TM&Th blog
Jean-luc Doumont
Don't guess; ask

Don't you hate it when software applications pretend to read
your mind and to know what it is that you want to do next—
especially when they get it wrong? As an example, you enter
a URL in a spreadsheet, press enter, and Excel decides that,
surely, you want it blue underlined, making it not only loud
but also hard to read. So you think to yourself, “let's fix that,”
you click on the cell with the URL in it to edit its appearance,
and Excel decides that, obviously, you want to visit that URL,
so it launches your browser and displays it in a new window.
(At least, those are undesired effects you notice immediately.
Much worse are those that applications do behind your back.)

A few days ago, I had been exploring flight options on the Web
then had switched to my mail application and was busy writing
about these options when my browser requested my attention.
I thus switched back to it, only to find the following dialog box:

Screen shot

I was done searching for flights; I did not want to start again.
Yet I simply had no choice: the only way out was clicking OK
and restarting a session. How frustrating! If I have no choice,
then why even engage me in a dialog? Just start a new session.
Better still, refresh what you need to refresh, such as the prices,
but do not force me to start my search for flights all over again:
I already told you where I wanted to go and when, remember?
And if I have a choice, then yes, do ask me what I want to do,
but ask me when I have reasons to care about it, in other words
when I return to my browser, not when I am busy writing mail.

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