Office for Mac’s Floppy Icons

Rick Schaut on floppy-for-save icons:

Second, text in an icon violates one of the cardinal rules of localization. Once you put text in an icon, you then have to have a version of the icon for every language you want to support.

Localization is hard, but it often makes for a better design to use text rather than (or in addition to) icons. I think it’s a tremendous strength of the iPhone OS that so many of the buttons use simple text labels.

John closes his remarks by saying, “I can’t think of a single floppy-disk-for-save button anywhere in Mac OS X or iPhone OS…” Well, I can think of three: Word, PPT and Excel use a floppy disk as the icon. It’s the icon we’ve been using for “Save” since back when having a floppy disk for that icon actually had meaning.

I was referring to the system software and bundled apps from Apple itself. I’m sure there are many third-party Mac apps that use floppy-for-save icons. I still say it’s an anachronism, even for Office, but at least with Office there’s a good argument to be made about long-standing user expectations. But: there’s not a floppy icon to be found anywhere in Apple’s iWork suite, and I’ve never once heard of a user who was unable to save their iWork documents.

But the anachronism is particularly egregious in something like Windows Phone 7 — a brand-new software platform, with a new UI style, which runs only on hardware where a floppy drive wouldn’t even fit.

Wednesday, 12 May 2010