The Thin Yellow Lines of Innovation

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Maybe you’ve already noticed this, but I very much like this feature in Google Chrome that lets you see at a glance matches for a search term within a page. The matches appear as yellow lines within the scroll bar (see above) so you can easily access them by dragging the scroll bar itself.b

Another nice twist with Chrome is that it will tell you how many matches there are on a page, and tell you which one you’re currently viewing:

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Nice touch. I still think the Firefox search trick of being able to highlight all instances of a search term within the page is very helpful:

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Which helps to make the matching words stand out on the page (along with the extra option of matching case:

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What’s interesting here is the innovation in a feature that has, elsewhere, become largely moribund. Check out the search box in Microsoft Word 2007:

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You can choose the Reading Highlight button to, well, highlight those terms you’re looking for, but frankly, I only just found that feature and I’ve been using Word for years. The features in Chrome and Firefox I found pretty much straightaway.

And the feature doesn’t really detract from the fact that the Find box itself is pretty poorly designed, and short of features. Surely in a program that is about processing words, this would be a feature you’d have a whole team working on to improve?

Bottom line: While old software stands still, we’re seeing a lot of incremental but valuable improvements in the new software—browsers, basically—and I think therein lies a lesson. Microsoft et al, you need to turn your attention to these small things, that may not be very belly or whistly (sorry, just wanted to use the word ‘belly’) but which we all use. A lot.

Loyalty to a program, whether it’s a browser or a word processor, may often come down to these small things.

06. October 2008 by jeremy
Categories: Innovation, Interfaces, Software, apps | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 1 comment