Vista Naming Conventions

One of the first things Windows veterans notice upon switching to Vista is that “My Computer” has gone. It’s been replaced, of course, with “Computer”.

Obviously, Microsoft originally chose to name the icon “My Computer” in the interests of usability. They wanted the user to realize that the icon referred to the computer they were using and not some random computer, or the concept of a “computer” in general, and didn’t want to give the icon a stupidly long name such as “the computer you’re currently using, yes, this one” which, obviously, would be more precise (since most Windows computers are in fact “The Man’s Computer” or “Dad’s Computer” or “The incredibly crappy computer the school bought five years ago and never upgraded”. Of course in the interest of usability, Microsoft wanted to be precise, but not waste too much menu space.

But it seems that Apple’s infatuation with “usability” has begun to infect Microsoft to the point where they’re willing to drop the highly informative “My” from in front of all kinds of things, allowing veteran users to become horribly confused.

The “usability” fascists have been hard at work elsewhere, e.g. renaming certain standard applications such as “Outlook Express” to “Windows Mail”. Here, Microsoft is not only looking to Apple’s approach to “usability” (Apple’s Mail application is helpfully called “Mail”) but also to Open Source’s desire to keep branding clear (e.g. carefully referring to Firefox as “Mozilla Firefox” so you’ll find it under “M” instead of “F” and won’t confuse it with all those other Firefox programs, or helpfully putting a “K” in front of anything associated with KDE so that people will know it’s KDE Mail and not, say, GNU Mail; living in Alabama I can think of another organization that would heartily approve). So instead of “Outlook Express” (which might be confused with a “faster” version of Outlook) we have “Windows Mail”. It’s also good to know that you’ll be able to find “Windows Mail” under “W” along with all your other frequently used applications (such as “Windows Mobility Center” and “Windows Live Messenger Download”) in long alpha-sorted menus.

Might it be too radical to suggest that with Windows 7 Microsoft might consider dropping spurious branding from things like “Mail” and sort applications by their name or function instead of vendor?