Aaron Brethorst

Round peg in a square hole, rabid generalist.

WgeTF: Are Windows Apps Just Lame?

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Jeff Atwood of Coding Horror has a truly spectacular example of bad UI design up on his website today. It’s so bad, in fact, that it has been dugg 1087 times. Wow. The piece of UI in question is a VB-based wrapper around the fantastically powerful Wget command line tool.


Part of being a good software developer is knowing your limits. Either copy something that’s already well designed, or have the good sense to stick to coding and leave the graphic design (ed: he actually meant interaction design) to the experts.

I must say that I have some sympathy for the dogpile that Jens Roesner, the guy who created wGetGUI (aka The Dialog), finds himself in, now, as this appears to be his first VB app, but…but…but…

It is my first Visual Basic programme and I think it gives you an easy to use Graphical User Interface (GUI) like you know from every other Windows-based programme.

Many people have held this up as a shining example of how not to design an application’s UI. So many have-and to such an extent-that I would feel redundant for making any further comments about this. However, what scares me is that Jens seems to imply that this UI is as good as that of any other Windows app. Holy cow! Let’s just take this at face value for a minute. If this really is the case (and I am willing to believe it), that is a spectacular condemnation of the state of the Windows User Experience. You would never find such things said about an equivalent application on the Mac. Ever. Period. Full-stop.

I performed a survey of Mac applications from which I could mine UI ideasgain inspiration, and I was amazed at the highly polished state of apps that are given away, let alone the ones that sell for a measly ten bucks. I rarely see the equivalent on Windows, and it makes me very sad. I’ve oft-opined that the best way for Microsoft to improve the state of Ux for third party apps on Windows is to polish the User Experiences that it ships to customers, and I feel like it is working to a certain extent. But it will take a great deal of time for this to come to fruition.

Where are the Panics, Delicious Monsters, or Chimp Softwares of the Windows ecosystem? I’m not even sure if they exist today. But I would love to be proven wrong.

What do you think are the easiest-to-use, best-looking applications on Windows? Why do you think they look and feel as good as they do? What can Microsoft do to promote the sense of craftsmanship that this software has?