26. Under the desktop metaphor, the screen IS the interface — the interface is a square foot or two of glowing colors on a glass panel. In the landscape metaphor, the screen is just a viewing pane. When you look through it, you see the actual interface lying beyond.

Problems On The Surface And Under The Surface

27. Modern computing is based on an analogy between computers and file cabinets that is fundamentally wrong and affects nearly every move we make. (We store "files" on disks, write "records," organize files into "folders" — file-cabinet language.) Computers are fundamentally unlike file cabinets because they can take action.

28. Metaphors have a profound effect on computing: the file-cabinet metaphor traps us in a "passive" instead of "active" view of information management that is fundamentally wrong for computers.

29. The rigid file and directory system you are stuck with on your Mac or PC was designed by programmers for programmers — and is still a good system for programmers. It is no good for non-programmers. It never was, and was never intended to be.

30. If you have three pet dogs, give them names. If you have 10,000 head of cattle, don't bother. Nowadays the idea of giving a name to every file on your computer is ridiculous.

31. Our standard policy on file names has far-reaching consequences: doesn't merely force us to make up names where no name is called for; also imposes strong limits on our handling of an important class of documents — ones that arrive from the outside world. A newly-arrived email message (for example) can't stand on its own as a separate document — can't show up alongside other files in searches, sit by itself on the desktop, be opened or printed independently; it has no name, so it must be buried on arrival inside some existing file (the mail file) that does have a name. The same holds for incoming photos and faxes, Web bookmarks, scanned images...

32. You shouldn't have to put files in directories. The directories should reach out and take them. If a file belongs in six directories, all six should reach out and grab it automatically, simultaneously.

33. A file should be allowed to have no name, one name or many names. Many files should be allowed to share one name. A file should be allowed to be in no directory, one directory, or many directories. Many files should be allowed to share one directory. Of these eight possibilities, only three are legal and the other five are banned — for no good reason.

Streams Of Time

34. In the beginning, computers dealt mainly in numbers and words. Today they deal mainly with pictures. In a new period now emerging, they will deal mainly with tangible time — time made visible and concrete. Chronologies and timelines tend to be awkward in the off-computer world of paper, but they are natural online.

35. Computers make alphabetical order obsolete.


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