In days of old, when hacks were bold and Windows not invented, hackish types denounced the tendency to pile more and more bells and whistles into computer stuff as creeping featurism. Perhaps needless to say, the arrival of Microsoft on the scene managed to accelerate the process. To be fair, a lot of that, I have to assume, is driven by customer demand; supposedly, an ongoing Microsoft survey found that about a quarter of the program enhancements requested by buyers of various Office components were already in the package — they just couldn't be easily found. It's hard to imagine someone at Redmond resisting the temptation to gild those particular lilies in the next Service Pack.

Still, the villain in this particular piece isn't Microsoft at all, but the usually non-villainous Adobe, whose PhotoDeluxe package has been a standard tool for this site. Version 1.0 came packed with my scanner, and it was a lovely piece of work indeed — some of its features required a bit of thinking out loud, and the help files (surely you weren't expecting an actual manual, were you?) were occasionally obtuse, but I can't remember any time I had any real problem doing anything I wanted to do with it.

Then came the offer to upgrade to version 2.0. Well, okay, I thought. Fear of 1.0 products is almost instinctive among some of us, and the price wasn't unreasonable, so I took the plunge. As I expect with any Windows software, the additional disk-space hit was considerable, but not worrisome. And 2.0 offered one feature I had sorely missed from 1.0 — an actual sticker with the serial number on it. (The serial number on the 1.0 CD is actually on the CD, which makes for considerable annoyance when you have to type in all twenty-some-odd characters in the middle of the install routine.)

Version 2.0 took some getting used to, but this is what I tend to expect with upgrades, so I didn't think anything more about it — until this weekend, when I was scanning in an LP jacket. My scanner, a fairly ancient but reliable Umax Astra, will handle legal-size documents, but the average 12½-inch square record-album cover won't fit on it at all. In PhotoDeluxe 1.0, this was a cumbersome but not difficult task: I would scan it in halves, increase the canvas size on one half, set the halves as layers, and then splice them together and hope my mouse hand was steady. Version 2.0 wouldn't respond to this sort of treatment. While the scanning of halves was pretty much the same, layering was something entirely different. Instead of allowing me to drop one layer, unchanged, on top of the other and move it around, the program would look at the canvas size set and actually resize the added layer as it thought expedient. Six different times I adjusted the canvas size, and six different resizings emerged. At no time did 2.0 ever get the idea that I might not want the second layer resized, and the help file's suggestion on how to avoid resizing did not work at all.

As of last night, Adobe PhotoDeluxe 1.0 is back on my system, and there it shall remain. Adobe is now hawking a 3.0 version called "Home Edition"; there is also a "Business Edition", which presumably costs more. But if I'm going to have to relearn how to splice scans together yet again, I'm not going to allow either of them anywhere near my desk no matter how sweet a deal they cut me.

The Vent

#152
7 June 1999

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