Zero Versus the Letter O

Here’s the test:

Which is the letter O as in Oscar and which is the number zero?

  • o
  • O
  • 0

In case you couldn’t solve that little puzzle, here are the answers:

  • o – little letter
  • O – capital letter
  • 0 – number

Now imagine a few zeros and letters sprinkled in a large 25 character sequence of random letters and numbers.

This is exactly what I encountered this weekend as I tried to reinstall my Quicken financial software. I had to retype the software activation code and couldn’t distinguish the letter O from the number zero to save my life. Fortunately, after much trial and error, I guessed the right combination of letters and zeros.

On screen or typed, zero and the letter O are nearly impossible to distinguish side by side.

Play it safe and spare your customer some agony and eye strain. Don’t include both zeros and O’s when customers have to identify them on-screen or in printed type. Pay particular attention to activation keys and serial numbers since these random alphanumeric sequences are already very confusing.

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  • Demetrius Pinder

    How about companies getting away from users having to manually type in activation keys! I am waiting on the day that when I initially install a piece of software, it automagically activates over the Internet without me having to do anything.

    I work in IT fulltime and I can’t tell you how many Microsoft Office installation keys I have typed…..

  • Joe Rawlinson

    I agree! With technology today, customers shouldn’t be expected to jump through these manual hoops.

  • Pablo Palmeiro

    I agree and find interesting the principal comment.
    I have to pass through those kind of situations, when dowloading some music from Sendspace.
    If you are lucky enough to find a free slot to be able to download, then you will have to meet the challenge of guessing if the validation code has a “Zero” or an “O”.

    If you miss the opportunity, the process has to start again !!