I got prompt to try out the New Outlook (preview release). Sure, why not? Probably some of our clients are going to upgrade, and it would be good to know ahead of time what they will encounter.
I chose the button to “switch” and got a prompt to import the old settings. Sure, go for it. I got a progress bar as it imported.
I don’t know if Microsoft invented the progress bar; probably it was on the Apple Lisa (and before that, the Xerox Alto). The first one I ever saw was on Windows, though. They are fundamentally a good idea, and a kindness to the user. “We know this is taking a while, so here’s an estimate of how long it’s going to take, with real time updates.”
And they can be tough to do, too. The amount of time it takes to project when a thing is done isn’t necessarily known ahead of time. Just figuring how long something might take could be as long as simply doing the thing. If you have to traverse a list to find out how long the list is, and the amount of time to work on each item in the list is small, you might have been better off just working the list in the first traversal, and not bothering with the progress bar.
Turns out, the “progress bar” in the new Outlook import settings dialog box is not a progress bar at all. It’s a flag wave. It does nothing except to waste your time and try to keep your attention.
Back in the 1990’s, there was a Spanish language television show, the Xuxa Show, which used to employ people to stand in the background and slowly wave flags. That’s all they did. You could tell the flag wavers were bored. They needed to keep the flags (slowly) waving, but they brought nothing to the show except (visual) background noise. It was known that people’s attention can be grabbed by seeing movement. Since the show was aimed at children, the audience was known to have short attention spans. How to increase attention? Wave a flag.
It’s stupid, but it works.
Someone at Microsoft decided that this import settings dialog box should have a flag wave; but wait – we’ll make it even better: we’ll disguise it as a progress bar!
The flag wave kind of an insult to the audience though. You aren’t worth actual content, but we want to keep you staring at the screen, so here’s a waving flag. I also see this in a lot of news type television shows, where the camera slowly slides around or gradually zooms in. It’s like the Ken Burn’s Effect, except they attempt to be so slow that you don’t notice it consciously. When I do notice it, I’m annoyed. It’s a cheap trick and an insult.
So I’m annoyed that someone at Microsoft proposed a flag wave instead of a progress bar, and, they disguised it as a progress bar, and no-one at Microsoft has enough respect for their end users to say “stop it!”