User-Friendliness on Windows and Linux
by Jason Fruit On September 1st, 2012
I've been switching back and forth between Windows and Linux
frequently these days, and it's given me a chance to think more deeply
about what it means to be user-friendly, and whether that is the most
useful way to consider the user experience. There is a sense in which
Windows is more user-friendly than Linux, and a sense in which it is not
— and both convey useful information. The metaphor of "friendliness"
obscures the kinship between them, however; I prefer the idea of
Think of it as though the operating system were your host for an extended stay in a house. In the case of Windows, the host has considerately labeled all the cupboards and closets with a summary of their contents, and has left a note explaining how the faucet handles work. There are automated systems to brew coffee and prepare meals for you, and your most common needs have been anticipated and provided for. Of course, some of your more unusual preferences have been overlooked, so you might have to buy a few things, and you might miss preparing your own food, but you can't help feeling well cared-for, and you appreciate the thoughtfulness with which you've been treated.
Linux offers a very different sort of hospitality. It's as though you are staying at a house with a fully-equipped professional kitchen, chemical lab, metal- and wood-shop, and firearm collection, and your host simply left a note welcoming you and encouraging you to read up on whatever you choose to use, because some of it could hurt you badly, and other things are broken in ways that are not obvious. You might feel a bit overwhelmed by the options and the difficulty of getting started on even basic tasks, but you couldn't help feeling grateful for the overwhelming generosity and confidence in you that your host showed in letting you use all these things.