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Installshield and Start menu shortcuts

To this day I see modern-day installers that automatically installs itself into my Start->Programs without my explicit permission; now, I understand that the majority of people want this feature, however there's some that don't -- namely me. Up until recently(recently as in, its appeared within the last few years) you simply couldn't tell it not to, which reeks very bad usability programming in my book. More specifically, when it comes to the 'dreaded' InstallShield and its 10-second-wait to create two shortcuts.

What do you think? It's a simple feature -- really. One that MSI seems to provide with a small checkbox when asked for the name of the folder to be used in your programs menu, yet it hasn't appeared in the majority of the installers until "recently".

Mickey Petersen
Thursday, July 24, 2003

I used to agree with you, but I was convinced by the following logic: only a very small percentage of people don't want new programs added to the start menu, and those people can certainly remove the program after the fact. It's so easy to remove something from the start menu that this is barely a burden. So the question is, do you make the 98% of the people in the world answer a question for the benefit of saving a second for the 2%. Remember, every time you ask a question, people have to sit there and think about what they want. Ask too many questions, and SETUP becomes a painful process.

Joel Spolsky
Thursday, July 24, 2003

In many organizations, it's actually a marketing decision. The suits want their program up in front of the user - that's the same reason you get unnecessary desktop icons. Usability be damned.

-Chris, who's been told specifically to leave this option out of installers.

Chris Tavares
Thursday, July 24, 2003

Joel,
I think 'where' on the Start menu system is the problem. I can burry the program files as deep as I want (to keep my drive organized just the way I want it) but it's some-one else who decides where my menu items go. That sucks. Some installers are trying to offer more options but they aren't very good - how much stuff can you stick in Accessories :).
I've seen one installer that allowed you to navigate the tree, and I can't remember the name of it :(

Dave
Thursday, July 24, 2003

As Joel has pointed out this is meant as a convenience for your 'average user'.  You can add a UI to most of the installer programs to do exactly what you want to do ( in fact most games and the like give an option for desk top icons and the code can be extended to the start menu items as well).  It is purely a marketing decidsion in most shrink-rap shops  (You want our product so You will get our way).  The 10 sec wait for menu item is not true... it is also writing a group of registry entries (often automatic COM registration, uninstall and program information)  And the more COM objects the longer the wait.

A Software Build
Friday, July 25, 2003

Although I'm a power user I like (or is that rely) on the fact that a program puts it's icon in the start menu.  If it didn't, I'd have to hunt through program files to find it, create a shortcut, rename it to something useful, and put it where I want it. 

Instead, I like the program put it's icon in the start menu and then I can move it from there (drag-n-drop in the start menu) to where I want it.  Press delete to remove any extra items I don't want and I'm done.

The alternative seems less friendly.

Almost Anonymous
Friday, July 25, 2003

I think there are two classes of applications. One class should automatically place itself in the start menu. The other should ask.

The second class I am referring to is the likes of media players, winzip, text editors like vi, etc. For me, these programs are best opened by finding a file in explorer and opening.

I don't particularly like Quicktime, in the way it installs itself on the desktop, start menu, task bar, etc - the way I want to use quicktime is by seeing a quicktime file, double clicking, and have it open.

However, I would estimate that at least half of the population don't know how to use explorer. They don't understand hierarchical file systems - rather they just want to be sure they can find the file later. Hence "My Documents".

The first class of applications is the rest - my IDE, Mozilla, etc. Here I want to open the program, and then decide what to do.

I also like to keep my start menu clean - split into Development, Media, Utilities, etc. I prefer an install program that lets me select the location. But 99% of the population don't need to be complicated by this. They know what the application is called, it should just go under this name in Start Menu > Programs.

Rhys Keepence
Friday, July 25, 2003

One trick that I use (and many of you probably do as well) is not to categorize your programs in "Programs" rather categories them right under the start menu (the menu items appear above Programs).  In XP, this only works with the classic start menu.

Then you only look in "Programs" for newly installed applications.  Furthermore, installing apps doesn't clutter your organization.  And it's one less click to get to where you want to go.

Almost Anonymous
Friday, July 25, 2003

Why wouldn't you want shortcuts in the Start menu?  How else are you going to run what you installed (with the exception of those apps that you only use through associations)?  If you use Explorer or the command line to run stuff then why do you care what's on the Start menu?  It's trivial to delete desktop and Start menu items if you don't want them. 

It makes more sense to just make the shortcuts and let users who don't want them spend the 2 seconds to delete rather than forcing every install to have 20 pages and 100 checkboxes for every user's pet-peeves. 

On a side note, "My Documents" doesn't exist only for users that don't understand Explorer.  It's vital for security in a multiuser environment -- you don't want users to be able to access each other's files without permission.  Also it's vital when restricting a user's access to a machine -- you don't necessarily want users to be able to write to any place they'd like on a hard drive.  "My Documents" (or actually the whole per-user "Documents and Settings" structure) provides a sandbox for the user to work in.

SomeBody
Friday, July 25, 2003

Selecting where in the tree menu items will appear is no more complicated than selecting where on the drive files are installed. The functions are quite similar. 'Burdening' the user with one decision is OK but the other is too complicated !?!  Something wrong with the logic here. The 'too complicated for the user' argument doesn't wash. If you can ask them where to install the files, it's logical to ask them where would you like the menu items - providing defaults (as is usual) in both cases for those that want to use them.

Dave
Saturday, July 26, 2003

Two things I really hate about installed software shortcuts:

1) Programs->SoftwareCo->OurSuite->Program
I can handle/accept a folder on the programs flyout, but so many companies seem to think I'll be buying and installing everything they sell, so they need their own folder...

2) Installs that install three or more shortcuts on teh start menu, generally the program and uninstall, readme, order this software. Often also: help, our website, random.txt, etc, etc.

I think desktop, quicklaunch, what and where on the start menu could easily be in an "advanced" button at some point, or under "Custom install." IIRC, Winamp does it just about perfectly. I'm pretty sure Irfanview does too.

Philo

Philo
Saturday, July 26, 2003

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