Computers to have an ‘Oops’ button to help users

Not that long ago I gave my computer keyboard a bit of a wipe. This turned out to be a really stupid thing to do as the computer was on and working… and unfortunately the keyboard was very responsive to being wiped. Suddenly I spotted that whatever keys I’d pressed had unintentionally turned the screen 90 degrees to the right and hidden the cursor. If I’d have been able to move the cursor into a web search window I could have searched for the fix but I ended up switching it off and on again and fortunately whatever I’d done was reset. No harm done.

I’ve written twice before about the need for an Oops button. The first time was about my mum ringing me to ask if I knew what on earth she’d just pressed because things suddenly looked unexpected, or the cursor had leapt somewhere it hadn’t been a moment before. In fact the “Oops” button was her idea. The second time was after my dad rang me to ask why he could see lots of dots and backward Ps (¶ – a pilcrow) on a Word document and how to get rid of them.

After publishing the second post I sent a copy to some computer companies half-seriously, half-jokingly suggesting that this could make life a bit easier for less tech savvy people. My dad was actually pretty tech savvy but he’d never pressed the “show non-printing characters” button before so had no idea what it was when he did.

I’m pleased to say that manufacturers and software designers are now considering implementing this. They’ve not said exactly what form it will take (or when it will start to appear) and it may not even be an actual button, although since hardly anyone uses AltGr I expect that would be an obvious one to co-opt. It might be a function key or a short series of keystrokes similar to Ctrl+Z (which undoes the last action) but which would bring up the last five or ten actions taken and let the user revert anything unintended. My preference would be for a function key as a button anywhere else on the keyboard might, ironically, find itself being unintentionally pressed.

It’s nice to know that one of my mum’s brilliant ideas might actually make things a bit easier for computer users.

In other news Twitter is finally rolling out an Edit function for users. It’s been one of the most highly-requested features for a few years and hugely controversial given that people would be able to write a tweet with one meaning, gain likes, RTs and replies – then change the meaning of the tweet. Similar to the feature on Facebook the edited tweet will carry the word ‘Edited’ as part of the tweet itself, clicking on that will let you see the original. Users on desktop will also be able to hover over any edited tweet and see the original pop up but this is not currently available on mobile. I’ll write more on this when I can get some screenshots to share. It will be interesting to see how this is used (and misused) and if Twitter will change its mind.



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