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April 14, 2005 12:03 AM

Broken: Visio2003 "upgrade"

Why is it that "upgrades" to software often introduce new errors into the interface?

Here's one example.

Michael Holmes writes:

I just upgraded to Visio2003 at work from Visio2000, and have a shining example of why many users sometimes want to commit violent acts against the software developer community.

In Visio2000, to group some objects together, you hit Control-G. To ungroup, you hit Control-U. Very simple.

In Visio2003, Ungroup is still Control-G, but Control-U is now the Underline Text command. Ungroup has been changed to SHIFT-Control-U. The symmetry of the opposing commands is gone. Years of user habits out the window. The swearing around my department as another person yet again underlines text instead of ungrouping is endless. A computer *will* get tossed out a window before this is over.

There is no explanation I would ever accept for this change. It defies reason on any level. It's on the level of building a car where the brake pedal is now the headlight switch, and the brakes are controlled by a button on the radio. You could get used to it, but *WHY* make me get used to it. It ignores the fact that I might have other cars (drawing programs) that use the old method, and I switch back and forth.

Another issue is that every time you apply a style to an object now, Visio2003 pops up a dialog WARNING (Oh noooooo!) me that the style has text and fill styles. Well, gee, thanks Visio! Seeing as I created the style, I sort of know that, but you go right ahead and interrupt my workflow with the same dialog box every single blessed time, and not give me anyway to turn off the warning.

There is a revolt brewing. If I were a commercial SW developer, I'd be building a bunker.

If you have other examples of broken upgrades to software packages, share them in the Comments section below.


Visual Studio 7.0/7.1 are a steaming turdpile compared to version 6. 7.0, when used to write C++, was both very buggy and totally different from 6 so devs had to relearn their IDE. 7.1 is at least stable enough to use for actual work.

Posted by: Jacques Troux at April 14, 2005 02:01 AM

This is part of the ongoing work to incorporate Visio into the broader Microsoft Office family of products. In most Windows-based products, CTRL+U formats text as underlined. CTRL+B and CTRL+I do the same for bolding and italics.

Posted by: Charles Oppermann at April 14, 2005 03:17 AM

Doesn't Visio have the ability to change the keyboard shortcuts? MS Office and DevStudio have this ability...

Personally, though, I think the original Ctrl-U is broken. Having Ctrl-U be underline is the de facto standard. Should've been Ctrl-Shift-U in the original (and, of course, Ctrl-Shift-G for grouping to make it symmetrical).

The dialog box is definitely broken and makes you wonder why there's no such thing as a "bugger off" button. That should be something any programmer should build into his system: a button that dismisses the warning and automatically sets a "don't show me this again" flag. I know I do.

Posted by: Steven at April 14, 2005 08:40 AM

As I understand it, Visio was a well-established product and had good penetration long before Microsoft bought it out. When Microsoft started folding it onto the Office line-up, there was a conflict between Visio's well-established conventions and Microsoft's over-arching conventions. They have yet to reconcile.

And they do have to reconcile somehow. Microsoft users will become a larger and larger fraction of Visio users. The product is as irritating to those familiar with MS conventions as it is to you.

Posted by: DaveC426913 at April 14, 2005 09:06 AM

For me, Visio has many flaws-- certain conventions that I have come to expect over the years. Or perhaps I am just unaware of how they are implemented in Visio.

1. Paste in place. Powerpoint does this. Flash does this. Fireworks, Illustrator, the list goes on. Why does Visio paste everything inconveniently in the center of the work area?

Is ther a mysterious key command that lets me do this? If I want paste a header from one page into another why do I have to reposition it again? This increases the tedium level to new heights, not to mention the time-consumption.

2. Layers and transparency. Oh my god. The issue of layers is handled elegantly in many application. Not Visio. The layer and transparency construct developed by Adobe, for instance, and utilized so well in Photoshop and Iluustrator and successfully cloned in by Macromedia in Fireworks Flash and Freehand,is completely alien to the reprobates who developed Visio. I find it a horrible, clumsy and near unworkable kludge. Please, please, Mr. Visio developer, see how other software packages handle layers, layer menus and transparency. They embody best practices, while Visio takes away my will to live.

End of rant. I feel better now.

Posted by: cdb at April 14, 2005 09:36 AM

I remember when Clipper 5.0 came out back in 1989. It was so different from the previous version that I gave up programming completely. It went from being a pretty standard relational database language, with a growing (albeit BBS-based) library of useful objects, to a superset of C+.

Since I wasn't interested in being a C+ programmer, I just stopped using the software. You may notice that it's not around anymore -- unfortunately I think Visio will be around for a while, even though it's getting more generic.

Posted by: Dan at April 14, 2005 09:42 AM

This thread brings up a question that I've had for some time: Wouldn't the additional dev time and effort required to implement interface selection pay off?

Say you're developing a graphics application to compete with all the other graphics applications out there. It needs to meld gracefully with your own company's family of applications, and is incorporating features inherited from a previous version developed by a company your company bought out last year. At the same time, you're hoping to gain market share by winning over users of the competition's products.

So why the heck don't you have a preference panel for interface emulation/selection? Have radio buttons to select 'Use Standard shortcuts', 'Use Photoshop shortcuts', 'Use Photo Paint shortcuts', 'Use Custom shortcuts' and the like? Have the installer look for any preference files for other applications and ask you if you want to apply them.

> DaveC:

> When Microsoft started folding it onto the Office line-up, there was a conflict between Visio's well-established conventions and Microsoft's over-arching conventions. They have yet to reconcile.

So why reconcile them? Let the user choose between the two conventions.

Wait, what was that? Let the user choose his experience? Whoa, what a concept!

Posted by: Erich at April 14, 2005 11:23 AM

It's been years (it seems) since Microsoft took over Visio. While the Ctrl+U is a good item to bring in line with other MS Office standards, what about the rest of the differences? Adding to the above issues, how about the pagination -- the inability to scroll from one page to the next.

Toggling between Office apps and Visio all day long multiplies the frustration.

Posted by: Chris at April 14, 2005 11:54 AM

Speaking of Microsoft's idea of what is an upgrade these days, am I the only one to think that copy-paste is terrible?

A few months ago, as I needed to work at my client's office, they set me a PC with Microsoft's latest (but, alas, not finest): Office 2003. I open a document in Powerpoint, start working and do some copy-paste. Formating is not copied, as the paste insists on reverting to Times New Roman 24 pts. To get back the formatting, you need to click on the icon below the pasted element and select from the list of options!

As the kind of documents I do require pasting with formatting 50-100 times in a day's work, I look for an option to change this default behavior. No option. I try to set up a macro, as "paste special" has an option which allows to keep the formatting, but AFAIK there's no way to select a specific paste special option with the macro language.

End of the line, I wasted a couple of hours (which I obviously didn't bill), went back to work from home and promised myself never, ever again to use Office 2003.

Posted by: Mathieu P. at April 14, 2005 12:06 PM

Ya, changing the shortcuts is pretty stupid, though the CTRL + U not being underline, like every other program on the face of the planet, was broken to begin with too.

Posted by: MinkOWar at April 14, 2005 12:48 PM

"In Visio2000, to group some objects together, you hit Control-G. ...In Visio2003, Ungroup is still Control-G, "

Perhaps the user is broken as well! (smirk smirk)

I think the idea of choosing your interface is excellent - many videogames offer the ability to choose your controller layouts (maybe the XBOX folks can talk to the PC software folks!)

Posted by: Robert A. Dugger at April 14, 2005 01:39 PM

Perhaps an ISO standard for default keyboard shortcuts would help. For example, if your application supports underlining, then Ctrl+U would be underline by default. Trouble is, it's way too easy to set any keys to any commands, and then when software gets bought out by other companies, neither know what to do. Leaving the same or changing both have major drawbacks to the combined user bases, unless the commands were already largely the same for related functions.

Posted by: sir_flexalot at April 14, 2005 01:43 PM

Anything with the Microsoft name attached to it is inherently broken.

Posted by: Tim at April 14, 2005 01:46 PM

Tim beat me to it - I was gonna say the upgrade from WIN3.0 to WIN3.1 was pretty broken, but then, broken Windows is a repeating phrase, isn't it?

Posted by: Cary at April 14, 2005 02:49 PM

I agree with u tim.

A few weeks ago bought Far Cry. I have to udate it from version 1.0 to version 1.3. so i download the update install it. start up the game.a few things changed. then i hit the multiplayer button. pretty much the same except the text changed. i click on a game and it asked me for my user name + password. i enter them both and it says i have to enter my cd-key wich i already have donewith my previous version. itype in the key then it says "CD-KEY ALREADY IN USE, PLEASE RE-ENTER YOUR CD-KEY". evey time i tried i ran into the same error.


Posted by: unknown at April 14, 2005 03:01 PM

wtf is Visio

Posted by: idk at April 14, 2005 03:21 PM

Slightly off topic but the same thing happens with every version of Photoshop, they change the location of things like transform. In some versions transform is under edit>transform in others layers>transform. As I go back and forth between my work version (6.0) and my latest home version, I spend 5 minutes reaquainting myself.

Posted by: Joshua Wood at April 14, 2005 04:54 PM

I have to first warn you, this post is extremely long, some of it barely relevant to the subject at hand. If you want to skip this, go ahead, but if not, be prepared to stare at the computer screen for a while as you read this.

First of all, I want to make a couple of corrections to other posters. I'm not trying to be a jerk, just optimizing the power of correct knowledge.

Robert A. Dugger-

"Maybe the XBOX folks can talk to the PC software folks!"

If that were true, Microsoft would be talking to itself. You see, Microsoft created the XBOX. My inexperience with game systems may be showing, but I believe XBOX is not the only system with customizable controls. A better thing to say would be replacing "XBOX" with "PS2" or "Gamecube". Or, in my opinion, "Lamecube".

Tim: Not exactly a correction, or relevant, but just because it says Microsoft, does not equal broken. Your post mentioned Microsoft, and it is not broken.

(Yeah, yeah, I know what you meant. Just teasing.)

And, to all the name-stealers out there: I know who you are. I'll get you, you SOBs. If you steal my name, I'll find your e-mail. And I'll spam you all to hell!

Finally, an amusing segment of the AOL "About AOL" thing.

Includes zlib software that is Copyright © 1995-2002 Jean-loup Gailly and Mark Adler.

What in the heck is zlib software? Reminds me

of Douglas Adams.

As for the subject at hand, nothing to say.

Posted by: nickd at April 14, 2005 05:04 PM

WINDOWS DOES NOT SUCK! None of these things ever happen in windows, I have no problem with keyboard shortcuts and I use them all the time. Macs are worse by far:

-The apple key is a pain, for example, holding down apple and going left moves cursor to the begining of the line but only deletes 1 word.

-All the weird shortcuts, like "option", "apple", "8?" This is in the middle of no where, you'd think there'd be a "option", "apple", "7" or something but no. They are so hard to remember.

-The ' accent is like option "e", when these accents can be put over many letters, also, "e" can have many accents. In windows, it's "control" and then the accent you want.

Please don't give me a million posts about wrong combos, but you can see what I mean. I don't get why everyone always hates microsoft. The designers are brilliant and the system is awesome. It's discriminatory.

Posted by: no one at April 14, 2005 06:30 PM

Bare Bones Software ( handles this kind of thing in a stunningly classy way. Whenever a new version of their software changes a keyboard shortcut for a command, the first time you use that shortcut in the new version it pops up a dialog box that explains what the key combo does now, what it used to do, and gives you the option /right there/ to select what it should do in the future.

This, to me, is brilliance.

(All of their applications also support full customization of keyboard shortcuts for menu items, as well)

Posted by: Jonathan at April 14, 2005 07:08 PM

Jonathan: This is implemented in Microsoft Word where it gives you an option to tell you the new keyboard shortcut when you use a WordPerfect shortcut. Unfortunately this gets annoying when you try to check spelling with F7 and it tells you that there is a new shortcut.

nickd: I have heard of zlib SOMEWHERE...

no one: I agree. To everyone who complains about the inconvenient placement of the Ctrl key in the bottom left corner: it's extremely easy to press it with your pinky while using your index finger to press U for example, or shift with the ring finger and R with the index finger. Whenever I use a Mac I have to contort my fingers to press the keys with one hand.

Posted by: fuzzy at April 14, 2005 07:39 PM

Well, that explains it. Microsoft at work . . .


Posted by: William at April 14, 2005 09:39 PM

Fuzzy, I studied classical piano for 15+ years, and I can't stretch to ctrl-U with either hand. If it's "extremely easy" for you, maybe YOU should have been the concert pianist ;)

Posted by: speedwell at April 15, 2005 11:29 AM

while we're at it, more office 2003 complaints:

MS word:

find = ctrl-F

MS Outlook:

find = ctrl-shift-F -or- F4

(Forward = ctrl-F)

Win 95+:

find = F3

this is the entirely OPPOSITE problem from the original poster. In this case, microsoft BROKE standardization between 3 applications. Ctrl-F should be "find" in all applications, and "forward" should have the "shift" modifier since it is unique to outlook only. Why they assigned F4, I have NO idea.

Posted by: adam at April 15, 2005 01:40 PM

This is what bill gates thinkns about every day.


"hm, who should i buy out today. maybe dell. Ya i'll go buy dell that way i can ad a huge amount to my empire! HA HA HA HA HA HA. OUCH! WHO THREW THAT BASEBALL AT ME!?!?!?"

end quote

Posted by: unknown at April 15, 2005 02:53 PM

>nickd (quoting Robert):

>"Maybe the XBOX folks can talk to the PC software folks!"

If that were true, Microsoft would be talking to itself. You see, Microsoft created the XBOX.

Uh, I'm pretty sure that was his point, Nick. The MS XBOX folks should talk to the MS PC folks so that perhaps the XBOX functionality could be applied to the PC non-functionality. See how that works?

Of course, some folks you definitely don't want talking to one another as much. The Mactopia crew at Microsoft (Mac version software group) consistently comes up with better design and features for the Mac version than the PC version from the same company. Whenever the PC folks introduce a feature ("It's not a bug, it's a feature!") before the Mac folks do, the implementation gets screwed up in the Mac version. The Mac guys do just fine until the PC folks start talking to them. ;-)

>no one:

>WINDOWS DOES NOT SUCK! None of these things ever happen in windows, I have no problem with keyboard shortcuts and I use them all the time. Macs are worse by far


>I don't get why everyone always hates microsoft. The designers are brilliant and the system is awesome.

I couldn't disagree more, but this doesn't need to turn into another Mac vs. PC debate. I can point out sixty bazillion reasons why I think PCs are worse and Macs are better, but the underlying point is that what works best for you drives me completely insane and what I find to be powerful and intuitive you don't like. We both have our preferred tools.

What I would venture to guess drives us both nuts is badly designed software that forces us to work within someone else's paradigm that doesn't match our own construct for how that piece of software should work. As Jonathan pointed out about Bare Bones, it IS possible to allow the user to employ whatever construct he wants to use the software (or website or gadget) and the result is a singularly USABLE and powerful application.

In short, software should revert to convention as much as possible and allow the user to choose whenever there is a conflict of conventions, and NOT inflict the choice of the designer on those users who are used to something different. That way BOTH long time Visio users used to the 'CTRL-U as Ungroup' and long time Office users used to the 'CTRL-U as Underline' conventions could be happy with Visio2003 as a new part of Office.

You can have your cake and eat it too--otherwise, what the heck is the point of having cake?

Posted by: Erich at April 15, 2005 02:59 PM

I agree.

How would you like to be a software designer and be doomed for every decision you make, just because some people prefer, say, "alt + f" to "ctrl + f"?

Posted by: no one at April 15, 2005 06:17 PM

_@_v - extreme changes in user interface is why i stopped upgrading the shareware program graphic converter after 4.0.6 even though i did pay the shareware fee and could download the latest version for nuthin...

Posted by: she-snailie_@_v at April 15, 2005 06:56 PM

It's not just commercial products that change around their keyboard shortcuts for no apparent reason.

In version 1.1 of's word processor, Ctrl+1 and Ctrl+2 changed the line spacing to single and double spaced, just as in Microsoft Word. In version 2.0 (currently in beta), those key combinations change the paragraph style to a heading. Needless to say, this totally threw me off the first time I tried to change line spacing in the new version!

Posted by: codeman38 at April 18, 2005 03:31 PM

You Fools!

It's the Keyboard that's broken. What we need is a HAL 9000 interface. You say "Hal, I want to ungroup" Hal says "I can't do that'll have to shift..."

Posted by: Bobo at April 20, 2005 03:56 PM

Shift-Ctrl-G is an Adobe shortcut which is used across many apps, so this actually makes sense and is not broken.

Posted by: Michael at July 14, 2005 02:56 PM

"Fuzzy, I studied classical piano for 15+ years, and I can't stretch to ctrl-U with either hand. If it's "extremely easy" for you, maybe YOU should have been the concert pianist ;)"

I can, and I'm just a cellist. You must have small hands. :P Seriously, though, between thumb and pinky I can hit control and period. Am I some kind of freak or something?

I'm a huge gamer, and most games in a given genre have a (mostly) standard control scheme, but there's always that one game that switches the crouch and throw grenades buttons, or something like that. That one game is invariably the one that only lets you choose between three predetermined control schemes. I have the same problem with Microsoft. It's mostly consistant, but there's a few things that don't behave like they should. For example, why exactly must the My Documents folder be a (undeletable) system file?

Posted by: Wooble at August 16, 2005 05:32 PM

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