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Searchable Settings...

I know I've changed that setting before...but how?
  [vote for,

Have you ever wanted to change a setting in Outlook or Internet Explorer, and said to yourself "Ah! I know I've done this before, but which menu was it under?" If so, you probably proceeded to look through every menu and every dialog box for the desired setting. Which isn't easy, since many dialog boxes have several subtabs and these often have "Advanced..." buttons that take you even further into the bowels of the computer's functionality. Going through all these menus and submenus can take 20 minutes, and there's no guarantee you'll see what you're looking for the first time, either.

But, with Searchable Settings, simply click "Find Setting...", type in, say, 'attachment', and the computer will create a *custom* dialog box for you. This custom window will contain every check box, radio button, and dropdown from ANY of the standard hard-coded dialog boxes, where the caption has the word 'attachment' in it.

This way, you'll immediately see ALL of your current settings concerning attachments (which may have been located in different areas), and be able to change any of them you want. You will also get a sense of the "big picture;" possibly discovering things along the way that you never knew you could do with attachments.

Hover over each button and the computer tells you which menu | dialog | subdialog the setting was found in.

P.S Complicated settings, such as list boxes with addable/deletable items, or which depend on other settings shown on the same page, need not be displayed. But the Find Settings... window can inform the user that this functionality exists (and maybe offer to take the user there in a click.)

P.P.S. Running "Help" is not satisfactory. Help is slow to load, and searches bring up lots of extraneous topics. Then you have to go and do the steps yourself anyway. A "Searchable Settings..." function would be much quicker.

phundug, Sep 02 2004

OSX Tiger's Spotlight http://www.apple.co...iger/spotlight.html
Apple's Spotlight technology will find you the settings you need to adjust [Linuxthess, Oct 04 2004, last modified Oct 05 2004]

Spotlight's System Preferences Search http://www.apple.co...r/search_prefs.html
Another link to Tiger's spotlight. Page shows this technology being applied to the system preferences page, although I believe it is open for any app to use. [st3f, Oct 04 2004, last modified Oct 05 2004]


       Of course, it's just making up for a bad user interface, but ... Yeah, I've wanted that.
jutta, Sep 02 2004

       You know, I'm not sure that I have ever seen a good user interface for anything with a complex set of capabilities. Individual features, yes.
bristolz, Sep 02 2004

       Isn't all of computing just making up for a bad interface? The worst interface would be if you didn't have a computer at all. Then you would have to do everything manually. Well, they built a computer to improve the interface. It fell into the swamp. So they built a better computer. It also fell into the swamp. But the third one...stayed up! And that's the computer you are improving the interface of today.
phundug, Sep 02 2004

       I think that would be fun, [phun], bun (+).
neilp, Sep 02 2004

       I like the idea, especially having the result come up as a dialog box.   

       Only problem is when you need to change a 'page' setting in Word or a 'cell' setting in Excel. You get a million items in your search!   

       BTW: ever noticed how some Word commands don't appear in the command list under customise? Grrr >:oL
not_only_but_also, Sep 03 2004

       "P.P.S. Running 'Help' is not satisfactory. Help is slow to load, and searches bring up lots of extraneous topics."
Surely one of the solutions is to make the help system better. For a help system to start up, all it needs to load is the first page. The rest can load in background while you type in the search term or navigate a short menu (neither PCs nor Macs do this). A 'command search' could be one of the options.
[+] because we've all been there.
st3f, Sep 03 2004

       Excellent suggestion, [phundug]. I seem to need this feature at least once each week.
jurist, Sep 03 2004

       // You get a million items in your search//
Hopefully the user will type "page break" or "cell format" instead of just "page" and "cell". If there are more than 20 matches, this function really isn't worthwhile, so the computer should stop the search. I see no harm in that.
phundug, Sep 03 2004

       "Isn't all of computing just making up for a bad interface?"
No, that's a terrible simplification. What you're saying is "user interface design" doesn't exist - and it's ignoring loads of work on what makes good and bad interfaces that got people into this mess to begin with.
jutta, Sep 03 2004

       I thought that was a little tongue-in- cheek. After all, if you're not using a computer, you've got to ask yourself what exactly you're interfacing with.   

       I was about to rubbish Linuxthess for selling Apple's spotlight as a universal panacea when I found that it does indeed have this feature.
[added link: it's only a click away from Linuxthess' link, but it's more specifically related to the idea]
st3f, Sep 03 2004

       Thank you [st3f]. I was a bit in a hurry, and I couldn't "search" for the correct link.
Linuxthess, Sep 03 2004

       Yeah, it's a bit tongue-in-cheek, but it's also really dumb. It's easy to grow up in the 80ies and think think that what's on store shelves is all that's possible, instead of being a mediocre compromise fueled by fear and marketing. And we're interfacing with objects that, hopefully, have reality beyond the computer. For example, personell records, or expectations about a company's performance, or e-mail messages to a friend we hope to meet for dinner. The "settings" here affect transactions that reach beyond the machine they're on.
jutta, Sep 03 2004

       We recntly bought a Micro$oft Wireless Elite Keyboard, with about 30 extra buttons to control your media - ideas like these are great, but they are missing the point. We shouldn't need so many buttons (or settings) in the first place.
choaderboy, Sep 03 2004

       "And we're interfacing with objects that, hopefully, have reality beyond the computer."
I never thought about it that way, Jutta.
st3f, Sep 03 2004

       I understand your point, Jutta (I think; please correct if I'm wrong). You feel that the existing interface should have been more efficient. Even though Searchable Settings becomes part of the interface, by adding this new layer we worsen the optimal possible efficiency that can ever be achieved. Agreed, products are marketed long before they're ready to be used efficiently, just as many novels are published long before the author has sufficiently polished them to create a masterpiece. It's all about quantity in the American marketplace, and that's too bad.   

       Given the marketplace's flaws, we would never have achieved that optimal efficiency of the original interface anyway. At least, adding another interface on top of the first will temporarily make the overall computer (with both interfaces) easier to use; hence I think it will be a success. Until the next layer of complexity on top of that. Too bad. I know your point well, but I guess I align myself with the frazzled end-user, and view the market as an immutable and unfortunate constant.
phundug, Sep 04 2004

       I guess I start typing where it's spelled different, not where the sounds are needed. Corrected.
jutta, Sep 04 2004

       I think WXP has this
-----, Nov 05 2004


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