I don't think this question is worthless to this site. While it has a misleading title ("Why use dropdowns over textboxes in this case" would be better) I had thought it worth answering. I ask that you consider reopening it.

I think the best case I can make is to simply show the answer I would have given:

This is for mouse driven people. Keyboard driven people can still type.

Back in the day, when Apple was first selling computers that came with mice, Microsoft sold Windows to people who didn't have mice, yet. Because of that MS designed Windows so that it could work with and without a mouse. They continue this tradition of supporting both even today.

That is the mentality behind what you see here. Yes, a text field could stand in here. Yes, it could also reject invalid input without an error message. But by doing it this way it's supporting both keyboard and mouse driven people. Even if that isn't all that obvious to the keyboard people.

If you're wondering where to find this date calculator, and you're keyboard driven like me:

Press ⊞ Win+R then type: calc Enter. Once the calculator launches press alt+H and press until Date Calculation is highlighted, then press Enter.

If Difference between days is highlighted press until Add or subtract days is highlighted. Then press Tab until the Days dropdown is highlighted.

At that point you can type in a number without getting distracted by a bunch of other numbers. All without touching the mouse. It's almost, but not quiet, like using a textbox. No blinking cursor, no Backspace. But you can type.

You can also do all this with only 8 clicks of the mouse, which keeps the mouse driven people happy. A textbox would force them to touch the keyboard.

  • 404 error? This Q is only 2 weeks old. Did someone delete so it couldn't be reopened?
    – Nate T
    Commented Dec 27, 2020 at 6:03

2 Answers 2


The proposed answer is well-written, but the question is one that cannot be answered with facts or citations unless you happen to work a Microsoft and have access to information about design decisions made during the creation of the Calculator.

From the opinion-based close reason:

Update the question so it can be answered with facts and citations.

From the Help Center article on what types of questions should be avoided:

You should only ask practical, answerable questions based on actual problems that you face.


Constructive subjective questions:


  • invite sharing experiences over opinions
  • insist that opinion be backed up with facts and references

I don't see how the general population of software engineers can provide an authoritative answer to why Microsoft designed the user interface the way they did, using their experiences or references. We have a history of closing questions that require a particular person or a member of a particular group to answer authoritatively as opinion-based.

  • 1
    Archeologists still provide insights on what they find without being able to talk to the people their work focuses on. We can talk about the apparent design of the calculator without talking to the designers. I made no claim to see what’s in their heads. I’m discussing what I see and showing it to others. I do know that the design of the calculator influences other developers apps because it influenced mine. Commented Dec 13, 2020 at 17:16
  • 1
    On the other hand, on User Experience, they have a bunch of UX specialists that may be able to provide analysis, research, studies, etc. Commented Dec 13, 2020 at 18:21
  • 2
    related explanation at MSO
    – gnat
    Commented Dec 13, 2020 at 20:30

I think the question might be rewritten in a way it does not give the - maybe wrong - impression it requires mindreading in the heads of Microsoft designer's. One could ask about which UI control to pick for a specific category of requirements, where the Windows calculator is just an example.

However, such a question would still better suited for User Experience, because it is really an UI design question, and their community does not seem to be so picky as ours about what is "too opinionated".

  • Windows calculator isn't just an example. It's THE example. It's what each generation of Windows app developers follows. On what line does the OP ask about the thoughts of Microsoft? I'd edit the question myself if someone made this clear. Once this accusation is made I don't see how to defend against it. Are we never allowed to ask why? If I asked you why socks have a hole in one end would you tell me to ask the designer of the sock? How can we talk about design and ignore why you'd use it? The authoritative answer is to teach them how to put on a sock. Commented Dec 14, 2020 at 14:44
  • As for UE.SE I don't like using them as a dumping ground any more than I like StackOverflow using us as a dumping ground. I'm fighting for our soul, not theirs. Commented Dec 14, 2020 at 14:48
  • 1
    @candied_orange: IMHO this is clearly an UI question. You can still post your answer on UE.SE when the OP decides to move the question over. And I don't see a big risk of UE.SE becoming our "dumping ground", I think we get only very few real UI questions here.
    – Doc Brown
    Commented Dec 14, 2020 at 15:11
  • regardless of the UI issue, I’m trying to determine if I’m being told to close any question that asks why unless it can be answered with citations. Therefore being able to show why directly is not sufficient. That’s what I’m hearing from Thomas Owens. Commented Dec 19, 2020 at 18:21
  • @candied_orange: I would not overinterpret what Thomas Owens wrote - and you should ask him directly, not me. I think questions about design decisions for a specific product are double edged. If the decisions seem to be well made, there might be a well-known design principle behind them, and the question can probably answered without being one of the creators/authors. If a decision not obvious or looks obscure, and there is no background information available, then it is pretty pointless for anyone else but the authors to give an answer.
    – Doc Brown
    Commented Dec 21, 2020 at 8:31
  • ... and in this case, for the question's OP the design decision looks obscure, but you think you see a well-known design principle behind it (offering the freedom of choice between using the mouse or the keyboard). I guess there could be even an ISO or IEEE standard for UI design which mentions this, maybe the experts on UX.SE know it. Unfortunately, my request for migration of the question was declined.
    – Doc Brown
    Commented Dec 21, 2020 at 8:39

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