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Windows Progress Dialogs

I am convinced that the "Deleting Files" and the "Copying Files" animated progress dialogs in Windows display random numbers for their time estimates.

I am currently running W2K server for testing and self education inside VPC. So basically everything runs in slow-mo.

'Emptying the Recycle Bin' bounces between 3 minutes, 22 days 15 hours, 2 hours 55 minutes, and 10 seconds. There is absolutely no progression, no pattern to it, no apparent logic.

Don't get me wrong. Non determinism with something as boring as a file copy time estimate makes the day go by quicker. It definitely makes life more interesting.

And it's been this way since Windows 95. The Raymond Chen clan at Microsoft has definitely done their homework in retaining backward compatibility and functionality.

Kudos! :-)

Bored Bystander
Thursday, June 17, 2004

virtual PC makes it weird. it's probably a running estimate. if you minimize virtual pc it runs extra-slow, and even having it not the front window lowers its priority. so every time you bring it back to the front the time gets recalcd.

Thursday, June 17, 2004

Raymond chen actually did discuss why this happens:

Thursday, June 17, 2004

He didn't discuss why someone thought it a good idea to use graphics to show progress and a time estimate separately.  All that about being difficult to estimate how long it would take is hoohah.

All it would take would be to use a thermometer and then the user would have an indication of both how much more there was to copy and their own estimation of how long it would take.

Simon Lucy
Friday, June 18, 2004

What really pisses me off are progress bars that aren't meaningful to users. For instance, a progress bar usually shows percentage done done: I expect that when it get to 100% done, it will be complete. But in so many programs, this is false: the progress bar goes back to zero and starts over again.

I understand from a programming perspective why this is--there are multiple tasks happening. But as a user I generally care only about the total time to completion.

My copy of Symantec AntiVirus Corporate Edition does this all the time. It tells me "Please Wait, Anti-Virus files are being updated" or something like that, and the progress bar goes from 0 to 100% several times before it finishes. It never tells me the different tasks (files?) that it's working on, nor does it give me a real indication of progress, because I have no idea where it is in the process. In my opinion, if a program has no clue where it is in the process, it doesn't make sense to use a progress bar, but it should use some other indication of progress, like an hourglass cursor, or an animated graphic showing a hammer pounding nails, or something that indicates "busy, I don't know how long it will be."

Someone has to hit some programmers upside the head and teach them what a progress bar should show.

Alain Roy
Friday, June 18, 2004

Regarding those useless progress bars:

Friday, June 18, 2004

"All it would take would be to use a thermometer and then the user would have an indication of both how much more there was to copy and their own estimation of how long it would take."

Only if the thermometer works properly. All too often it rattles across the first 90% and then freezes for minutes or hours...

Macintosh user guidelines used to say not to pop them up if they were going to be up for less than a certain amount of time. Windows installs (in particular) seem to have a habit of display a sequence of almost subliminally quickly disappearing full thermometers.

While working on a mac project we debated decorating the thermometer with icons to tell the user roughly how long this was going to take: stopwatch for under a minute, coffee for a few minutes, plate of food for an hour, bed for a few hours (this was massive image processing. 12 hour rendering runs were not unusual)

Katie Lucas
Friday, June 18, 2004

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