'Stupidware' nominations gratefully accepted
by Alan Zisman
(c) 1999. First
published in Vancouver Computes,
First, there was just-plain software. Later, shareware
developed. In the 1990s, users started complaining about
that took up tens or hundreds of megabytes of drive space while
older versions that could fit on a humble floppy disk.
And the ?90s also brought us just plain ?Warez?for
pirated over the Internet.
I?d like to add one more X-ware to the list. My humble
You?ve all seen it. Programs, often expensive software
companies that insists on doing things its way, regardless of how you
to work with your computer.
Some things I?d like to gripe about include:
- All those programs that will only install onto your
C: drive, even if
have other drives available. Or won?t let you choose a folder name or
Even worse are programs that allow you to install them into an
location, but then won?t run properly (ATI?s Video Player is one of
- Programs that insist on cluttering your Windows
Start Menu with yet
sub-menu dedicated to just their program (and perhaps its silly Readme
file and Help file. Does anyone actually access a program?s Help file
the Start Menu)? Better-designed software, like Electronic Arts? games
show you a list of your current submenus, and let you choose to put
icons there. In some cases, you can force icons into a submenu?type the
menu?s name followed by a backslash?replace ?Jedi Knight? with
Knight? to put the icons into a Jedi Knight folder inside your existing
- Programs that don?t let you choose between
different setup alternatives
like Minimum, Typical, or Custom installations. Or don?t give you
information to choose between the options, or make the choices actually
meaningful. Netscape Navigator, for instance, gives several options,
none of them let you choose not to install the AOL Chat program or
e-mail program?even if you?re using alternatives ICQ or a different
- Speaking of AOL Chat, it not only gets dumped onto
your hard drive, but
it insists on starting up automatically, using up system resources and
space on your Taskbar tray. And it?s not loaded with an easily-removed
Startup icon?it takes messing with the dread Windows Registry to make
go away for good.
- And that leads to all those other programs that
lurk in the background.
Maybe you even want them there? but in too many cases, they insist on
their little icon in the tray. Do you really need a visual reminder
they?re running, taking up space? I like the little speaker icon
I can easily adjust volume levels. And a few others are useful for when
I want to change the program setup. Kudos to programs like McAfee
for including the ability to turn off the tray icon, if you don?t want
it. And all the rest of those unwanted little icons deserve the name
(If you?ve got unremovable tray icon clutter, you may want to get
the free TrayManager from: zdnet.com/swlib/pcmutil.html.
tray icon that can store other tray icons, reducing clutter
- Then there are all those programs that dump a bunch
of files into your
main Windows and Windows\System folders, often replacing newer, more
versions of those files along the way. This is a major reason why
suddenly stop working. Kudos to programs like Jasc PaintShop Pro where
the Setup program offers to backup any files it over-writes. And shame
on Microsoft for allowing this ridiculous situation to arise in the
place. (Though Windows 98 does a much better job of checking the
of common shared files when it starts up). The Mac equivalent, by the
is stupid extensions, which can interfere with one another.
- Then there are the programs that ignore common
conventions of how the
or Mac user interface works. For years, for example, Windows users
count on the keyboard shortcut Alt+F/X to exit a program. With Windows
95, Microsoft changed that to use Close instead of Exit to shut down
system windows. Sometimes. Even within Windows 95/98, some shut down
a Close command, while others use Exit. Come on, Microsoft!
An interesting collection of poor user interface designs is on display
on the Web in the Interface Hall of Shame: www.iarchitect.com/mshame.htm.
Microsoft seems to have garnered the most ?awards? in
If you have nominations for the ?stupidware?
let me know? maybe we can have our own awards celebration.
Alan Zisman is a
Vancouver educator, writer, and computer specialist. He can be reached
at E-mail Alan