Why Are Progress Bars Wrong So Often?

Mature Amateur

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  1. You seem to be under the impression a progress bar reflects actual progress instead of being yet another busy indicator. Progress bars in far more libraries than I like are optimized for perception of progress. For example one of the more commonly used ones in installer software uses a delay the start then show progress exponentially. In other words just a dumb animation that gives you the impression it's doing something but not how much of that something is done. Do some searching of progress bar algorithms for programmers and you find a variety of stupid "tricks" in the wild. Rarely do you see anyone actually reflecting progress with a progress bar.

  2. The real reason no one makes better progress bars is because no one refuses to buy software because of an inadequate progress bar. There is 0 financial incentive to make progress bars better.

  3. I typically just build double progress bars. One for overall progress and one for the individual step… but as you correctly pointed out, these bars take way too long to build considering that they don't actually add any functionality! The only use is to let the user know that the program didn't "freeze".

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