Good Integration With Other Tools

Good Integration With Other Tools --- ?RonGoldman 19 Feb 2002

. . . in TheContextOfOurLives we use multiple applications to achieve our goals. However to us our computer should appear as a single tool.

			      * * *

In the current world of computer applications it is almost as if it is our job to act as an intermediary between the various computer programs we use. Each application is often in its own world and to get data from one into another it is often left up to us to manually massage the information into a format that the second one understands---we are subservient to our own machines.

The simple task of cutting and pasting textual information from one program to another is often problematic instead of simple: font formatting is lost, paragraphs get broken into fixed length lines, extraneous white space gets inserted, and, indeed, in some programs one cannot even copy the text in the first place!

When we set our preferences for one program, it has no effect on any other applications we use. We need to tell each one separately. They were designed separately and their designers only worried about their use in isolation (or only with other applications they want us to buy from them---the all inclusive "office suite").

There are a few places where applications do seem to have been constructed with the idea that they are part of a larger world. One is that many email clients and word processors recognize URLs. They display the URL so it is highlighted, like a web browser would, and if the user clicks it then a web browser is told to display it. Some systems even let the user specify once which web browser should be used and other applications then use the selected one to display the page.

Another place where current applications recognize the existence of other programs is similar: keeping a list of "helper" applications to display files in formats the current application cannot handle. Thus an email client can launch a helper app to let a user view an attached document, or a web browser to display a downloaded file.


Design computer applications knowing that they need to interact with other ones. Do not assume the world revolves around any single application. For activities that are common to many applications provide ways for people to specify their preferences just once, instead of separately, for each application.

			      * * *

Having rich MetaInformation available makes it easier for multiple applications to communicate.

In different applications provide the same user interface, especially keyboard commands, for the same operations---EditingEase.

Make sure that common file formats are used so that data files can be read by different applications---RosettaStone.


Last edited December 24, 2002
Return to WelcomeVisitors