The Windows Form-Filling Culture

I’ve just now finished with the unpleasant task of installing some software on a Windows PC. It’s not enjoyable, and what makes it particularly tedious is the form-filling. Windows has a culture of form-filling.

Installing a simple PDF viewer required me to click through no less than five screens of questions during the installation process. One was the usual license click-through screen, but the rest were a series of questions I was forced to answer and make decisions about.

Can I put an icon on your desktop? In your Start menu? In your toolbar?

Can I install a toolbar in your browser? A custom viewer? Can I change your default search engine? Just because.

Do you want me to ask you these questions again? How soon? What do you think your answer will be, the next time I ask?

What’s worse, the first time I launch the application, I’m forced to answer another series of questions… some of them the same ones I was just asked! The repetition can drive you mad.

It’s tiresome to make this many decisions just to install a piece of software. It forces you to drink less, which means I can’t get drunk yet.

Apple doesn’t have this kind of culture, and neither do developers on the platform. There are some exceptions, but on average, you get asked a small fraction of these questions when installing a Mac app. Thanks to the Mac App Store, there is no installation process to speak of. You simply click the buy button, and it appears on your Mac. If there are some questions it simply must ask, it has to ask them only once, when the app first launches.

Apple has led by example, and then codified the behavior, resulting in a much more pleasant experience over time.