January 11, 2009
I saw a screenshot a few days ago that made me think Windows 7 Beta might actually be worth checking out.
That's right, Microsoft finally improved the calculator app! We've been complaining for years that Microsoft ships new operating systems with the same boring old default applets the previous version had, which makes the entire operating system look bad:
I know it sounds trivial. But isn't the fit and finish of little applets like these -- Notepad, Calculator, Character Map, Paint, Disk Cleanup, Compressed Folders, and dozens of others -- indicative of the care and design that goes into the entire operating system? If Microsoft can't be bothered to bundle a version of Notepad that has basic amenities like a toolbar, what hope does the rest of the operating system have?
If you visually compare Calculator and Notepad in 2001-era Windows XP with their 2007 Windows Vista equivalents, you might conclude they're identical. But, as Raymond Chen notes, this isn't so:
I find it ironic when people complain that Calc and Notepad haven't changed. In fact, both programs have changed. (Notepad gained some additional menu and status bar options. Calc got a severe workover.) I wouldn't be surprised if these are the same people who complain, "Why does Microsoft spend all its effort on making Windows 'look cool'? They should spend all their efforts on making technical improvements and just stop making visual improvements."
And with Calc, that's exactly what happened: Massive technical improvements. No visual improvement. And nobody noticed. In fact, the complaints just keep coming. "Look at Calc, same as it always was."
The innards of Calc - the arithmetic engine - was completely thrown away and rewritten from scratch. The standard IEEE floating point library was replaced with an arbitrary-precision arithmetic library. This was done after people kept writing ha-ha articles about how Calc couldn't do decimal arithmetic correctly, that for example computing 10.21 - 10.2 resulted in 0.0100000000000016. Today, Calc's internal computations are done with infinite precision for basic operations (addition, subtraction, multiplication, division) and 32 digits of precision for advanced operations (square root, transcendental operators).
It's arguably the perfect Raymond Chen post -- technically dead on, while simultaneously proving that being technically dead on is utterly irrelevant. That's Raymond Chen for you: he's a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma, slathered in delicious secret sauce.
This is why the screenshot of the Windows 7 Calculator, although seemingly trivial, is so exciting to me. It's evidence that Microsoft is going to pay attention to the visible parts of the operating system this time around. I'm a fan of Vista, despite all the nerd rage on the topic, but I'll be the first to admit that Vista had all the polish of a particularly dull rock. Let's just say the overall user experience was.. uninspiring. This led many people to shrug, sigh "why bother?", and stick with crusty old XP.
This was unfortunate, because if you dug into Vista, you'd find quite a few substantive technical improvements over the now-ancient Windows XP. But many of those improvements were under the hood, and thus invisible to the typical user.
Remember, if the user can't find it, the function's not there. Don't bother improving your product unless it results in visible changes the user can see, find, and hopefully appreciate.
Posted by Jeff Atwood
Well, but I think that might trigger rollout too many change in once to user, that are cases that one minor change on GUI require a lot of backend change, which possible break other thing but we are not awared.
Why does Microsoft spend all its effort on making Windows 'look cool'? They should spend all their efforts on making technical improvements and just stop making visual improvements.
Ummmmm ... yeah ... when people were asking for technical improvements to Windows, I don't think they were talking about calc.
Good try, though.
The Windows Calculator sums up Microsoft's attitude to software ...
...It did not change for years, they rewrote the back end (but this did not actually fix all the common bugs) now it has a new interface (which appears to be a copy of the MacOS version)
There are many many calculator apps around for most operating systems and all of them are better than the supplied Calc application, Why? does Microsoft not employ some of the best and highest paid software engineers in the world? .... the only noticeable improved application that comes with Windows is Paint (Paint.NET) which was not written by Microsoft at all ..!
Oh I remember the single best addition they put in notepad (I think it was from the 9x to the 2K version, not sure)...
control-s is save.
No, it didn't have that before. Yes, all the other apps did. Standard shortcut. Except in the most trivial app of all: notepad. I was always contol-s-ing and refreshing to no avail... no longer!
Don't put quotes around to die for if nobody else actually said that. It wasn't even remotely like what he said.
I kind of agree that Vista is not all that bad as it sounds. I am really impressed wit the speech recognisation, the new look and feel of Vista is cool,and UAC is nice to have. Vista is not as bad as Windows ME. Starting with DOS, with which I was very happy to be very honest, playing hours of all those lovely game wolf, doom,strike commander etc, wasn't that much fan of windows 3.1 or windows 3.11, then came windows 95 release 1, which was really cool, ran on my 8 mb machine, then Windows NT server 4.0, then Windows 2000. Windows ME that was so unstable, oops forgot about Windows 98, not much fan of it either. Windows 2000 was really cool, then moved on to Windows XP with which I was very very very happy, but with Vista just happy, the only complain that I see with Vista is it won't support my old games, still have to figure out a way to make them work. Till this day I would prefer DOS, it was great and still is great plain and simple. After reading about Windows 7, it looks impressive, and have to wait to upgrade to Windows 7. I fell that Vista is Windows XP make over with few things added, it is not as easy to use as Windows XP, but still it is good, I like to use Windows without mouse, so I find interacting with Windows Vista start menu a bit easy, all I do is type in the name of the program, and press enter, though it took some time to get used to it, but it cool. More than any thing else the speech recognisation was best for me, now I just insert the CD and say the name of the game, and the game lauches for me. At times when I get lazy or bored I blog with Windows Live Writer using the speech recognisation, it take a while but its fun. To search for files I use the cmd and use the good old DIR fucntion to find my files, the search in Windows XP was very cool. I hope Windows 7, is not jsut a make over for Vista, and hope Microsoft keep goods things of XP and few good things of Vista, and make sure that the OS is fast and is not memory hungry, and more secure and robust.
@SuperKoKo you make an excellent point. I too disable useless effects in any program because they slow me down. I like interfaces to be crisp and quick. All those slow dissolves and swooshing in and out is no better than the beloved marquee in html. Neat once, annoying thereafter.
quote=Vista calculator is clearly diferent from XP calculator. In XP I can do 1440 * 900 - ( 1280 * 1024) without crashing the calculator
2606720. Done in vista 64bit. no crash. maybe some routine maintenance is in order for you?
I've been using all three OS'es for specific tasks:
Linux for rendering
Windows for gaming and svn (can't beat tortoise svn yet, I'm gui user)
OSX for creative purposes
And one thing I keep seeing is that although Microsoft has many more engineers... it just looks like they don't care, they've got a nice production pipeline, but internally they can't be bothered, it's just a job for them. Keeping the end user happy is designer X's job, not the coder's... I call it autism when a programmer just can't think about the fact that people do no behave like computers, this includes you. and grows some appendages that let him tell the designers that they're making a mistake... the thing is, the bigger an organization, the longer it takes for new blood to get up in the organization, the longer it takes for new stuff to be accepted. After a while the grey areas contaminate the new blood and it's downhill from there.
After a while people get modeled by their environment:
... I kinda got off topic a bit.
Your point is well taken. But the calculator is just plain ugly. And when you talk about notepad and paint, I think of Writeroom and Taskpaper apps and how www.hogbaysoftware.com (no I don't work for nor endorse them) has take two very simple apps and made them simpler, more elegant and improved the UI. Imagine improving the UI for notepad. Yep, it can be done!
So I am glad MS is looking at the pre-widget widgets and making some improvements, but seriously, is that calculator the best UI they could come up with. Utilitarian, yes, but these days that is not enough. People want zen simplicity or beauty. Can't MS get some gadget developers to put some focus on these poor little, still very relevant, apps?
Oh and while they are at it, can they update the dang hourglass metaphor, don't you think? And the CD icon is not in the 3-d smoothed style, a leftover from XP. And finally, is there a good reason to require both hands to fire up Windows as in ctrl-alt-del. And why, please tell me why, is that startup sequence the same sequence you use when forcing rogue apps to quit? How does that make sense? I have more pet peeves, but I'll keep them to myself.
Thanks for listening,
Just another indication how low Microsoft has fallen - we now admire the efforts on the calculator.
Jeff, if you take a look at Windows Kernel, you will find that very little has changed since... Windows 95. Multitasking without memory protection is not worth very much. Windows 7 carries over same poorly implemented kernel. Proof for that is win32k.sys BSOD.
Whoever at Microsoft thinks that BSOD-way of handling errors in OS is a good idea (and they must think it is a good idea because it is still around in Windows 7), they have no concept of OS design and deserve their lunch being eaten by others.
What else is new in Windows 7? Do we now have a line counter in Notepad? It is about time that was added as well.
Calculator and Notepad in 2001-era Windows XP with their 2007 Windows Vista equivalent
So, what's new in Windows Vista?
Arbitrary-precision arithmetic is a Windows XP feature.
Nobody except the most pretentious of nerds actually turns off visual styles and effects anymore. With modern hardware, the idea that this measurably improves performance is pure superstition.
It doesn't improve computer's performances, it improves user's performances. That's ergonomic.
Seriously, did you ever used the Windows 98 menu animations? The menu unrolls. Eyes, inconsciously follows the text as it is unrolled, and that's quickly exhausting.
Use it five minutes and you'll see that it stresses your eyes and your brain.
Windows XP's transparency effect is much better. However, it's not perfect. Inconsciously, when a menu pops-up, you start reading items, or, at least, identifying the position of the item you want to click, with a weak visual clue. During the first 200 or 300 milliseconds, things are very blur, and that's exhausting for your brain. It's like reading in a dark room. With experience, things get better, as you start pausing your brain for the time the menu pops up in order to avoid this mental fatigue.
Consequently, even though the computers works at the same speed, the user don't. These small delays in user work are annoying because they are obstacles in the way of performing a given task. For example, assume you're told a phone number (stored in your working memory for 10 to 30 seconds), these mental pauses may make you forget the phone number while you're going to add it to your electronic phone book.
YOU may not suffer from these problems but I do.
My memory, reflexes and eyes are not that good, especially when working on long evenings, when I'm tired.
Animations give one good thing (I've never experienced but some of my friends have): It gives a clear visual clue where things happen.
Unfortunately I haven't met a PC-based calculator app that allows typing in formulas/equations the way you write them.
You should try SpeedCrunch! Portable to Windows, Linux and Mac OS X.
There's also Microsoft Power Calculator, part of the Microsoft Power Tools.
If you're a UNIX user: There's the bc command.
For me the batteries lasted about 5 years before I simply swapped them round and they lasted at least another 5 years.
I didn't change the battery of my Sharp EL531-LH for 9 years and they're kicking!
Choosing an OS based on the look of its calculator app is like choosing a wife based on the look of her tits.
Unfortunately, it's more common than you think.
I wonder how 1/7 is calculated to infinite precision by this calculator.
Did you ever heard of fractionnal representation of numbers?
1/7 can be stored as two numbers: 1 (numerator) and 7 (denominator).
Fractions can be added, substracted, multiplied and divided, keeping the same representation.
When displaying the result, the number is converted to decimal representation, but the exact representation is kept in memory.
I don't understand what everyone is talking about. The calculator has not had a UI redesign. It's just been themed so it matches the new Windows look.
If they actually did a UI redesign, then it should result in a BETTER INTERFACE. Why would you ever change your interface if you are not going to improve it?
Let's look at the new interface: All of the buttons are the same size. The primary input buttons (numbers) are white, except for some strange blank key next to Mod. (Anyone know what that's for?) I think that key would be great if it was for Memory. It fills with whatever you've stored and then you click to add that value to the display.
How about having a keyboard-focused mode? Do many of the programmers here use the mouse to enter numbers on the keyboard? (If so, did you read this: http://www.codinghorror.com/blog/archives/000825.html : ) When I use a calculator, I rarely use they mouse, but I never remember keyboard shortcuts for square root, memory, toggle negative, or several other complex functions (do they exist?). Having those easily accessible would be far more useful. Have an user-friendly way to store multiple numbers.
But instead, it just looks prettier. Garbage! I love pretty, but pretty without function is a waste of time.
That said, I haven't used a really good calculator app. I often just open a python interpreter because at least then I can store several variables. But then again, I'm a programmer. Why should the Programmer Mode be useful for me : D
The Windows 7 calculator looks almost identical to the Mac OS X calculator. Nice.
Reminds me of Frank Zappa's lyric: nobody gives a fuck if we're good musicians.
expectantly I installed windows 7 over the weekend; had a few breif moments of i wonder what its got; big anticlimax though; turns out its just a desktop, taskbar and start menu *sigh* - really should learn.
I'm not one of those people that say Windows rips off Mac OS X a lot, but with Windows 7, it's scary just how much they have 'borrowed'.
Several people have already commented on this new 'Programmer Calculator'. See for yourself: http://feelthefire.co.uk/calc-comparison.png
Then there's jump lists, mixing open app windows with shortcuts (running apps are even shown by a blue light) and so much more.
You'll be glad to know that the Start button in Windows 7 is finally infinitely tall.
Jeff, if you take a look at Windows Kernel, you will find that very little has changed since... Windows 95.
The Windows Vista kernel is very very different from Windows 95 kernel.
It's a full 32-bits mostly platform-independent (Windows NT has supported IA-64, x86-64, x86, DEC Alpha, MIPS and even PowerPC, though only x86 and x86-64 are currently developed for Windows Vista) modular kernel (very remotely sibling to OS/2 1.x), with a small and versatile set of syscalls (the NT native API) used to implement several system API personnalities (Win32, POSIX, Windows 16 bits).
Multitasking without memory protection is not worth very much.
Do you mean non-shared user-space virtual memory spaces? Because, even Windows 95 did support that.
If you mean: Protection of memory of trusted processes against untrusted processes, then, Windows NT do support that, and, Windows Vista has advanced memory protection features (more powerful, then, for example, GNU/Linux ones).
If you mean: Access privileges for resources, including files, then, Windows Vista is very powerful, with fine-grained access control lists (more powerful than UNIX access modes).
Even compared to Windows XP, Windows Vista has lots of technical improvements:
Rewritten audio stack and network stacks, transactional file system, data redirection and much more.
Windows 7 carries over same poorly implemented kernel.
Windows 7 seems to carry the same kernel than Windows Vista, yes.
Proof for that is win32k.sys BSOD.
Well, Windows Vista stability regressed compared to Windows XP, but, with its bugfixes, Windows 7 might be stable enough.
Oh, and even other OSes (such as GNU/Linux) experience kernel panics and system crashes sometimes (quite often when using ACPI or VBE), that's no proof that their kernel sucks.
Users do notice performance, but on a subconscious level.
Back in '86, I was working on a C program running on PCs, and discovered a simple truth: If your app scrolls the screen faster than a user can hit the pgdn button, then it's fast; if it can't - even if only by a fraction - then it's slow. The line is that fine.
Usability does not equal recreating real world paradigms in computer user interfaces - Tuomo Valkonen
Having spent time as ... amongst other things ... an intranet manager, hardware control systems integrator and UI designer ...
The interface to something makes more difference to its functionality than any underlying functionality there might be - If the user does not make use of the functionality, because the interface is awkward or unclear, then the underlying functionality is meaningless, because it isn't being used anyway
In fact, Windows, MacOS, KDE, Gnome, any current interface and access structure paradigm you like is complete rubbish
There is no call for hierarchical data architecture, when what is required are semantic and meta-semantic information management - Even Vista seems to got that one sorted at last though, with its virtual folders
There is no call for a plethora of windows - Tabbed search/virtual-folders will do the job far better
There is no call for separate application windows - Take a look at the Star Office 5.1 desktop integration ... Flaky, at the time, I know ... but actually a step in the right direction, let down by the underlying flaws in the Active Desktop technology upon which it tried to base itself
There is no need for a physically reinforcing access structure - Taskbars, Start/Apple Menus, docks, wharfs etc. are all entirely inappropriate and, actually, a hindrance to effective workflow
If you want to see how access to application features *should* be done:
Windows: Emerge Desktop
In both cases, simply configure the middle-click on the mouse to call up the main menu ... Then you have access to your applications, file-system and anything else you care to mention, wherever your mouse is, whenever you click - Far less trouble and restrictive than always having to mouse around to get at stuff because it's stuck somewhere where the mouse currently *isn't*
In fact, there is no need for applications or windows at all
What is required is a desktop that has browsing features embedded and a tab facility, combined with the middle mouse for access to functions
Instead of opening my Word document in Word, my web-browser, my video player, my audio player, my graphics app in seperate windows, I would open different 'documents' (i.e. different data sources) in different tabs
Instead of using Word to word process, Dreamweaver to develop websites, Vusual Studio to develop applications, Photoshop to create graphics ... and so on ... in whatever tab I were working in, I would right-click on a data object and along with the standard context menu options would appear the relevant, data-type specific, tools I needed, in the same tab and 'document' - Clicking on text would bring up word-processing tools ... clicking on a graphic object would bring up graphic manipulation tools ... and so forth ... all within the same 'document', in the same tab, right on the desktop
Application windows ... (indeed separate applications rather than function plugins to the OS) ... are an archaic anachronism
Taskbars, Start menus and suchlike are archaic anachronisms
File system hierarchies are an archaic anachronism
And before anyone gets all excited about the future of VR and fully immersive, 3D Minority Report interfacing, re-read the quote at the start of my reply
I've done a lot of work with touch-screen ... and other physical ... interface technologies ... And they're worse than the WIMP GUI! - If you think RSI from mousing around is bad, try spending all day reaching out to touch stuff at different points on the screen ... never mind reaching out to get hold of stuff, holding it up and angling it around, throwing it around the room and then having to reach out for it again
When it comes to day-to-day use, the interface *is* the operating system ... The rest of it is just technology - Just like the television *is* the CRT/LCD ... and the electronics that make it work completely meaningless when it comes to day-to-day use
Get the interface right and people will use it, no matter how poor the underlying technology : Get it wrong and it can be as technologically wonderful as you like, you've got no chance of uptake - This is why linux is *still* barely even a minority interest ... (people want one-click installation and configuration, not config files, dependencies and obscure commands with a thousand options)
Unfortunately, so far at least, no-one has ... and, if things continue the way they are going ... no-one *will*
If I can't make it look like windows 98, I'm not interested. :3
So what? Most people are much better off with online calculators like those at www.calcResult.com
Simple , when you see the totally non logic position of the AND and OR buttons on a simple applet such as Calc , the tells you straight away what the rest of the OS is like . Get a Mac , you'll never go back.
pixelbart - "The new calculator looks a lot like the Mac Calculator"
Uh, no. They both look like calculators. Other than that, they are different colours, the buttons styles are different, and the button layout is different.
The comments here have gotten really awful ever since that Unfinished Game post (maybe before, and I wasn't paying close attention).
Here's a newsflash for all of you:
1. Users do notice performance, but on a subconscious level. Users of unresponsive applications will become more frustrated with small problems.
2. Nobody except the most pretentious of nerds actually turns off visual styles and effects anymore. With modern hardware, the idea that this measurably improves performance is pure superstition.
3. IE6 doesn't have a market share of anywhere CLOSE to 60%. It's already under 20%, with IE7 hovering around 50%. Turns out that (gasp!) the UI change was actually an improvement for the vast majority of people, sort of like Office 2007.
4. A calculator's internal engine is only a trivial CS101 class if you are still taking CS101. If you actually bothered to read the post, you would understand why it was a non-trivial task for the Windows Calc.
5. Windows 7 is Windows 7. Repeating over and over that it is Vista relaunched does not make it so.
Unfortunately I haven't met a PC-based calculator app that allows typing in formulas/equations the way you write them. For me that was why the mighty Sharp EL-531GH may never be bettered. D.A.L. Direct Algebraic Logic may have been a silly name, but it was very useful.
For me the batteries lasted about 5 years before I simply swapped them round and they lasted at least another 5 years. I think they still live. Though I haven't used it much in the last couple of years, so I may have taken out the batteries to prevent leakage.
XP's version of Notepad was much improved on 98.
Crtl+S would save a file. Simple, but very useful.