Windows fails again with a user-hostile interface

OK, full disclosure – I’m definitely an Apple fan (though I would stop short of the somewhat derisive-sounding moniker of “fanboy”). I do think Apple for the most part “gets it right” for user interface and usability. Still, I do have to deal with PC’s occasionally and in the interest of fairness, will readily agree that it’s not always a nightmare – often, at least within the confines of the particular task, it involves very similar steps and no frustration.

Occasionally, though, I try to do something that “should” be easy… something that I’ve neglected to bother figuring out but finally decide to try and get a handle on. That’s what I did the other day.

And I ran smack dab into a brick wall of stupidity.

Frankly, my reaction is half frustration and half vindication. The experience confirms that yes, Windows can be precisely as bad as I think it is, despite those who would say it’s just a matter of personal preference. Well, no. It’s not. At least in some areas, one is superior. This recent experience confirmed it.

Working remotely on a client’s PC via my fave free remote-support utility, TeamViewer, I wanted to add a program (which I had just downloaded for them) to their Start menu for easy future access. (The program in question was the self-same TeamViewer utility I had just installed.)

To do this, I had to do two things:

  1. Find the program itself
  2. Add it to the Start menu.

First part should be easy, right? Er, no.

On the Mac, I could open the Downloads window in Safari and look for “TeamViewer” in the list. There’s a little magnifying-glass icon on the right of each item; clicking it takes you straight to where that item actually is. From there, I’d drag it onto the Dock and voila! Permanent, easy access.

But this wasn’t a Mac, and it wasn’t Safari, it was Internet Explorer 8. OK, I went hunting around for the “Downloads” or “View Downloads” (or whatever) menu item. Not to be found.

To the web, Batman! A search for my problem led to lots of solutions… most of them saying, “Well, just go to your C:/username/downloads folder since that’s where everything should be.” Never mind that such a folder did not exist on my client’s machine. I don’t want to have to burrow in the filing system to find what I just downloaded. The browser should “know” this info and make it accessible to you.

But for now, I gave up on this. Instead, I did a general search to try and find the app by name, “TeamViewer”. First this meant watching a little animated puppy accompanying a list of questions. Very cute. And of course, I couldn’t just search, no, I was forced to choose between a bunch of areas of scope for the search before I could proceed.

(Compare this with the Mac, which provides a single search field called “Spotlight” which lets you type anything, and then sorts the results by the various categories, i.e. Apps, Documents, Images, etc etc. And if you want, you can do a more complex search.)

Anyway, that overzealous little puppy retrieved a lot. Too much and not enough, actually. Many “TeamViewer.blah” and “TeamViewer.blorg” files of various sizes and flavours. Lots of stuff in a “Settings and Preferences” folder. But nothing named “TeamViewer.exe” (which would of course be “the program”). I needed to know I was adding the correct thing to the Start menu.

Back to the web, I double-confirmed that for IE 8, the consensus was that there should indeed be a menu item called “Download Manager” under the “Tools” menu. But my client’s IE8 had no such menu item.

Finally, working on an alternate strategy, I tried to locate the place where you set the default location for downloads. That would tell me where the program went… right? Again, the web confirmed the worst: you can’t.

Well, I shouldn’t say that – it’s definitely possible – by editing registry files, something super-geeky that no normal user should have to do, especially for something as simple as this!

The same source indicated that in other browsers, it’s just as easy as it ought to be to do that. A simple preference. For IE 8, though, it’s like, six geeky steps.

At this point I gave up. It had already cost me more time than would have been saved by having the app in the Start menu in the first place.

I was totally, utterly defeated in my quest for and easy, usable solution to my very reasonable task.

But on the other hand, that puppy was pretty cute.

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