Don’t Let Your Software Control You

Every so often I read something and I say to myself, I wish I had written that. I had that experience recently when I read a post on PDF for Lawyers.

In the post, Ernie explains:

Remember this joke?  Guy goes into see the doctor, and the doc asks “what seems to be the problem?” The guy says “Doc, it’s my arm.  It hurts when I do this.” And then the doctor says “well, then don’t DO that!”

I mention this joke because it’s basically what happens when people fail to make any attempt to set the preferences for their applications.  Technology trainers are constantly hearing lawyers complain that Word wants to auto-correct certain words.  In the attorneys’ view the problem is irresolvable; it’s a bug in the program that simply can’t be fixed.
He then notes:
Computers seem to make people dumb. Imagine picking anyone out of a crowd and telling them that they’d get to live in a mansion with a butler for a week.  The first time the butler does something that is annoying or not to their liking, do you think they’d be at a loss as to how to fix the problem?  No, they’d pipe right up and command the butler to do what they want. Even if they never had a butler before.
But these same people when they get a new program seem to think that the designers of the program have configured it just for them.  And so therefore they should expect it to work perfectly in the way that’s most natural for them. If it doesn’t then they curse the program.

I run into this problem all of the time. For example, I will ask someone why they didn’t use the automatic paragraph numbering feature in Word. They’re response is typically something along the lines of “I don’t like how Word does it.”

Not liking Word’s default formating for automatically numbering paragraphs is a reasonable position to take. Rejecting automatic numbering as a result is not. If you don’t like how a program does something, change it. Don’t suffer in silence. Every program out there has some options for you to change the default settings. Most of the time you can change the program to work as you desire.

Admittedly, there are some things that you can’t change about how a program works. If that is the case, I urge you to not simply throw up your hands in frustration and curse the programmers. If there is a feature you want, or a setting you want the ability to change, you should contact the publisher of the program. I can’t guarantee that the publisher will listen to you. However, I bet that you will find that most companies are more receptive to user suggestions than you would expect. Certainly you are more likely to get your issues addressed with a smaller company rather than a large company.

However, if you have an issue with a piece of software, do not suffer in silence. If no on ever complains, chances are, the problem will never be fixed.

If you are interested in learning how to customize the features in Acrobat, check out the rest of Ernie’s post. If you want to learn how to control what your information in Word looks like, check out my series of posts on formatting in Microsoft Word. If you want to control whether a PDF opens in your web browser of Acrobat, see my post here.