Saturday, February 21, 2009

When is a trial not a trial?

Today I'm looking for an outliner. You know, a simple application that I can make quick & dirty outlines with, possibly with notes attached to each outline level. I'm willing to buy one if it works for me, so I go on the lookout for a trial so I can take it out for a spin before I plunk down my money.

One of the products I download and start to use is Action Outline. It's a 2-pane outliner (meaning that the outline is on the left and the notes associated with each outline item are on the right. It's got quick & easy commands for inserting, deleting, moving items and very quickly I start to think: "Maybe this is the one?".

And then it happens. I add an outline item and get the message:

"Only 7 sub-items allowed in evaluation mode!"

They have a 30-day evaluation period, but that's not enough for them -- they cripple the product so that you can't really test it. This is similar to other products which don't allow you to print more than a few items or more than one page in evaluation mode, for example.

I have a policy designed to avoid wasting my time/money: if a product is crippleware, I don't test it or use it... it immediately goes into the trashbin. Maybe the developers are afraid that real testing might lead to problems, so all they want to do is whet my appetite and get me to buy the thing on blind faith? NOT.

Note to Product Developers: if you want me to evaluate your product, then make the whole thing available so that I can actually evaluate it.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

What was Microsoft think... Oops; wrong question.

Now here is a real catch-22, perpetrated by our good friends, the Microsoft Outlook development team.

As a security move, Microsoft changed Outlook sometime back to not allow recipients of an attached MS Access file (something.mdb) to even see the file, let alone save it or open it. If you get one of these files in Outlook, it's there, taking up space, but it might as well be in Timbuktu for all the good it does you.

So what happens when you try to open that email in another, smarter email reader? All you get is a lone "winmail.dat" file -- that Microsoft proprietary format which they used for "rich format" emails. Completely unusable.

In other words, don't ever use Outlook to email an Access MDB file -- it just doesn't work. Obviously someone wasn't thinking when they made this change... or they just didn't care. Take your pick.