large set of files in Windows and getting an error part way through. A dialog pops up telling me something failed, then the whole copy operation dies. So which files got copied and which didn't? How am I supposed to recover from this?

Worse is when you do a move.

(5) THis is why I never do a "move". Copy, then delete. - Adam Jaskiewicz
(15) Teracopy is your friend. Makes file operations in Windows actually not totally suck. - garrow
Fixed in Win7 - it does as much as it can then tells you at the end what went wrong and what should it do. - demoncodemonkey
Was already fixed in Vista, but yes, it was HIGH TIME that was fixed. - MadKeithV
Does Windows 7 still precompute the copy/move before it even does anything? - Chris Kaminski
Yeah, I started copying in chunks rather than one big copy so that if something fails I'll better know where I left off and what I have to finish copying. Definitely lame! - Brian T Hannan
This is why I alway install Total Command before doing anything else on Windows. - Danny Varod
+1 amen... I am deathly afraid of moving files because of data losses that I have incurred in the past. - Evan Plaice
[+82] [2008-10-25 14:28:41] Jason Kester

I found this cool community-driven website once. I went to sign up, but it wouldn't let me, instead demanding that I go off and get something called an OpenID.

I left, completely baffled.

(7) And yet here you are :) - Greg Whitfield
(15) well actually i heard about openid a long time ago, and saw all those openid enabled sites. but I always said "who cares". But when i really needed an openid for this site, I was "astonished" i had one already - Midhat
I was suprised as Live ID seemed to be the superior choice... But then I realized I go to alot more Microsoft sites than OSS sites :) - tsilb
lol :) StackOverflow is my first encounter with OpenID too. Turned out that I already had an OpenID account on two or three different sites. Who knew?! - Qwertie
(6) For me on the other hand it was somewhat of annoyance, that I had to create an account at some other OpenID provider, and then also associate it here. Why couldn't SO be an OpenID provider itself, thus providing a very simple registration for those who don't have one? - Vilx-
(14) I like the use of opnenid - it is a step in the right direction. - Hrvoje Prgeša
(1) I refused to come here for a while after SeatBelt broke, OpenID is so irritating. - WolfmanDragon
(19) I disagree. OpenID is great. - Tim Matthews
I especially like the 2-week cookie timeout for SO's openid implementation. Just long enough to forget which openid provider I used again, thus forcing a Gmail inbox rifling session to look up my f'ng username. again. - Jason Kester
Jason, weren't you one of the guys who insisted at the Joel On Software forums that there was no way they'd sign up to StackOverflow until OpenID was deep sixed ? - Bill Forster
(12) No. StackOverflow is good enough in other ways to cancel out their bad decision making process in regards to OpenID. - Jason Kester
Fair enough, my mistake - Bill Forster
(36) I'm astonished that in 2009 so many sites still want me to create a new account, enter all my details, create and manage a unique password and trust that they've implemented the site securely to keep all that stuff safe. Single sign on isn't exactly a new concept... - Luke Quinane
(2) I thought it was pretty cool that I didn't have to go through the sign-up process for yet another service, thanks to OpenID. - Qwertie
(1) I always get confused by the hojillion openID accounts other websites have silently created for me. I guess about half of them have rep points now. - Phil
(2) I would upvote that one, but sadly this site doesn't allow unregistered users to upvote answers :(. Then at least add an option to register, dammit! - slacker
(3) @Luke: I'm astonished that in 2010 so many sites don't give me the option of using unique credentials, allowing me to ensure that hacking a single password doesn't give access to everything. Or that doesn't let me change to another email address. If you have multiple OpenIDs, it's not possible to log into separate sites in the same browser. - Adrian McCarthy
(3) I've been locked out of SO for days because Verisign's PIP openID went down or took too long to respond. (Yes, you can set up a backup openID account, although many openID sites do not support this.) OpenID is the dumbest thing about this site. - rjh
(1) If you have a Google account, which most people do then OpenID is amazing ... nuff said. - Brian T Hannan
... and after that, I had to open ANOTHER account on a DIFFERENT site to change my avatar in that site. - Danny Varod
-1 Lack of OpenID is one of the main reasons I don't comment on 95% of the sites I read. If you're having issues with one OpenID account, add another (you can attach multiple OpenIDs for redundancy to an account on any site that supports OpenID). I know it's beneficial for sites to lock me in to their registration and forfeit my email address just to sign up but access to a site is not worth the spam emails I receive for joining. F*** traditional PHPBB style registrations. - Evan Plaice
[+80] [2008-10-25 07:39:18] Schwern

Having to press Start to stop the computer. Then having to choose Shut Down to restart or put it to sleep.

It's so commonplace we don't realize how astonishing it is.

(14) that one is really getting old. See it as starting the process of shutting down. - Hugo
(9) Any control can be described as "starting" a process making the "Start" label useless for answering "what button do I push to turn the computer off"?. Any UI defense of the form "the user should" [see it as starting...] is a red flag. You can't control how the user thinks (but you can train them) - Schwern
(6) In every store in the world, just before closing, some assistant manager tells a clerk, "I'm gonna start closing up" - James Curran
(3) Besides, they fixed this in Vista, didn't they? Now there's just the MS logo on a button. Everyone knows they have to click there for the menu. - Erik van Brakel
(1) The tooltip in Vista still says "Start"... ;-) - Richard Ev
(1) This is not Windows specific. I shut down the system I work with by running sysstart stop. (I'm too lazy to rename it to syscontrol or some such.) - Jon Ericson
You don't actually have to use the Start menu to shut down. For example you can Alt + F4 the Desktop or Taskbar. From a command prompt you can even shutdown.exe. - Hugh Allen
And on some old versions of server operating systems, I had to go to shutdown to log off, always made me nervous that I would acidnetally shut down the server instead fo log off. - HLGEM
The tooltip still says start in Win 7 ... but the button no longer says start ... I think they realized their mistake just didn't fix it all the way yet. - Brian T Hannan
Having to press "Start" to start a friend's Megan, even though it has no screen to see the menu opening! - Danny Varod
Schwern is exactly correct. You can't control how the user thinks. When they were put users in front of Win95 prototypes and asked them to shut down the computer, they almost invariably went to the Start button. MS just put the Shutdown option in the place most people went looking for it. - Gabe
[+77] [2008-10-25 19:20:25] Motti

Outlook takes Ctr-F to mean forward rather than find as all other Microsoft applications do. (F4 is find in Outlook).

What's funny is that many apps also use F3 as Find Again... you'd think Outlook would at least use that. - R. Bemrose
(5) Long answer: This is for backward compatibility with older versions of mail applications used inside MS through the years: Xenix mail, MS Mail, and the Exchange client used Ctrl-F . Short answer: BillG was astonished when Ctrl-F didn't forward mail. - Ants
I wish I could give you a +20 on this one. - JohnFx
(6) Do you have to write it M$? - Lucas Jones
OK changed to Microsoft - Motti
(1) After all find is not Alt+F4. - bayer
(30) Agreed, "M$" is kind of lame. If you must express your dislike for Microsoft every time you talk about them, write "Micros~1". After all, that's what their own filesystem thought the company's name should be :D - KeyserSoze
Isn't F3 the standard shortcut for search? - tstenner
Forward as in forward the mail or doing a <PgDn>? I agree that in Windows you should obey their conventions but in *nix <C-f> is usually easy shortcut to page down. - progo
[+59] [2008-10-26 06:35:15] Mike Akers

In Windows XP, when you connect to a wireless network that's password protected, you have to enter the password into a password field, so you can't see what you're actually typing (very fun when entering a 26 digit hex password for a WEP network.) Then, to make things even worse, you have to enter the same password again! Why do I have to do this twice??? I'm entering a password, not changing it!!!

(10) I've pondered the same question. I think a programmer was blindly following a design pattern for consistency. Oh, and it's a little-known fact that "XP" stands for "eXtra Password" -- astonishing, no? - Adam Liss
-1 to myself for the bogus "fact," and for general silliness. - Adam Liss
Start > Run > (type) > Cut > Close "Run" box > Paste, Paste - tsilb
(8) +1 for "eXtra Password". We need more general silliness. - Electrons_Ahoy
Strange, I could have sworn that the Windows XP WEP dialog has a checkbox that you can uncheck that then shows the WEP string normally instead of as a password dialog. - R. Bemrose
(9) Thinking about this some more: you need to enter it twice BECAUSE IT'S OBSCURED. Since you can't see what you're typing, it's, um, easier to type it twice and get a "mismatch" error, rather than type it once and get an "invalid" error. Yah. Of course. - Adam Liss
(10) What I do is type it into Notepad first, then paste it twice. But it's stupid that you have to do this. Why can't there be an "unobscure this text!" button? - Kyralessa
Well if you get fedora there is... - Shraptnel
(4) In Vista, they added a "Show password" checkbox. - Isaac Waller
For that matter, what's the point of requiring double password entry and then allowing people to paste into the text boxes? I do this all the time on sites that require me to double-enter my email address, all the while thinking "I sure hope I entered that right the first time". - MusiGenesis
MusiGenesis: Sites typically require you to double-enter your email address because it is frequently mistyped. If you mistype your snail-mail address, mail will probably still get to you. If you get any character wrong, you won't get what you were signing up for and the company will have no way of contacting you to let you know that you mistyped your email address. - Gabe
[+57] [2008-10-25 12:26:08] Ovid

Hyperlinks which you can't click unless JavaScript is enabled!

I'm sick of "Prev/Next" links which do nothing if you click on them. I'm sick of "page X of Y" links which mock me for having JavaScript disabled. I'm tired of Web forms with form buttons which don't do anything without JavaScript.

Many times they do this for an "enhanced" experience I don't want embedding tracking information which is unreliable anyway. Yes, it will likely cost the companies more money to develop sites which work fine without JavaScript and I can understand that, but breaking hyperlinks? That's f'ing ridiculous.

(11) Javascript is a tool. Telling designers not to use javascript because you don't trust what they do with it is a bit like telling a handyman not to use a hammer because you don't trust what he'll do with it. - Joeri Sebrechts
(7) Although I do agree every link should work like real link. Too many links don't let me right-click and select "open in new window". - Joeri Sebrechts
Our product is for technically astute users, and it still generates far too many questions. I think the Prin. of Least Astonishment is particularly import when the users are not technical, and critical when their money is involved. - Adam Liss
(5) @Joeri: I'm not telling designers not to use JavaScript. It's an incredibly useful tool. I'm telling them that the "principle of least astonishment" means that hyperlinks should work regardless of whether or not I have JavaScript enabled. - Ovid
You disabled JavaScript: PEBKAC - postfuturist
If the application requires javascript, or anything else for that matter, to function properly, it should warn the user about this when initially logging in or entering the application. If that happens, links with javascript are perfectly ok. If it doesn't, then they're not. - Lasse V. Karlsen
As someone who has found himself currently working on two different web systems where practically every single hyperlink requires JS, I could not agree with this more. Every time I have to add in a new JS-only link, a little part of me cries. - Electrons_Ahoy
(The Firefox NoScript extension tries to convert pointless javascript hyperlinks to real hyperlinks.) - Christoph Rüegg
(7) @Joeri: Your analogy is broken in that there are far more people doing antisocial things with JavaScript than with hammers. And I thought graceful degradation (i.e., "Works best with JS, but still does work without JS") was supposed to be a good thing. - Dave Sherohman
(4) ...a bit like telling a handyman not to use dynamite because you don't trust what he'll do with it. - gbarry
(20) Progressive enhancement should be the rule for any web developer. A web app should work on the lowliest of browsers but provide a better experience the more fully featured a browser is. This means things that can only be accomplished with js are left out, but generally the app is better for it. - ahsteele
(2) Pressing Ctrl+Click on a link, to open it in a new tab, and finding out that the link is Javascript and the Ctrl+Click doesn't work :-/ - Danny Varod
[+48] [2008-10-25 04:44:40] VonC

alt text

Well... when an unexpected behavior fails to astonish the user because it does not manage to display itself... that's astonishing ;)

LOL i love errors that report their own errors! - DarenW
Lol - this belongs in the programming jokes question. =) - Erik Forbes
(14) At least use the correct font when you fake messageboxes... - KristoferA -
(5) Not my doing, Sir: see - VonC
+1 for the analysis! At least the underlying system is, er, robust? I suppose credit should be given because there's obviously a "bErrorErrorAlreadyDisplayed" flag, doubtless included bcz the developer had to reboot the first few times! - Adam Liss
Saving bitmap images with a small number of colors in JPG format! - I. J. Kennedy
[+47] [2008-12-16 16:19:16] Ben Aston

When attempting to perform a search in Windows explorer under Windows XP you are presented with a dog and a completely broken search feature (a metaphor perhaps?).

You then carefully click your way to enable "proper search", but before you can get to it you have to wait for the dog to turn around and waggle its ass at you.

That is pretty astonishing to me.

(3) Windows PowerToys lets you turn this "feature" off, thankfully! (The setting is called "Use classic search in Explorer") - Richard Ev
(1) I just use winrar instead. It will also find text inside files, a lot faster than windows does. - Marius
(9) If you click on the little dog as it's running away, it ends the animation immediately. I had to search a lot (for PST files and such) as a tech support monkey at my university, and one day I discovered this little trick. Probably saved me hours of dog ass by the time I graduated. - Mike Daniels
You dont need PowerToys to switch this off, there is an option in Tools > Folder Options somewhere. - Pondidum
The sad part is that it works so much better in XP than it does in Vista, where "Search everywhere" doesn't actually search everywhere. - Adrian McCarthy
+1! I've gone through this process of "enabling proper search" so many times now and it still never ceases to ASTONISH me with its level of condescending towards me as a user. - Evgeny
@Mike Daniels: So clicking on the dog is a metaphor for kicking it out the door? - Chris Lively
In "Windows RG" (Google it), they had a solution to that. - Danny Varod
+1 for "for the dog to turn around and waggle its ass at you". If you want incremental search that isn't broken use 'Everything' search. - Evan Plaice
[+45] [2008-10-25 03:51:27] Jon B [ACCEPTED]

There are some applications out there that can't seem to stick to the OK-Cancel-Apply rules. Once you realize that pressing OK didn't save your changes, it throws your whole system of beliefs into question. I've watched as people press apply and then OK in my apps, and have told them they don't need to do that. They assure me that's not the case.

(2) Guilty. But, it wasn't my fault. There was one dialog where the [apply] button could not be made to work without re-architecting the system. I wanted to take the button out, but the decision was made to leave it in for the sake of consistency across dialogs. Ugh! - Ferruccio
(6) Who's fault was it that making a single button work as expected required re-architecting the system? - Erik Forbes
That's a big smell. - Martinho Fernandes
ClearCase is guilty of this - Chris Dolan
(57) I must say that I prefer buttons that say what they do (e.g. [Save and quit]. [OK] frequently is ambiguous. - Accipitridae
(3) @Ferruccio that's awesome so you left a button for the sake of consistency even though it wasn't working as expected. That's classic :) - dr. evil
(4) You can thank MS for the lack of variety in message boxes. In Windows you are not allowed to choose the button labels on message boxes, unless you create your own message box implementation from scratch. - Qwertie
@Chris: Clearcase is guilty of many, many, MANY sins. - Robert P
Along these lines, I really don't like when someone thinks they have a better order for these buttons than system standard. - Chris Lively
Standards are not the end all be all ... what if you do usability testing and found that people better completed the given task when the words on the buttons were more clear and didn't go along with the standards? The usability could have focused on their real user base and how can you say you don't like somebody for that? Standards are good as a guideline, but I don't think that you MUST adhere to ANY standard EVER. Thinking outside the box often gives the best results. - Brian T Hannan
[+42] [2008-11-13 21:55:21] Jim Fiorato

How about the Windows "Use the web service to find the right program to open this file."

It's bad enough that it's in there, but what makes it so much worse, is that it's the DEFAULT!

(16) And how it doesnt work. Similar to the installing a new driver dialogue that asks to hit up the Windows Update server, which invariably fails to have the driver for me. - Karl
Actually I was very surprised when Windows Update has found the drivers for me. And that was several times. - ya23
(2) Here's a link on how to disable it:… - Kyralessa
(10) @Karl: I'm trying to remember a single time in my life when the web service actually found the right program for me. I can't think of a time when it found anything at all, actually. - MusiGenesis
(2) Actually I think it's a great idea, and would be a perfectly sensible default... if it worked. - BlueRaja - Danny Pflughoeft
[+37] [2008-10-25 03:50:04] ejgottl
  • Small windows with text in them which will not resize (Windows mostly).
  • Dialogs which steal focus.
  • Hidden modal dialogs.
  • Having to recompile the kernel in order to do something I thought was going to be simple (like connect to a network, or listen to audio) (Linux mostly).

Use modules instead of recompiling the kernel. - Jacob
(3) Welcome to... ;) - VonC
@Jacob;Recompile the kernel, recompile the module, what's the difference? I've had a lot of people that I've tried to get to use Linux put off by video, sound, and network driver issues. - bruceatk
(2) The instructions to get the driver for my USB PPPoA DSL modem working in Linux is 6 pages long. Then it was still unstable. I later decided to just be dirty and use a Windows box as a router for my Linux boxes. - Gerald
Dialogs that steal focus as you're typing... usually right around the time you're ready for a Space. - tsilb
(3) If you have a broken driver on Linux, you have to option to rebuild the module/kernel. On Windows, do don't have any option at all. - JesperE
(3) That isn't really astonishing. If you don't have the driver for some hardware, you've got to get it somehow. If you or your distro decided to slim down the kernel by only compiling the most basic stuff, well, then you're going to have issues when you need more capabilities. - Adam Jaskiewicz
(2) @JesperE, on Windows I've never found the need to. - Evgeny
The very fact that you have to recompile the kernel in order to install a driver is a bit archaic. - Chris Lively
It's why DOS implemented device drivers in first place. - Kyte
@Chris: You don't. Usually. - Lucas Jones
[+36] [2009-02-26 22:47:30] Lance Kidwell

When Windows Automatic Update asks if you'd like to restart now or restart later. And then keeps asking every few minutes. I think to most users selecting "Later" means "at a time that I will determine" not "possibly in a few minutes, why don't you check back then?"

Try explaining that to a 4 year old. "But Daddy, it is later." In the same vein, I'm told that, at least in some Spanish-speaking countries, "mañana" doesn't mean "tomorrow" -- it means "not today." - Adam Liss
At least in Server 2008 (and Vista?) there's now a "postpone" option, but the longest you can postpone for is only 4 hours. If you see the message at the start of the day, you know you're going to get bothered at least once to restart. - Paul Suart
(3) Win-R -> net stop "automatic updates" ... That fixes the nagging till you do restart the system. Now... why do Windows OSes need restarting to apply an update?! That's astonishing. - Cristi Diaconescu
Yeah this is irritating. I usually drag the little window off screen so only a tiny corner is still visible. - Phil
@Cristi: because you can't update core services or (god forbid) the kernel while they're in use? - Kyte
(1) @Kyte: Yes and no. Windows locks open executables and dynamic libraries so they can't be written to, and that locks the filesystem in such a way that you can't do what traditional Unix filesystems do (write a new file and atomically move it into place before notifying the applications that they should reload). On the other hand, it's not just Windows that is irritating this way: why does OSX need to reboot to be able to understand another camera RAW format (and for a camera I don't have either?!) - Donal Fellows
(1) @Cristi net stop wuauserv is faster to type - bdonlan
@bdonlan true, but it's harder to remember. - Cristi Diaconescu
[+30] [2009-02-10 00:57:14] geofftnz

Focus-stealing dialog boxes from the non-foreground application. If you're in the middle of typing something you can trigger one of the dialog box buttons before your brain even has a chance to register.

The worst has to be the Windows Automatic Updates background install. Once the updates have finished installing after a non-deterministic period of time, you get a dialog prompting you to restart now or later. The number of times I've accidentally rebooted my machine in the middle of a complex task...

(7) gpedit.msc > Computer Configuration > Administrative Templates > Windows Components > Windows Update > Re-prompt for restart... > Change setting to Enabled > Change restart time to 1440 minutes (24 hours). Click OK. :) And yes, it's stupid that this isn't the default. - Kyralessa
Thanks! (And apprently I do have rights to change it on my work machine!) - geofftnz
(4) In Windows 98 MS implemented a solution to this very problem -- forcing windows to "flash" instead of coming to the foreground when they request the latter. Sounds like MS found a way to bypass this logic for its own dialog. - Qwertie
[+24] [2008-10-26 05:57:34] community_owned

I only recently learned (on OSNews) that in MS Windows, one can select multiple windows (with CTRL) in the taskbar and have them tiled horizontally or vertically on the screen. I was looking for that feature for a long time (and it was there all the time from Win 95 or so) and I am missing it a lot in Linux (KDE nor Gnome can do this).

So, for me, unadvertised existing features of programs are the most astonishing (on the other hand, bugs aren't).

(5) +1.. never knew that before! - chakrit
+1 ditto. Awesome! - Dominic Rodger
Cool, I've always carefully minimised all other windows, then tiled the left over unminimised windows. PITA workaround. - garrow
+1 never knew that either. I always do what garrow described. - Steve Melnikoff
(1) They're taking it out in Windows 7 :( - CyberShadow
[+23] [2008-10-25 04:08:15] Adam Liss

I can't remember the app, but I'd already spent quite a bit of time entering a lot of information into a form when I accidentally hit the Escape key. The app thought I wanted to cancel my actions and displayed a dialog worded something like: "You are about to cancel this activity. Do you want to continue?"

Would you have pressed the "OK" or "Cancel" button?

Note: the dialog was modal, so copying my work to the clipboard was impossible.

You know what? Windows does this during an install! When your file is newer than the one it has, it asks if you want to keep "this" file. I still don't know which one it wants to keep! - gbarry
(2) To "keep something" means to "keep something you already have". I agree that the message should be worded differently, but there is no ambiguity here. It asks if you want to keep your existing file, or not. - Lasse V. Karlsen
That app was MYOB. Oh, great - now I have to go for a walk to work off that anger ... and it was years ago. - CAD bloke
You can still take a screen shot to save your work. They should put this (taking screen shot) in user manual but why they didn't is astonishing. - Codism
[+22] [2008-10-26 04:51:00] Matt Haley

The dialog box you get when saving an Excel spreadsheet as a CSV file. It took me nearly 2 years to get used to hitting "No".

What's really nuts is when you load a .csv in the first place and then get bugged about whether you want to save it as a .csv. - Loren Pechtel
[+21] [2008-10-25 08:01:11] Maglob

Mysql. Repeatedly.

For example by default string comparison is case-insensitive. Constraints are not enforced by default, even with InnoDB. "Grant all" does not grant all rights and so on...

Yes, Im new to mysql with years of experience of other databases, but mysql forces me to learn "new things" almost every day.

I like the fact that string comparison is case-insensitive. I hate having to lowercase both sides in order to compare "THat" to "thAT" - Chris Lively
[+20] [2008-10-25 08:30:57] Graham Miller

Everytime I open Lotus Notes 6.5 I'm astonished. There's a UI design violation round every corner too numerous to list here.

They are still there in the newer versions. Luckily they are tucked away behind a facade of mostly useful UI. But as soon as you scratch the surface (i.e. click "properties" or try to change some preferences). ... thar be dragons! - Joachim Sauer
Lotus Notes itself is a UI violation, I use it every day and I am still annoyed everytime I attempt to change font color or even worse paste HTML. - Dan
I'm astonished that anyone is still using Lotus Notes 6.5. - Cheeso
(1) @Cheeso - I'm still forced to use release 5.0.12. I weep daily. - Lunatik
(1) My favorite Lotus Notes shortcut from the version I used several years ago: Ctrl+Q Close the application immediatly, without confirmation, and discarding any unsaved work. I kid you not. That's a useful thing to have on a shortcut key, right? Outlook uses Ctrl+Q to "mark as read", so I was spitting and swearing at Lotus Notes for the first few months I was using it. Man, I could write a book about the steaming pile of poo that was Lotus Notes... - Scott Smith
@Scott Smith: I actually wish that ALL applications had a shortcut like that. Like :qa! in Vim. - slacker
(3) My favourite is that F5 doesn't refresh... it logs you out! - Kaz Dragon
[+20] [2008-10-25 05:11:10] VonC

alt text

When your software does have an "unexpected behavior", it is bad enough... But when the developer did not respect a "professional language" policy, it starts to become embarrassing.

As a project leader, I would include in code review the control of all GUI displayed messages, and not just about typos.

Bonus to Olaf [1] (see comments): he has correctly recognized the eclipse CVS dialog Box [2] ;)


(10) This is CVS, right? If I remember correctly this is the pserver protocol message when authentication fails. If it succeeds, "I LOVE YOU" (or similar) is sent. This is on par with the "printer on fire" error message - Olaf Kock
@Olaf: Right on! I have added your comment in the answer :) - VonC
(11) Just to second Olaf's point: This message does not come from Eclipse, it just takes the existing CVS message and passes it through. - Michael Stum
@Michael: good precision. I upvoted your comment to make it visible - VonC
@Olaf: If I remember the protocol, "I LOVE YOU" is the mandated reply if there is a connection, and implementations were encouraged to provide more meaningful messages than "I HATE YOU". This would have been a good idea. Eclipse is never going to bother to show the protocol answer for a successful connect. - David Thornley
[+17] [2008-10-25 06:58:11] Gabriel Isenberg

Poor performance is a huge source of astonishment for me. Applications that become non-responsive on seemingly trivial operations and even slow operating system-level tasks drive me batty.

well of course it's slow! you're running Vista on a P75! [:'P - warren
(10) "What Intel giveth, Microsoft taketh away" - Paul Suart
(7) @Paul Suart: Easily more than 90% of the time I face this it is not Microsoft's fault. If anything, MS is the one who really seems to care about this issue - in recent times they've started putting pressure on other companies to fix the problems because MS keeps getting blamed for them. - 280Z28
(1) How about a HP laserjet driver that was consuming 50%+ processing power and rendering a production-sensitive application useless during a simple print job. I downloaded the non-comsumer (IT Professional version) of the driver and it used less than 1% to print. WTF? This seems to be standard practice with HP printer drivers. - Evan Plaice
[+16] [2008-10-25 04:00:11] Draemon

The windows LAN icon in the taskbar is by default nice and visible when you're connected. Let's say you need to disable then re-enable the connection (networks problems, whatever), so you double click it, which brings up a dialog. You disable the connection - and the dialog and the icon disappear. Very annoying. Yes I know you can force it to remain there all the time, but it's a pain when you're working on other people's PCs

I think this makes sense. What wouldn't make sense would be to have icons for every disconnected network interface by default. Laptops generally have both wireless and wired; I don't care that the wired isn't plugged in. - BlueRaja - Danny Pflughoeft
It would make sense (be less astonishing) but I agree it would be cluttered, so you could a) Have one icon for all interfaces or b) don't display interfaces until they are first used, but then don't remove them, c) don't remove interfaces if they are disabled using the icon on the taskbar since it's damn likely you're going to want to click on it again. All of these would be better than how it works now. - Draemon
[+16] [2009-05-09 09:39:24] David Plumpton

Underlining text on a web page that's not a link. Grrrr.

(3) Add to that not underlining links. - outis
(5) @outis - I guess you don't like StackOverflow then. Just about every link is not underlined unless you mouse over it. - Graeme Perrow
@Graeme: But blue is the traditional colour for links, and is a reliable indicator even without underlining. - Jon Purdy
Links can also be in bold, and/or in almost any color other than the rest of the text on the page, and it will be fairly clear that it's a link. I'm sure this used to be annoying when the web was new and links were always blue and always underlined, but nowadays it seems pretty commonplace. - MatrixFrog
Wish I could upvote twice on this. So annoying! - Shervin
[+16] [2009-06-02 13:56:01] Paul Suart

This is an old question, but I'll add my 2 cents anyway.

Even in the latest version of Windows (I've got 64-bit Server 2008 SP2), it's still not possible to drag taskbar items to rearrange them in an order of my choosing. I'm stuck with them in the order in which they opened unless I install an (excellent) third-party app: taskbar shuffle [1].

Considering the lengths Microsoft go to to allow me to customise every other minute detail of my operating system, it beggars belief that this feature is not yet standard.


(4) This will finally be possible in Windows 7. Problem is they're replacing the taskbar with the unusable functionality of the Moc dock. - DisgruntledGoat
So they're making it possible by removing the need for the feature....? - Paul Suart
(3) @Paul Suart: No, the new feature (and taskbar as a whole) is great. I don't use it explicitly much anymore because I can pin my most common applications in a fixed order so they always appear in the expected positions. - 280Z28
@280Z28, well I'm still on non-R2 Server 2008, so I still find it astonishing that a full 13 years after Windows 95 was released it's not possible to re-arrange the taskbar without having to install a 3rd-party app. I know R2/Windows7 is a lot better. - Paul Suart
[+15] [2008-11-06 19:34:51] Qwertie

For a C++ developer, I was most astonished when I ran my program on another machine for the first time. It immediately said:

"This application has failed to start because the application configuration is incorrect. Reinstalling the application may fix this problem."

The application configuration is incorrect? That's funny, I don't remember writing code to show that message box. How do I even begin to diagnose the cause?

It turns out this message means "The Visual C++ runtime DLL is not installed. Please install version 9 of VCREDIST.EXE from or, if you are the developer, link statically to the CRT library."

(1) Hmmm ... so you'd like to know how to solve the problem, rather than being told that there is a problem. (How do we re-format your answer in a 128-point bright red font?) - Adam Liss
(2) But the message wasn't for developers -- it was for end users. And you don't actually expect Auntie Ruth to find VCREDIST.EXE on and install it, do you? - James Curran
I diagnosed it by Googling the phrase, when it happened to me. I find many error messages to be unhelpful, and I'm in the habit of Googling them. It's really no worse than "Error 2342342365980: Foo" in that regard. - David Thornley
(16) This is a common problem where developers have confused the task of making error messages "user friendly" with the task of removing any hint of technical detail from them. The result is often error messages so generic they are meaningless to developers and users both. - Wedge
I had a wonderful time running a program that required a registered DLL, simply not starting for me. Windows would run a Crash Dump instantly with no error message at all. Took half a day to track down the issue. - Karl
My favorites are the ones that say "Please contact your local system administrator" Especially, when I am said administrator. - Chris Lively
(1) Even if it's a good idea to remove technical detail from error messages (which I don't agree with), the error should at least BE REMOTELY RELATED to the problem. For instance it could say "failed to start because a component is missing" instead of talking about the "application configuration" which sounds like a problem with xml/ini/registry settings. - Qwertie
[+14] [2008-10-25 05:04:10] VonC

alt text

Often developers will test their application on their computer, in their environment.

But they might forget to make some tests in a "real" environment, which can leads to... some surprises!

So as a project leader, I would train them to properly setup clean testing configurations, for avoiding having that kind of "System Check" displayed in front of a customer!

(1) Excellent suggestion. We're plagued by this and on our way toward a policy that requires all "official" builds to take place in QA, on a clean box. Thank you, virtualization, for making this practical! - Adam Liss
(3) Seems to me like what they really need is to test in "dirty" configurations, like the typical customer's PC. - Kyralessa
@Adam: I don't think the problem is were you build / compile it. The problem is where you test it. - Chris Lively
[+12] [2008-11-14 00:57:20] thursdaysgeek

My husband uses some inhouse stuff. He has to enter a bunch of data on a form, including some long mixed alphanumeric strings, similar to GUIDS, something really easy to enter incorrectly. I don't think there is a copy/paste option. He presses SUBMIT.

If there is an error, then a bright red screen comes up and says there is an error in input. It doesn't say what the error is, what field, or show the incorrect value. Then, it goes back to the original form, with ALL fields emptied, so that the hapless user can re-enter all of those fields again.

Correcting the problem would be easy: give a nicer error message on the offending fields (after submit, if fields are related to each other), and don't clear out anything.

How to retrain the programmers? I'd suggest using a rack, because torture does seem appropriate.

Sounds pretty effective to me: I'll bet he doesn't make very many errors! Just keep those programmers and their QA department away from my shop. - Adam Liss
(4) Make the developer use that software for a month. If that doesn't solve the problem all by itself, send the developer out for a psychological evaluation. - Scott Smith
I prefer the, insert red asterisk next to the incorrect field and don't refresh the page until the data has been validated. On websites/webapps, as much validation as possible should always occur client-side to prevent this. - Evan Plaice
[+11] [2008-10-25 21:23:25] Adam Liss

I was surprised (and annoyed) when an electronic teller wanted me to enter the dollar amount of my transaction before asking which account I wanted to use.

Could've been avoided by asking the developers' parents (or anyone not involved with the project) to use the machine before it went live. I explained the problem to the bank manager, who agreed.

I was further astonished to find that, the very next time I visited that machine, it asked for the account before the dollar amount. I'm guessing the project manager has an account with that bank. :-)

[+10] [2010-03-19 00:33:50] kibibu

When you use a Master password for Firefox (3.6), a dialog box will pop up requesting your master password prior to automatically using any stored passwords.

This is great, except for one tiny little thing - it always has a flashing caret, even when it doesn't have focus.

This has meant that I have been bitten several times by looking at my screen, noticing the FF master password requires input (because the caret is flashing), and typed my password into, say, an active MSN conversation. The first time, I actually sent it to a colleague (because I type my password pretty quickly).

I can't think of a general concept that might describe this UI failure, except maybe don't flash at me if you don't want me to put something inside you

(3) @kibibu: How true! It's even worse when you're entering a password (or typing anything else) and a new IM window pops up and steals the focus. I can't tell you how many times I've accidentally sent random vi commands or fragments of C code to unsuspecting coworkers. - Adam Liss
(14) Chuckle when you have taken the following out of context: "don't flash at me if you don't want me to put something inside you" - Jonta
@Adam Liss I highly recommend finding an IM client that won't do that. I believe that what Pidgin does is popup in front of all other windows, but not actually steal focus, so that what you're typing still goes where it's intended to go. - MatrixFrog
@Jonta, wasn't entirely unintentional, but based on the votes I guess I need to be more obvious in future! - kibibu
[+8] [2009-05-15 10:28:17] kenny

Applications that move the mouse to 'help' you.

Agree here. Problem is; often it has the potential for being useful, but isn't, seeing as so few applications do this. If this was software the user used often, then it would make more sense. Main point: Users are bad at using the mouse, but it ends up not being useful because users don't expect it to happen, because "nobody" implements it (circular logic) - Jonta
I have seen sensible cursor moving. Just can't remember where. - progo
[+6] [2009-05-14 13:01:14] Ron Klein

Office 2007

(3) -1: Lots of research proved without any doubt whatsoever that the Office 2007 UI was more of what end users expected than anything before it. Following that research is the exact opposite of an answer to this question. - 280Z28
(2) @280z28: yeah, whatever. tell that to existing users. - Ron Klein
@280Z28 - I call BS. I have yet to run into one user (new to Office or experienced) that did not have some serious complaints about the ribbon. The more experienced the user, the more they hated the ribbon. I will agree however, that the answer does not address the actual question. - Thomas
I didn't like the ribbon at first, but after learning a bit more about UI (and using it for a few days), I think it's pretty clear that the 2007 UI is a vast improvement (2010 is even better.. and more touch-screen friendly!) Now if only .Net provided an easy way to emulate Office 2007's UI in our own apps... - BlueRaja - Danny Pflughoeft
I understand that the ribbon is very hard to customize. That you only could add own buttons to onedimensional bar above it. In 2003 you could practically build your own menus. Scratch this if you actually can customize the tab leaves to no end. - progo
[+6] [2008-12-16 15:33:23] James Curran

The top answer about Macs not have Floppy eject buttons reminded me of one design that was clearly the most astonishing for me. It was actually a hardware design, but it was on a computer, so I think it counts.

It was on one model of Macs put out in the mid-1990s, which I can only assume was designed specifically to annoy PC users.

Like all Macs, it didn't have a floppy eject button. It did however, have a button on the case. It was thin and protruding and right next to the floppy, so it look exactly like a floppy eject button.

It was, however, the power button.

You go to eject your disk, and suddenly the power shuts off!

Good thing I was used to Macs when I got one of those. I didn't think anything of it at the time, since I never physically ejected a disk at home. - David Thornley
I bet someone had a patent on a floppy eject button; which is why it wasn't there.. - Chris Lively
@Chris, I think it's more likely that Apple just really hates buttons. - eyelidlessness
@eyelidlessness: I think you may be right. When the iPhone first came out they even had AT&T saying it only had 1 button. Of course, it has 1 on the front, 1 on top, plus a rocker switch and two buttons on the right. Apparently only the one on the very front of the device was counted. The others... well, we just don't talk about them. - Chris Lively
[+6] [2009-02-06 12:07:42] cg

On a keyboard with German layout, you hold down the right "Alt" key (which is the first key right to the space bar, mind you) and press "Q" if you want to enter an "@" sign.

Now, I have lost track of the number of web forms that I had to fill out twice (or even thrice!) since I got my first MacBook Pro last summer. Whenever I get down to the "your email" field, my browser window will just disappear while I type in my address...

Could be that you must come from Germany and be switching from Windows to Mac to truly imagine what that feels like.

I think this astonishes everyone who switches between Mac OS and other OSes. The frustrating thing is that there is no chance the keyboard positions for similar meta keys will ever be the same across OSes, because either side switching would be even more astonishing. - eyelidlessness
[+6] [2009-02-10 01:10:00] Evgeny

Windows Updates that restart your machine at 3 AM by default.

Annoys me to no end, especially because my wife blames me and asks me why the hell did I restart her computer without asking with all that useful IE windows opened that she did not save links for.

Yes, I know how to configure it, but I would prefer applications not restarting my computer without by permission by default.

I'm astonished that the two of you learn so slowly. +1 for the straight line. :-) - Adam Liss
I'm astonished that you regularly leave the computer running for hours at a time WITHOUT SAVING YOUR WORK.. - Chris Lively
@Chris, it's not work that's not saved. It's websites in browser windows that haven't been bookmarked. Why? Because they are useful today and maybe tomorrow but after that you never want to know about them. So you don't bookmark them you just leave the window open. @Adam-introduce your wife to tabbed browsing and to setting your home page to "your last set of browser tabs". - jmucchiello
[+6] [2008-10-25 23:44:36] dar7yl

How's this for an error message:

It is now safe to shut down your computer

For whom? Did this message "astonish" you? If so, how would you change it? - Adam Liss
I was testing some new software (not mine) on a windows machine and kept on getting this error. The bug was forcing the computer to reboot. I never could figure out what was happening, so I ripped the culprit feature out and redesigned it. I really was astonished when it occured the first time. - dar7yl
This only appears on computers that don't support ACPI programmatic shutdown. For example, AT PSUs and older ATX mobos. - tsilb
(8) I love the fact that this dialog had a big windows logo above it as if it was a tagline for the OS. "Windows: It is now safe to shut-down your computer." - JohnFx
(4) Gee, I always thought it said "It is now safe to turn off your computer." - Carl Camera
(1) Um, it's not an error message. - Qwertie
1) An error occurred - the computer shut down 2) This message was displayed 3) Therefore, it's an error message - dar7yl
[+6] [2008-10-25 07:08:26] Rune Grimstad

In windows it is quite hard to write an application that jumps to the foreground and takes focus. Instead the applications icon will flash on the taskbar, something that is both nice and useful. But. Some applications still manage to pop up and take focus, usually when I am very focused on a task. I have noe idea how many colleagues have received parts of my code as response in Msn messenger for example. A horribly annoying feature!

but there are things I want to take focus. If I press the calculator button on my keyboard, I want the calculator to display AND have focus. Otherwise, I wouldn't have started it. Messenger though.. That's just dumb. - Chris Lively
[+5] [2008-12-16 15:51:16] StingyJack

I was astonished by the language in this infamous debian bug [1].

It amazed me more as I read the arguments in the post for why this should/should not be dealt with as a critical patch or just leave it.


(3) Man, that's a riot. Unprofessional in the extreme, but funny all the same. - Scott Smith
I'm not sure what's worse, the "bug", or the fact that it apparently took 3 months (april to july) to get it resolved with all sorts of sideline commentary in between. But, I guess you get what you pay for... - Chris Lively
Well then, don't read this. - BlueRaja - Danny Pflughoeft
[+5] [2009-01-23 00:42:29] Adam Liss

Just today I needed to clear the Event Log on a Windows machine: from the  Start Menu, open the  Event Log Viewer,   right-click   Application Logs,  click  Clear from the context menu, click  Yes on the confirmation dialog ... and then choose a file name!?

Whoops — the "confirmation dialog" didn't ask whether I wanted to clear the log; it asked if I wanted to save the log.

No more clicking in my sleep!

This one constantly gets me too. This is a perfect example of this tenet...the dialog box is clear enough IF THE USER READS THE MESSAGE...but we're so well trained in this paradigm of "are you sure?" that we don't bother...we KNOW what it will say. (It's just that we're wrong in this case.) - Beska
[+5] [2009-05-15 10:15:46] Rob Kam

Websites that complain about which browser the visitor is using. Developers to read " Viewable With Any Browser [1]".


(1) Right. Everyone should be navigate any page in IE2 or Netscape 2 or Berners-Lee's original WorldWideWeb browser. If the goal was "Viewable in the most current version of any browser still in production" then that would make more sense. - Thomas
Seriously... when the browsers will all follow the standards, then I'll start worrying about this. Noone has time to make a product work in all 100+ browsers. - StingyJack
[+4] [2009-02-26 22:58:15] le dorfier

Whoever thought a generic user would be able to figure out how functionality parcels out into menus that are variously named

/Quick Preferences
/Advanced (various)
/Administrative Tools
/Computer Management
/Control Panel
/Folder Options (and to set file extension handlers?)
/Set Program Access and Defaults
etc. etc.

Various MSC files you need to "Run...", all free from intuitive names:

I think the luser manager is has an appropriate name :) - Jesse Weigert
Fixed in Windows 7, Control Panel is lightyears easier to navigate now :) - BlueRaja - Danny Pflughoeft
[+4] [2008-10-25 03:39:12] ZCHudson

From experience working in tech support. The worst offenders are programs that unintentionally "hide" important information from the average user.

One example: Microsoft Outlook with Exchange being in offline mode or not connected.

I don't know how many times I've gotten calls from people wanting to know why the last email they'd received was xx days ago. While anyone who's used Outlook for a period of time knows that there is a status bar in the lower right and that multiple ways to see if you're connected, new users don't. I've run across other applications like this but can't think of them off the top of my head.

(2) Firefox is doing this now with "offline mode" It's a fracking web browser - when should it EVER be in "offline mode?" - Chris Kaminski
[+4] [2010-06-16 18:44:30] Chris Lively

Visual Studio (even 2010) In Memory Save. Sorry, but Saving something to Memory, is not Saving anything at all. If I modify something and want to Save it, I really really want it to be persisted to something outside of the program. Just get rid of this "feature" and don't ask me this question again.

Along the lines of UI stealing

  1. If the window doesn't have focus, it shouldn't have a blinking caret. I have multiple monitors with multiple windows open. If something pops up with a blinking caret, then I fully expect whatever I type to show up in that box.

  2. My MS keyboard has buttons like "calculator" When I specifically press that button I want it to come up front and center and allow me to start entering numbers. Vista, for all it's failings, worked just fine in this manner. 7? well, they went overboard with a complete lack of focus.

  3. If I AM TYPING, then don't erase what I just typed. IE 7/8 I'm looking at you. When I start IE and start typing in the address bar, if I'm not fast enough, the browser will wipe out the URL I just entered.

  4. If I AM NOT TYPING, go ahead and show that security warning dialog so that I can "approve" the install that I already "approved".

Other things:

  1. I don't need to click Next on 8 screens worth of crap to install something. I think running the installer, clicking a simple "Install Now" button or whatever should be a sufficient deal. Having a Splash screen, terms agreement, are you sure, here's what we are going to install, are you really sure, click next to actually install the program, etc.. screens are way too many. Just install it already.

  2. As others have said: ambiguous error messages. Either give me the real details or have a little button to press which will give me the details. Telling me to contact the system administrator (which is usually me) is unhelpful. And by details I don't give a crap about error -201001203. I do care about "Have your administrator give you XYZ rights to perform this action."

[+3] [2010-05-07 01:19:42] kibibu

One more - in IE if you save a complete web page (using Save As->Web Page, Complete), you get both the html file itself - say index.html - as well as a folder called something like index_files.

Now, later on you decide you only want the html document, so you casually delete the index_files folder in Explorer. Only, wtf?! The index.html file disappears!

Yes this really happens. You delete a folder, and what looks like a totally separate file gets deleted along with it. I cannot think of any justification for this behaviour, and it's the only time I've ever seen something like it happen, ever.

From memory the same situation occurs if you save a Word 2007 document as HTML.

[+3] [2010-12-07 00:04:19] eyelidlessness

Web forms that allow submission from a multi-line <textarea> field by pressing enter/return. This is totally unexpected behavior and there's never any warning.

At some point, Stack Overflow implemented this. It wasn't always the case. In the past, blank lines would be converted to a space. It was astonishing then (especially as the comment form's subset of Markdown isn't the same as the question/answer form's implementation), but it's much more astonishing now.

[+3] [2008-10-25 03:47:15] Hugh Allen

Before going out I programmed DVB Viewer [1] to record a show for me, then to save CPU (and tuner card wear) I de-selected "Playback" on the View menu (the program is in TV-viewing mode by default). When I returned home I found the recorded file (for a 1-hour show) was 8 bytes long. So apparently "Playback" is necessary for recording, and if you have a scheduled recording and disable playback, the program won't warn you :-/

EDIT: I may have unfairly criticised DVB Viewer - the real problem seems to be with the drivers for one of my tuner cards - a Compro Videomate. Despite them being signed by M$ WHQL, it doesn't seem to play nicely with third-party (ie. non-Compro) software, and like most OEM-written software, the bundled PVR program isn't very good. It seems to assume that all video material is frame-based (eg. shot on film), not field-based (interlaced video) - it doesn't know how to do "bob" deinterlacing. It also has a poor UI, only works with their tuner hardware, doesn't support hardware MPEG decoding, and sometimes the audio falls out of synch :(


I helped a friend set up his VCR to record a show in the future. He could not get it to do this. I had to read the manual to find out: It would not tape the show unless you turned the power off first. - gbarry
I had an old VCR like that. But I'd have been truly astonished if you'd tried to record a program in the past. :-) - Adam Liss
This is a perfect example of carrying over physical constraints (cassete tape needs to play to record), into horrible UX metaphors in software. A pet peeve is sound or video software that attempts to look like the hardware it emulates. Who wants a wood grain windows sound mixer? - garrow
[+3] [2008-11-06 19:14:35] tsilb

This will end your Windows Session.

umm... duh, kind of why I clicked "Exit Windows", guys... thanks.

(1) From Windows 3.1, right? I remember wondering for years what my "Windows Session" was...I thought I was just using Windows, not having some sort of session with it. - Richard Ev
(2) What's the problem? Confirmation dialog, that's all. - Loren Pechtel
[+3] [2009-05-09 08:08:09] community_owned

I joined this digg-like site after being a passive user for a year or so. I felt that I wanted to contribute. So I started to comment and vote on submissions and in discussions. Then suddenly, I seemed to be ignored. No one answered any of my comments. I googled a little and discovered that there was something called a zero point ban. It can be detected by logging out and see your comments disappear just to reappear when logging in.

So I deleted my comments and my user and went back to being passive. I thought, why should I contribute content to some business when I got treated that way?

Edit: Just to clarify why this is relevant to this thread. I could not figure out -why- I was banned and I did not get any notification about it. This was very unintuitive.

Edit2: Looking again at the question; As a project manager I would have the programmers make the banning algorithms able to distinguish between a human and a bot. Also let the user have a way to detect which rule violation caused the ban and encourage a change in behavior, preferably in a positive, friendly way.

[+3] [2009-02-26 22:33:12] Beska

I have fond (?) memories of the Mac equivalent of the Blue Screen of Death, that would come up on early versions of Macintosh computers.

It would show a small bomb icon, and say that your computer was seriously messed up, and then it would give you two buttons. "Restart" or "Resume".

Everyone, as they mourned their lost term paper, always hoped and prayed that, for some weird and unknowable reason, the "Resume" button would work just this one time. And it never, ever, did. It would just freeze the computer and the user would be forced to restart.

I used to use a crappy audio program that had serious memory bugs and would trigger this crash all the time. There were a handful of times "resume" would work long enough for me to save an unsaved audio file before the freeze. I don't think "resume" ever resulted in anything other than horrid instability though. - eyelidlessness
[+3] [2009-05-15 10:39:38] MrValdez

Usually happens when using other people's computers: Clicking a link in a browser opens Adobe PDF reader.

[+3] [2009-05-18 20:30:58] Brian Postow

This says more about me at the time, than the software, but back in '92, I found the entire mac OS astonishing.

I needed to change the name of a file. I was completely command line driven back then, so here was my reasoning:

1) Deep in side the bowels of the machine, there are bits.

2) A file is represented by an Inode, which somehow has the name associated with it.

2a) I need to change the name associated with this Inode.

3) There will be code to do this.

3a) This code will probably be a program somewhere.

3b) This is a mac, so the code is either in the menu bar, or in the System Folder.

Needless to say, I spent 30-45 minutes searching the menus and the System Folder to no avail. I eventually went to the college help-desk person (A non-computer person, I'm sure) who said "If you click on the icon, you'll get a little 'I' cursor and ..." at which point my jaw dropped. The concept of changing the pixels on the screen would never have ocured to me. I knew TOO MUCH about computers to figure it out...

upvoted. Heh, UI that's too friendly ^^ - Jonta
+1 My hatred for my early 90's Mac was that this was the only way to rename the file. Basically, Apple was saying everyone must do it their way and that is the only way. - Thomas
[+2] [2010-04-15 13:40:42] Nick Lewis

The ATM that tells me to enter the amount of my withdrawal "in multiples of $20". So if I want to take out $100, do I press 1-0-0 or do I press 5?

I'd be happier if it asked me to choose an account before it asked me for a dollar amount. - Adam Liss
(3) As an adjunct to this, an ATM asking you to enter a cents value when no ATM ever has dispensed pennies and nickels. - Chris Kaminski
[+2] [2009-06-02 14:28:45] DisgruntledGoat

My favourite example is when renaming some files on Windows XP. I open a folder, click a file name, hit F2 to rename and press Enter. I get a message saying that the file is currently in use. I think when you click certain files like videos, explorer starts reading metadata and so on, meaning that when you try to rename it, the file is in use by Windows Explorer - the very same app you're trying to rename with!!

Another annoyance: unsharing a file or folder takes forever on Vista (as do most simple operations like moving/deleting). And even with sharing totally disabled, loads of my files get the sharing icon on them. I can apparently still share/unshare things!

Bonus bug: if you rename a folder that contains a shared folder, Windows warns you that the shared folder will no longer be shared if you continue. If you Continue Anyway, but the rename fails, you then get an error message and the folder name does not change. However, the shared folder still becomes unshared.

[+2] [2009-02-26 22:42:06] jcrossley3

Over the years, the behavior of the browser's back button has so violated the Principle of Least Astonishment that now I'm pleasantly astonished whenever it does what it's supposed to!

At least it seems to work correctly on this site!

Back buttons that don't work during multi-page inputs, back buttons that require reload or resubmit. - Danny Varod
Not so much the browser's back button as the pages which break it. - BlueRaja - Danny Pflughoeft
[+2] [2009-02-10 01:05:38] Evgeny

In Windows, if I right-click 'Start' button and choose 'Search', the 'Look In' by default will have 'Start Menu' in it.

Maybe it's just me, but what are the chances a user starts search just to find something in Start Menu? I would expect something like 'Local Hard Drives' at least.

(8) You right-clicked the Start menu, chose Search and weren't expecting to search the Start Menu? - Qwertie
[+2] [2008-10-25 13:21:34] bruceatk

Paint Shop Pro (ver. 8 and 9 I believe) had this serious flaw that would secretly bite users. When doing long operations you can press the ESC key and cancel that operation. If you do that any time during your current session and then save your image, your save would be silently canceled by that escape key press being remembered.

To the user it wouldn't show up until they next went to work on the image and it would be missing the work that they had been doing. You would chock it up to forgetting to save and then a few weeks later it would happen again.

The problem was around for quite a while before it was fixed.

The problem existed because of lack of testing. At the end of the day there needs to be a test plan with real people doing real tasks. I believe that no matter how small the task is to test there are always key tasks that should be tested every time. On a product like PSP at a minimum you should be able to save an image and reopen it without losing data and that obviously wasn't tested at the same time as the ESC key.

Maybe this falls under the Principle of Least Infuriation! I once visited QA 45 min after they began installing the latest in-house release; they were still configuring. It was like pulling teeth to get them to say, "This is not acceptable." - Adam Liss
[+2] [2010-06-16 19:24:32] Danny Varod

Automatic installations that restart the computer without asking the user, or that start without asking the user, or that choose options without letting the user change them.

[+2] [2010-06-16 19:32:58] Nikita Rybak

I'm surprised nobody mentioned java InputStream's long skip(long n).

As you might expect from the definition, it's supposed to skip n bytes from the stream.
But the trick is that the method also returns the number of bites it skipped: it may decide not to skip full amount of bites requested.
For example, if you call BufferedInputStream#skip and stream already has some data buffered, it will skip only amount of data buffered and won't try to obtain additional data.

So, almost always the correct way to use this method, instead of


, will be like this:

while (n > 0) {
    long skipped = input.skip(n);
    if (skipped == 0) {
        // no more data, do whatever's appropriate
    n -= skipped;

[+1] [2010-06-25 02:50:39] Evan Plaice

Please contact your System Administrator...

[+1] [2010-06-25 03:19:11] Derek Clarkson

old school but ....

When MS hijacked the CTRL ALT DEL combination so that given the PC the three finger salute no longer rebooted it.

[+1] [2010-06-25 03:51:39] Evan Plaice

Passwords like 'K=w{Ie;a...'

It seems perfectly natural to most now to use obscure combinations of numbers and letters and characters to create 'secure' passwords now but why...

Are we being conditioned to practice memorizing random obscure gibberish? [1]

Why can't the whole model of passwords be changed to passphrases like:

  • great balls of fire!
  • how much wood could a wood chuck chuck
  • I'm not your buddy Guy!
  • my dog really loves to lick his balls
  • my philosophy, like color television, is all there in black and white
  • mucho take it easy

The possibilities are endless... phrases are much easier for us to remember and encrypted passwords get exponentially harder to crack the longer they get.

Of course, there's always the downside that; you could probably hack most programmers system if you used a dictionary of Monty Python quotes.


The trick is to use something that's meaningful to you but looks like gibberish to an attacker. How about something like these (just read the letters and numbers out loud): OICURAQT I8NLFN4U! MIA4NR2U? - Adam Liss
It still looks like jibberish to me. Why rely on obfuscation when longer passphrases (14+ chars) are above the practical limit for a dictionary/collision/brute force attack? - Evan Plaice
@Evan: 14+-character passphrases aren't above the practical limit for a brute force attack, unless you make up your own words, in which case you're using a more conventional password. I don't think it's practical any more to memorize passwords that will resist a brute-force attack. - David Thornley
@David Even 14 character+ variable length passphrases? Doesn't it become a little - Evan Plaice
@Evan: I'd suspect that a passphrase cracking program could get at least most of your examples, since they're mostly grammatical strings of English words. Figure that, in English text, a character carries maybe a bit or a little more of information (the study I read is way old, and I'm not too confident of the methodology). Now, a 14-character passphrase with two bits of entropy per character is only 28 bits, and that's not nearly enough. - David Thornley
the english language has about 100 000 words though, so 100 000^5 is still stronger than say (26+26+10+20)^13 for mixed case alphanumerical with punctuation but weaker than 14 char password. - ufotds
Of course, it's possible to break even very long complex passwords with unlimited time and computational power, it's pretty simple to mitigate those variables. For instance, by adding an arbitrary 3 second delay between login attempts and a 5 minute wait on 5 unsuccessful attempts, the computational time to brute force the password becomes unfeasible. By adding long phrases that are easier to remember, the users are more inclined to choose complex passwords. - Evan Plaice
How many long and complex arbitrary string passwords have you ever committed to memory as opposed to writing them down? I have only memorized one, the passphrase for my wireless router. Sure, there are tools like keepass that will encrypt your passwords before storing them but how many average users even know that they exist. - Evan Plaice
[+1] [2010-10-12 04:34:54] Erik Reppen

Being required to navigate no less than 8 screens after deciding to purchase something at a major ecomm I used to work for. Upsells, asking you for information that was listed in your user log-in like your zipcode just in case you wanted to buy local (maybe that should have been established first?) and then reverification of just about everything you'd ever entered as your user log-in info again "just in case" something changed.

They won't mind it! Honest! - bobobobo
[+1] [2010-11-06 15:11:12] ufotds

On the stackoverflow website they hide selected comments from a conversation, so every time I start reading comments I end up having to click show all comments because the conversation doesn't make sense.

Sometimes I get thrown off even then, when it was actually just a user writing a seemingly unrelated comment and I get paranoid about the hiding feature. I start reading everything over with show all just to discover it still doesn't make sense.

After all, comments might just have been deleted and some people just don't make sense...

[+1] [2009-07-10 01:09:16] Joe White

Toolbars that only accept clicks when the application has focus, but that show hover effects even when the application doesn't have focus.

I don't mind the first click being ignored if the app isn't focused. What I mind is the hover effect lying to me.

I deal with these applications every day (the Delphi IDE comes to mind), and it still astonishes me every time I have to click an invitingly-hilit toolbar button twice before it does anything.

[+1] [2010-05-07 01:12:16] kibibu

Yet another: You turn off click wheel iPods (my specific experience is with the nano g2) by holding down the play button.

This was astonishing to me, in that they take a button that fundamentally means start playing music and change it to mean stop working if you hold it down. One is a positive action, and one is a negative.

What's weirder though, is that the same hold-down-play action doesn't turn it back on again. Take an inert iPod and press Play, and nothing happens. You thinks to yourself, "self, maybe holding down the button that means 'play music' will make some music play", but - to your astonishment - it doesn't. You hold down Menu to turn it on.

So now there is another source of astonishment - there are separate off and on buttons. Now I have to remember which is which, and I screw up about 50% of the time (and get annoyed whenever I do) because there is no logical mapping from which button does what.

I don't think there is any justification for separate on/off buttons - its usually pretty easy to tell which state an iPod is in by checking for the presence of dope beats. If I knew holding down Menu turns it on, I would probably guess it would turn it off again too.

Now I just pull the headphones out.

Wow, and here I thought it was only the random Chinese models I buy that have bad UI design. - Qwertie
[+1] [2010-05-25 08:09:05] dkris

I use (Comes pre installed with the desktop I use) Real Tek Audio Manager. Everytime I plugin a headphone I get this annoying popup that comes into focus. alt text

The moment i unplug the headphone, I get a pop up in the taskbar saying "A Jack Has been unplugged", which I usually end up reading as "A Jackass has been unplugged"

My problem is why the double standards between, plug and unplug

hot interface! :) - van
[+1] [2010-06-16 17:47:55] Chris Kaminski

Startup Splash screens that are desktop modal and block all my work and take forever to start up.

Splash Screens in general.

Bad UI, but not because of astonishment - BlueRaja - Danny Pflughoeft
The ideal number of splash screens in an application is zero. The damn thing should load fast enough not to need a loading screen, and gamers already know what companies made their damn game. - Jon Purdy
[+1] [2008-10-25 19:27:08] Lasse V. Karlsen

Some users are astonished about the inner workings of an application regardless of how un-astonishing it is. They might be geniuses in their fields, but when it comes to computers, it's all black magic.

Ironically, the vast majority of programmers can't even put together a simple half-adder - to them, computers are just "black-magic". I wouldn't expect a chemist to know how a computer works, but what's your excuse? ;) - BlueRaja - Danny Pflughoeft
[+1] [2008-12-16 16:45:33] David Thornley

The first time I worked on a C++ project started by a namespace-happy programmer. I kept getting error messages saying the function or whatever I was using couldn't be found, when it was right there. It took me a little while to start interpreting that as a namespace issue, and it took me a while to get used to checking the namespaces when I saw such a message.

Now, I don't know that g++ should have had a reference to not existing in available namespaces, but it would have saved me a good many frustrated minutes.

That's considered good practice. - BlueRaja - Danny Pflughoeft
@BlueRaja: Namespaces are good. Having a different namespace for each (not very long) source file is less good, particularly when you wind up with a namespace containing precisely one class. (Also, this guy didn't believe in include guards, so the project `#include`s had to be in the right order.) - David Thornley
[+1] [2009-02-26 22:22:43] Evgeny

Microsoft Visual Studio

The command you are attempting cannot be completed because the file 'MyProject.vdproj' is under source code control and is not checked out.

OK Help

... and similar Visual Studio messages. You can select the 'add file' command, spend a few minutes looking for the files you need and carefully selecting them, and only at the very last step you are told that you cannot do this. Please go check out and repeat all your actions.

I mean, how about checking if I can perform the operation in the first place?

That's not astonishing, it's just Microsoft ;). Anyway, it seems like everything related to setup projects or CABs in Visual Studio is less polished than the rest of the IDE. For all other projects you get automatic checkout. - Qwertie
[+1] [2009-05-18 20:32:11] Brian Postow

This says more about me at the time, than the software, but back in '92, I found the entire mac OS astonishing.

I needed to change the name of a file. I was completely command line driven back then, so here was my reasoning:

1) Deep in side the bowels of the machine, there are bits.

2) A file is represented by an Inode, which somehow has the name associated with it.

2a) I need to change the name associated with this Inode.

3) There will be code to do this.

3a) This code will probably be a program somewhere.

3b) This is a mac, so the code is either in the menu bar, or in the System Folder.

Needless to say, I spent 30-45 minutes searching the menus and the System Folder to no avail. I eventually went to the college help-desk person (A non-computer person, I'm sure) who said "If you click on the icon, you'll get a little 'I' cursor and ..." at which point my jaw dropped. The concept of changing the pixels on the screen would never have ocured to me. I knew TOO MUCH about computers to figure it out...

[+1] [2010-04-15 15:41:40] HLGEM

If the user is doing data entry from handwritten forms, nothing is more annoying than trying to enter data where the form has the fields in one order and the screen has it in another, especially when they swap first and last names. It causes a lot of data entry errors too. If the data entry will be done from a paper form, the developers need to always put the fields in the order on the form.

Defaults that should be set in the application but are not. For instance, in Clarity (pretty much the worst user interface I've ever used by far), when a new project is created, the project creator has to remeber to create a top loevel discussion or nobody assigned to the project can put in discussion items. Why doesn't it do this automatically, what persentage of projects would you assume would need a discussion vice those that don't? Fine give the option to not create one but do create it by default. I've wasted so much time tracking down the manger to add a discussion item. Not only that, it doesn't automatically add the person who submitted the request for the project to the project when it is created. Can't we assume the person who wanted the project done, is likely to need to be able too see progress on the project?

(1) There's also the related (and fortunately rare) design error of having screen order differ from tab order. Did you ever play Douglas Adams' "Bureaucracy" (, which did this intentionally? - outis
@outis, oh no, that would drive me nuts. - HLGEM
@HLGEM: The main way of dying in the game is to have your blood pressure rise until you get an aneurysm. It's a great game. - outis
[0] [2010-04-15 18:48:46] Scott Smith

Finale Music Composition Software by Coda.

I haven't used it in over a decade, so it's probably much better now, but the original version that ran on Windows 3.1 had an absolutely baffling UI. OH... MY... GOD...! As an example, in many/most dialogs, there were text labels (sometimes just an asterisk) that you were supposed to click on for some vital function.

[0] [2010-04-15 15:20:59] Phil

Visual Studio 6 (pre patch) would occasionally silently fail to "save all"... Next time you come back all your work is gone!

Any version of VS pre 2005, for many reasons. - Danny Varod
[0] [2010-04-15 15:37:02] Niels Bom

The GUI part of OSX lacks a way to automatically merge directories. Instead it just replaces the old directories with the new ones.

If I've got a music folder with Singles, Mixes and Albums (with directories in them) and want to copy those to a location where those folders already exist (say an external HD) I have to manually do the copying all of the files.

  1. open source folder
  2. select all, copy
  3. go to target folder
  4. paste, yes, skip when exists

Repeat for every folder you want to merge. Windows does this correctly btw. And I know I can use the commandline to do this.

[0] [2009-06-02 15:04:33] Silvercode

I think programs that don't behave like they are supposed to are not just astonishing but very annoying. Also the small annoyances might be small, but to me fixing them would be most important, because they affect the usage of the software. For example Windows XP and Word have small bugs and usage issues. When I use a lot those softwares, the issues are always there. And I don't like aggressive usage of tooltips. Those tooltips get all the time in the way.

[0] [2009-06-29 19:25:29] Qwertie

As a Visual C++ developer, the most common error message I get from VC++ is the following:

error C4430: missing type specifier - int assumed. Note: C++ does not support default-int

It's astonishing because the message has nothing to do with the problem--and because you'd expect a compiler to have reasonable error messages by the time it reaches version 9.0. To add to the confusion, it's often followed by a long series of other errors.

This error is usually the result of a function declaration:

int FooBar(const ABC& gah, const DEF& brr) {

So what does it mean? It means that one of the types or names you used was not understood. For example, you might have forgotten the header file that defines ABC or DEF.

[0] [2009-07-09 13:02:45] Legooolas

"We are unable to find iTunes on your computer" a web page from a link you just clicked on. Thanks for that. I'm not surprised that you can't find it on my Linux machine, but looking for it in the first place seems odd. I'd rather you just showed me the page of how much it would cost to buy the music track I clicked on a link to, if I were to use a computer with iTunes.

And this guy here thinks it's Anti-Web:


you get this error message because you don't have iTunes on your computer. You should install it. What an idea to run a computer without iTunes in the first place. Oh, and before I forgot, make sure you don't accidentally missed out on quicktime and bonjour, because your computer might still not function otherwise. - ufotds
[0] [2009-05-18 19:51:15] Andrey

rdesktop on ubuntu which, if being open in full-screen, had sent all input to remote machine without ability to return to local session.

And I am also astonished by StackOverflow's preview window with its peculiar displaying of underscores

[0] [2009-05-09 07:32:20] hasen j

A couple of days ago, I was trying to use a tax software to file my tax report or whatever ..

I had a slip that I had to enter, the slip is essentially boxes with number, all boxes were empty except for one box which had a number. The corresponding slip on the tax application had all boxes enabled, except for the only box that I need to fill; it was disabled!

Having no clue how to fix it, I gave up on the application.

There should be a standard way for apps to tell you why a UI element is disabled. - Qwertie
@Qwertie: If it is not immediately obvious why a UI element is disabled, it shouldn't be disabled; use an error message if/when the element is used instead. - BlueRaja - Danny Pflughoeft
[0] [2008-12-16 15:58:30] James Curran

In the reverse vein, I recall that most BIOS setup screens, when you go to exit, regardless of whether you chose "Save and Exit" and "Exit without Saving", will always ask you "Are You Sure?" To me, this feels like the developer treating me like an idiot, assuming any action I make is wrong. If many users are accidentally hitting "Exit", that would indicate the UI is bad, not the the users are dumb.

[0] [2009-02-06 11:38:05] furtelwart

An error message like this:

The image is too large: Too many bytes

Thanks for this usefull piece of information...

(2) To be fair, it helps explain that it's not "too large" as in "too wide" or "too tall". - Andrew Grimm
:D That is a nice explanation. But not for a geek. - furtelwart
[0] [2008-12-12 04:19:10] Adam Liss

I just answered a question here on SO, and when I clicked Post Your Answer I was directed to a page that told me the question didn't exist. Seems the OP had deleted and re-entered it while I was answering.

But, then, I often talk to myself....

Talking to oneself is good for programming. - Jon Purdy
[0] [2008-10-25 06:18:15] DarenW

Creaky old but still popular language called IDL made by ITT-VIS (formerly RSI). Back in 1979 or thereabouts, it was normal for an "integer" to be 16 bit. Still is today, if you use IDL. All integer variable by default are 16 bit. It is easy to forget when writing a "for" loop or stash the size of an array into a variable - and get bad, weird bugs. A few taxpayer dollars wasted (indirectly) as i puzzled over some of these bugs. Must remember to write "0L" not "0" in a lot of places. After several years, i'm still at times astonished by "bugs" until i remember this "feature".

Ah, propagation of astonishment: the tool astonishes you, forcing you to (unwittingly) astonish the user. (Or, I hope, QA!) Not knowing IDL, is there some sort of pre-processor or macro that would allow you to define something like int16 or int32, making the size explicit? - Adam Liss
[0] [2010-06-16 19:12:40] Danny Varod

Localized user interfaces, where you can't get to the File menu by clicking Alt+F, or it is on the other side of the screen with terms that seem strange and unnatural, even if you DO speak that language.

[0] [2010-06-16 19:22:59] Danny Varod

Pressing on the volume dial on my car radio, resulting in it changing functionality in a why that is irreversible by the driver (who can not watch the radio while clicking it over and over).

[0] [2010-05-10 06:57:03] RMorrisey

Hitting F5 in Textpad lets me do a text search (Ctrl+F doesn't work). Hitting F5 in SQL Server Management Studio, after working for twenty minutes in Textpad, causes me to update the wrong database, instead of searching for text in my script file.

"after working for twenty minutes in Textpad" -- you misspelled Textbad. I guess you're going to have a hard time unlearning that F5 habit though. - Windows programmer
An honest typo; but not without irony =) fixed. - RMorrisey
[0] [2010-06-25 03:56:39] Nicolas Viennot

When I was using Windows, how many times I wanted to kill myself when I double clicked on the "My Network" icon and the window just goes into a "Not responsive" state. Close it, and your whole desktop is gone.

This problem has been here for years. I wonder why they wouldn't fix it...

[0] [2010-06-25 03:44:00] Evan

I drive on a parkway, and park on a driveway.

I think "parkway" refers to a road that goes alongside a park, and driveway refers to the portion of your property that you are actually allowed to drive on - bobobobo