In my many years as a desk guy, I’ve grown to loathe many software programs. Office 98? Formatting a large Word document was impossible, as whole sections of text would suddenly change formats with no explanation. The old version of Corel Photobucket I had in about 1998 wasn’t so good either, and used to crash quite frequently. I’ve long since given up on AppleWorks — Apple’s do-everything software that does nothing well. It can’t even open a simple one-page Excel worksheet without moving all the information around.
Currently, I’m hating the new version of Quark Express. Laying out the paper on Wednesday afternoons is a frustrating experience, thanks to version 7.1.
First of all, Quark’s paranoia about someone stealing its software has resulted in a crazy licensing administration system that never resets itself unless you reset the whole survey. As a result I keep getting a license error that means I have to unplug my computer’s Ethernet connection, restart Quark in emergency mode, then plug back in to get on the server.
The software also has an irritating habit of crashing when you import large JPEG images, or there’s an issue with fonts. When programs on Apple computers crash you get the dreaded pinwheel of death, which usually means you have to do a manual restart that can take five minutes or more.
My Style Sheets also keep changing on me, not being able to reconcile the difference between the fonts used to create our master pages and the fonts on my computer. We have the same fonts, but keep them in different places.
Lastly, whole files are prone to disappearing when saved to the server, with no explanation and no way to retrieve them. The problem has become so bad that we now save copies of the files we’re working on to our desktops, although sometimes we forget and have to lay out the same section twice.
I also seem to have some printer issues, although they may be unrelated to Quark. A little while ago all the files that never printed over the past two years started printing all at once, stored somewhere in the memory of my computer or the memory of the printer. Hundreds of pages worth came out before we realized there was an issue.
The problem lies with the fact that the new version of Quark was designed to work with the new Apple computers that have Intel processors. Since we’re a few years away from replacing our computers — something we’ll have to do all at once for our software to be compatible — we have to use the ported version of Quark for PowerPCs which is buggy as hell. Soon companies will stop making ported versions of their software for our Macs, and we’ll be forced to switch over. The cost will be enormous, given the expense of replacing all that productivity and graphics software.
It seems like I’m not the only person that can’t get along with his software. Type “worst software ever” into Google and you get about 13,200,000 hits.
It’s not that our expectations are all that high — we just want our software to work consistently, without crashing, without annoyances.
How do we know if a program works? The best place to go for advice is Downloads.com and Tucows.com. These download services include customer reviews for most popular software, and some software has garnered hundreds of reviews. Cnet.com, which runs Downloads.com, is a good source for expert reviews, as well as Zdnet.com, a site for Information Technology professionals.
Unfortunately we can’t go back to the old version of Quark, and the new version does have a few perks like a built-in photo-editing application. Still, I can only hope they get 7.2 right — I’ll be waiting.
Website of the Week
Google Earth is one of coolest, and surprisingly, most useful programs to come out in a long time, and it keeps getting better with the addition of higher resolution photographs. You can literally see cows grazing. PC World ( www.pcworld ) recently ran an article called In Pictures: The Strangest Sights in Google Earth that’s worth checking out. I’d give you the URL for the story, but PC World has a crazy archiving system and I don’t have all day to type the address. Use the Search window to find it.