Word 2004: ‘Save’ command never becomes disabled

Posted by Pierre Igot in: Macintosh
September 16th, 2004 • 5:02 am

This is a perfect example of how Microsoft doesn’t even get the basics of a decent user interface right.

Normally, the “Save” command in the “File” menu should only be active (enabled) when the current document is in an unsaved state. If the document in its current state has already been saved, then the user should not be able to save it again. The “Save” command in the menu should be disabled (greyed-out), and the command-S shortcut should have no effect. Only the “Save As…” command should be available at all times, because it is something that you can always do, whether the current document is in an unsaved state or not.

In Microsoft Office applications, however, things are different. Even if the document is in a saved state, even if you have just selected the “Save” command or pressed command-S, the “Save” command stays active, and you can invoke it again right away. (If you press the command-S shortcut again, the “File” menu heading is briefly highlighted in blue, indicating that the command has been invoked.)

This is simply wrong. Once the document is saved, the user should not be able to invoke the “Save” command again until the document has actually been modified and is in an unsaved state again.

Of course, it’s a purely “cosmetic” issue. The fact that the “Save” command never becomes disabled in Word or Excel does not really interfere with the user’s activities. But this kind of inconsistency works at a subconscious level, contributing to create this impression that the user is never really in control of what the machine is doing. Because the “Save” command never becomes disabled, the user is led to believe that his document is always in an unsaved state, even when it has just been saved.

A consistent, standards-compliant interface can go a long way towards giving the user the feeling that he is in control, that the software works as expected and responds to his actions in a standard, transparent way. In that respect, Microsoft’s applications are a miserable failure.

One Response to “Word 2004: ‘Save’ command never becomes disabled”

  1. Michel Ricart says:

    Even more, Word and Excel again behave differently, as far as I can tell: if a document is alredy saved, and you ask for Save, Word will do nothing, while Excel will actually resave to the disk.

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