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 Volume 1.23  This View’s Guest Column July 15, 2002 

Meddlesome Software
    Anthony Woodlief    

Here’s an example of what irritates me about the endless stream of software “upgrades” that yearly hurl themselves at my computers. I’m now working with Microsoft Word 2002. I’m building an outline. Whenever I hit “Tab” to indent a bullet, Word automatically converts my bullet point from a nice black dot into a sissified “o”, and indents it about half a mile. My old Word didn’t do this. My old Word knew its place. The new Word suffers from the delusion that it is my collaborative partner. The democratic workplace has finally come to my computer, and I don’t like it one bit.

So here’s what I’m wondering: did the people at Microsoft conduct a survey that I got left out of, wherein they asked lots of customers who make outlines whether they preferred this postmodern indentation system to the old method of indenting a quarter-inch and leaving the freaking bullet point alone?

I’m thinking not. I think instead some poor sap was instructed by headquarters to churn out yet another version of the software, so they can sell it in bulk for way too much money to thousands of IT purchasers desperate not to spend less than last year and thereby have next year’s budget cut, so their service personnel can then take up my valuable work time installing the new beast on my computer, so I can in turn spend more time trying to do my job. Said poor sap looks at the current version of Word, verifies that it still puts letters on the screen in pretty much 100% correspondence to what one types, and sits there, befuddled, perhaps for hours. Then he begins to tinker with the program, desperately looking for anything that will enable Microsoft to pretend that they’ve contributed to the GNP by developing a “new” version of their software.

So, millions of man-hours later, Poor Sap has been promoted, while I sit in front of my computer, trying to do what I used to do perfectly well on a much older version of Word, only now I feel like a bomber pilot weaving through bursts of flak in the form of an excessively peppy paper clip creature who occasionally pops up to ask whether I’d like help writing my letter, squiggly lines under my text to alert me to my repeated (and relished) violations of sixth-grade writing style and politically correct language, and compulsory auto-formatting of things I don’t want formatted, especially by someone whose sense of style is akin to Martha Stewart on crack. In short, I’m getting insight into why so many people enjoyed seeing Microsoft on the receiving end of the overreaching Clinton Anti-Trust Division’s poker stick — it wasn’t because they were all jealous of Bill Gates, it was because they hate, as any freedom-loving American would, the repeated intrusions on their thoughts and productivity generated by Microsoft’s hyperactive, “interactive” software.

I hope the periodic retro trends that afflict American products will soon visit office software, perhaps in the form of a “classic” Office package that is just plain less, well, meddlesome. Now that’s a new and improved product I could get behind. And I’m sure my IT guy would be willing to buy it, so long as the price is high enough.

Sand in the Gears
June 21, 2002

© Anthony Woodlief 2002. Used with permission.

    Webpage ELC 2002    

 Volume 1.23 This View’s Guest Column July 15, 2002 

The View from the Core, and all original material, © E. L. Core 2002. All rights reserved.

Cor ad cor loquitur J. H. Newman — “Heart speaks to heart”