I wanted to respond to some of the feedback I got on my App over file post, particularly for anyone who thought I was unconditionally endorsing the banishment of the file system. I'm not.

I think that computers should be as usable as possible for everyone. One usage problem I’ve witnessed (in agony) for years is the way most people spend their day staring and mousing through a pinhole, the ‘file open’ dialog box.  It's especially bad in Windows because there’s not even a built-in search field like there is in OS X.

A typical scenario

If the average person needs a spreadsheet, they think:

  1. Need a spreadsheet
  2. Therefore, need Excel
  3. Open Excel
  4. Browse for spreadsheet

Even though it’s much faster to:

  1. Need a spreadsheet
  2. Find spreadsheet
  3. Open spreadsheet

The second approach is far superior in terms of efficiency because the “find spreadsheet” step happens in an interface that’s better for finding things—a file browser of some kind or perhaps a search utility.

Yet most people take the first approach—not you of course—but most people. And they do it perhaps 100 times a week, 52 weeks a year.

Making finding faster, easier

I think it makes more sense to design software that fits itself to the natural inclinations of its users than it does to train those people to use the software "correctly." If iOS proves anything it's that software doesn't necessarily require instruction.

We’re a long way from the day it makes sense to banish the file system from all computer user interfaces, but it’s high time that mainstream applications were built with better file browsing UIs for the masses of people that think app, then file.

If “desktop”1 apps can be designed to make finding files from within apps even a little bit easier, just imagine the accumulated efficiency across organizations where people are looking for files every minute of the day.

  1. Whatever “desktop” means anymore.