What's the deal with all these programs that use hieroglyphs as their UI? Am I supposed to know what these mean? Are they supposed to be clearer than words?

So, I'm using this program and I want to zoom in. Once upon a time, there'd be an entry in one of the menus that says "Zoom". But not nowadays. Instead there's a toolbar with buttons with pictures on them. A-hah, a picture of binoculars, that must be to make things look bigger. Noooo, it's to search for text. Who came up with that? You use binoculars to look at stuff that's far away, not look for stuff that's at hand. What's wrong with the words "Search" or "Find"? Aren't they a lot clearer?

Often the documentation just assumes you can recognize these cryptic pictures. "Select the Measurement Tool". Which one is that? There's nothing that looks like a ruler or tape measure... Finally I discover that it's this thing that looks like a ladder or volcano or lovechild of the Angstrom symbol and Lambda, but is actually supposed to be dividers.

Many programs use a magnifying glass hieroglyph for zooming. Except then you encounter ones that use it for showing hidden content. A question mark? Often it means "help". Sometimes it means "hint". Every program you have to learn what its set of hieroglyphs mean. Sure there's conventions like "magnifying glass (usually) means zoom" to help you out, but you have to remember exceptions and which programs have which exceptions to add to the confusion. And there's no good reason to learn any of this! I already know English; just use that and save me the trouble!

We already tried the hieroglyph experiment 3000 years ago, and the result was that the alphabet was a much better idea. We'd never consider switching back to them for human-human communication. It's a shame that we haven't learned this lesson for human-computer communication.

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