Monday, 9 June 2008

Data Driven

Is your computing experience software driven or data driven?

If someone's approach is software driven, the software will be started up, then the user will press the "open" button, then use the file dialog browser to navigate to their file, and open it up.

Someone whose approach is data driven will navigate to the file, and double click it, and the file will (hopefully) open in the relevant application.

For me, data driven is the more efficient approach to working with a computer. It's a more natural approach. The end user doesn't decide "I want to use Microsoft Word to edit a letter". They decide "I want to edit the letter to the school," and it just so happens that Word is the software that gets used to edit the letter.

In a maximised explorer window, in a details view, I can usually navigate to the file that interests me within a few seconds. (You can fit more files in a window if you use list or small icon view but then your eye has to search in two dimensions, while alphabetical order only really works in one dimension - which is why I find it most efficient to navigate in a details view.)

If I were to try to open the same file using the application's open-file dialog, it would easily take me twice as long to open the file that I'm interested in.

Occasionally a piece of software will add some useful mechanism to speed up your file loading - the automatic loading of your most recent file, a recent file list, a frequent folders list, or a dialog that you can maximise - but the trouble is, by their nature, software-driven data-loading mechanisms are specific to the software and you can't take advantage of them across all of your software and all of your data.

With a data driven approach, you can set up shortcuts to your frequent folders, and use those shortcuts again and again, regardless of the software that will be used to edit your data.

To me, there's no contest. Data driven beats software driven every time.

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