Thursday, August 17, 2006

Recently Used Documents

Thoughts on how we read and access our documents...

"One of the efficiency affordances added to Office over a decade ago is the Recent Documents list.

At the bottom of the File menu in Office 2003, you'll see your four most recently-opened documents listed; you can click one of them to open the file directly. Looking at customer data from Office 2003, it becomes clear that this is one of the most broadly-used features in all of Office.

And it's easy to see why it's so popular; many people use the same documents over and over again, so having two-click access to open them from within Office is a big win.

At the same time, the feature as it exists in Office 2003 has its shortcomings. First, there are only four documents in the list by default. Although you can change this number in Options, most people don't realize that it's mutable and suffer through having too few entries in the list. In particular, if you regularly open five or six documents instead of four, the list becomes very unstable because a few of the documents you're looking for are always missing.

Second, it's too easy for the entire list to get blown away. Because the list is so small and because there's no way to specify that you want to keep a document on the list, your "favorite" documents get pushed off in favor of documents you intend to read only once--say a README file for a piece of shareware you downloaded. It's a bummer when the weekly sales report you edit each week gets bumped in favor of some e-mail attachment you're never going to read again.

Third, it can be hard to tell the difference between similarly-named documents, and it's virtually impossible to determine where a document is located. Because the File menu is space-constrained, you see a lot of file names like C:/D…/…/My…/Sales Figures for M... with no way to see the full name or path to the file."   (Continued via Jensen Harris)   [Usability Resources]

 Most recent? Or most accessed?- Usability, User Interface Design

Most recent? Or most accessed?

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