J. P. Gilliver (John) said:
Assuming I'm right and they've got the text next to "AND" wrong, the
syntax is fairly standard, apart from the keywords for author and so on.
I have to agree with Redrawn. There must have been some other
option available, than "unnatural language". Learning the quirky
syntax is fine for geeks - maybe a database administrator would
feel right at home. But, I'd have to ask "what would mom say
to all of this" ? That's my acid test for UI's. Ask a regular
user, who has enough trouble finding the power switch on the
computer, what they think about keeping "crib notes" handy
instead of having a real interface.
It's a trivial example, but look at the search in Thunderbird.
It has an option to "find any of the following items", which
is the same as OR. It has the option to "find all items",
which is AND. But because it explains these concepts
in plain English ("find any" or "find all"), my mom will be
able to figure that out. She isn't dumb. She just isn't
a database adminstrator. Or a rocket scientist. Or what
Microsoft thinks all users are - graduates of a four
year university CS program.
And while that particular interface isn't infinitely powerful,
I find it is good enough, and I can cobble together enough
of a search, to find what I'm looking for.
GUIs are nice, because they give the developer an opportunity
to "educate" the user or "guide" them in the right direction.
By organizing the search capabilities, or making the right
ones appear or disappear using option buttons, you can lead
people in a particular direction.
A GUI isn't just a flashy skin, or a stupid animation of
a paper clip doing paper clip aerobics. GUIs can do more than
that, in the hands of a gifted developer.