I have discovered a nifty feature of the Linux Skype client, and a minor annoyance too. Which shows you can’t have everything (where would you put it?).
UPDATE: I’ve discovered another nifty feature – it kerns your text automatically as you type – see the UPDATE section below for more details.
First the niftyness. When using the instant messaging chat feature, if you notice that you’ve mis-typed something in your most recent message you can use a classic UNIX substitution command on the next line and the original line will be modified! For example, if I had typed
And now for something completely different; a man with two buttocks...
and then realised my error I could type on the next line
and Skype will update the text in the first line, as if you had typed it correctly in the first place.
Speaking to colleagues, it looks like this feature only works in the Linux client, Windows clients don’t seem to understand
So, that’s vair kewl. What isn’t so cool is the fact that the About screen (apart from being hard to find in the first place due to the non-standard design of the Skype window) is some sort of pseudo-window which can’t be moved or anything else – if you click on it, it disappears.
Software engineers (or, dare I say it, User Experience engineers) please stop inventing ‘cute’ new ways for me to interact with your windows. I like a nice, predictable, familiar set of windows because I know how to work them. There’s a really good reason why most applications have a menu bar starting with File and ending with Help. Because that’s where I (and the entire rest of the world) expect them to be. By all means be cute and fancy within your application’s windows, but don’t muck about with the framework. You’ll just upset users with your unexpected behaviour (or, even worse, undiscoverable behavior). What is cute the first time quickly becomes a source of friction when using your application. The fact that I had to spend a few seconds poking around the Skype window just to find out how to display the version number, rather than a simple and frictionless (because it’s how everything else does it) ‘Help|About’ is inexcusable. Computers are supposed to save me time, not frustrate me by making me learn a different way to do a standard thing just becuase someone thought it would be ‘cute’ or ‘cool’.
Gosh, when I started writing this post I thought it was mainly going to be about the cool substitution feature with a tiny mention of the odd user interface. I’m obviously far more upset about that than I thought
UPDATE: I’ve just noticed that it’s also doing proper kerning as you type! Look at this section of the chat client where I’m typing a message, notice the way the letters all fit together so neatly. Now that is cool.