Logoff and logon … how do you want it ?

I came across this post by Joel Spolsky.  The thrust is that the shutdown menu in Vista is too complex (hey, we changed things so you no longer have to click something labeled Start to shutdown). He says: ‘You have to choose between nine, count them, nine options: two icons and seven menu items. The two icons, I think, are shortcuts to menu items. I’m guessing the lock icon does the same thing as the lock menu item, but I’m not sure which menu item the on/off icon corresponds to.’

Answer: the On/off Icon can be, Sleep Hibernate or Shut Down, you choose (as I wrote back in August). He goes on”On many laptops, there are also four FN+Key combinations to power off, hibernate, sleep, etc. That brings us up to 13 choices, and, oh, yeah, there’s an on-off button, 14, and you can close the lid, 15. A total of fifteen different ways to shut down a laptop that you’re expected to choose from.”

Actually that’s wrong. There are 7 actions you can choose to take, and more than one way to accomplish each. I have never had a laptop with the key combinations that he described, but Lock is [Window] + [L] to me you can press Ctrl Alt Del and choose a shutdown option from a menu, or use the command line shutdown tool. Heck, you could create a short cut to the shutdown tool on your desktop. The are a lot of ways to carry them out, but I think most people understand the 7 options

  • Log off. This isn’t my computer, and I’m leaving it for someone else to use.
  • Switch user. Let someone else use it, I’ll be back. 
  • Lock. I’m leaving my computer. Leave stuff running.
  • Sleep. I’m stopping work for a little while, be ready to resume quickly
  • Hibernate. I’m stopping work for a long time, stop consuming power
  • Restart. I want to reboot the operating system NOW.
  • Power off. I want to reboot the operating system next time I do any work.

Not everyone is going to use all 7, any more than they will all use remote desktop, bit locker or Windows Movie maker.  In XP you clicked shutdown and then got a choice of “which  do you want” and holding shift expanded the choices. Joel says ‘If you’ve spoken to a non-geek recently, you may have noticed that they have no idea what the difference is between “sleep” and “hibernate.” They could be trivially merged’. Perhaps we could hide one or the other and change in response to the Shift Key, but does seeing both make “normal” users more unhappy than power users who can’t see the  function they want ? 

He goes on /Switch User and Lock can be combined by letting a second user log on when the system is locked. That would probably save a lot of forced-logouts anyway.’
er…. Joel have you not seen the big SWITCH USER button when the machine is locked ? I’d have to check how you do force if can force a user logout on Vista without logging in and going to task manager. Logging a second user in is pretty easy.  Switch user just jumps to a screen which is accessible form the lock screen. Again, one of the two could be hidden but I don’t think that makes things any better ?

Then he asks if you need log off. Of course I don’t and nor does he. Try PCs in a library, or class room or any other shared area. Reboot between users ? Please!

What if we combined Sleep, Hibernate, Switch User and Lock modes? When you go into this mode, the computer flips to the “Switch User” screen. If nobody logs on for about 30 seconds, it sleeps. A few minutes later, it hibernates. In all cases, it’s locked. This makes my experience of my PC WORSE not better. My mail isn’t already in my inbox when I come back. I can’t leave anything processing while I’m away. My IM contacts think I’m out instead of away from my PC. I can’t use Remote Desktop onto my PC or copy files off it remotely. Scheduled tasks will wake the machine from sleep but not from hibernate. The list goes on.

If you’re thinking this is a Microsoft person blindly defending the product, it’s not  – it just illustrates how difficult changing a feature can be.

By the way someone recently said to me that you can’t change the vista picture displayed at logon for a domain user. Actually if you Open Control Panel, in User Accounts there is a Change Picture option..


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Comments (1)

  1. Andy Burtenshaw says:

    The shutdown options scheme in Windows XP is one of those features that isn’t really problematic and would ordinarily come under the "if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it" category.

    That said, the changes to this process in Vista have turned into something of an unexpected triumph.  I’d never really thought about how shutdown worked in XP before, but the real test of a feature change is whether or not you find yourself being annoyed whenever you have to revert to the old way of doing things.  On that  test, the Vista way of doing things wins by a mile.