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Incident Report: Lotus 123

Category:softwareDate of Incident:2002.11.11
Product:Lotus 1-2-3Version:9.5


A hearty spreadsheet program. Though no longer as dominant as Excel, Lotus 1-2-3 has come a long way in 15 years or so.

Lotus 1-2-3 friendly dialog box

Though Lotus has evolved quite nicely over the years, now having hyperlinking, powerful scripting, macros, and more, I still grumble every time I see the opening screen. As many programs do, Lotus 1-2-3 opens with a blank window with a floating file-opening dialog box. Note that this is a custom dialog box which leads into the standard file-chooser dialog box. Its purpose is to be more user-friendly by providing a list of the latest dozen or so files accessed. If you don't want one of these, you press the Browse for more workbooks... button and go to the standard file-chooser dialog box.

Scenario problems:

The problem is that this "user-friendly" dialog box has a fixed width of 50 characters and no horizontal scroll bar. As you can see, even a shallow directory tree will render this dialog box practically useless since several files could easily have the same directory prefix. Lotus has a feature so that you can specify a default directory, but anything outside of that single directory tends to get a full path as shown.

In a Nutshell:

Two points to take away here: Usability testing should be done by an expert in usability (rather than by a software developer); such a one would probably have caught this. Second, testing efforts should emphasize features that are prominent--I think the first thing one encounters every time one runs the program qualifies.

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