Scott Hanselman

Opportunity: Windows is completely missing the TextMode boat...

December 1, '04 Comments [12] Posted in Musings
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With all this talk of shiny Avalon, I'm surprised that more people aren't mentioning "text-mode" applications.  I assume we all realize that there are literally millions of Windows machines from 95 to XP that exist only to allow more than one Telnet/ProcommPlus/Terminal window at a time, so end-users can interact with remote systems.

Point of Sale is a huge example:

  • Blockbuster Video – I'd hate to have the video store guy have to reach for a mouse and click on a Gray Screen button OR a shiny Avalon Form.
  • Toyota Service – Searching for Parts, making service appoinments, it's considerably faster in text mode than any *.*Forms technology, and I've seen them open as many as 8 windows at a time.
  • Teller Banking Systems – Many banks are changing their TextMode systems over to intranets, and I personally waited 90 mins at a large bank last week to open a checking account, while I watch the teller move between three intranet ASP applications and two Word Macros, then attaching the Word files to an Outlook Email.  This same process, in text mode, at First Technology Credit Union took 10 mins. 

I'd like to see how far someone could take the new Colored Console support in Whidbey and make me a forms renderer. 

I’m just saying that my Tab,Tab,Tab,Enter will beat your Click,Tab,Alt-F,O,Click,Double-Click, more often than not and I will take the Pepsi Challenge otherwise. :) 

Am I nuts to think that Windows is missing the text-mode boat?

About Scott

Scott Hanselman is a former professor, former Chief Architect in finance, now speaker, consultant, father, diabetic, and Microsoft employee. I am a failed stand-up comic, a cornrower, and a book author.

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Wednesday, December 01, 2004 2:27:22 AM UTC
Are you aware sir, that you posted this twice? Just though I'd help a brother out and let you know.
Wednesday, December 01, 2004 4:39:21 AM UTC
I only see it once...am I missing something?
Wednesday, December 01, 2004 5:35:18 AM UTC
My most favorite command based application is Far.

http://farmanager.com/

I'd happy to see .NET based command line app. What kind of do you envision?
Wednesday, December 01, 2004 9:05:30 AM UTC
But there's nothing to say winforms apps cannot work with tab, type, tab, enter. Surely it's mostly an application design issue if developers force button clicks, don't add shortcuts or force people onto 3 intranet applications? There's no real reason that a windows application can't work like a VT220.

I'm currently looking at migration a VB banking app to WinForms and part of my criteria for the team (note not the user criteria, they are so used to the VB app and having to use a mouse) is that its easily used with a keyboard. It's not just for power users either, there's accessibility to take into account.
Wednesday, December 01, 2004 10:33:39 AM UTC
Scott,

if you can build a textmode application that works well, you can allways build a gui application that works just as well. just because a lot of developers forget to put in some sort of keyboard support doesn't mean you cannot do it.

this is only true for application someone needs to interact with of course - not commandline only stuff (like wget or suchlike).

WM_MY0.02$
thomas woelfer
Wednesday, December 01, 2004 12:48:03 PM UTC
It's all about the popaganda machine. Text isn't "innovative" or sexy; they need to differentiate the platform. (You can do text quite well on *nix.)
Wednesday, December 01, 2004 1:41:05 PM UTC
A lot of PoS systems here in the UK aren't text mode. I've seen some that are deliberately positioned where the customer can see them, and they show rotating adverts as well as all the purchase information.

Just because you're using a GUI doesn't mean you have to be using buttons or a mouse, BTW. These PoS systems still have the traditional input device - a specialized keyboard. So they're character *input* devices. That doesn't mean you have to be a character output device too.

I think PoS systems with pure text output look pretty clunky now.

Don't confuse input requirements with output requirements.
Wednesday, December 01, 2004 4:59:34 PM UTC
Yes, I AM (believe it or not) ;) familiar with keyboard accelerators, and I know that WinForms Apps can be keyboard friendly. Of course, few people choose to bother with even something so simple as tab ordering, but still.

What I'm talking about is PURE SPEED. I've just not seen a WinForms App that is TAB, TAB, TAB, ENTER, BAM! fast.
Friday, December 03, 2004 10:13:19 AM UTC
I'm surprised myself as well there is nothing simular to venerable goold old "Turbo Vision" (sp?) after all this years. Looks like MSFT started missing out on that long time ago. With MFC obliterating OWL, why they never obliterated TV with something analogous?

absolutely no need to wait for Whidbey ColorConsole. it took me like one day in 2002 to write color console on original 1.0... More interesting reflection: with all forms data completely transparent (unlike MFC .RC nightmare) creating TVision-like text renderer should be easy - yet no one had done it so far. may be demand is really not that high? FAR is amazing, but is there really any other text based killer apps?
Max S.
Friday, December 03, 2004 6:08:11 PM UTC
Dude, back in the day, I was the KING of TurboVision. Ah, memories. I remember doing a triple UI for a security control panel. Had to do it in Win16, Win32 (compiled from the same source, MVC1.51 and the 32-bit one) and TurboVision.

I love me some TurboVision.
Monday, December 06, 2004 1:02:36 AM UTC
Touch screens are the answer to fast input for windows based applications. Graphics cards are fast enough today that graphical versus text shouldn't make any difference in rendering speed. Mice however are a definite slow down when it comes to data entry. Next time you go into a restaurant watch how fast the waiters/waitresses enter your order. Taking an order in a restaurant is quite complex in comparison to most POS systems and touchscreen systems handle it very well in a high transaction volume environment.
Wednesday, December 22, 2004 10:23:40 PM UTC
I completely agree but Microsoft don't make it easy, the Console class in .NET (2003) provides only the most basic functionality, Whidbey supposedly improves this but although I have used Whidbey I haven't had a chance to check out the Console classes yet. I am a big fan of console applications and develop them regularly but I usually keep them pretty basic. This is an interesting idea though:

http://dotnetjunkies.com/WebLog/sajay/archive/2004/12/16/37254.aspx
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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed herein are my own personal opinions and do not represent my employer's view in any way.