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“Default” Defined

I wrote this a few years ago but still find that many remain uneasy about the word “default.” 

A “default” sounds like a bad thing. And for good reason. Many of its definitions are about failure:

  • Failure to act; inaction or neglect.
  • Failure to meet financial obligations. 
  • Law. Failure to perform an act or obligation legally required, especially to appear in court or to plead at a time assigned. 
  • Sports. Failure to arrive in time for, participate in, or complete a scheduled match. 

But the computing definition of “default” isn’t about failure at all:

  • The preset selection of an option offered by a system, which will always be followed except when explicitly altered 
  • (as modifier) : Default setting

Huh?

The default settings in your computer are the settings that the computer programmers decided are your most typical choices. If you don’t like those choices, you can create new default settings.
For example:

  • On your printer, the “default” settings are the ones most of your documents require: “one copy, 8.5″ x 11″ paper, portrait orientation, and single sided.”
  • New Word documents, are set to an easy-to-read font (usually Arial, Calibri, or Times New Roman) and to a readable size (11pt or 12pt). The “default” color is black.
  • The “default” setting for the clock is the 12-hour format (AM and PM). If you prefer 24-hour military time, you can change the setting.
  • Your computer’s Task Bar (Windows) or Dock (Mac) is positioned by “default” along the bottom of your screen. If you prefer it along either side instead, you can change the setting.

Now when you hear the term “default” in reference to your computer, you will not think you have failed it. For once, it is not “de-fault” of the user. How refreshing!