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I’ve been writing some documents recently using Microsoft Word on my powerbook as well as on the Windows version of Word. I’ve noticed that the “save” icon that you click on to save your document is a picture of floppy disk. I don’t think I’ve used a floppy disk in the last year, and I’ll be honestly surprised if I do in the next year. Most file transfers I now done using USB Flash pen drives, over the networks, or using bluetooth. The floppy disk has had it’s day – the BBC have even done an R.I.P page for it.

But I guess there’s a usability dilemma here. Firstly, the floppy disk icon has now become synonymous with the Save function. It’s not used just in Word, but in many other applications as well (including all the Microsoft Office suite). So people have now associated the two, and changing the icon may cause confusion for users used to this. However, as time goes on, and a generation who have never used the 3.5 inch floppy disk emerge, the disk icon will lose meaning. I can picture a time in the not-too-distant future when there are “Did You Know” articles, explaining what the funny picture is on the Save icon of all their appllications. So should there be a move to change the icon, and make it more meaningful for the future population, all keep it? I guess it’ll probably be kept and just become a sign, in the same way that a triangle denotes “Warning” on road traffic signs – just an seemingly arbitrary image, that once was not arbitrary.

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