Tuesday, 19 June 2007

Worst tick-list feature ever?

tick-list features: Features in software or hardware that customers insist on but never use (calculators in desktop TSRs and that sort of thing). The American equivalent would be "checklist features", but this jargon sense of the phrase has not been reported.
-- from the Free On-Line Dictionary Of Computing

When I first heard of Internet Explorer 7 adding tabbed browsing, I thought "tick-list feature". It was ho-hum, someone's finally catching up with the market. I've used Firefox for a long time now (and Firebird before that), and it's been important to me to be able to, for instance, spawn a million tabs with the links from a page, and let them all load in the background. So IE getting it was a case of "good feature, but hardly innovative".

But it's appallingly implemented. My boss at work uses IE7 for certain things, and he's tried to use tabs. But for some peculiar reason, sometimes it takes a long time to change tabs. Flicking from one tab to the other. It ought all to be in memory, it shouldn't take much effort to render the other page. But no... under certain circumstances - and not obscure circumstances either - it takes so long to switch to the other tab that it's actually worth going away and making a cup of coffee while you wait. Why?!

I found this post fascinating. Written by one "Tony Schreiner, a developer on the IE team", it details some of what it took to separate the outside of the window from the inside, thus allowing multiple insides but only one outside. As a software developer, I'm fully aware of the difficulties of separating two things that have never before been separated; so I don't begrudge Microsoft their five years' development time (or however long it actually took them) - but I DO object to this poor result. They've had long enough, they have sufficient developers on the project. Why can't they get something decent?

Get Firefox, folks. I've been using the 1.5 line for a while, and have recently (with the shift to my new computer) migrated to version 2.0 - there's a few things I don't like about a few of the features (1.5 was a bit cleaner and smoother), but it's a great browser.

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