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The project wizard

Here’s something I find software increasingly doing that irritates me a little bit: the startup project wizard. For an example, look at just modern programming IDEs like PyCharm, RAD gamedev tools like Unity and GameMaker Studio and even newer versions of the pentesting-focused HTTP proxy tool Burpsuite. Open any of these programs and you’ll be greeted by a project wizard.

Before you can actually use the program to do any programming/gamedev/traffic interception/etc, you have to go through a bunch of menus to create a new project with a name, save location and whatever other metadata. So every time you open the program, there’s this big up-front commitment where you have to officially commence a new capital-P Project – give it a name and a directory, file its licence forms in triplicate, and have the mayor break the foundation ground, lay the first brick and smash the bottle of champagne.

All this regardless of whether you’re actually starting something permanent or just want to muck around or do a quick experiment.

create or open project

Commit.

In older versions of both GM and Burpsuite, opening the program would take you directly to the main interface, and you could immediately get started on actually using the program. If you were just doing something quick and informal, you could get it done and then close the program, dismissing any “not saved” warnings and leaving no mess to clean up later. If you were actually starting a project, you could Save As… once you’d done a bit of work and knew it to be worth doing so. And if you wanted to open a new project, well, there was always Open…, Open Recent… or the magic of application-associated filetypes.

Now, Burpsuite does offer a “start a temporary project” option for just such circumstances, but you still need to click through at least two menus, whereas before you could just open the program and get right into it. The project feature does have some advantages over the old state-saving system, but most of them could have been implemented without an irritating interface redesign.

Project on Startup makes a bit more sense for things like Visual Studio, where you obviously need to specify that this project is a C# console app rather than a GUI written in Visual Basic or some F# thing. It kinda makes sense in Unity too, where you need to decide whether your game is going to be 2D or 3D. But in these other programs I’ve been talking about, none of the choices or config options should have to be made upfront.

It really feels like these interface changes were made because they existed in other, somewhat similar programs rather than because of any organic need for them. Like, “startup wizards” are the hot fashion right now or something. And this irritates me a lot more than it probably should.