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Software That Feels Wrong

Original 1984 Macintosh desktop
Original 1984 Macintosh desktop (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
You look at the screen. You wonder what is wrong. The program or app does what it should do, but for some reason you don't like to use the software.

Something feels wrong with the application. 

I have been trying WriterDuet (https://writerduet.com) and for the longest time I couldn't pin down why I didn't like the application compared to Final Draft or Screenwriter. Technically, the program does what it should and has some excellent collaboration features. But I don't enjoy using it. 

I used to love Screenwriter (http://www.screenplay.com) and eagerly await version 6.5 for the Macintosh. Version 6.x has felt like a partial port (it is) to OS X and macOS for some time. I know the problem is that the "widgets" used for the user interface are not Apple's widgets for the current operating systems. It's slightly annoying, but I still like Screenwriter. In my ideal world, 6.5 is so great that I go back to Screenwriter as my primary screenwriting tool. 

What I — and other users — dislike about Screenwriter are some subtle UI issues. Overall, they are too minor to make anyone stop using the program. You notice, you dream of some polishing of the UI, but it doesn't distract you.

Final Draft (https://www.finaldraft.com) is streamlined beauty. It's how an application on macOS should look. I like the colorful, large icons. I wish Apple would return to icons that aren't monochrome and difficult to read. FD 10's interface helps me writer because I can see, quickly, what is or is not activated. 

This is WriterDuet's toolbar:


I can't read it. I've experimented with the colors and tried to get a combination that's better than this blue-gray scheme. But the scheme resets on me. And the icons, even with text, are hard to see and read on my large monitor. They don't scale up or adjust to the high DPI of my screen. 

This is a bad user experience. 

Compare the bland toolbar to Final Draft 10:

And here are all the icons available in FD:



Hands down, the colorful, uniquely shaped icons win. Steve Jobs once argued the shapes and the colors of icons should both be distinctive. I never understood why Apple gave up that great UI philosophy. 

This is the current TextEdit toolbar:


Come on, developers. Let's bring back some unique colors and shapes to the icons. At least I can locate the standard "left / center / right" and "bold / italic / underline" icons in TextEdit. That's not easy to do in WriterDuet. 

The great irony is that I learned word processing and text editing back when there were no icons at all. You memorized keyboard commands and combinations of keystrokes to do any basic task. And I still like WordPerfect and miss it. I use vim and emacs without any problem. Yet, I want my writing tool for screenwriting to look nice. 

Something about the overall interface in WriterDuet doesn't work well for me. I'll eventually memorize keystrokes and not care so much, but when you are new to a program the menus and toolbars are essential. 

Surely I can't be the only person who finds some applications simply "feel" strange to use. 

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