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43Folders.com is Merlin Mann’s website about finding the time and attention to do your best creative work.

Vox Pop: What default settings would you change?

As I am wont to do, I was thinking out loud on Twitter this morning.

Twitter message: 'I wonder how different the world might look if the default 'new meeting' time in calendar programs were 10 minutes instead of 1 hour'

I'm convinced that, for better or worse, a lot of computer-related habits come straight out of using the default settings. For example a stock Mail.app install checks your email every 5 minutes (I reset mine to 'Manual') and, without interdiction, Apple's mail program will also create all your new messages as "Rich Text" (Nuh uh. Mine? 'Plain Text').

And then, in some cases, even if you want to do things differently, you have to swim upstream to do so. In the case above, I can't set iCal or gCal's default to anything but 1 hour (any more than I can autoset multiple alarms1). God only knows what poor John Gruber would give to have Mail.app more easily let people quit top-posting.

The Question to You:

What default settings would you love to change in popular applications? Taken a step further, what excellent habits could be taught to users by looking at defaults as something beyond familiarity and day one ease-of-use? Could the aggressive use of smart or personalized defaults create a generation of short-meeting-makers and intersperse-responders?

nex's picture

Gruber has always been wrong...

Gruber has always been wrong about Mail.app facilitating top-posting. As long as I can remember, anyways. What Mail.app and other e-mail apps do is the right thing for people who care to reply in the correct manner: quote only the relevant parts. Going through the original message, in its quoted form, and deleting the irrelevant parts is just way easier than using two windows, one with the original message and one with your reply, and copying over the relevant parts you want to quote, always being careful to 'paste as quote'. And because you're going to do that starting at the beginning and stopping at the end (duh), Mail.app quotes the entire message and puts your cursor on top.

Clueless people can abuse this set-up for top-posting. And for some users, quoting anything at all is an exception, so they'd like to have the option of getting a blank reply window, instead of one from which they have to delete the quote first. But in general, what Mail.app does is the right thing to do, and it is not there to facilitate top-posting. Maybe it has this effect in practice, but the solution to that would be to educate people about proper form and why it's the right choice (which Gruber does, I'm grateful for that); the solution shouldn't be making the app more awkward to use for most people.




An Oblique Strategy:
Honor thy error as a hidden intention


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