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Cortana is really bad (medium.com/johndavidback)
439 points by johndavidback on Nov 22, 2017 | hide | past | favorite | 293 comments

Every single interaction I've ever had with Cortana has been complete garbage. It's worse than the old-school "simple string match on installed applications and files on disk" in every way, yet has somehow supplanted it?! I wish there were some easy way to completely uninstall this frustrating garbage in Windows 10 and go back to the simple interface that just worked.

I cannot even begin to count how many times I've tried to search for an application by name that I know is installed, only for it not to be found, then have to manually navigate in Windows Explorer to Program Files (or Program Files x86, damn you Microsoft) and launch it by double-clicking on the executable itself, which was named exactly what I thought it was and yet Cortana couldn't find it.

I never want to perform a web search from the Windows start menu. If I want a web search I'll do it in Chrome's address bar. When I type "notepad" I want it to launch Notepad, not query the web!

Does anyone think that Cortana is an improvement? How did it even get launched in this state?

See, I thought Cortana was Microsoft's name for their voice assistant on Windows 10 or something. Now everything is starting to make sense. I kept having issues using the Windows menu search in Windows 10. I'd type "remov" and it would show the menu item for uninstalling applications. Great. But if I accidentally finished and typed "remove" the result would disappear. I felt like I was going crazy or something. Comforting to know everyone is having similar problems ... though still just as bewildering as to why it's happening in the first place.

It's weird that there are no great "magic search" tools on any desktop environment I've used. Windows 7 is close, but doesn't include any fancy results (can't have it do quick math, etc). Mac's Spotlight gets everything right, except it won't open a new window if I type, say, "firefox". It'll just pull up a window I already have open (no way to change that behavior without weird hacks). Unity's gets confused and breaks too often. Cinnamon's sorts results alphabetically. Gnome's is fairly close to ideal, though it forgets launch history too quickly (if I type "calc" and select LibreOffice's Calc just _once_ it'll start showing that first, instead of Calculator which I want 95% of the time when typing "calc").

Type 'upda' to get Windows Update, but instead it shows Java's updater.

Type 'updat' and all search results disappear completely.

Type 'upd' and now it shows Windows Update but not the Java update.

Type fast and get different results than if you type slow.

Type the same thing a third time and get different results than the first two times.

And now Cortana keeps bugging me with lame notifications. How do I turn this off?

I think that explains what the programmers who wrote Cortana were thinking. The reasoning must have been as follows:

- The user types 'upd' and pauses. The most likely thing the user wants is Windows Update, so show that.

- The user continues typing (typed 'upda' so far). The user doesn't want Windows Update otherwise they would have picked it earlier. So show Java's updater.

- The user keeps typing (typed 'updat' so far). Well the user didn't select Windows Update or Java's updater, so who knows what they want. Don't show anything until we get more letters.

The logic works unless you're dealing with human beings who don't pause and pick the one correct action at every point.

> The logic works unless you're dealing with human beings who don't pause and pick the one correct action at every point.

I think that includes all human beings. None of us pay full attention at all times. Who did the PM think they were targeting?

> I think that includes all human beings. None of us pay full attention at all times.

That's exactly what I meant though I said it in an ironic way.

That doesn't explain this: https://imgur.com/a/Jlhno

Speed of typing seems to matter for 'downloa' but not for 'download' or 'downloads', see my other post for the full non-story and two possible fixes: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=15766965

I just played this game a few minutes ago with Device Manager. I have developed a habit that when I search the Start menu, I slowly type one letter at a time and wait for the result each time.

Just right click the windows menu next time, everything you could want is in there.

Same with Spotlight search on macOS:

Type "pho", it suggests Photoshop

Type "phot", it suggests Photo Boot

Type "photo", it suggests Photoshop again

I get different results on this too but to the same effect. At least macOS still gives you all options underneath whereas Windows 10 will just not show you anything sometimes

I don't think its that weird?

Photoshop most started application so it offers it at 'pho'

yet you keep typing another char, so apparently its not photoshop you search for, maybe its the number 2 app that is required, lets offer photo booth.

Ah wait the user keeps typing, well i only got two proper options, let suggest option number 1 again.

There IS a magic search tool, I've been using it for years.


"Everything" is a fantastic lightning-fast system-wide search that's tiny and can run standalone.

Everything is such a hidden gem. Simple and lightning fast, I can't imagine using a computer without it now. Compared to it, Windows's search is worse than garbage. There have been more than one occasions where Windows can't even find a file in a folder even when I have typed in the exact file name.

I wonder why windows can't have something like Everything integrated in explorer? It surely can't be that hard to index file names when you're the OS yourself...

There's a feedback item for it. Upvote!

Despite your glowing review, I cannot bring myself to download and install anything from sites like these. I'm sure it's a great program.

Everything's site is voidtools.com


Indeed, umatrix just blocks the whole page from loading by default. So something seems off :-)

My bad, I think I grabbed the wrong URL and can't edit the post any more. vinw's comment referencing Void Tools is the correct url.

You can get it via ninite.com

In the "Others" section

Logged in just to upvote you .. Everything is the fastest search tool I have ever used. It is ridiculously good. From memory, it doesn't index files, just reads the File Allocation Table.

You have to wonder: how is it that a single developer can build something so much better than a behemoth like MS? They should be seriously embarrassed.

We aren't the customers. The advertisers who pay to show up as Search Results are the customers. That's why.

We are the customers though, that's why it's so tragic a fall. I spent something like $200 for Windows. Microsoft doesn't get to use that excuse here. It's not some free service like Gmail; Windows is paid. See also the OneDrive advertisement fiasco.

I think Windows started going downhill for two reasons: When Microsoft coopted the desktop version to add mobile-oriented features (Windows 8), and then when they coopted it to start cross-selling their cloud and Web services.

Thanks very much for the info. I've been headscratching about how to read ZFS quickly, now I have some ammunition to convince the ZFS devs with!

This program comes with, well, you might describe it as a bit of an easter egg:


(Screenshots; SFW)

I have been using Everything for a long time and would gladly recommend it to anyone trying to search their files on windows. It even supports regex searches. It is one of the very few softwares I miss when using linux. The search part of everything is lighting fast.

I was reading the discussion on my mobile, but opened up the page on my desktop (where I am logged in), just to say that this is an amazing little tool! Search is blazing fast. I have been a happy user for the past 5 years.

For Linux users I can recommmend FSearch, which is inspired by Everything Search. http://www.fsearch.org/

I remember one time Everything was mentioned someone also mentioned Wox but a reply said the combo launcher+Everything is not as good as separate tools.


I can highly recommend Alfred (https://www.alfredapp.com/) for Mac. Best system-wide search that I've used and you can even create workflows!

Everything is truly a gem that makes Windows usable. I use it more than Explorer.

Everything pairs well with AstroGrep!

One app search engine I deal with: type “remo” and hesitate a heartbeat. System fills “remove”, meanwhile I finish “ve<enter>” and the system searches for “removeve”.

That same thing (Calc/Calculator) happens to me every day. haha. I never thought about how that is probably affecting a ton of users.

oh my, I'm not alone! ;)

Anybody knows how to get that "calc" thing working as expected?

Have the same problem all the time, one time it was too much and I just uninstalled Libreoffice (of course in the end I just had to reinstall it)

surely that's a reason to turn off the stupid microsoft search, not to get rid of libreoffice

We're talking about searching in the Activities view of GNOME 3. I don't think it can be turned off (usually it's great if there isn't a name collision)

Have you considered installing KCalc? It should come first. :)

That calc example is the exact reason I uninstalled libre office. Google sheets is good enough for everything I need

Shout out for Wox. https://github.com/Wox-launcher/Wox its what I went to when Launchy stagnated. Its one of the first things I install on new PC's

Check out keypirinha http://keypirinha.com/ if you like Wox. I prefer it over wox a lot.

Defender flags the installer as virus :/

In addition to the tools others mentioned, check out Agent Ransack. It's like visual grep and it's fantastic for finding text in document (including binary docs). It runs on demand only so it won't sap any of the system resources.

There used to be a program called X10. It would index into Lotus Notes, word docs, PDFs; everything on my computer. It worked great for about a year, then was bought out and went to shit. All this AI search stuff is garbage.

Doesn't affect me because I've been using Qalculate as a calculator for years. "qalc" is qalculate, "calc" is LibreOffice. Problem solved :)

Avafind is da thing if you are on Windows.

I've been trying out Listery (http://www.listary.com/) which is the best thing to Alfred on Windows I can find. Like an updated Launchy.

giant screw up with typeahead

Have you tried KRunner?

man locate

My favorite thing is when I search for a program, it comes up, I go to click on it or press enter, and then the web search finally comes back with the results and now I'm opening some browser with a random fucking web search. ARGH.

That kind of shit is frustratingly common these days. I sometimes use the search box in the Twitter app to navigate to one of the profiles I follow. So I tap on the magnifying glass, enter the first few letters of the account name, see the account in the search results (immediately, because it has my list of followed accounts cached locally, I guess), and I tap on that account ^W^W the completely irrelevant search result that appeared a fraction of a second before my finger touched the glass.

I've never understood this. You shouldn't be able to activate a control that appeared, or whose meaning changed, an amount of time ago that's smaller than human reaction time (0.2 sec or whatever).

Okay, now try typing on a smartphone keyboard that animates an enlarged bubble for every key the user taps.

The user thinks 'type, "hello"' and the muscle memory flits between 'h', 'e', 'l', 'l', 'o' with way less space between each letter than the user's reaction time. If they mistype a letter and want to correct it, they'll probably continue for one or two strokes and either navigate back or tap backspace several times.

I had "except in cases where the user can plausibly predict the change" originally in my comment before deleting it for being verbose. Yes, of course this UI guideline is not a hardware rule. (Also, in the case of typing it's actually not an issue. The visual of the button is revealed but yo could never click the bubbles so the functionality of the button didn't change. A better example is a moving target in a video game.)

Always goes to Edge for me too despite the fact that I've set chrome as my default. Why do I need a web search in my windows bar anyway? Does anyone use this workflow?

I have similar issues with Edge on Windows. When it auto completes a webpage, it will do a bing search instead and have that as it's top result.

Personally, I think it's done on purpose, as every time it searches, it counts as a search in Bing, and that way they can use that to show how many people use Bing to charge more for advertisers.

I believe you might be right about the why. Windows used to be optimized around user experience. The deal was, I pay my $200, and I get a good operating system. Now, I still pay my $200, but what I'm getting is an operating system optimized to generate further revenue from me, at the expense of basic usability. This might be acceptable in a F2P model, but not when I've paid good money for it!

Meanwhile, all this stuff just works on desktop Linux, because its goal is still to optimize user experience rather than some monetization metric at the expense of usability.

   Windows used to be optimized around user experience.
Are you sure that wasn't MacOS ?

I can't think of a time in recent memory I would describe windows as focused around user experience, it has always had dark corners.

Believe it or not:

Many of us far prefer Windows to MacOS.

And it's not just old habits:

I came to the various linux desktop environments after Windows and i still prefer some of them over both Windows and MacOS.

(Spent almost 3 years on Mac. Started as an enthusiastic user. Left really disillusioned. Have later come to the conclusion that it is really great and I'm just incompatible:-)

Yeah, if you have never used another OS, MacOS seems like the best. But when even the simplest pro things don't work, it gets beyond annoying. Some examples - Cut, Paste files; Shift select files; Minimise and how it works with Cmd+Tab; Maximise the way it works now. I need something like BetterTouchTool to even tolerate MacOS. It's the terminal (Ubuntu on Windows is great but still needs more work) and the quality hardware that's keeping me on Mac.

> Shift select files

I don't get this one. Do you not like that it's different from Windows; do you not know that the feature exists; something else? <http://osxdaily.com/2013/09/16/select-multiple-files-mac-os-...

Not shift click but rather shift + arrow keys. Shift + click requires moving to the mouse. The other option is using the list view - which I don't prefer. (May be I've something messed up? I can't seem to shift + arrow to select more than a few files.

It sounds like something is messed up on your computer. shift + arrow keys works perfectly for me in all three Finder views.

Yeah, it's been a while since I've used windows seriously (e.g. the last version I used consistently was 2000), but afaict, selection in Finder's detail view works basically the way it works in list-boxes on all platforms: shift-click selects a range from the last selected item, command-click (ctrl-click on non-Mac) selects individual items.

Unless, perhaps, Windows Explorer doesn't behave like a list-box and selects individual items with shift-click? Or, Windows lets you select a range in icon mode, while Macs don't?

Hell yeah. I had to work with a Macbook for 3 years now, and I long for next week when my new non-Macbook finally arrives in the office.

Some examples - Cut, Paste files

You can press Command+C to copy files, then press Command+Option+V to move them.

Some of that behaviour is a bit awkward, but then there are amazing magical jewels like Automator and active folders.

But window management on Windows is a pain now with auto-snapping and the stupid charms thing or whatever it is popping up all the time.

Charms? Like the sidebar? That dies with Windows 8. There's a selection of other windows that appears if you snap something, but if you ignore it it goes away.

It can also be disabled in the taskbar settings.

When you've run an obstacle course to fluency, often a Stockholm syndrome sets in, and you think this is the best obstacle course. It changes you; how you reason, predict and judge. It become natural and intuitive. Your neural net overfits. Other obstacle courses seem arbitrary and unreasoned. They inspire disbelief and derision.

See my added comment - this had nothing to do with user preference or any judgement on which system was "better".

Up through 7, ignoring the occasional sucky release like ME or Vista that you could simply skip, Windows was quite good. I liked it more than MacOS. Something changed after 7 though, and it's no longer trying to be a good desktop OS that puts the user's needs first.

What changed is that they're trying to become more like Apple or Google in that users buy a series of "Windows devices" and have them tied to their Microsoft Account so that it's linked into all the cloud services like Windows Store, OneDrive, Office 365, etc.. While they haven't actually removed support for local accounts, they've added progressively more dark patterns to encourage people to log in to Windows with a Microsoft Account instead. Last time I looked, there was an outright warning against using local accounts if you create one during the install process (specifically, that if you forget your password Microsoft can't reset it for you).

It's hard to undersell how massive a usability improvement the Start menu was compared to System 7 installed-application-launching, where you had to either manually mess with aliases or just root around the Finder each time.

Well System 7.5 came out around the same time and bundled the hierarchical Apple Menu (which IIRC was some shareware they acquired), into which everyone stuck an alias of their Applications folder, resulting in a pretty similar (if somewhat less fully featured) UI.

Update as I can't edit original.

This was not meant as a comment on the preference between MacOS and Windows, or the user experience.

What I am questioning was the assertion that UX was the major engineering driver for MS in building windows. i.e. "optimized for".

While I can buy the argument that apple's engineering was driven by UX (for good or for ill) it doesn't seem to me that this was true for Microsoft. Not that they never think of UX, but it is sometimes trumped by other concerns.

Actually MS has had really consistent and great UX. To the point where any slightly computer-literate person would get an intuition about where something ought to be located and be almost always correct.

It is not as beginner-friendly as apples products, but far more user-friendly.

My main work machine is windows - I wouldn’t go that far though I think I know where you are coming from. From where I sit some of their engineering decisions seem much more driven by platform goals, etc, rather than user experience.

Which version of Windows are you using at work? It has definitely gone downhill since Windows 7, hence this entire conversation. I'm curious if you could expand on the platform goals and how that has affected things.

Could see the argument that Windows is as user-friendly (I would disagree, but I could see it), and as consistent (all OSes have their weird UI hangups) but not "far more".

Last time I used Windows it was more inconsistent than ever, with two completely separate environments (metro and whatever they call the classic one), and three control panels (to which their answer is to shrug and say "just use the search box")

Microsoft does have good UX though - in the Office team. Just not in Windows.

Yes, metro is an unexplainable mess.

Thankfully you pretty much never need to use it for anything past installation-day.

Windows has been the dominant desktop operating system for going on three decades now. You don't get to that position by being hard to use for the average user. I'm curious what other concerns you think may have trumped usability over the majority of Microsoft's reign? I'll give you one to start off with that the DOJ fortunately shut down -- Consolidation (e.g. bundling IE into Windows Explorer).

I can't speak for Cortana on desktop Windows 10 as I don't use it there, but when I had a Windows phone it was by far the best of the big three for hands-free communication while driving. It understood every command, every word, and was able to flawlessly send texts by voice and read responses back.

I have an iPhone now, but Siri is so hit-or-miss that I rarely use it for sending, and it doesn't read me received messages at all. With Windows phone when I got a text in the car I immediately heard "You got a text from __________, would you like me to read it, or ignore it?" That's what a digital assistant is made for, and it was amazing. If only Windows Phone hadn't stagnated and died, I'd happily still be on it.

I just keep a window open running "everything search". Insanely fast and actually works!. Cortana is worse than useless for my use cases.

The inability to find installed programs by name is laughably unacceptable. How they continue to push this stuff out is amazing, their management must be really awful.

What is "everything search"? Is that third party or does it ship with Windows? That sounds like something I need.


You might also like http://www.getwox.com (basically Alfred for Windows) which can also search the Everything DB.

There’s also stuff like https://mobile.jam-software.de/ultrasearch/?language=EN and https://sourceforge.net/projects/swiftsearch/

Yeah, Cortana is awful and if you totally remove it, you break the start menu (just like removing IE back in the day...sigh). Blackbird can stop the Cortana stuff from loading, though: http://www.getblackbird.net/documentation/

I highly recommend Blackbird for stopping Cortana and the other stuff it does (telemetry / tracking blocking + stopping W10 mandatory updates). I basically run this + https://www.oo-software.com/en/shutup10 on new W10 installs at minimum. https://chocolatey.org is also a big improvement for Windows if you don’t already know about it.

Thanks so much. I will definitely try these out. It's a shame to have to resort to third party tools to have an acceptable experience for such a basic OS use case as finding and launching applications. I don't know what the hell they're doing over there at MSFT anymore, but they're missing several basic building blocks of a good OS.

For what it's worth I'm another person who's been using "Everything" for years and love it.

Reddit.com/r/TronScript also works well for killing off Cortana and the telemetry "features"

Alfred is Spotlight. Conclusion: switch to a Mac if you want a working computer.

or, y'know, the other operating system not trying to turn a profit on you, Linux.

Everything search is amazing especially for music and pdf searching. Highly recommended and seems to be updated more frequently these days.

> How did it even get launched in this state?

I have no idea, but I hit the exact same behavior in Mac OS’s command-space menu and iOS’s “two finger drag down on the home screen” search bar. (Sample queries: “calc”, “calculator”)

For me, the real question is: How did this behavior get cloned by multiple vendors?

Implementing something this bad is non-trivial. How did it make it into multiple operating systems? How can more than one person on earth think it’s a good idea?

How did these 2+ people hire engineers competent enough to implement it? Who told accounting to approve this project?

What is it like to work in this office? Do they keep the toner in the coffee machine, and the cream in the xerox machine, but only on Tuesdays? Do they drive like they design products (are they the reason my 9 mile freeway commute is creeping up to over an hour)?

The more I think about it, the more questions I have.

Just to be fair: I installed a copy of IntelliJ IDEA on my macOS. It was the trial version. I use Spotlight (and a year back, Alfred) to launch my all applications. However, Spotlight couldn't find the app for it's life, even if it found all the other apps in the same directory.

After I upgraded to the paid app, the problem suddenly fixed itself. But I keep having shivers. It shouldn't be Spotlight's business.

I've experienced similar. My most pleasant experience with finding and launching applications is, surprisingly, in Linux. I think it's best in breed now. If you'd told me this 15 years ago I wouldn't have believed you, but it's gotten much better over the years and everything else has somehow gotten worse. I spend more time using Linux as a desktop OS than anything else these days, and it "just works".

I think dmenu is a good example of this. It's a common launcher application that's (at least) known to all i3 users. Here's a succinct explanation from the man page:

"dmenu is a dynamic menu for X, which reads a list of newline-separated items from stdin. When the user selects an item and presses Return, their choice is printed to stdout and dmenu terminates. Entering text will narrow the items to those matching the tokens in the input.

dmenu_run is a script used by dwm(1) which lists programs in the user's $PATH and runs the result in their $SHELL."

In practice you press Super + D, type a few letters to match the name of your program (such as "fox" for "firefox"), and press enter. It's so fast that any delay is near imperceptible even on older hardware. It also accepts command line arguments if you don't care to read the stdout from the process. This is a stupidly simple program that works with no configuration unless you want to change the font size.

dmenu is so refreshingly simple. There's no attempt at being clever, no attempt at using “AI” to figure out what you mean; it just does a stupid deterministic search and lists the results alphabetically. There’s exactly zero chance for it to suddenly incorrectly second guess your command.

My only gripe about it was that it would’ve been useful to be able to write math expressions in it like you can in Spotlight... so I made a wrapper script which adds that :) https://github.com/mortie/mmenu

If you want the same experience with more eye-candy, look into rofi.


It has default submodules to replace dmenu_run, a similar mode that lists the XDG applications (akin to the Start Menu you get on Mint, Fedora or other full-fat DE), SSH that parses `~/.ssh/config`, a dmenu-compatible mode for scripts and a Python API to implement custom modes.

I have the same experience.

Linux is vastly superior in stability, package management and just basic productivity.

There are of course still trade-offs such as drivers which, although so much better than what they used to be decades ago, are still not quite on par with the ones released for Windows in most instances. That being said, if you plan ahead a bit with your hardware purchases you'll have a great experience under Linux.

What DE do you use? Back when I used Unity in Ubuntu I found their search widget really hard to use. It was laggy and mixed in results from the web, their 'appstore', and my files.

Now I use dmenu in i3wm and I couldn't be happier. All I need is something that searches my path for applications... and that's what it does.

The Unity search menu was really frustrating. It had confusing category buttons, and if you did a search that only had results in a specific category, it would inexplicably turn on that category filter and use it for future searches too until you cleared the textbox. I loved pretty much everything about Unity except for that baffling bit. I'm almost glad they're killing Unity just so it means people aren't subjected to that wacky design decision or bug.

Not at my computer, so can't provide a detailed answer yet. It's GNOME something-or-other though. Not Unity. And the menu is question that just works is accessible from something like Alt-F2 or the super key (it's muscle memory and I'd need to be at a keyboard to say for sure).

KRunner on Kubuntu os a joy to use.

Krunner is the reason why I'm looking forward to the KDE Plasma phone.

I've had the same problem with Spark and even Xcode, so very unlikely it's Apple willfully refusing to index. What fixes it for me is reindexing via going into Spotlight preferences and adding /Applications to the list of folders not to index, then removing it.

This sounds like a series of coincidences more than anything. Spotlight has to index your drive at intervals so, if you recently added an app, it's possible that the app hadn't been indexed yet by Spotlight. Then, by the time you had done the upgrade to paid, Spotlight had indexed the file and and then it started working. There's nothing nefarious going on there. It just sounds like a coincidence.

I can speak to this too. Latest version of MacOS. I installed Spotify weeks ago, and Spotlight just never indexed it (it's in the /Applications folder). I use Spotlight to launch every app... except Spotify, which it can't find.

What fixes it for me is reindexing via going into Spotlight preferences and adding /Applications to the list of folders not to index, then removing it.

I don't know what the priors are, but Spotlight having missed the app for a 30 full days, and then suddenly finding it after the full registration, sounds very unlikely to me.

However, I do believe it's just an unfortunate bug, nothing more sinister there. Still would be nice to know: why?

A bug kept it from indexing the app when you first installed it. Forcing a re-index of /Applications would have fixed it, likewise duplicating the app and deleting the original.

When you registered the app I assume it modified itself, triggering a re-index.

You'd think that installing a new app would add it to the index right away.

And it does. Copying any app bundle to an indexed disk, like your boot drive, will cause it to get indexed immediately.

There are the occasional bugs though, and there’s also aggressive caching.

If more non-store Mac apps had an "Install" process, you would.

But you're just dragging a special type of folder off a disk image, so nah.

This was a weird coincidence or bug, nothing more. I've used free and trial versions of IntelliJ on Macs countless times without search ever having issues with them. It's hard to imagine how you'd even make the system work in that way, as an app developer.

Spotlight indexes continually, it doesn't run at intervals. (it uses fsevents to subscribe to changes to the disk and processes those as they come in)

Did you ever open the folder which contains the app? Spotlight at least used to use the Launch Services database which was … idiosyncratic … about updating things. The Finder displaying it would reliably trigger that.

The other thing was, naturally, it has a database behind the scenes which historically was prone to silently breaking with no UI cue. Back when I did Mac system administration one of our scripts ran this periodically to deal with missing or duplicate entries in e.g. the Open with… menu:

    /System/Library/Frameworks/CoreServices.framework/Versions/A/Frameworks/LaunchServices.framework/Versions/A/Support/lsregister -kill -seed -r -f -v -domain local -domain user -domain system
The other thing you can try is nuking the Spotlight database:

    mdutil -E -a
That'll be slow for a little while as it reindexes whatever it's configured to index but it fixed a fair number of odd problems, which often turned out to be due to previously-unknown hardware issues.

Spotlight works by indexing applications and files every once in a while (for speed), so sometimes it doesn't find newly installed apps.

I believe it indexes continuously by watching the filesystem: https://imgur.com/sipDUCD.

Did it happen right after install? It usually takes spotlight a few minutes to index any new program - trial or not.

It persisted for the whole month of the trial period. I rebooted multiple times during that period and also checked the Spotlight settings for a few times that they wouldn't exclude anything - and nope.

Spotlight can't find the IntelliJ app on my macOS either, but mine is registered.

Another vote for Alfred, here. I use it for launching absolutely everything, so when I install something new I notice how long it takes to be available. Couple of seconds max, every time.

Use `mdfind foo` in the terminal on mac. I hate Spotlight and use Alfred instead.

Sorry it won’t be about Cortana but Windows Search in general.

Windows Search was great in Windows 7 - you could configure the fulltext search index through control panel and use it from the start menu. I used to index all my markdown notes and pdf documents with it. Then it started getting worse and worse with later versions of Windows. The start menu search looks comppetely detached from the index settings and, as you noticed, can’t even find installed applications. The only way to use the „old good” search is by using the search box in the explorer window when you are on the computer level. I’m still wondering what was the reason for those changes.

> I wish there were some easy way to completely uninstall this frustrating garbage in Windows 10 and go back to the simple interface that just worked.

Install Classic Shell and disable Cortana. I do it on every Windows machine I set up.

reddit.com/r/tronscript will remove all the OEM and Metro bloat, kill off Cortana, and disable the telemetry "features"

I use a nice little utility called Launchy[0]. It is invoked by Alt-Space (or whatever shortcut you like), is lightning fast and finds the right application 99% of the time. Based on your problems, I think it could be worth checking out.

[0] https://www.launchy.net

https://github.com/Wox-launcher/Wox is very similar but has a more active community.

Interesting! I've been using Launchy for years, mostly out of old habit. I'll certainly try Wox!

> How did it even get launched in this state?

Most people just want to change things to make a name for themselves. It doesn't matter if it's an improvement for the user.

Using any of the start menu replacements (StartIsBack, Start10, Classic Shell) will give you the old interface and somehow gives you the old search engine too. Has the nice side effects of making Cortana completely disappear and giving you right click uninstall options for all the apps.

Searching with start menu on Windows 7 was lightning quick. On Windows 10 it takes forever to find the simplest thing, and like you said, it's worse than normal string match search, half the time it won't even find what you're looking for because the word you searched for is the second word in the name.

Microsoft gets to harvest your data more easily, has a "feature" that can "rival" Siri, and artificially increases Bing's marketshare in terms of total number of searches. Win-win-win for MS. That said, I have no idea how they managed to mess up file/program search so badly. I have had the same experience as you searching for files/programs I know for a fact are installed and it refuses to find them.

Microsoft gets to harvest your data more easily, has a "feature" that can "rival" Siri

This is exactly why I use a ChromeBook.

Enterprise LTSB is what you're looking for.

No Cortana, just old school search like in win7.

>How did it even get launched in this state?

Microsoft wants to make money with services not software. I can understand their reasoning. Nobody wants to pay for an OS anymore. Win10 is their new business strategy: Cortana and the Store.

Unfortunately, Windows 10 LTSB is only available as part of Windows 10 Enterprise and Windows 10 Enterprise is only available with a volume licensing agreement.

Yeah I didn't get it legally.

Microsoft does not want to sell something that strips out the stuff they make money from.

Perhaps http://voidtools.com/support/everything/ would interest you, I now use it all the time and my mind is blown by the fact that NTFS and (ReFS) has these features but Microsoft doesn't expose a nice GUI for them... I seriously consider looking into replacing my start menu with something that'd be much more fit for me personally, scriptable in Lua and query from everything daemon instead but I have no idea how feasible or easy that'd be but classic shell is a thing so it's clearly technically possible (I think, unless it's a dirty hack).

Another fix could be putting a shortcut to the exe (named what you want) into C:\Users\YOUR-USERNAME\AppData\Roaming\Microsoft\Windows\Start Menu\Programs, for me these seem foolproof.

However I'm similarly flabbergasted with what's going on in the start menu search (which I assume is part of Cortana since this is where her blue ring appears after clicking the home shaped icon): I type in 'downloa' and I get option to search the web (in Bing in Edge of course, despite my default being Firefox + Google) and/or 'Download maps for offline use', 'Delete downloaded maps', 'Windows Defender settings', 'Windows Defender security center' (all are built in Windows things) and after few seconds (and my Windows is on an SSD) it seems to catch up and detect the Downloads folder (that comes standard with English Windows install and isn't in any deep or hidden spot...). I add one more letter and get 'download' and the same happens but Edge online search is available only for a split second.

And then the finale: having 'downloads' (or 'Downloads', not that Windows is sensitive even if NTFS deep down can supposedly be set to be) in there looks like this: https://imgur.com/a/Jlhno I have no idea WTF just happened to have the actual Downloads folder as third result after Microsoft Store (?!) and online search with Bing in Edge (sigh...) and hidden in a sub-menu after looking for literally 'downloads'.

Another funny thing is that for me searching for 'Notepad' matches Notepad++ first and Windows built-in Notepad second. I'm not exactly unhappy about this one but it's weird, it might be heuristics but then why doesn't it work heuristically for the 'downloads' search and gives me the store I never used instead of the folder I access daily?

Gettting rid of annoying and privacy violating Win10-Stuff: https://www.winprivacy.de/english-home/

https://reddit.com/r/TronScript will kill off Cortana and all the telemetry "features"

If tere just was an alternative OS. Maybe even one that you can dl for a free. Crazy. I know. Itll never happen!

It wouldn't be so bad if you could just turn it off but that seems impossible with the latest release.

That is because Widows Start search does not do a String.IndexOf(search.ToLowerCase) > -1 but a String.StartsWith(search, EVERYCULTURECRAPTHINGIEVERDIDINDOTNET).

So to find µTorrent, you don't type 'tor' like any sane person on earth will do, but have to "translate" that to µ to a u, and even then it will not show up. I have to type 'uto' to find it. Easy, right?

> The Product Manager in charge of this feature should be immediately fired.

I hate this kind of writing. It undermines the otherwise good point the author has.

Agreed. The whole piece was emotional, but just reading that statement took it to irrational.

I think the underlying point of the article is that the experience of using Cortana could be improved, and Microsoft should be providing explicit next steps at every phase so that you aren't left wondering what's going on. I'd agree with that. But claiming someone should be fired is ridiculous, especially considering that the author still doesn't know what the feature does and it could still pleasantly surprise him. It may just need an additional dialog explaining what to expect next.

I assume the feature gives you desktop notifications when the package transitions between tracking stages, and even if that's all the functionality it provides it'd still be more useful than manually checking the tracking website yourself.

It also shows the package tracking information on the Home tab as a card. The flow that the Notebook tab tells Cortana what to pay attention to and the Home tab shows information about the things Cortana is paying attention is a subtle one, but I suppose one UX designers would assume people pick up that Notebook acts like a giant Settings area and Home is the focus area.

Also, there is a happy path where Cortana does pick up things like tracking numbers from email automatically without having to manually enter them into the Notebook. Though it's easy to miss that happy path, because it also surfaces primarily as cards on the Home tab. (Though Outlook.com now has deeper, more direct, integration than that, showing the tracking cards directly above the email; Outlook (OG) has something like that in Preview, though not yet Cortana connected, and the Windows Mail app looks like it will pick up the feature eventually, too.)

I'm going to generalize a bit here and say that "smart" features have decreased usability, as aside from single-focus products (e.g. Mint) no one seems to priotize deep discoverabity when the "smart" path fails.

Example A: MS trying to funnel all system settings through the search box. If that can't find it because I didn't type in the correct "1996 adventure game"-style keywords, I now have Control Panel (legacy), the Settings app (Win 8+?), and a hodgepodge of single-purpose Metro-ized settings pages.

It's basically the command-line probelms all over again, but with english instead of commands.

It's only marginally better. So far nothing has been better than AutoCAD's approach, for me - all GUI commands are echo'd into the command-line as you do them, so you can see what commands you're using if you want to key them in later. Negligible hotkeys because the commands work so well and are more memorable than hotkeys.

A GUI with a 1-1 mapping to command line arguments sounds like heaven. Of course this exists for something like GVim, but I had no idea commercial software of any kind was doing it. That makes scriptability possible!

Yeah, AutoCAD is old so you have a lot of people with old command-line habits. I first used it in like '94. Loved the command-line and gui hybrid it used. Commands were composable too, like the "line" command would then ask you for where the first point was and you could use locator commands like "midpoint" or "endpoint" which in turn would take an existing line object as a parameter to select the origin of the new line. Haven't touched it in over a decade though, no idea what it looks like now.

AutoCAD script is actually a dialect of LISP, as I recall.

I disagree with you for a number of reasons, but it starts with I think you have "smart" mixed up as search boxes are the epitome of "dumb", even if a lot of work goes into them behind the scenes to make sure they anticipate what the user wants.

Google proved many years ago that average users are more than happy to use a search bar as their primary user interface to everything. I've seen so many users that to go to any website never use bookmarks, addresses, shortcuts, anything, just type it vaguely into a search bar, and that's been some of their norm for a decade or more.

It makes sense for Microsoft to front-and-center the search box because that's what users use the most. That's what Google has been doing for its entire existence. It's about as dumb and simple a UX as possible.

Beyond that it's a "Why not both?" situation. A search bar isn't very discoverable, but it is easy and typically "does what the user wants", eventually, depending on how much effort goes into the "man behind the curtain". But you can have search and try for a discoverable UX at the same time. The Settings app many deride is something like Attempt #15 at making Windows settings discoverable. For better or worse, with as many settings as Windows has, making that discoverable is a herculean task, if not a sisyphean task. Every attempt has annoyed some people. The Control Panel has always been painful to use. The Settings app tried for a somewhat clean break and of course there are ton of opinions on it, because it moved cheese and its so different (though is it really?) from the Windows 3.1 Program Manager folder some people seem to expect still frozen in perfect amber from when they first learned to use Windows... There's no pleasing everyone, and there's no perfect path to discoverability or usability.

There's no "smart" path on either side; one requires currently unimaginable tools to read people's minds based on tiny text fragments they through into the void of a search box, and the other to anticipate every users needs and somehow make them all discoverable exactly when the user needs them. (One requires telepathy/telempath and the other prophecy, perhaps.)

I mentioned a "happy path", but that's extremely subjective. (One user loves it if search works great; another if they know just what to click; a third if they have a good CLI to automate it; etc.) It's also clear that there are many more fewer happy paths, than paths in general, and nearly impossible to "pave" all the really good paths for people.

I used "smart" because ML / AI seemed overly charitable for what was going on behind the scenes. And it's certainly distinct (or tries to be) from "you must type in exactly and only the name of the thing you want to find".

The issue with MS post-ribbon, and I would say this applies to Settings as well, is that I've yet to see them form a good answer to "Where do I go if the thing I want isn't on the Ribbon?"

Strictly heirarchal menu items were an initial GUI effort I remember, begat ribbon "everything available behind the scenes / set up your own menu bar", begat "let us find it for you".

The issue being there seems little thought in intelligently mediating a discovery action, to wit that I can describe the thing I'm looking for but the system lacks a representation in which I can do so in.

Magical search box discovery affords no such path, because the functioning of the system is deliberately obscured from me. I simply have to try guessing another key phrase associated with the thing I want.

And therein lies my gripe: I wish they'd spend less time paving paths they can think of, and more time improving systems for discoverability that also address all the things they haven't thought of / haven't prioritized.

The driving guideline behind discoverability in a ribbon (and to a lesser extent the Settings) is to balance a combination of the most common tasks and the most powerful ones front and center. The answer to "Where do I go if the thing I want isn't on the ribbon?" is sometimes "Maybe there's a more common way or a more powerful/capable way to do it" because sometimes "it's no longer meant to be discoverable". (Though sometimes its simply it was underestimated to be a common need, maybe because its primary users opted out of telemetry.)

Personally, I think most of the ribbons are extremely discoverable, but obviously your mileage may vary. I agree though that the search boxes for ribbon functions should offer a "teach me to fish" moment of maybe somehow helping you see how you missed that option in the ribbon. Office at least uses the same icons consistently between search and the ribbon so you could potentially get used to the landmark and eventually figure out the sign posts along the way (and Help documentation still exists and is also in the search results).

> I wish they'd spend less time paving paths they can think of, and more time improving systems for discoverability that also address all the things they haven't thought of / haven't prioritized.

The Ribbon (and most everything else in this post-Ribbon era) was extremely influenced by user telemetry to figure out what users were actually using day-to-day. It was designed in coordination with user studies to observe how to make it as discoverable as they could. It didn't just come out of thin air in some ivory tower specification, it was prioritized as much as anything else by telemetry from users.

Similar for Settings, I'm sure the things that are moved into the new application and out of the old Control Panel are being prioritized by telemetry. It never surprises me that the users that most often complain about their "favorite" most commonly used settings not getting migrated most often don't have telemetry on.

I'll shortcut my rant about the focus on cheese and moving thereof by noting that we're talking about two different things.

If any option is buried in an archaic path, that's not a well-formed system of discoverability to me.

I could care less that the top 90% of functionality is front-and-center, because I'm still going to use the remaining 10% once a week. And if it takes 100x as long as finding something on the ribbon and requires non-intuitive logic (because see previous comment about deprioritizing deep discoverability), then that's what I'm going to remember.

I'd say the Office ribbon is still sort of hierarchical, just laid out differently. tab -> section/group -> item -> submenu/subdialog.

If something isn't on the ribbon or in any of the subdialogs it's almost certainly because it's deprecated and only still exists for some obscure compatibility reason.

As for Windows Settings, it's unfortunately weird not for some principled or philosophical reason, but just because they're still not done reimplementing all the features and use cases they want from Control Panel into the new framework.

In spite of my nitpicking I agree with your general point.

> If something isn't on the ribbon or in any of the subdialogs it's almost certainly because it's deprecated and only still exists for some obscure compatibility reason.

Am I using it wrong then? I don't dive into Office if I can avoid it, but just yesterday there was some Powerpoint function I needed that didn't appear on the ribbon.

Had to pull out the "everything" right/left boxes, add it to the ribbon, and then I could use it.

I know they've been trying to fix that with context, selected-object specific tabs that appear, but it still has a ways to go.

I'm curious what that function was? In PowerPoint especially the last time I used something that wasn't on the ribbon was years ago. What were you trying to do?

I am not sure about Cortana but I am sure that other project product managers (e.g. Skype) should be fired. They have historic popular issues. Basic negligence, not bugs.

Skype... I am actively trying to get rid of it these days. That ridiculous bloated and slow HTML user interface that many native clients have transitioned to (especially Linux and Android) is beyond description. Why does it need to take up 50% of one core when it is idling in the background? On an i7-6800k no less! On my note 8 it drains the battery in no time while managing to be extremely sluggish and unresponsive.

It somehow feels like MS is actively trying to destroy this product.

In Atom (one of the first public releases), I had this plugin that used CSS animations to fade the cursor in and out. It took ~100% of one core to do this. That’s right, in order to fade a color between white and clear, in 2017...

I don’t use that plugin anymore. Electron is dope because it actually delivers on the “one UI across all OSes” but the number of abstractions and the performance hit for this is staggering. It’s not that it needs to be this bad — I don’t think that there’s some specific problem in the technologies, it’s that it /is/ bad in practice. But whatever, my home desktop has 8 cores, 32GB RAM, ~2GB/sec disk reads, and 100mbit internet, so it works with about the same responsiveness as a normal app under Win95 on the hardware of the day.

https://www.forbes.com/2005/04/19/cz_rk_0419karlgaard.html Still as relevant as ever.

I believe the answer is because their talent has left and now there are inexperienced comp science grads, UX designers and marketing left and nothing else.

So you think that MS is unwilling to pay enough bribes to talented people to keep this product alive? They could certainly afford it.

Nope not that. I don’t know anyone who would accept the cash to work on products with such a bad reputation.

If MSFT offered me £100k right here, right now I’d turn it down.

Skype (on Windows specifically) just doesn’t work for me now. Fails to deliver chat messages, freezes (not necessarily both at the same time).

It works for me on Windows but has the annoying habit of popping up s notification for each and every message that arrived while that client was offline. It does not matter if I had already read it in another client. And the notifications come one after the other with some 5 seconds of delay. I cannot find polite words for how annoying that is.

I think there are times when a firing is appropriate, as sometimes folks end up in a position for which they are obviously not well-suited. Let’s take as an example the PM that broke party chat on the Xbone when it was released. IMO, assuming the design matched the implementation, it is reasonable to question whether the PM had ever used the previous Xbox 360 or had ever played games on a console at all. I’m not saying Microsoft should boot them out of the company, but they sure as hell shouldn’t be writing specs for games consoles anymore. So “fire” them from the Xbox team, let ‘em go back from whence they sprang, be it another division within MS or some other company.

Now whether it is warranted in case, I cannot judge as I don’t use the product.

Fair point. I use a little hyperbole to emphasize the fact that a product with an incredible global reach should default to well-planned and executed features, particularly if they are sprung upon you with desktop alerts. Hate it or not, someone did a very, very bad job here. Most likely many someones.

(used to work at Microsoft, not on Cortana but have friends that did/do)

Broken UX flows like this are usually distributed among a bunch of different teams (each with their own PMs) so that no "the product manager" actually exists, and it's organizational seams you're running into. In many cases the individual PMs on each team are well aware of the problems with the overall flow and want to fix them, but find it hard to make room in their "day jobs" for coordinating with other teams to actually do so. So if anything I bet many of them are happy your post could give them more ammo to push prioritizing fixes.

I'm only somewhat familiar with Cortana but I think your example broken flow crosses four or five teams’ feature areas, and I know that some of the problems you identified have had solutions proposed/designed/even prototyped by various teams for years now, but I guess so far nobody's managed to get all the teams to commit to any one particular solution.

IMO though the biggest sin in your story wasn't that a broken flow for a feature existed, but that someone decided to push/spam a notification that led to said broken flow (and that someone else set up an incentive structure that drove that decision).

Don't be too hard on yourself.

The same people saying you shouldn't reproach clear and obvious incompetence are the same people calling you, the author, "some random idiot"... in this very comment section.

I agree with you that it should be implemented better, though I've honestly come to expect this from Windows.

It's just a bit extreme considering you submitted it to HN, where the people directly involved actually have a chance of seeing it.

I can see why he did it. These aren't beginners. They're experienced developers and managers. If you work at one of the top 5 tech companies in the world on a product most of the computing world uses then maybe this shouldn't be acceptable.

Why is it that this is acceptable for Microsoft to publish? It's not and what makes it worse is that it often gets abandoned. If they had a history going back and finishing this or making it better I'd give them a pass, but I doubt without something bordering vitriolic appearing on HN/Medium no one will care.

I think that's the real complaint. Doesn't anyone care about the experience anymore? I feel like it's only Apple who both cares and has executed a strong long term plan for this. I opened my iPhone X and that thing worked. I actually love all the little things they added. It is hard to do that, but it's these little things which make the product special or down-right frustrating when they don't.

If the current MacBook Pro is any indication, I’m not sure how much Apple cares about experience, either. I’m still trying to figure out who that machine is made for: Horrible keyboard, gimmicky Touch Bar, worse battery life than the previous generation, no ports relevant to existing devices (including Apple’s own flagship smartphone)... I don’t think Apple can be accused of sweating the details anymore, either.

Very true, but Apple is consumer focused, vs Microsoft is enterprise focused, and so I think we still have a better chance for Apple to react to this than Microsoft would have.

So maybe they might actually fix it.

I agree. I could just as easily write up an emotional medium post talking about how Cortana is amazing because I can simply add calendar events using my voice. I could then say, "The pm in charge should be the CEO!!!1!!111".

Does it? Why?

People who perform poorly at their jobs should either be transferred to another position or terminated. Why is this a controversial position?

If you are the product manager in charge of Cortana, you failed big time. Again, this should be incontroversial.

>People who perform poorly at their jobs should either be transferred to another position or terminated. Why is this a controversial position?

First, because some random idiot on a blog post does not know whether the person "performed poorly at their job" in general. He just has a specific gripe. The other person might have done miracles in other parts of Cortana. There are such things as shipping priorities, and they're not determined by random blog posts or comments.

Second, because people deserve chances for improving. Anybody at any current position has "performed poorly" at this or another project earlier on. Terminating or transferring them only makes sense if they don't get to improve, which a random blog post can't determine.

>If you are the product manager in charge of Cortana, you failed big time. Again, this should be incontroversial.

That's why companies don't base their decisions on random posts or comments.

> some random idiot on a blog post

So you're not ok with holding employees responsible for their work product failures, but you're ok with calling people with strong opinions about said failures "random idiots"? Hooray hypocrisy.

> That's why companies don't base their decisions on random posts or comments.

So companies shouldn't take customer feedback into account when making product decisions? That seem like a pretty bad plan.

>So you're not ok with holding employees responsible for their work product failures, but you're ok with calling people with strong opinions about said failures "random idiots"? Hooray hypocrisy.

I fail to see the hypocrisy. A mis-implemented feature (which might not even have been considered or prioritized at all) doesn't mean a "product failure" -- whereas someone not only failing to understand that, but also recommending the firing of a person they don't know because some pet feature they were looking for wasn't implemented well, does imply a certain idiocy.

It's like someone asking for a waiter to be fired because they didn't like a particular part of their dining experience, and somebody calling said person an idiot. Even if they're not (which is more probably the case), they're being a jerk, and that's what the second person want to imply.

>*That's why companies don't base their decisions on random posts or comments.

"So companies shouldn't take customer feedback into account when making product decisions? That seem like a pretty bad plan."

It also sounds like a bad deduction from what I've wrote.

>Calling someone an idiot doesn't threaten their livelihood.

Nor does someone calling for a firing on a blog actually threaten a livelihood.

You'd be surprised. Lots of cases of people fired because of a blogger etc asking for their heads -- even for things totally irrelevant to their job.

The "some random idiot" is correct in his blog post. Cortana could be the greatest compilation of code ever written, but here it's directly advertising a feature to the user, asking them to take time from their day to use this feature, which does absolutely nothing for the user.

Maybe not enough to call for a firing of some likely very talented people, but also not enough for you to label the complainer an idiot.

It's even more rude considering that the author is in this thread, responding thoughtfully and patiently to our critiques.

> First, because some random idiot on a blog post does not know whether the person "performed poorly at their job" in general. He just has a specific gripe. The other person might have done miracles in other parts of Cortana. There are such things as shipping priorities, and they're not determined by random blog posts or comments.

I'd say the _Product Manager_ of Cortana has performed poorly at their job if the released product (Cortana) is bad. And yes, Cortana is bad.

> Second, because people deserve chances for improving. Anybody at any current position has "performed poorly" at this or another project earlier on. Terminating or transferring them only makes sense if they don't get to improve, which a random blog post can't determine.

Cortana was first released over 3 years ago. That is plenty of time for a chance at improvement.

> That's why companies don't base their decisions on random posts or comments.

Companies should base their decisions on customer feedback, and so far all the feedback I've seen on Cortana is that it's downright terrible.

>>That's why companies don't base their decisions on random posts or comments.

Customer feedback on Cortana has been nearly universally negative. You don't need my post or comment to see this. Google around and see what you find.

If it's as bad as Microsoft Bob, they should just be told Bill hasn't ruled out polygamy...

It certainly does nothing of the sort. There should absolutely be some kind of consequence associated with this kind of flaming dumpster fire making it's way into a production environment.

Well then the entire world should rejoice that people like yourself and OP are not in control of other peoples livelihood.

Really? This is not only a worse-than-useless, waste-of-user-time feature on its own, but it actively interrupts the user to get their attention!

So, this PM decided to put into a production environment a feature that interrupts a customer's workflow for no good benefit. It doesn't even benefit Microsoft, so he's not even being a bandit.

This is the very definition of stupid. Hurt the other guy, hurt yourself, for no benefit to either [1].

So, why would or should any employer continue to pay a person who performs such an obviously stupid action in a production environment to continue in the same position?

We may have a right to jobs if we continue to produce output that benefits the customers and employer, not simply because we continue to exist. Start harming your customers and/or employers, and why should you continue to receive their resources?

[1] http://serendip.brynmawr.edu/serendipia/Stupidity.html

The question was not whether or not an employer should continue to pay a person.

The question was whether or not some angry internet person should be responsible for the livelihood of a developer of a product they are having difficulty with.

Oh, so it'd be ok if the "angry internet person" hust happened to be the PM's boss, noticed this abomination & fired them?

Indeed, if more "angry internet people" (with good clear points like this one) actually provoked performance reviews, we might have better software.

Quit the sophistry. The guy had a real point and you're merely trying to make distracting noise.

Your skewed view of my words led you to a strange end point.

Ill quit the sophistry when you stick to arguments that make sense.

It's telling to see how casually the notion of personal accountability in the workplace is discarded. For the record, OP getting his wish still leaves the individuals responsible in control of their own livelihood, they just chose poorly.

What about all the people who have lost their jobs after a company goes under due to horrible product teams? If someone isn’t pulling their weight, you have to boot them for the greater good.

Those people and that scenario have nothing to do with what I'm talking about.

An unrelated end user of a product should have no power over a persons work status just because they don't like the product.

> the greater good

subjectivity at its finest

Oh I see, yeah I agree. “Person responsible for X should be fired” is something I see all the time, but it never occurred to me that it might be a serious request.

The whole experience of the start search / cortana / mix is horrible.

It can't even fuzzy search. Type "view event" and it brings up "view event logs", if you type "view events" it instead searches bing, in edge, for "view events".

Edge isn't even my default browser. Bing isn't my default search engine, and I didn't want to browse the web.

Any slight deviation from an exact phrase and it goes straight from "here's the program you want to run" to popping up it's search engine.

Back when I was at MSN everything become oriented at delivering Bing searches at all costs, so whoever did this probably boosted their stats, got a 4.5 on their review, and now nobody dares improving the behaviour lest they have to justify the millions of lost Bing queries per day.

That sounds like a laughable yet true explanation ...

I bought Windows 10 this year and if this is the sort of behavior I should expect from a Win OS these days then I'll probably just go to linux or even back to OSX.

You should expect much worse! (and be careful investing in the Apple ecosystem either, because I doubt they have the restraint to avoid doing just as bad on the desktop)

I have seen fuzzy search work in a few cases, but they are sparse.

Most notably, I never remember what the name of Windows' built-in screenshot application is. It's "Snipping Tool". I often mis-remember it as "Clipping Tool". But anyway, it comes up when I type "screenshot", "clip", or "clipping" into the search bar.

Here's the crazy thing:

Type out "clipping tool" and watch.

It matches all the way to "clipping t". Then it stops matching, then matches again at "clipping tool".

So even if you know a phrase which it matches on, you might or might not get a patch from an exact partial of that matching phrase.

Nope, for me the exact process works as intended, there's no difference between "clipping t" and "clipping to" and "clipping too".

For me it matches perfectly for each letter. Maybe you're on an older build?

I just installed Greenshot [0] and never really thought about about the internal one. It comes with it's own mini image editor to quickly add annotations and a very nice zoom feature to catch the screenshot correctly first time without having to re-crop.

Greenshot is the one Windows tool I really missed on Linux.

[0]: http://getgreenshot.org/

Agreed. I like to play dota 2, and sometimes I access it via search. Cortana will find it if I search "Dota" or "Dota 2" but not "Dota2", which matches steam instead of a direct link to the game. How is that possible in 2017?

As I type successive characters searching for “update” it switches back and forth between windows update and java update.

Just awful.


Alright, I'm glad this is brought up. I am back on Windows 10 after being on OSX for years. For the most part its fine, but it does a lot of things that I just plain don't understand. I have no idea how to configure the little metro page to my liking (like, I know how to remove stuff, but how do I make it useful?). Why does it even exist?

I can see Microsoft put a lot of work into making Win10 user friendly, but it seems like their designers don't understand their users or something. OSX has some bizarre interactions as well (like Finder, wtf is happening there), but for the most part it just works.

I guess I don't really know what I want my operating system to do precisely. I want it to be smooth, I want it to open programs quickly, I want it to move files around without hassle, and I want it to be secure while also be easily extensible. Unfortunately there's a lot of different interpretations of what those things should be. I can appreciate that making a world class operating system on top of decades of legacy code is difficult, but I also need to say: WTF is half of this shit?

Windows doesn't even come with a simple key reassignment. I had to download SharpKeys to set Caps Lock as Ctrl. That sort of thing just comes with OSX.

Honestly I'm kind of ok with key reassignment apps not coming with the OS. At this point I'm more annoyed with the software that come pre-installed on operating systems than what they don't have. I can always download whatever apps I want.

But I totally agree that designers don't understand their users. I think there's a sense that Windows has to be "cool" like Android and iOS rather than just "useful".

> Honestly I'm kind of ok with key reassignment apps not coming with the OS. I can always download whatever apps I want.

I'd agree that the OS shouldn't come pre-installed with major applications. Those are things that I've invested time and effort to learn and where I have a definite preference on what I want to download.

But to having to research little things like key reassignment apps becomes a real chore. Then you have to download and install it, make sure it's not malware, and if you use multiple machines, repeat those steps.

The older versions of the iPhone and the iPad didn't come with a calculator. I don't know if current versions now include a calculator, but having to test a dozen different garbage calculators out of 1000 mind-numbing choices in the app store was a real pain in the neck. Any simple ad-free calculator included in iOS would have been OK.

Mostly I want my operating system to stay out of the way, if I have a particular requirement I'll go and find some software to satisfy that. Sadly it looks unlikely I'll get that from now on.

How can I disable Cortana?

I've tried and failed. I don't know why it is necessary an auxiliar app just to index my executables just to be able to type a few letters and start them quickly.

You might want to look at O&O ShutUp10 (https://www.oo-software.com/en/ShutUp10), which lets you disable a bunch of Windows 10 features along with tips on what they are and their importance and risks.

And do such a poor job of it. Bash or Powershell tab completion blows it out of the water, and god knows there hasn't been a fraction of the resources devoted to either of those.

The Education edition of Windows lacks Cortana.

> The Education edition of Windows lacks Cortana.

Personally, what bugs me the most is the constant reads and writes to the hard disk. I have 8 GB of RAM. I just have a web browser open. Windows, you don't need to do everything at this very moment.

Why can't Windows Update be as simple as this? https://tr3.cbsistatic.com/hub/i/2015/05/29/0cfbdde4-cc21-4d... https://i.imgur.com/7IWTX2q.png

Instead what I get (even with Windows 7) is a spinning wheel that says "Failure configuring Windows updates. Reverting changes...". Happens every time I want to use Windows (which is more of a reason to stay in the Linux partition tbh)

> Personally, what bugs me the most is the constant reads and writes to the hard disk. I have 8 GB of RAM.

I have 64 GB of RAM, and even tried turning off the swap. Still see that HDD light blinking. I don't know what is going on.

Its gathering telemetry, running live traces on your software, gathering statistics, everything gets packaged and uploaded to the mothership regularly

> Its gathering telemetry, running live traces on your software, gathering statistics, everything gets packaged and uploaded to the mothership regularly

but GP has 64 GB(!!) of memory. They don't need to write the information to disk. They could just ship the data from the memory straight back to the mothership, no? I mean Office 365 has a heartbeat and nobody complains about the near constant network chatter. It just makes Microsoft look insidious (is that the right word?) that they're collecting all this data.

The fact that gaming mode [xbox on youtube] exists makes me think that Windows is driving with one hand tied behind its back when not in game mode. Why would they do this?

[xbox on youtube] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zc-ka42BMls

but what if you crash? precious personal data gets lost, have to flush everything to HDD immediately.

I really wish Microsoft wouldn't bloat Windows with all these useless features. They're still acting like they are building a mobile OS. Windows 10 would be fantastic OS if it wasn't for all these misguided attempts to act like iOS and Android.

They made a mistake starting with Windows 8, I'm guessing they were worried about the iPad eating into PC sales. Well it turned out that that didn't really happen but we are stuck with the tabletisation of Windows anyway.

I've been trying a Surface but it's going back because it isn't good at being a tablet nor laptop.

This reminds me of those new gadget commercials that show existing issues being super difficult when they really are not. You were probably in a terrible mood when you wrote this which makes it much worse than it is. It could try to parse the tracking id for sure and you probably have never dealt with tracking packages before through an API but they give you not that much info most of the time, just like "arrived at shipping location" or "on route to destination" type messages with some times, totally depends on when the tracking is sent out. This is just a very specific use case that isn't so user friendly anyway but sure they could do it better but the package id won't get you the name of the package in a human readable format so nickname is necessary.

>but the package id won't get you the name of the package in a human readable format so nickname is necessary.

Google can figure it out. I order something, i get cards in Google Now telling me exactly what i ordered and its shipping status, without any interaction on my part. It just happens.

If microsoft can't figure out how to do this, fine. But if they're going to pop up notifications saying "hey, i can track packages for you", they should be at least sort of on par with the competition.

Right, isn't that because they are integrated? If you are buying from the google store that has all the info, makes sense. Were you buying from a microsoft store as well? Just wondering because I agree if that is the case, otherwise, there is no integration there. But cool that google has it. I was under the impression is was just some random feature to track a package, my bad if so.

Google will track packages based on emails in gmail. I works OK for amazon, so, i.e. the vast majority of all packages shipped (mild exaggeration). It works a little less will but not this terribly for less conventional shipping confirmations.

I don't think I've ever seen it work as well as just going to the delivery services website, however - so it's critical that it's relatively bug free and low-overhead.

No. If I buy a package from Amazon and the tracking information goes to my gmail account, Google Now cards will automatically show my tracking numbers with links to view full tracking information.

And you wouldn't expect Windows to sneakily read your Gmail account emails.

What if you buy a package from Amazon and the tracking info goes to your outlook.com email? That'd be a fair comparison here. (maybe simply forwarding the email from Gmail to the outlook.com email associated with your Windows account would be sufficient?)

He says he’s given Microsoft access to his inbox


Cortana does do this, and there's actually nothing in the article that indicates that it wouldn't have worked perfectly well if he'd just hadn't done anything and let the automatic tracking do its thing. The real WTF here is not so much that it has a bad UX for manually entering tracking numbers (that's obviously not ideal, but IMO semi-reasonable given it's a fallback corner case) but that they pushed/spammed a notification that dumps you into the bad manual UX.

But you get the order's confirmation/shipping email on your Gmail account, do you?

Now what tells you this doesn't work with emails received in your outlook.com mailbox?

Or do you expect Windows to read all your Gmail's email somehow?

the article's author says he has given windows permission to access his inbox.

> This reminds me of those new gadget commercials that show existing issues being super difficult when they really are not.


One piece that's missing from this post is -- what did the email containing the tracking number look like?

GMail, for example, only parses out package numbers if the retailer sends schema.org markup for it. (https://developers.google.com/gmail/markup/reference/parcel-...)

The Google approach is much better. Tracking numbers go out in email to the customer and you can put little xml snippets in there so that gmail can put 'track order' in the subject with a little button to click. This goes to the URL provided in the email, not to some magical service that magically determines if that tracking number came from UPS, USPS, Royal Mail, China Post, or whatever. Due to how couriers merge and get acquired you don't even have consistent tracking numbers for a given courier. So it is much better for the customer to not be guessing this stuff with Cortana.

Not everyone uses gmail. But, in the UK, for ecommerce, you can fully expect more than 50% of the order emails to be gmail addresses. Therefore the xml snippets approach is worth doing.


Looks like this isn't even a proprietary Google thing, they just have better support than lots of providers. The docs you point to mention that the schema is from schema.org.

This is also present on outlook. I wonder why Cortana can't just use that same logic. I guess they had to justify their existence by coding up the same thing again.

Cortana does use the same logic for automatically finding the tracking information, that has nothing to do with anything in the article though, which is about the UX for manually entering the tracking information.

This is just old school Microsoft engineering. Add a feature bullet point to the package, don’t worry about how it’s integrated or if it works. It’s the same with most anything from them you dig in to.

As much fun as it is to bash Microsoft and Windows (although, let's face it, Windows has been so much better in the last few releases), I personally think Microsoft, its engineers, as well as its PM deserve (some?) empathy rather than anger for this.

I mean, I can almost imagine how this thing happens. Someone somewhere sometime said, "hey, wouldn't it be cool if xyz?" Someone else replied with "oh yeah, and it's not THAT hard!" And the PM is probably like "well, low risk, too, so whatever you wish."

Then, the feature is thrown together, with or without explicit planning. It probably attracts way higher attention than expected, because either it is hooked into mechanism intended for real important stuff or it can be demoed so nicely (imagine: if you are the developer doing demoing, you probably have the damned tracking number ready for copy and paste). It does not support all operations, because no one looks at it twice after some brief "yo, so cool" moment.

The annoyance may or may not have a bug associated with it somewhere. But let's be realistic. If you are a PM, which one would you choose: "some nobody-care feature is not easy to use" or "if you stand on 1 leg, jump 3 times, press the code of Mordor, Windows seg faults itself". The 1st one is vague and, let's be frank, not that big of a deal. The 2nd one is a big deal: data loss and all manners of unspeakable conditions may break loose. So, any PM would do the 2nd bug first.

I mean, seriously, how would you ensure this tiny corner (which a comment below actually says, "I did not realize it exist") is "easy to use"? No automation tests can catch it. Demoing (again, the developers know how to use it and probably come prepared) won't catch it. A/B testing probably won't even get to it. Its bugs (except if that bugs involving Start menu crashing down) probably have priority between "when I have better work-life balance" and "when the machine is capable of fixing its own issues."


I will agree that all of these don't justify for a shitty experience. Shitty experiences, no matter how small, are shitty. But then, even LaTeX, perfected as it is, annoys me once in a while. Even Emacs, glorious as it is, has "I swear I will switch to Eclipse" moments. And Scheme has about 70 different ways of doing OO programming, none of which really works for my little case.

So, maybe a bit more love/understanding? It probably helps your (i.e. the users') blood pressure anyway.

I don't think they deserve empathy at all. If they can't implement the feature to the level of being usable they should just cut the feature instead of annoying the user.

So much software development today is about getting story points on a velocity chart and claiming that features have been delivered even if the feature is actually useless. A Minimum Viable Product should actually be viable.

So, let's fail Spotlight on iOS too, because searching for tdbank never works for me to bring up the TD Bank app. Seems like such a simple thing, but nope. Can't forget that bloody space. And that seems like a bigger failure than anything the article was talking about.

That's a long explanation of how nobody at a large corporation should be expected to make anything work properly.

I just recently was forced to use Windows again for some piece of software that requires it. Windows immediately proceeds to update itself after startup, fails midway to bluescreen. I ended up spending an hour to revert to the latest restore point instead of getting work done.

I don't see how Windows is getting any better than what I used 15 years ago. I think a lot of people using their tech have Stockholm syndrome and fear losing the sunk cost of their investment in that ecosystem. As someone who used to program exclusively in C and C++, I can say it's always worth switching...

At a previous contract I built a VM environment based on KVM. Some of the VMs were Windows, some Linux - a mix of Ubuntu and RHEL. It was a secure environment, where part of the job was malware analysis, so obviously part of this was nuking VMs and reinstalling them.

Anybody who has done this knows with Linux it's easy - RHEL/Centos and Kickstart files are the best, because they work. Next best is Ubuntu/Debian as Preseeds work but they're bloody awful. Once you've got one that works you're fine.

I had all the Windows 10 VMs with 'Professional' keys. Now, I imagine like you i'd suspect a 'Professional' key would imply this sort of lifecycle - rinse, reinstall. This worked for the first month.


Part of the install was getting updates from WSUS, which itself is awful. Turns out halfway through our build Microsoft decided after these updates they'd change the rules. So, where I was providing the autounattend.xml (ks / preseed equivalent) this particular update decided my keys were not worthy. Professional wasn't good enough, when it was previously, so I now needed Enterprise. So none of my VM rebuilds would work without intervention. These are headless VMs. This cost us tens of thousands in engineering bucks.

If I started a company tomorrow i'd go nowhere near Microsoft. I'd not let one of my employees get near a place where they decided business logic needed to go into an Excel spreadsheet. They'd have a Chromebook and i'd pay the $6 a month for them to work without any of the extra crap Microsoft decide to do this month. Yes, Google can do the same, but i'll take the chances at $6 per month as opposed to the Windows, RDS and assorted other CALs that Microsoft decide to do tomorrow. I'd even go to O365 if I trusted them after this. Which I don't.

I agree. The person who wrote the Medium blog about Cortana, actually pasted a full URL in the box meant for tracking ID.

It would be so wow if Cortana were really able to parse the URL, identify the tracknig ID and then use it but how can implement such stuffy. Different providers have different URL and query params for their tracking page. Some may call it TrackingID, some may call trackId, tid, t, xyz....

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