Home software – A general warning..

Published on: Author: Mike Hall Leave a comment

Following on from my previous post re To do lists, Calendars etc..

The problem with feature-rich‘home user’ applications like Noto where you have to pay is this. You get used to using them, store a great deal of information in them, and then wake up one day to find that the software developer has lost interest and no longer supports the application for the operating system to which you want to upgrade. Free stuff has less functions to which one gets attached but the same may apply. It’s upgrade time..

And it gets worse..

I remember buying American Greetings Create-a-Card 2 a few years ago. The interface was designed to hold a child’s attention, but it was actually a very good program which allowed the printing or emailing of greetings cards. Broderbund got a hold of it and subsequent versions were nothing short of nasty. More than a few feel this way about the evolution of Microsoft Office and the ‘ribbon’.

While many applications can export data in a variety of formats, very few import different formats in the way one would expect, and you find data in the wrong places, wrong headings and generally it is all a mess. You can spend hours trying to rectify the import problems, and it is probably best to do it over time.

Even the big boys..

Three examples of defunct but well loved programs:

  1. Microsoft Picture-It – most used version probably Picture-It 2001 – last version released in 2005. as Picture-It 2006. Users of this program can’t find anything current which comes close to it for functionality and ease of use.
  2. Microsoft Money  – most used version probably Money 2004 as it was bundled with many computers at that time – last version was released in 2007 and was called Money Plus – there will be no future versions released.
  3. Intuit Quicken – used by many since its first appearance worldwide – still available in the USA and Canada, but the UK and other versions discontinued in 2005 with no future versions planned

Home users have found themselves stranded and with no way out or forwards, and these are big name applications, not the results of a hobbyist programmer.

Applications aimed at the business users are more likely to be continued, or the developers risk losing the confidence of their commercial user base, but these same applications are not ‘fun’ to use, and tend to be too feature-overloaded for home users. The price also puts the average home user off.

Alternatives..

Yes, of course there are always alternatives and open source, BUT..

The users of the above programs had use of them from end of the 90’s halfway through the first decade of the new millennium. In  ‘computer’ years, that is close to an eternity. Alternatives are NEVER the same, and often lack features and functionality of the original programs.

For the above reasons, I tend to stay away from a great deal of home user stuff. I use the simple stuff in Windows mainly, and even that changes over time and not always for the best. Notable examples:

  • Outlook Express
  • Windows Media Player
  • Windows Classic Menu

I hate the new versions. Outlook Express was maybe riddled with bugs, but it had some very useful features which are sorely missed by many. Windows Mail was passable at a pinch if you didn’t mind losing the ‘switch users’ function, but Windows Live Mail is a disaster in motion.

Re Windows Media Player, I only play music one at a time, and I never open WMP up to find music anymore. I use Windows Explorer for that.. WMP has been nasty since version 6, in my opinion.

I have aired my views about the demise of the Windows Classic Menu in a variety of newsgroups and forums, but in case you missed them, I will recap

The Windows Classic Menu was more than the default look as seen in Windows 9x/ME/XP/Vista. You could mess with the order, and create new folders which could be promoted to top of the list, while hiding lesser stuff in the default ‘Programs’ folder. Yes, it took a little work at first, but it could be saved and re-introduced if a re-install of Windows was required, and it was easy to see what other important applications and utilities needed to installed after a major recovery.

The Windows 7 menu requires type input for stuff, and the default menu can’t be organised in the same way. The menu annoyingly adds icons to the menu, displacing what is already there, which forces the user to then have to decide which of the items is less used and to summarily UNPIN them.

The Windows Classic Menu workarounds are complete shams of the original and not worth anything at all. The basic functions of an operating system should be infinitely customizable to suit any user but, as time goes by, Microsoft are forcing changes. The developers have way too much time on their hands, and their ‘flights of fancy’ ideas and implementations take away usability and function without any regard for the people who are going to use MS stuff. If they want to leave their ‘mark’ in life, I have a few suggestions for them, none of which I can disclose here.. 

OK.. you can now ‘stand easy’. This blogger has left the building.. (-:

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