On Software

<Posted on it-toolbox.com>

My newest school assignment in Systems Analysis involves creating a flowchart and the professor suggested we use Inspiration, Webspiration, or Visio. He was quick to point out that Visio was in effect, the more difficult of the three. That's what I decided to use. In general, difficult means more powerful, and depending on just what you are doing, more powerful may mean easier. Now that I'm on the subject...

The way people select software to use is often strange. Over the years I can't remember how many times someone just had to have the newest version of a particular software product, because it had all the latest bells and whistles. Sometimes that is justifiable, but often it is just as puzzling.

One perplexing aspect has to do with all the features in a particular program that most people don't use, don't know how to use, and don't even know about. Another has to do with the speed of the new software, although most of the gains in productivity have to do with increasing user speed.
Then there are those who think that their computers will not work if it doesn't have the latest version. In many cases leads them to becoming disconnected because those they work with haven't upgraded. While there are some cases where older software will not work, this is primarily an obsolescence mentality. Yet, upgrading for compatibility often generates incompatibility.

In some cases, getting relatively up-to-date versions of a program has to do with stability. On one end, newer versions of a program are generally more stable. Additionally, older versions may not be supported.

However, the use of newer versions is also more restricted, and more demanding. Newer versions add a fraction of newer features but their size and system requirements multiply in size. Newer versions are also considerably less portable. With registration and activation considerations, it's not that easy to move a program from one system to another.

And the reason I'm decided on this subject...
when it comes to Microsoft software, there are frequent issues with installation. This is particularly true with Office products. While packages from other vendors generally install with no issues, Microsoft products have a lot of sibling rivalry. You can't have more than one version of Outlook, for example, and other products may not install while certain trial or beta versions are installed. When that is the case, the installs fail, without a suggestion about why it won't work.

I'm not too partial to just trying a bunch of things. My time is too valuable to waste on Microsoftisms. Last week my Visio 2007 installation failed. Among the suggestions were try uninstalling Office 2007 or maybe the Office 2007 beta. Knowing just how much stuff I have installed on my computer, I didn't even consider going down that rabbit trail. Instead, I installed Vision 2003. I also failed to get Visual Studio 2008 installed, possibly because of a beta install, an express install, or a trial version.

I mean, how hard can it be? They wrote the operating system. Other vendors can manage to write software that plays well with others; why can't Microsoft write software that plays well with its own siblings?

The most unfortunate thing about much general purpose software now is the fact that major vendors don't really care about individual users. They are counting on the ability to force their products on users, by negotiating with manufacturers and other software suppliers.

I guess they have to. With software development tools so readily available now, others are just giving the stuff away. Why? I suspect that some of these public programmers don't have the formal qualifications to get a programming job. But because they enjoy it so much, they write stuff for free. At least, that's what I've been doing for 20+ years. Think about the ramifications of that...

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