Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Blue Background, White Text

Microsoft Word used to have a fantastic option, making the background blue (instead of white) and the text white (instead of black). I and many people liked the change of contrast. I first remember falling in love with this feature in the much-loved Word 5.1 a long, long time ago (circa 1992).

I use it on my home machine with Word 2011. But with my new laptop, Word 2011 was not an option, I had to use Word 2016, which I rather like so far (despite initially causing massive problems for my citation management software). And, the option for blue background, white text is gone. And that's disappointing and problematic.

Having most of the screen be white (the background) makes the screen very bright. It's like staring into a light, albeit a dim one. You want to keep the contrast between the text and the background, but you don't need black on white to do that. A lot of interfaces do that and I think it is stupid. Even this Blogger editor is doing that (but notice what I've chosen for my blog layout). This is a blog, it isn't ink on paper, it's way beyond that.

Which is another part of the issue: the paradigm. This is a computer, it's not ink on paper, which is a whole other technology. Yes, writing papers on the computer stems from typing in black ink on white paper on a typewriter, but this isn't a typewriter. You can change the writing in your document to two columns, add images, add footnotes, move anything anywhere, add page numbers, make sections, change something to italics after you write it, have hyperlinks.... You know. Computer word processing is based on typing on a typewriter, but it is light years beyond even an IBM Selectrix II with correctable ribbon. The computer can spellcheck. You can edit on the page and it will shuffle the text around. You can justify the text after you type it and change all the margins, then undo and redo all of that. You can repaginate on the fly (they actually just do this these days). I could list probably hundreds of ways in which a word processor is different from the black ink on white paper typewriter experience. You can change the typeface and font size after you have typed the words--try that on a typewriter. Yet, the product managers for Word at Microsoft have decided that this is the right way, and the only way, to do it. It's an outdated paradigm, and it sucks for my eyes.

Feature creep is one thing. Removing a useful feature that's been around for over 20 years is another.

And I loved the file icon: