Gimme back my PAUP* menus!
One of the most unheralded breakthroughs in DNA sequence analysis–and, in particular, phylogenetics–was PAUP*. PAUP* is software that uses morphology or DNA sequence to construct phylogenies; that is, how organisms are related to another**.
Originally, PAUP* was only Mac compatible. The 4.0 version had all sorts of nice pull down menus and little buttons to click. Not only did this make it an exceptional teaching tool, but it was also easy to use. The Intel-Mac, PC, and Unix versions operate through a command line (and the documentation for the command line isn’t very good).
I realize if you’re doing heavy-duty analysis such as running one analysis after other, or taking data from a Unix-based program and scripting it over, the command line is the way to go. But if I’m just running a single analysis, menus and key commands are simpler (and if I haven’t used PAUP* for a while, I waste time trying to remember all the stupid things I have to toggle).
There’s another issue too: accessibility. If a program is easy to use, more people will use it. A lot of biologists aren’t that computer savvy, and the command line is another entry barrier. Related to this, there’s no reason why the personal interface can’t be more human friendly. For those who argue that you can’t ‘get under the hood’ with menus, with a good menu driven software package, this shouldn’t matter.
I like the menus. Bring ’em back.
**Of course, if you’re a complete fucking moron who believes that TEH DARWINISMZ R EVIL then I suppose this doesn’t matter.