Recently, I had a “privilege” to acquaint myself with numerous small business applications for Windows. First, I would like to state that there is some good software out there and kudos to all of you who deliver it. Unfortunately, such software is in wast minority. However, you can quickly detect such software. Installation process is full of unreasonable demands, requests and limitations.

Thou shall not change the name of the database

Seriously. Why not? Don’t get me wrong. Once the program is installed, this is certainly not needed. But, during install process, I should be able to make a choice of the database name. Why? Well, perhaps I don’t like the default name. Perhaps I find it confusing. Perhaps, I even have to follow some sort of pseudo naming standard. But no. Instead, there is a nice guy on the other side of a phone line elaborating how this would be impossible. Right.

Your computer name shall be this and that

This one popped the top. In one installation guide I actually found this sentence: “Your computer name must not contain dash character”. Now, for the life of me, I cannot imagine why someone would be so bold as to ask me that. No, actually, I do. I bet their database is in following format <name of your pc>-<some db name>-<year or whatever> and they are having issues parsing out database name and whatever is left afterward. This or some other idiotic reason.

It is even more annoying as being a developer I know for sure, they could have just parsed dashes out of your computer name for their application use only. But for some reason, they just thought it was smart to ask the customer to do it instead.

This is a server, but we don’t support any Windows Server editions

Another funny thing. This happened rarely, as some were bright enough not put OS specification in their guides. Still some applications claimed that they are servers, but can only run on or only support Windows XP or Vista. I know that most small businesses don’t have plenty of Windows Servers, but I am sure some do. And it would really take about 1 hour of install time + install time of application + 30 minutes to support Windows Server as well.

Making user make a choice, even though the setting should not be altered

This only shows how much time did a software company took to create an installer. Imagine this. One application was so bold, to display to user several types of application he wants to install. Next screen was install location. For type 1, installation guide claims: “If this type is selected, leave install location as is, or application will not work.”

Why would you give a user a chance to change installation location for type 1, if he is not allowed to change it? I am certainly the first person that would install application to Program Files folder. First, that folder is there for reason of storing installed programs. Second, I want the option to select any install directory. Perhaps I am low on space on C disk?

Still, application would not work, making me to reinstall the damn thing all over again. There goes another 30 minutes.

Forcing users to do pre- and post-install tasks

If you have seen any Microsoft installer, you know that the installer itself takes care of all prerequisites and post install operations. Unfortunately, some think that it is better to torture their customers by forcing them to first install prerequisites (these are all on the CD with application) and then run setup. And if this wasn’t bad enough, hey, you have to wait for data to initialize upon first start, which is usually a time consuming thing. And installers in most cases don’t even check for prerequisites for install. So, you just might end up installing software and then banging your head as to why it doesn’t work.

And another thing. I am a person that will automatically search setup.exe or something.msi on the CD. And I think I am not alone there. There is a 100% probability that I will not click on dxyz_fmlctw.exe, which is a self extracting ZIP file at that.

Covering up laziness with stupid statements

This is not only tied to small business applications. Raise your hand if you have seen this or similar type of statement: “After installation, you might need to restart your computer”. Shouldn’t developers know if computer restart is necessary or not? This just looks like they don’t know. You probably will have to restart. It is just that they were too lazy to check if that is true.

Forcing Administrator access rights to run the application

And this beauty ends it all. Some applications just would not run without a user being granted at least Local Administrator access. No comment.