July 10th, 2008 • 1:35 pm
A short while ago, Adobe released a stand-alone updater for InDesign CS3 (version 5.0.3). Today, I got around to downloading it and installing it on my machine.
I expected yet another lousy experience with Adobe’s Mac OS X software, and I was not disappointed. After the customary request for my administrator’s password (without even an attempt to explain why the password is required), I was greeted by this dialog:
There are so many things wrong with this dialog that it is not funny.
First of all, as far as I know, shutdown is not a verb in English. The correct spelling is shut down, with a space.
Second, the proper terminology in Mac OS X is to quit an application, not to shut it down. The verb shut down and the noun shutdown are reserved for the process of turning the whole machine off—which Adobe implicitly confirms by using quit in the same sentence to describe what will happen if I hit the “Cancel” button. (I suppose that a sentence such as “Please shutdown the following applications and click Retry or click Cancel to shutdown.” would have been a bit much, even by Adobe’s standards.)
Speaking of which, I don’t think that it is acceptable, in a Mac OS X application, to refer to button labels without putting quotation marks around the text labels. And normally the button’s text labels should chosen in a way that does not require the text of the dialog box to explain which button to push in the first place.
Then there is the horrible-looking list of applications, with an I-beam cursor underneath it no less, as if the user was invited to start typing to add to the list. I can see that Adobe’s engineers chose this type of list because they figured that they could not anticipate the exact number of applications that would have to be shutdown quit, and so they could not anticipate the exact height of the text in the dialog box. I am not a developer, but it seems to me that Mac OS X does have flexible UI controls for this, which enable the developer to put placeholders in his dialog box design that will be replaced by the actual text, and the entire height of the dialog box will be adjusted automatically.
I might be wrong about this, but surely there is a solution that looks better than this horrible scroll box. In addition, Adobe’s engineers were not even able to calculate the height of the box itself properly, as is evidenced by the fact that the top edge of the first item in the list is cropped off.
Finally, the screen shot above clearly demonstrates that there is no default button in this dialog box. Fortunately for mouse-impaired users, the dialog box supports Full Keyboard Access, which means that you can use the Tab key to put the focus on the desired button and then press Space to activate it. But still: in such a dialog box, one of the buttons should be in pulsating blue, and the user should be able to activate it simply by pressing the Return key.
But I am just scratching the surface here. The real issue is with the existence of this dialog box in the first place. Why on earth does an updater for InDesign require me to quit both Photoshop and all my web browsers?
I could maybe understand the requirement to quit Photoshop. InDesign and Photoshop are part of the same suite of applications, and maybe they both make use of some core architecture that the InDesign updater will update.
But Safari? Camino?
The only reason that I could see for this is if the InDesign updater included an update for the PDF Internet plug-in that comes with Adobe Reader. But there is absolutely no indication that it does. And if it did, then the least it could do is to offer the user a choice between installing the updated plug-in or not.
Besides, this totally ignores the fact that Safari comes with its own ability to display PDF documents in a web browser window. For those who desire this functionality, there is no need for a third-party Internet plug-in, especially one that is designed by Adobe and that causes Safari to crash all the time.
Personally, I prefer to download PDF files separately and to open them in Preview. So I removed the Adobe PDF plug-in from my “Internet Plug-Ins” folder a long time ago, and typically I option-click on links to PDF documents to force Safari to download them as files instead of displaying them in the browser window.
Does Adobe’s updater even notice that I have removed the Adobe PDF plug-in from my “Internet Plug-Ins” folder? Of course not. The updater is designed to force the user to quit his web browsers regardless of whether he actually uses the Adobe PDF plug-in for the web. Heck, as far as I can tell, the updater is designed to force the user to quit his web browsers even if the update does not even include a newer version of the Adobe PDF plug-in!
This is really pathetic. Unfortunately, today, in 2008, it is not particularly surprising. In many respects, Adobe has become just another big software developer, with products that have innumerable quirks, flaws, and bugs that never get fixed, just like Microsoft’s products for the Mac.
For example, in Leopard InDesign CS3 refuses to hide its windows when the user uses Mac OS X’s “” command while in another application, in order to force all background applications (including InDesign CS3) to become hidden.
This is a known issue that has plagued InDesign CS3 ever since Leopard came out last fall. Do you think the InDesign CS3 5.0.3 updater fixes the issue? Of course not. That would be too much to ask. The InDesign CS3 5.0.3 updater weighs over 60 MB, but it does not include a fix for this most obvious of bugs.
I used to say that the redeeming factor for Adobe was that, unlike Microsoft, they still make products that are actually half-decent. They are bloate, they can be slow at times, and they have a number of quirks and flaws, but at least, unlike Microsoft’s products, they are actually still usable and reliable, to a certain extent.
But really, how long is it going to be before Adobe becomes just as bad as Microsoft? With every year that passes, they are creeping dangerously closer. The recent release of Acrobat Pro 9 and Adobe Reader 9 just confirms that trend. Others have already chimed in, here, here, and here. This particular product is an insult to Mac users.
Unfortunately, the software market is such that software juggernauts such as Microsoft and Adobe will continue to thrive for many years to come, in spite of the bad quality of their products. And users will continue to suffer. And Betalogue will continue to feature posts such as this one. It’s all rather discouraging.