Ten flawed products that derail productivity

Certain well-known software and hardware products simply aren't very good — in fact some are barely usable, says Jack Wallen
By Jack Wallen, Contributing Writer
1 of 10 Intuit


The creators of some pieces technology need to be told that their products just don't measure up on some fundamental level. Here's some technology that I consider to be flawed.

1. QuickBooks
When QuickBooks accounting software works, it's great. But it's when it doesn't that things become nightmarish. Few pieces of software are so fussy about their network connection. The slightest hiccup can cause QuickBooks to throw in the towel and when that happens bad things can follow — such as the loss of valuable data. The biggest problem with QuickBooks is that when it breaks, sometimes the only resolution is to reinstall it. But even in the reinstalling, things can go wrong.

2 of 10 Acronis


2. Acronis
Like QuickBooks, Acronis backup software can be great when it's functioning normally. But unlike QuickBooks, Acronis help is poor. The error codes rarely offer anything insightful, and the logs tend to be too cryptic to help. And to make matters worse, ABR11 was a major step back. Although Acronis tried to introduce new features, as well as roll in features from Echo into ABR10, the result has had me uninstalling and going back to ABR10 for several users.

3 of 10 Jack Wallen/ZDNET

Ubuntu Unity

3. Ubuntu Unity
Although the idea behind Unity was sound, its execution fell flat. The release of GNOME 3 and Unity both represented drastic changes to the desktop metaphor, but of the two only GNOME 3 was a success. The ideas were similar, but GNOME 3 enjoyed more stability and more flexibility thanks to extensions. Ultimately, Ubuntu needs to scrap Unity and either migrate fully to GNOME 3, try something else, such as Enlightenment, or make Kubuntu or Xubuntu the default.

4 of 10 xelipe/Flickr


4. Flash
Flash has always been a problem. It's been a security issue, a performance issue and a platform issue — in general, it's been a headache. The scale of the problem really hit home people began upgrading to Flash X. Suddenly, crucial elements of their jobs no longer worked. In most instances, I had to roll users back to Flash 9. But the issues with Flash go well beyond performance and features. For many, Flash is also an ideological nightmare. Be it performance, features, bloat, platform wars or monopolist grasp on web content, Flash has been and will continue to be a broken technology.

5 of 10 Pulse Audio

Pulse Audio

5. Pulse Audio
Pulse Audio is another broken Linux technology. It's still problematic even on latest distribution releases. On one machine I use I can either listen to music or play Flash on the web. Problem is, if I do one, I have to jump through hoops to get the other to work. The complaints regarding Pulse Audio are many and widespread. Search online for "pulse audio sucks" and see what you come up with.

6 of 10 Jack Wallen/ZDNET

Web browsers

6. Web browsers
Web browsers are a critical piece of business software and, because so many tools are web-based, we have to use browsers constantly. So when they are broken by poor design, work inevitably becomes a hassle. The problem with web browsers is that the developers are so busy trying to attract users with new features, they forget to fix the features that are broken. It's been a problem since the 1990s, and it seems some things will never change.

7 of 10 Jack Wallen/ZDNET


7. Outlook
Outlook is the standard by which most corporations and companies judge their email. Yet it's a standard full of broken features when it runs with Exchange Server. Although there are Exchange experts who can certainly set up it up to run well, they are few and far between. And when Exchange is set up poorly, Outlook has serious problems. Every day, I come across organisations where Outlook can't connect to Exchange Server, as set up by their internal IT.

8 of 10 DamnYouAutocorrect

Predictive typing

8. Predictive typing
Regardless of mobile platform, predictive typing tends to cause more mistakes than it prevents. There is even a site dedicated to funny predictive typing errors. Until this smartphone feature is fixed, I'll keep it disabled. Tanks yule verily mulch.

9 of 10 Jack Wallen/ZDNET

Consumer-grade antivirus

9. Consumer-grade antivirus
Some business-class antivirus tools actually work — Symantec Endpoint Protection is one. It seems no matter which antivirus software you have, something is going to get through. Most consumer-grade antivirus does more harm than good. One of the exceptions I've found to that rule is Microsoft Security Essentials. Apart from that, your best bet is to either use OS X or Linux or unplug the PC from the network.

10 of 10 Jack Wallen/ZDNET

Desktop multitouch form factor

10. Desktop multitouch form factor
Multitouch screen technology is relatively new and functions reasonably well on tablets, but moving it to the desktop doesn't work. We are accustomed to standard monitors, which use a mouse and keyboard. Although this technology is not ideal for the human wrist, shoulders, and back, it's far better than reaching out to a monitor to use multitouch. What we need is a desk with a built-in multitouch display on a horizontal surface. This position would be far more natural and ergonomic than any other and would really help make multitouch feasible and desirable. But for now, multitouch on the desktop is nothing more than a gimmick.

More candidates?
None of the failings of these technologies will bring the world to a halt. But each one can put a brake on productivity or even stop work altogether. Are there other technologies that you think are in need of urgent repair?

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