I learned something new about Windows today. “So what?” you may ask, but I thought it was slightly interesting because if I had to categorise what sort of Windows user I was then I’d probably plump for the expert category. And that means that learning something I didn’t know about using Windows is noteworthy for me.
I’ve been using Windows for about thirteen years, starting with Windows 3.0 through to Windows 95/98/Me and also all versions of the NT line from 3.5 onwards (I was hardcore, I used to run Windows NT 3.5 on a PC with 16 MB of memory—it may have finished booting by now). I’ve seen some massive changes over the years, not least of which is an exponential increase in reliability. I don’t miss those blue text mode screens you used to get when a virtual device driver spilled its guts in Windows 9x. I’ve also rolled with the punches and kept up with the numerous user interface changes, from the Incredible Expanding Start Menu to the work in progress that we’ve been stuck with for five years now.
After all that time I thought I pretty much knew all there was to know when it comes to power user stuff like using keyboard shortcuts to get around. Oh yes, no more mousing for me—windows minimize and restore and switch around in the blink of an eye when I’m in the driving seat!
In what’s perhaps the ultimate evolutionary step for a Windows’ user, Mac OS X is now my preferred operating system. And it was whilst hitting the space bar to advance through some man pages in the OS X terminal—very un-Mac like, I know—that I discovered that I could do the same thing in Windows with a read-only screen full of text, probably like the one you’re using to view this. Now before you hit the Comment button in disgust at the obviousness of the using-space-to-scroll manoeuvre, I should explain that that’s not actually what I learned today. No sir, for it was already at the back of my mind somewhere.
You see, hitting the spacebar scrolls the page downwards, but what I wanted to do was scroll upwards. I told you I was a power user. This was where I was going to put the UI consistency and logic of Windows to the ultimate test, because I know that pressing the Shift key reverses the operation. For example, Shift + Alt + Tab coolswitches—I told you I’ve used Windows 3.x—backwards through your running programs. So I hit Shift + Space, Windows behaved exactly as I expected it to, my document scrolled upwards and all was well with the world. In other news, Bush announced today that he wants to close Guantanamo Bay, so I guess he’s learning too.