3/24/11

Elephant Post: What Software Do You Use That You Wish You Didn't Have To?

We go to work… we log on to our computers… we open up our standard software… then we shake our heads at how bad that software is, or how we really wish we could use something (anything!) other than this program. So, that was our question for you this week, what do you have to use, that you really wish you didn't. We received a number of different perspectives this week, from old legacy programs to server-based software that just doesn't quite understand what we need to accomplish in our day-to-day operations.

Enjoy the contributions, and scroll down below them to see next week's Elephant Post. If you enjoy reading other perspectives, then chime in with your own (it's easy!!) In fact, next week's question is almost the opposite of this week's. "What Software Do You Wish You COULD Use At Work?"



Megan Wiseman
Law Librarian
DBText

First off: my firm's version of DBText is a leftover dinosaur from the mid-nineties.  Yes: di-no-saur.  Those who came before me merely kept it going ... honestly I have no idea what the situation was: whether they looked for alternatives/updates or not.  Perhaps there was no buy-in from others regarding change.  And, yes, technically it works.  We're only using it as a catalogue which means the pressure to make a change is relatively low.
However, as a librarian, I am in the business of making information available, and our current setup effectively hides the catalogue from anyone except myself and my library assistant - talk about a terrible practice of information control!
But this isn't merely a "boy, have I got a bad piece of software" rant.  As I have said, the program is good and does what it promised.  In the 90s I am sure this was a great idea, but then, I didn't even have internet at home until around that time.  Putting it in perspective, I would do better having a card catalogue in the library: at least my patrons could use it!  Luckily, I have the option to change as long as I can cut through all the red tape.  Currently, I am looking into open source options - something our tech person is being very supportive on, despite the scary lack of documentation and details some open source software provide.  It's amazing how many little things can get in the way of choosing Koha or Evergreen...migration work aside.  So I guess I may have answered my question after all regarding why we've never changed this piece of software.  (Kudos to tech people everywhere!)


John Hafen
Lawyer
Microsoft Outlook


Outlook is both the most crucial and most despised piece of software in my practice. I am in it all day. But it is slow, bloated and constantly freezes (even after my recent computer upgrade).
Three simple improvements would vastly improve my Outlook experience: more speed, less freeze and better search functionality.


George Carter
Lawyer
Word, Windows


WordPerfect is a  much better word processor and Ubuntu is much better than Windows.  I want Google to put key strokes as WordPerfect's Alt-F7, Shift-F7, etc and reveal codes into its Docs.  Word is not for people who want to type starting with a blank document.


David Whelan
Information Pro
Lotus Notes


Lotus Notes is my work  e-mail client and, because e-mail is a primary communication and organization tool for me, Notes 8.5 is a negative drag on my productivity.  I know it's not an e-mail program, it's a database.  But that's no reason for it to offer the promise of e-mail management only to pull the carpet out, laughing, providing fewer features than Google Mail when it was in beta.  To be fair, how software is implemented across an enterprise, which may block or break features that are available, is part of the problem.  We have not fully implemented the latest version because it requires more powerful hardware than our PCs have.  Even the Web version(s -I am offered 3 interfaces when I log in, none of which offer the same suite of functions nor work in all browsers) are substandard, although at least they remove the hardware issues.
How bad?  Threaded messages often show the wrong messages in the threads, wrong topic, wrong senders/recipients.  If you sort by the subject line of messages, messages with "re:" or "fw:" are sorted by R or F, respectively, not the real subject line.  Some columns (like sender name) do not always sort, so you can scroll down sender names and find names out of alpha order.   It's not even that Lotus Notes is worse than Microsoft Outlook/Exchange.  It's that Notes isn't even as good as free e-mail clients like Thunderbird or Google Mail.  E-mail is such a cornerstone tool that when the e-mail client negatively impacts productivity, it should be tossed.


Fiorentino
Analyst
IE6


Until recently, my company had been on IE6, the biggest piece of garbage software I have ever used.  It rendered half the webpages properly. Just horrible.


K DeLia
Marketer
Lotus Notes

Enough just saying the name - no need to elaborate! I think we can all agree Outlook is a better corporate email system. While Lotus Notes, claims more security from hackers, etc., the sluggishness and multiple crashes are trying. Further, creating content management systems and centralized repositories in databases is just passé...


Ayelette Robinson
Knowledge Management
SharePoint

I have two bones to pick with SharePoint: (1) it's not user-friendly, and (2) it purports to be user-friendly. The first reason wouldn't be so bad if it was marketed as a tool for the technology-fluent. But the first reason in combination with the second really gets my goat. I know there are good enterprise and industry reasons to use SharePoint, but the trials and tribulations we all go through to get it to do what we want just doesn't seem right.


Stacey Burke
Lawyer/Marketer
Blackberry Email on Phone


Our firm does not have a Blackerry Enterprise Server therefore my emails are routed through some *place* online and dump a few at a time every 5 minutes or so.  I get them WAY too late.  The partners have mostly switched to iPhone and they get emails on their pda's before their desktops sometimes.  I simply cannot let go of the tactile Blackerry keypad so I have to keep it.  Yet each time I step away from my desk, even to travel down the hall to the main scanner, I know I am missing or experiencing an unnecessary delay on email web submissions from my sites.  It irks me.  We just upgraded to a 2010 Outlook Exchange Server.  I am told by our outsourced IT that it will impact our pda's but not what that means.  I wish I may, I wish I might that it might make my Blackerry emails more instant. I doubt it.  Rant over.


Toby Brown
AFA/KM
IE7


Based on some internal applications, I need to use IE7 daily.  Separately I run Chrome.  Watching these two browsers side-by-side was quite revealing.  IE7 is significantly slower and sometimes chokes on websites, etc.  One time I was having a problem with an internal app running in IE7, so on a whim I tried it in Chrome.  It worked fine there.
I assume upgrading to the newest version of IE would help alleviate some of this.  But then we would have compatibility problems with some of our apps.  And I recall hearing in the not-so-distant past how the next IE would no longer be slow and cumbersome.  So count me as a skeptic that upgrades are the answer.
So I suppose the real answer to the IE problem is: Chrome.


John Nann
Librarian
Word


Well, it's really a tie between IE, Outlook, and Word.  Why? Let's see: slow, clunky, slow, limiting, slow, susceptible to crashing, slow, susceptible to crashing, slow, constraining, and, let's see, yes, they're a little slow…


Kingsley Martin
Attorney & Software Developer
Security by hidden trick / Software that imports data easily, but makes it hard to extract


As a software developer, I should probably not throw stones. But, in this case, I’ll throw caution to the wind and offer a couple of bricks.
  1. Security by hidden trick. NT is known for its enhanced security. It’s frequently more of an enhanced waste of time. True security is not a matter of undisclosed tricks. For example, turning off wireless networking by default in Windows Server 2008—and without notification—simply wastes time. Selectively disabling javascript functions appears to be an example of the security maxim: “for your added protection, we haven’t told you that we disabled some javascript functions. Once you’ve discovered this nifty disabling feature, next guess which function calls we hobbled.” Fun for all the network engineers!
  2. Software that imports data easily, but makes it hard to extract. One of the most important principles of technology is that information has a longer live span than applications. Legal forms, for example,  can date back 100’s of years and will likely be handled by numerous successive applications making switching costs one of the most important considerations when choosing technology. A good example of this is Adobe PDF. Of course, you can’t place the entire blame on Adobe: who in their right mind creates an electronic document, prints it, signs it, and then scans it: without preserving the original electronic file! Companies are going to make millions OCR’ing these documents back into machine-readable form. This principle also has a cautionary lesson for law firms considering SharePoint. Each of the applications being built on the SharePoint platform will likely capture information that will be later be ported to some successor—perhaps cloud-based—app. Hopefully, this is not a case of déjà Lotus Notes all over again.


Next Week's Elephant Post:
What Software (or Hardware) Do You Wish You COULD Use At Work?
We've listed out a number of things that we hate to use this week, so we thought we'd turn the issue upside down and see what software, hardware, devices, etc. that you'd love to be able to use at work. I'm still trying to think of a really good reason to have NetFlix streamed to my work desktop, but I'm having a hard time coming up with a sustainable business reason… However, I do love using Chrome as my web browser and would love to be able to take advantage of some of the extensions that are offered on it or FireFox without my IT group coming down on me like a ton of bricks.

How about you? Got something you use at home, or have "unofficially" installed on your desktop? What makes it so useful that you think that IT should look the other way when they come to fix something on your computer?

As always, we put the form right here for you to fill out, but you can also:



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