Features Aren’t Magically Born

July 6, 2009

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Every time I see Pavel working on his laptop, a question pops into my head: Why don’t you use the Aero theme of Windows Vista and Windows 7, and instead use something that closely resembles Windows Server 2003 – especially considering that your laptop is such a beast of a machine?

Today I got my answer, well, kind of. Pavel writes:

But if I don’t use Aero I don’t get thumbnail previews and other goodies. Why is that? I asked around and didn’t get a satisfying answer.

I’m going to call a Raymond Chen and Eric Lippert on this one. Features aren’t magically conceived and born. The feature isn’t there, because, to quote Eric, “no one ever designed, specified, implemented, tested, documented and shipped that feature”.

Noam chimed in and commented that there’s a way to create a new Windows theme that will have the “Classic” appearance but with Aero on, thumbnails and all. This isn’t out of the box because… well, it’s not a very useful theme. Most users turn off Aero because their machine grinds to a halt with Aero on, or because their video card does not support it (I, for one, am forced to live without it on my Asus Eee netbook). So that’s what Windows is trying to accomplish – it gives you a way to turn off Aero completely along with switching to the Basic theme. Or, you could customize the theme to your preference – but that’s something few users would ever think of doing, anyway.

A couple of years ago I’ve had this really disturbing thought about a framework I’ve been building which I have since seen repeated on the Windows 7 Engineering Blog: among the millions of people using Windows, there will never be consensus on any feature. (I’ve come to the same conclusion with a user base consisting of fairly smart developers, and only about a 100 of them. Rinse, repeat for billions of users on both ends of any conceivable spectrum.)

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