T.R. REID and BRIT HUME
As loyal readers will remember, we are big fans of a software program called "Calendar Creator" (Broderbund, www.broderbund.com), which does just what its name says. It prints out personalized calendars in an endless variety of formats and sizes, including all the birthdays, anniversaries, appointments and holidays that matter to you.
For years we have created such a calendar each month, with copies for family or office colleagues. We also use the program to make special one-week calendars listing every plane, hotel, and meeting on a business trip. It's a useful organizing tool.
Calendar Creator also works as a schedule-keeper. It can turn your monthly appointment calendar into the Windows "wallpaper," and it will ring alarms to remind you of scheduled events. Actually, Calendar Creator is not as good at these functions as the so-called Personal Information Manager programs like Lotus Organizer or SideKick. But it is better than the PIMs for producing good-looking calendars you can hang on the wall. So we use SideKick on the desktop computer, and Calendar Creator for printed work.
Accordingly, we were delighted when a new version of the program ("Calendar Creator 6.0 Deluxe") came out, priced at around $40. We installed the program the minute we got it home. And we were sorely disappointed.
The main problem is that this new version suffers from feature bloat. Software makers are constantly adding new features and gimmicks to their products. This makes the program look good in those comparative rating charts in the computer magazines.
So the new version of our favorite calendar program boasts more than 4,000 clip-art images, more than 2,000 photos, including hundreds by famous photographers, 36 special fonts, an address book (why?), "automatic e-mail addressing" (whatever that is), and much, much more.
The result is that an easy, friendly program has become a complicated and slow-moving monster. All of a sudden, for example, we can't figure out how to enter a simple five-day trip to New York. Instead of blocking off the five days like the old version used to do, the new program wants to print "To New York" five times on five separate days.
This is doubly frustrating. First, because we can't get the program to do what we want it to do. Second, because we know perfectly well that there must be a way to do this, but even with endless referral to the Help menu, we can't find it.
But the worst was yet to come.
When we (finally!) finished building a calendar for January and clicked on "Print," nothing happened. Calendar Creator wouldn't create our calendar. After a long delay, the program came up with a weird error message: "No default printer selected."
That was absurd. Of course our default printer was selected. We had printed something on it two minutes before installing Calendar Creator. So we went to the Windows "Printers" directory to check.
No default printer was selected because there were no printers listed at all. For some reason, Calendar Creator's installation program had erased all the printer driver programs we had installed over the past year. Now we couldn't print anything, from any program. Thanks a lot, Broderbund.
We sent a frantic e-mail to the program's technical support staff. That was 10 days ago, and no reply yet. Thanks a lot, Broderbund.
We will assume, charitably, that messing up our printer files was the result of some minor programming gaffe that slipped into an early edition of the software, and will eventually be fixed. We've always found Broderbund programs to be reliable in the past. Still, this is infuriating.
So we took three remedial steps.
First, we used the Norton Utilities "uninstall" program to wipe Calendar Creator off the computer. At least we know for sure that this lousy product won't cause any more damage.
Second, we rounded up all the installation disks from the various printers we have around, clicked on the Windows "Add Printer" icon, and reinstalled all the driver programs.
Third, we went to the PC Magazine site on the Internet, moved to the software download section, and searched, under the "Utility" category, for programs that will print personalized calendars. We found a nice one called "Calendar Commander" a shareware product that costs $15 and downloaded it. It is fast, easy to use, and (so far, at least) bug-free. We're done with "Calendar Creator" forever.
T.R. Reid is London bureau chief of the Washington Post. Brit Hume is managing editor of Fox News in Washington. You can reach them in care of the Washington Post Writers Group, 1150 15th St., Washington D.C. 20071-9200, or you can e-mail T.R. Reid at email@example.com and Brit Hume at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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