There's already a question for WebApp gotchas, but there are also a lot of anti-patterns in desktop UIs.

  • Not sure that "pet peeves" directly leads to anti-patterns, though. – Rahul Aug 26 '10 at 21:03

19 Answers 19


Applications stealing focus when I'm working in a different app. For example: start Photoshop, get back to work in MS Word, Photoshop steals focus when it's done starting. Quite annoying

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    "Please don't steal my focus" by Jeff Atwood: codinghorror.com/blog/2007/12/please-dont-steal-my-focus.html – Pau Giner Sep 26 '11 at 13:03
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    This is exactly what I was going to say. Focus stealing is a travesty in Mac OS. – Todd Sieling Jan 3 '12 at 18:06
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    @ToddSieling It's just as bad in Windows. Every morning I open Outlook and Chrome and have this experience. Outlook steals the focus away from Chrome (usually twice) as it loads. – Kris Harper Jan 4 '12 at 14:48

Having a gazillion options in there settings that's impossible to navigate. I always felt like internet explorer was bad about this:


  • Yep, definitely! – Dan Barak Aug 26 '10 at 21:01
  • GSto, can I edit your answer to add another example? – Dan Barak Aug 26 '10 at 21:06
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    Interestingly (for me), when this dialog first came up I fell in love with checkbox lists... – Leonardo Herrera Aug 27 '10 at 2:52
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    Notepad++ is pretty bad, too. – DisgruntledGoat Sep 1 '10 at 16:01
  • I can't believe IE STILL uses this menu! – Ben Brocka Sep 26 '11 at 13:05

Apps that don't follow the OS' conventions, such as apps that minimise to an icon in the tray when you click "close", or apps that add themselves to startup automatically without asking/notifying you. It's a UI problem because any competent UI designer would scream in anguish at the implied end user fury resulting from implementing something like that.

I know I do. Every time!

  • Microsoft's own apps (e.g. Media Player, MSN messenger, IE) were horrible for ignoring OS theme and UI behaviour settings, back in the XP days when I last used Windows. Could never figure out why they'd go to the effort of having an OS-wide theme engine, just to ignore it and have redundant inconsistent themes in every one of their apps. – Mark K Cowan Jun 18 '19 at 13:39

Creating a notification area icon for an application that doesn't run in the background (e.g. Opera and VLC).

  • I hate outlook because of a combination of this and it NOT doing what @Rahul said...shouldn't a mail app be a service? It's notification options are useless because it's notification icon isn't a service. – Ben Brocka Sep 26 '11 at 13:07

Modal windows and dialog boxes! I've got ten different programs running and all of a sudden some application way in the background decides to spawn one of these things. Now I've got to stop what I'm doing since I can't get any more work done until I click OK or Cancel.

  • This is one of my biggest pet peeves - anything that interrupts my workflow is just bad design. – RussellUresti Aug 27 '10 at 19:00

Applications ask for System Restart once updating software is complete. This is annoying as user might have just started sytem.

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    This is not a UI issue. It's a software engineering issue. Some software need the system to restart to function properly. It doesn't know and it doesn't care if you just restarted. – Tony_Henrich Aug 28 '10 at 23:52
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    @Tony_Henrich: Unless the software is something very low level (like a driver), the software should be considered broken. – Zifre Aug 29 '10 at 21:01
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    This is mostly just a problem with Windows because it doesn't let you overwrite files while they are in use. – Christoffer Hammarström Oct 5 '10 at 11:44
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    @Zifre I had this once with a printer driver. I forced quit the installer and the driver worked just fine without a reboot. – rightfold Sep 26 '11 at 17:12

Windows application that when closed with the "x" are instead minimized to the tray and force you to right click their icon and choose "Exit" (and then sometimes add the "Are you sure?" dialog).

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    I actually like this feature for apps that you would like to have in the background, as long as you can set it. – Sruly Aug 26 '10 at 21:16
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    Well, Skype for example adds another button for that and doesn't change the behavior of the "x"... – Dan Barak Aug 26 '10 at 21:18
  • I constantly close Skype when I don't mean too, and I like the fact the TweetDeck doesn't close. #subjective – Sruly Aug 26 '10 at 21:28
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    Personally, I hate it when the minimise button minimises it to the tray. – Gelatin Aug 26 '10 at 22:32
  • Spotify is another example – Naoise Golden Jan 3 '12 at 18:02

Applications that ask you to upgrade when you first launch them. When you open an application you usually have a task in mind that you need that application to complete. This is just about the worst possible time to interrupt the user and ask them to complete an upgrade process.

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    +1 - I've seen some programs that now download the upgrade in the background while you're working, and offer to install the upgrade when you go to close the application. Much nicer UX. – Bevan Aug 27 '10 at 4:23
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    In some cases the upgrade could be for a serious security issue and they really want you to upgrade ASAP. – Tony_Henrich Aug 28 '10 at 23:54

Splash screens while launching a program. These splash screens have a bad habit of staying on top of every other window until loading is done. Loading may take ages, so it's not possible to use any other windows in the meantime.

  • Try to click at a splash screen. – Mike L. Sep 26 '11 at 14:28

Application alerts/dialogs that prevent my Taskbar in Windows from auto-hiding.


Lotus Notes. Just everything about it.


On the Mac, a pet peeve of mine is that the Resize handle on the lower-right corner is so small. I regularly—unintentionally—click something in the background, causing loss of focus on the window I was attempting to resize. Now I usually remember to slow down and be very pointed (pun) while mousing to the Resize handle.

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    Related to this: the fact that windows can only be sized by using the grab handle (or Resize handle, as Mac calls it), instead of by any window edges, the way Windows' windows can. In fact, the whole sizing task—especially when maximizing—on the Mac is about GUI excise, paid in time and loss of flow. – JeromeR Aug 29 '10 at 7:18
  • I love Ubuntu's Alt+wheel-click to resize windows easily. You just need to be in the vague corner area to drag by that corner. – DisgruntledGoat Sep 1 '10 at 16:07
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    @JeromeR: This is not the case for the lastest version of OSX (Lion or wha't it called). – Bart Gijssens Sep 26 '11 at 12:54

I find it frustrating when a desktop app deliberately limits itself to working like a web page (note: not a web application, but a web page).

Web pages are limited by bandwidth and latency constraints - why replicate the same constrained user experience when you're locally installed. Madness.

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    Can you expand on this, or give an example? – Jon of All Trades Apr 18 '13 at 14:48
  1. Adobe Reader puts its icon back to desktop after each update.
  2. Windows Vista/7 reboots your computer after update silently and aggressively after short period of time if you are not there and cannot postpone it.
  3. Antivirus software that notifies me that is has updated successfully (it’s your assumed behavior dammit!).
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  4. This a-z sorting just drives me crazy: enter image description here
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    +1 for your fourth item with Windows Control Panel. It's sooo difficult to get an overview of. :( – agib Sep 26 '11 at 14:27

My app is the only one my users will be running, so since it is a desktop app I can use all the resources I want.

Problem: at this specific moment I have; 2 IE windows with about 10 tabs each 2 Visual studio windows, TweetDeck, 1 Chrome with a few tabs, Total Commander, Skype, Google Talk, 2 cassini instances and AV software. (for some reason I don't have any Office apps open at this moment but I usually do, and when I am testing I usually have 5 browsers running)


Modal dialog boxes that have to tell me what the buttons mean. For example, when closing an unsaved document you frequently get something like this:

Your document has not been saved! Click "OK" to save the document before closing. Click "Cancel" to return to document editing.

[OK] [Cancel]

The alternative, of course, is to explicitly label the buttons; e.g. [Discard Changes and Exit], [Save Changes and Exit], etc.


Hm, I have a Dell laptop at work, with a docking station. Windows XP displays a stupid "Undock" button in the start menu, right below "All Programs." Constantly I hit that hell pit and it "undocks" my computer, closing all my network connections while at it and forcing me to physically extracting the laptop from the docking bay (having to remove a physical lock we are enforced to use here) and... you get the picture.

  • Buy an HP instead... ;) I never had such issues with it. – Robert Koritnik Sep 26 '11 at 13:00

Inconsistant keyboard shortcuts for common tasks.

One example: Microsoft products and browsers, advancing through sentences one word at a time (alt-left/right) and jump to end of line (ctl-left/right). In Adobe software ctl-left/right moves one word at a time, and alt-left/right adjusts kerning.

Gets me every time. Why would you create software that breaks such basic conventions?


Taskbar keeps being hidden for no obvious reason1 even though I've moved my mouse to the bottom of the screen.

1: No window is being displayed on top+maximised and no modal window is being displayed.

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