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Bug of the moment 2006-07-19

Arne sent me a couple of interesting screenshots, and one of them is definitely worth sharing. The following dialog appears in Mac OS X when you try to change the extension of a file:

It translates to, ‘Are you sure you wish to change the suffix from “.jp+icab&hl=de…” to “.html”?’ and warns that doing so may change with which program the file will open. Aside from the fact that changing the name of a file should never carry such dire warnings or side-effects, what happened to the window?

What happened was that he saved a Web page with iCab, which chose a filename that did not end in the correct extension. Now, the file has in effect a ridiculously long extension that the Finder chokes on when you attempt to correct it. The default button – the only one visible – is “behalten”, or “keep” (the old extension). That is, pressing return will abandon any attempt to change the extension. If you don’t have Mac OS set up to permit tabbing to controls other than edit and list boxes, you are a little bit stuck here.

The Windows approach is a little bit simpler and not prone to such failure:

But the issue as a whole does not stop there. For example, I was playing around with a broken and clueless redirect system on Webshots and wound up with some very long addresses in my history. So now, I have history menu items that are wider than the screen:

(My PC’s screen is 1152 pixels wide; the large copy of the image is the full width of my screen.) What this means is that the scroll bar on the menu is hidden and I cannot see where in the menu I am: there are more items in the menu than are visible at once.

I don’t blame the Finder as such for its mistake, nor is my own program at fault for the menu. The window manager (or window mismanager as the case may be) should never let mistakes like this happen, by automatically trimming controls to fit. In the case of HTTP Werkzeug, the menu would be clipped to fit on the screen. In the case of the Finder, I would imagine that it is making a standard Carbon call to show a Yes/No dialog box. However, since the verb “behalten” comes last in the caption above, a left trim would result in no verb in the button at all and leave the user to guess that it will cancel the change. An intelligent trim is needed to leave the verb intact and reduce the extension part of the caption accordingly.

It is in cases like these that we realise that computers really are very primitive machines and how vast the gulf is between natural human intellect and the effort it takes to program every last conceivable case into a computer should it one day occur. We really do have a long way to go yet.

Posted 19th July 2006 – Comments and questions?