Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Slate

July 24, 2012

Slate: Delete the 'Save' button

I'm writing this column the same way that I write everything else: in Microsoft Word. I'm using Word 2013, Microsoft's next version of its ubiquitous -- and often maligned, but not by me -- word-processing program. Word 2013 is part of the new version of Microsoft's Office productivity suite, which will go on sale later this year. (Microsoft has just released the software as a free, downloadable "consumer preview," which will expire after the final version is released.) There are some perfectly fine new features in the new Office_it's been optimized for touchscreen devices, it's deeply integrated with the "the cloud," yada yada_and it looks much better than the old version. Really, you should try it out.

But for all its improvements, the first thing I noticed about the new Office was a big, terrible bug. It's one of those bugs that masquerades as a feature, a bug so entrenched that lots of people -- probably even you -- believe it's an integral part of how computers are supposed to work. This bug has been with us since the beginning of graphical computing. The same flaw has marred every single release of Office ever -- yet I almost feel bad about singling out Microsoft's software, because until recently, you could find the bug in pretty much every other program, too.

The bug is the Save button. It's 2012. Computers are smart enough to be able to figure out pretty much everything on their own -- where you are, where your friends are, how long it will take for your chronically late pal to show up for your lunch appointment. So why, at this late date, do these otherwise hyperintelligent machines still need us to tell them to commit what's on the screen to permanent storage? If my computer does not require hand-holding when it manages its memory and figures out daylight saving time and automatically reconnects to wireless networks, why does Word need me to press a button for it to understand that I really, truly do want to keep everything I've typed up to this point?

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