“He made the trains run on time…”

By Deane Barker on September 18, 2002

There was a saying about Benito Mussolini back in the forties. He made have been a ruthless dictator, but he made the trains run on time. (Actually, this is a myth, but I’m trying to make a point here…) After working with Linux for a few days, this is my feeling about Microsoft. They may be ruthless monopolists, but they have a certain standard for software uniformity and usability that’s hard to beat.

One of the big problems I’m having with Linux is that every program has a different interface and functions just differently enough to drive me nuts. With Microsoft, you know that the first three menu items are going to be File, Edit, and View. You know that right-clicking on the workspace is going to give you a context menu with certain commands. You know that CTRL-A will Select All. You know that selecting Help > About will tell you the version number of the program.

None of this is true with Linux. While I appreciate the cowboy, wild-west, open-source attitude as much as the next guy, I also appreciate not having to relearn an interface for every new app. With Linux apps, Lord only knows what the menu commands are going to be. Right-clicking on the workspace may reboot the machine for all you know. CTRL-A works in some apps, not in others. Double-clicking has all sorts of different behaviors as well.

Yes, I have problems with the way Microsoft does business. And yes, I love the idea of a free OS created in the nurturing world of love that is the open-source community. But there’s no denying that Microsoft has done more for GUI usability engineering than any other company on the planet (except perhaps Apple), and it shows in the consistency and ease-of-use of their apps. Like I said, they may be domineering, but at least they make the trains run on time.

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