Necessary evils in UX

Among the many blogs I read regularly is Ignore The Code by Lukas Mathis. Most of the times I agree with what he writes on UX, and I generally like his insights. In his latest post “Windows 10: Re-Crappifying Windows 8” I think he comes at the problem from the right angle, but essentially ignores that a lot of people just do not use computers the same way he does, or if they do, they often are not savvy enough to operate them if something doesn’t just work.

I agree that computers should be easy for most tasks – the proverbial list people bring up now usually involves writing letters and emails, surfing the web, listening to music, and stuff like that. And for these people and use cases he is spot on. But then he mentions this:

Managing files requires dedicated features, which is why we’ve gradually moved file management into dedicated apps like iPhoto or iTunes.

No. A thousand times no. iPhoto and iTunes are not for file management. They are for managing photos and music. They are totally removed from files and file management. In iTunes I edit metadata for songs and albums, not for files. And this is totally fine. I used iTunes a lot (since I stopped iTunes Match and started using Sonos at home I start it a lot less than I used to, but still…). But I never used it to manage files, only to manage my music collection. If I wanted to add new files to that collection, I had to put the files into some folders, or otherwise manage the files that held the music. That is ok, but a distinction that doesn’t cease to exist because working just with music is nicer than working with files – but unless we want to deprive people of the ability to add their own music to their iTunes collection, or until ripping a CD works flawlessly with iTunes and doesn’t put my files in c:\Users\Thomas\somewhere, enables me to stream all my music (ripped ages ago, or bought with iTunes or Amazon or Google Play) to my iPhone and my Android handset and my Sonos system just so, then I will have to work with files, manually move them to different systems and copy and link them wherever I need them.

I wish this would just work, but it doesn’t. Wishing for Explorer and Finder to go away does not fix this though, and the numerous requests for help from the less technicallly inclined friends and family members shows me that we are not there yet. Files still need to be managed as files. Until someone comes up with a better system, and all companies and ecosystems follow along, the file manager is here to stay. I will use office.com and iTunes because they make a lot of tasks easier, but for many I still need to manually copy, delete, rename, move, or otherwise manipulate a file. And I need a real file manager to do that.

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