is a blog about design, technology and culture written by Khoi Vinh, and has been more or less continuously published since December 2000 in New York City. Khoi is currently Vice President of User Experience at Wildcard and co-founder of Kidpost. Previously, Khoi was co-founder and CEO of Mixel (acquired by Etsy, Inc.), Design Director of The New York Times Online, and co-founder of the design studio Behavior, LLC. He is the author of “Ordering Disorder: Grid Principles for Web Design,” and was named one of Fast Company’s “fifty most influential designers in America.” Khoi lives in Crown Heights, Brooklyn with his wife and three children. You can reach him through one of the services below.+
Herewith, five boxes drawn with Microsoft PowerPoint on a document Slide Master. All of the boxes are .25-in. square, according to the program’s Format AutoShape dialog box, which allows users to specify these values precisely — in theory. The boxes are also all spaced exactly a quarter of an inch apart from one another and they all reside exactly .3-in. from the top edge, again using Format AutoShape.
Above left, you’ll see a view of the Slide Master, where all five of them align perfectly. This represents my intention and expectation for the way the boxes should be rendered. In fact, this is what anyone using the Format AutoShape tool would expect, especially if they have any kind of experience using a computer. Anytime you enter in precise numbers for the size and position of a box while sitting in front of a keyboard and screen, it’s pretty reasonable to expect that box to be rendered exactly according to those numbers.
On the right is a screen-shot of how those very same boxes render in Slide Show mode. This is the one that matters, because this is the mode in which an audience will view the layout. As you can see, the boxes don’t look right at all; some are just the right size, some are just a tad short, some of the bottom edges are a pixel too low, and some of the top edges are a pixel too high.
I guess what irks me the most about this isn’t necessarily that PowerPoint does such a terrible job with rendering and with matching up a user’s expectations to its output. Rather, what really makes me mad is that this problem is practically accepted by the Microsoft team as endemic to the program, a given that will probably never get addressed. PowerPoint has had this problem for years and years, revision after revision, and it remains un-addressed by the software giant still, even in the latest version released just last year. The company either holds their users in such contempt that they refuse to fix these subtle yet significant shortcomings, or they just don’t care.+