Just been using Windows Presentation Foundation ( WPF ) to prototype an application that I am working on and althought Microsoft Expression Blend is a fantastic tool I am finding some frustrating limitations with WPF already. Chiefly amoung these is support for Multiple Document Interfaces or MDI.

I was hoping to create an interface where I could open and close windows within an application ala Photoshop, After Effects, Director or any application in the last 10 years to do with media creation but Microsoft have decided, in their infinite wisdom, that MDI is a no no. Now I don’t mind that Microsoft, Apple or Xerox Parc spend millions of dollars on interface design, further interface human interaction etc. But when the best method of interaction for using an application is disable I get a bit annoyed.

People do find Photoshop hard to use, but the interface to me really does serve its purpose. The problem with Photoshop is actually user education and understanding not the fact that it has multiple dragable windows. Its a hard application to get to grips with (I still find it amusing that users describe themselves as expert at it – those are the users that usually don’t understand it as an application, in fact I would say that anyone that hasn’t played with API doesn’t know photoshop, but hey that is another story..) and that is nothing to do with the interface just that the application has a lot of depth and many ways to do the same thing. While we are on the subject, any user that hasn’t paid the license fee and doesn’t spend hours a day in front of Photoshop can NOT be classed as an expert.

But it is really bugging me that Microsoft have decided that its legions of developers of its next GUI interface paradigm can not choose for themselves the method that they want users to interact with their application. They do not always know best – and there are many examples of this, and saying that there are better ways than using MDI is a chief example. The fact that if you are creating an interface in Visual Studio and want to use MDI is non-trival should speak volumes, but instead we are told to use tab views or a single document model.

What happens when I want users to be able to drag and drop multiple media types of different sources into an application window that they are working on? A tabbed interface doesn’t work in this situation, a single document window certainly doesn’t. How annoying. Thanks Microsoft. Perhaps I should make my application OS X based.

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