Elliotte Rusty Harold has posted "Fielded Input Considered Harmful
," expressing an irritation with user interfaces that cater to the programmers' requirements and not the users' needs. He says we should hide our requirements from the user and make things easy for people to use.
The comments are also interesting: some mention a need for general information extraction components, that can be fed data and return reasonable information - although one person takes it a little far:
I can’t understand why my phone number can’t be input as "two hundred 2, nine five 5 (4 + 1), four thousand two hundred thirty-1."
Silly programmers, sheesh!
A later comment is a little more useful:
Good topic, very annoying stuff for the user to put up with. It seems like there should be standard UI widgets (or at least after-market OCX-type controls) that take care of the common cases. I must note that many of the Microsoft products are pretty flexible this way. Various apps in the Office suite will accept measurements in "in" or "pi" or "li". Outlook is quite flexible this way, too. And Streets & Trips does very, very well in parsing. You can often copy and paste in a formatted address from a web page and get the results you want.
Shouldn't Java have a workable library to convert common (and less common, perhaps) expressions? If you know of one, where is it, and why isn't it being used more?