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Author Topic: The lazy user's guilt  (Read 5118 times)
iphigenie
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« on: March 11, 2008, 03:11:36 PM »

I have been more and more conscious lately that I am a lazy software user.

By that I mean that I often use only a small fraction of a tool's capabilities, and that, very often, if those capabilities need a lot of configuration, or scripting, or even a lot of reading... then I often don't do the necessary legwork. I might even end up looking for a tool to do something that a program I already own would be able to do with some configuration or scripting.

Now I am sure I am not alone in this, but the strange thing is I ought to be perfectly capable of learning these and doing it (after all I made a good living as a developer before I started making a good living creating and running development teams), but in truth I don't.

Some examples:

Total Commander is my file manager of choice, and it has quite a powerful set of scripting and extension possibilities. I have seen what can be done with it. Yet in 10 years I have never tried to understand it, I had even never (until December 2006) bothered to create a custom menu in it, and never gone beyond installing a few of the plugins... I finally looked a tiny bit in December after someone posted some screenshots in here that showed some capabilities - but even then it was a few hours and then I parked it.

I have the wirekeys tool, which has a lot of features. Again, it can also be scripted. And yet, in the 3 or more years I have owned it I have never started to use more than a tiny fraction of the features, never written anything in it, and never done much more than trawling the help file for a few tweaks (like the file open/save dialog improvement plug in). There are zillions of shortcuts that I ought to try to remember because they would save me a lot of time and hassle, yet I dont. I know I ought to create a "cheat sheet" and learn a few ones every week... but I haven't.

Opera is highly customisable yet I only bothered once to download alternate menus/toolbars - at the moment the most customisation I do is changing the search.

I had ahk installed for about 2 months and did exactly nothing with it, so I removed it. I didn't even install some of the great ahk scripts available here, although I downloaded about 20  ohmy

When I was looking at time tracking software I had to settle on one that would spy and record on my active windows, and then I would tag them, because no way I was going to set up all the kind of clients, categories etc. that the normal time trackers seemed to expect. I tested quite a few before realising that!

I own the stardock object desktop, and have had for years, but I have only once or twice tried to customise DesktopX or objectbar to create an environment that would suit my work and tasks. I know if I did it could be very cool and useful, but it is just a lot of work, so I haven't (actually i did an objectbar once and kept it for 2 months until I had to reinstall windows and realised I had never backed this bar config up).

...

You get the picture, it's just quite pathetic!

I guess I am at one extreme of the developer scale - the one who doesnt want his/her personal computer time to feel even remotely like work and likes simple tools that dont require too much configuration etc. The other extreme of the scale is the developer who likes to customise or write everything he/she uses.

I want my tool to be immediately useful out of the box, with a few simple adjustments. In all these cases and many others the tool is either good enough in its "immediate" form I will just stop using it, it will not give me the kick to learn it... If it is good enough out of the box I am more likely to never scratch the surface of what it could do with tweaking...

Launchers are a similar case. I have farr, and use it more as a search tool. I think I even installed and downloaded some of the plugins but never use them. And just like total commander and wirekeys, if I bothered to get used to using some of the features I am sure I would benefit. But I don't  ohmy Similarly I could set up a menu in Total Commander, but I dont (I started once, but too many programs). Or I could set them up in wirekeys (or stardock's keyboard launchpad and right click commander, i own that too) to make them into launch keys and right click menu. Or I could do an objectbar or desktopX instance. Or reinstall ahk. But instead I have gone out and found a launcher tool which suits lazy people like me, because it builds its menu by watching what i run, from all sources. Finally a menu that doesnt need work.

I do feel a bit ashamed that I am that lazy, but I guess I have so many other projects that I dont want tools that turn in projects. That's my excuse  Thmbsup
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Dormouse
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« Reply #1 on: March 11, 2008, 03:57:05 PM »

. I have gone out and found a launcher tool which suits lazy people like me, because it builds its menu by watching what i run, from all sources. Finally a menu that doesnt need work.

So what is your lazy launcher?
All dormice dislike unnecessary activity.  smiley
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nosh
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« Reply #2 on: March 11, 2008, 04:20:05 PM »

I hear you but don't blame you at all. The problem I face is info-overload and forcing myself to let go.
There's just too much to do and too few hours to do it in - I've had to unsubscribe from several interesting blog feeds, for instance - there just isn't enough time to go through everything. I have even forced myself to stop upgrading software that I'm happy with. I don't know how to describe the feeling, it's just a slow-kill kind of frustration, there's a constant conflict between the perfectionist within who wants to do everything to the last detail and the pragmatist who is (by definition, smarter) but weaker who's feebly trying to let go. I probably sound completely insane so I'll just stop. smiley
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tinjaw
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« Reply #3 on: March 11, 2008, 06:13:01 PM »

I probably sound completely insane so I'll just stop. smiley

If that's insane then I guess I better not even start.  ohmy
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iphigenie
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« Reply #4 on: March 11, 2008, 06:34:22 PM »

. I have gone out and found a launcher tool which suits lazy people like me, because it builds its menu by watching what i run, from all sources. Finally a menu that doesnt need work.

So what is your lazy launcher?
All dormice dislike unnecessary activity.  smiley

Actually I did a tiny bit of work, to create 2 categories and move some software in it when the list became too big - by default you can set a max length and it creates a "more" overflow menu for items over that length, but i created some categories. It was as hard as going through the config list of detected software and picking a category for some.

I found this lazy launcher on my quest for a comfortable bookmark manager - it's called task commander (http://www.resortlabs.com...mmander/taskcommander.php)
There's nothing all that special about it, there are much more feature rich launchers out there, and many of the "non launcher" additional features it has overlap with some of my other tools - and in a way it's just like the "frequently used programs" bit on the start menu - except it is able to capture programs you start in other ways than the start menu. And somehow unlike many other launchers out there i find I do end up using it more than others. I reckon it is because it is so simple about its business so a lazy person like me can immediately use it.

Anyway it has the following features
* puts a little dot on your bar (can also be in explorer and ie if you want it)
* the color of the dot is a cheap cpu activity indicator
* hover over or left click on the dot and up pops a list of programs
* that list of programs can be manually edited, but it is automagically populated
* unlike the start menu one, it will also detect programs started say from a file manager (total commander), run box, command line, Farr etc. although some software that never opens a window can get missed
* once a program is in the list you can move it into a category, tell the software not to show it (effectively ignore it)
non launcher features
* you can also make any program minimize to tray, or show a tray icon instead of a task bar
* on top of this it has a task list where you can close things, do the same tray magic or stay on top
* it also has an alt-tab switcher thing, which i am not sure i like. thats mostly because by default it has a mouse gestures and mouse gestures and me dont mix (i wobble the mouse around when i think and trigger all and any mouse gestures at random as a result. no good!)

There are a lot of launcher discussions in this forum, and a lot of good programs highlighted, and most seem more clever and more powerful than this one. Yet I found I never bother to set up any of them, or used them much, not the way I use this.

I keep farr for the uncommon stuff (especially now that i have identified what made it slow and told it to ignore the lwa directory), and I think I will keep this for the regular stuff, knowing that whatever I call once in farr will then be visible in task commander. It's a shame they dont offer a co-buy rebate as that would have snatched the deal for the link commander bookmark manager tool Wink

I whipped up some screenies using the awesome Screenshot Captor which is just another tool which works really well for a lazy user like me smiley
1) the menu thingie
2) the task switcher thingie
3) one of the config screens
4) the visual alt tab thingie


* Screenshot - 11_03_2008 , 19_12_44.png (125.11 KB, 488x659 - viewed 287 times.)

* Screenshot - 11_03_2008 , 19_11_47.png (20.3 KB, 650x284 - viewed 274 times.)

* Screenshot - 11_03_2008 , 19_15_39.png (128.79 KB, 1096x827 - viewed 348 times.)

* Screenshot - 11_03_2008 , 19_10_34.png (260.51 KB, 640x480 - viewed 367 times.)
« Last Edit: March 11, 2008, 06:41:16 PM by iphigenie » Logged
iphigenie
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« Reply #5 on: March 11, 2008, 06:52:04 PM »

The problem I face is info-overload and forcing myself to let go.
There's just too much to do and too few hours to do it in - I've had to unsubscribe from several interesting blog feeds, for instance - there just isn't enough time to go through everything. I have even forced myself to stop upgrading software that I'm happy with. I don't know how to describe the feeling, it's just a slow-kill kind of frustration, there's a constant conflict between the perfectionist within who wants to do everything to the last detail and the pragmatist

Yes, I think that is very similar for me - I dont want every activity to be a learning curve, to save time and not be spread too thin. On the other hand I also want to do everything properly and make good use of what i already have, because just buying something when you already have something adequate or could whipe something up feels wasteful.

Strangely enough in some other areas I tend to go for the "no waste, use what you have even if it means reading up, trial and error etc." but when it comes to IT I have gone the other way to the total opposite (pay someone to do my email service when I used to run mail servers! buy new software when i already have some that could probably do the job but that i havent used much). More and more when it comes to the computer, time and ease win.

But still, being around here I am humbled how many of you manage to accomplish stuff in their spare time. I used to be like this, loads of projects etc. then years of startup work-around-the-clock madness made me lose all the hobbies, from creative stuff to sports to writing code for fun and learning. Plan to recover some this year, now that I have a cushy job but must not fall into the trap of everything becoming a project Thmbsup
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iphigenie
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« Reply #6 on: March 11, 2008, 06:59:32 PM »

This made me try to puzzle why there's software with all the cool features, and then there's software that you *like* better. It might on paper have less features, it might be more expensive, or more quirky, or or or. And yet when you try it you like it better, it just fits you better, or something...


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Curt
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« Reply #7 on: March 11, 2008, 07:08:11 PM »

... I have the wirekeys tool, ..., and never done much more than trawling the help file for a few tweaks (like the file open/save dialog improvement plug in).

This statement about WireKeys made me think of all the times I have felt certain that I knew which program offered which feature, only later to realize I was wrong and it was some other program, and I often concluded that the false memory must have been caused by how seldom I use most of my programs. I say this because there is no such WireKeys open/save-dialog plugin, that I know of.

Some months ago I took the time to set up my XP the way I want it to be - more or less. After that, I have only been fooling around to maybe find some more add-ons for my Firefox (46 by now!), or to discover new image editors, or whatever. I take great joy in downloading the various programs I am being offered each day via Freeware World Team.dk, but your post reminded me that I have a lot of programs, hundreds, that I have only tried once! And that was when they were installed. Install & Forget, can unfortunately have this meaning as well!!
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iphigenie
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« Reply #8 on: March 11, 2008, 07:33:55 PM »

This statement about WireKeys made me think of all the times I have felt certain that I knew which program offered which feature, only later to realize I was wrong and it was some other program, and I often concluded that the false memory must have been caused by how seldom I use most of my programs. I say this because there is no such WireKeys open/save-dialog plugin, that I know of.

It's actually a pretty nice variation on the theme... from the website:

Quote
For example after installing WireKeys you will get great shell enhancement plugin that gives you quick jump to your favorite folders in Common Open/Save dialogs (including dialogs of the Microsoft Office applications like Word, Excel, Outlook),in Windows Explorer and Total Commander.

I actually use more than wirekeys than I think I do, especially on the tray/bar management as well as some of the windows management, but far less than I ought to.

The tool really needs someone to look at the configuration options and make them a bit clearer/easier to find. The plugin in question is called "shell extender" and you have to open not the main configuration but the plug in configuration. Even when I know its there it takes me a while to find it (it just did take me 10 minutes!)
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app103
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« Reply #9 on: March 12, 2008, 09:40:33 AM »

Someone once told me something about the thinking and behavior of the average person when it comes to learning features and how to use them. It was related to watches and cell phones, but I think it probably could apply to software as well. It goes something like this:

When you get your brand new gadget, you will spend at most, 3 days (a weekend) learning what it can do. You will spend about an hour reading the instructions on how to configure it and learning how to use various features. You will spend the rest of the time playing with whatever you learned in that first hour. If you didn't learn it in that hour, to you that feature doesn't exist.

So you have this watch or cell phone for awhile and some new one catches your eye...a new watch or cell phone with a particular feature, and you will buy it just for that feature and chances are the old one can already do it but you just never discovered it or learned how to use it in that first hour, when you first got it.  embarassed
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iphigenie
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« Reply #10 on: March 12, 2008, 01:58:18 PM »

I still feel guilty a bit when I have good things (or software) and dont use them properly at all. It seems a shame, and it seems unfair to whoever made the things...

But then I am also a person who will buy something (games, books, software etc.) just because it deserves to be supported, even if I dont really need it at this time - so feeling bad for something i dont use enough is just an extension of that

Interestingly enough I dont feel anywhere near as bad for say a web app I might have signed up and not used. Maybe cause there are so many I signed up for and never used... Although I have paid/registered on sites sometimes before I knew whether I would really use them or not, just because the concept needed support (here is an example, i donated before I had actually used any of the software... caught up since!)
« Last Edit: March 12, 2008, 02:00:45 PM by iphigenie » Logged
iphigenie
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« Reply #11 on: March 12, 2008, 02:09:50 PM »

PS: might be an idea to split out my vague intro about the launcher somewhere else if it is of interest
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« Reply #12 on: March 12, 2008, 10:17:10 PM »

Warning! Rambling stream of consciousness ahead!  ohmy

For any non-trivial piece of software I can't emphasize enough what a good "feature tutorial" (video or static) can do for a user. I don't mean something along the lines of "And here's how you add a new task, here's how you delete a task, here's how you print, etc" - that's what help documentation is for. I'm talking about tutorials/demos which exist purely to show what cool things the application can do. Stuff that makes you think "Hey, that would be really useful! I need that software!", or "Wow, I didn't realise I could do that with it - I need to configure my instance to do that too!".

Directory Opus was a particularly good example - a bajillion features, only 1% of which most users get to experience "out of the box". Unless you've experienced other explorer replacements before you could be satisfied with the fact that you now have a tabbed interface and leave it at that. But then you read sites like this http://www.pretentiousname.com/opus/ which show you what "real world" tasks can be done with it, and demonstrate features you wouldn't have been aware of unless you'd trawled through the massive manual (yeah, good luck!).  Grin

The flash tutorials that many sites now offer are an incredibly useful tool in choosing software. Many times I've read a text description of a feature or a bulletpointed feature list and thought "Mmm, so what?", but watching a video tutorial demonstrating an actual, real life problem being solved turned the light bulb on above my head.

I too had AutoHotkey installed for a while and barely used it. I never could figure out what problem I wanted it to solve! It was only after I saw a couple of simple examples on lifehacker.com of (again) real world tasks being automated that I saw its benefit. Using those little scripts time and again finally got me in the habit of recognising opportunities for AHK's magic...  smiley

I'm not sure if this post is on topic anymore (or if it ever was) but it kinda made sense in my head! I guess what I'm trying to say is that a lot of software appeals to me in the sense that it solves a particular problem for me (ie why I originally decided to get it), but that I don't then put in the time to investigate all the other things it can do unless 'someone' (web/blog post, video/static tutorial) demonstrates a feature in a real world setting that I can identify with ie solving a problem I face (possibly one I didn't know I had!).  Grin
« Last Edit: March 12, 2008, 10:19:42 PM by BrokenNails » Logged
iphigenie
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« Reply #13 on: March 13, 2008, 02:02:55 AM »

That's sooo true -  Thmbsup

many independent shareware authors don't seem to have the time to both code and create helpful documentation or clips (many of the great tools I have have sub adequate help or documentation). That's quite normal, but maybe they should harness some of their users, ask their registered users to tell of their favorite features or tasks, or give a rebate to people who write an entry or make a video about a feature or add on etc. (with certain quality requirements)
« Last Edit: March 13, 2008, 02:07:45 AM by iphigenie » Logged
BrokenNails
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« Reply #14 on: March 13, 2008, 04:35:20 AM »

I'm fairly certain that Nudel (the guy who produced the "Intro to Directory Opus" site) isn't in anyway affiliated with the makers of DOpus. He's just a mad keen user that wanted to "share the joy"!  smiley

One can only imagine how many sales are a direct result of his efforts...
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