The language of menus

You know this: there are many different applications out there doing more or less the same job. They have been developed for the same function but behave rather different. For example there are many office suites out there to create documents, spreadsheets and presentations. Since they all do more or less the same you would think it is easy to switch from one to the other. And suddenly you find yourself helplessly clicking through menus on your search for a particular function.

Those menus are organized in a quiet different way and speak a different language to you. There are obviously no standards in how to design those menus.

Let’s take applications for instance to create presentations. Let’s look at Freelance Graphics ( remember this one ? ), Microsoft PowerPoint, Corel Presentations, OpenOffice and Lotus Symphony. It is said that Lotus Symphony is based on OpenOffice code but you will see how different they are.

How to insert a clipart with Lotus Symphony

Let’s look at one particular function for now: how to insert a clipart into a presentation. And let’s read this again: how to insert a (already existing) clipart into my presentation. If menus would follow the syntax like I just described what I wanna achieve life would be easy. But it isn’t.

In fact MS Powerpoint is doing the best job here. In order to insert a clipart into a presentation you invoke menus Insert –> Clip Art. Wow, that is something ! The menus in MS Powerpoint follow exactly the description of what I want to do. Almost the same in Corel Presentations: Insert –> Graphics/Pictures –> Clipart. Nevertheless, what can be achieved in MS Powerpoint with two clicks needs three clicks in Corel Presentations.

Let’s look at the other ones. OpenOffice is similar to Corel Presentations: Insert –> Picture –> From File. In Lotus Symphony it is Create –> Clip Art. That’s actually not what I want to do: I do not want to create a clip art, I want to use one by inserting it into my presentation. Freelance Graphics comes with a dirty compromise:  Create –> Add Clip Art. Now what: create or add ?

I wonder when the time will come when I can tell my computer: “Now please insert a nice looking photo of our planet with lots of blue color and clouds into my presentation.”  Speech recognition has been patented by IBM in 1973 already, but how far did we get with this as well as with artificial intelligence ? May be project “Watson” will help to let my dreams become reality sooner or later.

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