Do What I Mean

don't make me think

DWIM (‘Do What I Mean‘) computer systems attempt to anticipate what users intend to do, correcting trivial errors automatically rather than blindly executing users’ explicit but incorrect input. The term was coined by Lisp programmer Warren Teitelman in 1966. Teitelman’s DWIM package ‘correct[ed] errors automatically or with minor user intervention,’ similarly to a spell checker for natural language. Teitelman and his Xerox PARC colleague Larry Masinter later described this philosophy:

‘Although most users think of DWIM as a single identifiable package, it embodies a pervasive philosophy of user interface design: at the user interface level, system facilities should make reasonable interpretations when given unrecognized input. …the style of interface used throughout Interlisp allows the user to omit various parameters and have these default to reasonable values… DWIM is an embodiment of the idea that the user is interacting with an agent who attempts to interpret the user’s request from contextual information. Since we want the user to feel that he is conversing with the system, he should not be stopped and forced to correct himself or give additional information in situations where the correction or information is obvious.’

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