After Hours

Who made the worst PC software ever?

Everyone loves to beat up Microsoft for making the worst PC software ever. But did they? Plenty of other companies have shipped software buggier than an anthill. Check this list and place your vote for the worst software maker ever.

A couple of weeks ago, I asked the question: Who made the worst PC ever? The results were loud and clear: Packard-Bell was the landslide winner as Worst PC Company Ever.

That rather begs the question of: Who made the worst PC software ever? Now, for purposes of this poll, I'm going to leave out Apple and Microsoft. Clearly including those two would skew the poll results if only because everyone loves to gang up on both companies. Microsoft is practically everyone's favorite whipping boy. If Apple turned up in the list, the Microsofties would pull an Operation Chaos and vote Apple out of spite. So, I'll stipulate to the facts that both Microsoft and Apple have put out bad software from time to time.

That leaves the rest of the bunch. I've stated before that Symantec seems to have gone downhill in recent years. Plus, everyone knows that Computer Associates is the place where good software goes to die. Lotus has never regained the glory years of 123, and as for IBM, you don't need to do anything more than utter the word DisplayWrite. People love to beat up on Oracle and SAP. As for Corel, I think the bloom came off of that rose after they purchased WordPerfect, which long ago became far less than perfect.

So - that leaves it to you. Pick the company you thought was the worst or click Other and sound off in the Comment section:

60 comments
pccoder28
pccoder28

Is there Adobe software that works? Has it ever existed? Dishonorable mention: Hewlett Packard, Symantec, Sony, F-Secure, CA, McAfee, and I refuse to exclude Microsoft. Adobe, though, is in a class by itself: bad design, endless updates, missing functionality, inapt functionality, and crashes, and more crashes, and yet more crashes........

Woody Goode
Woody Goode

These choices are really messed up. Packard-Bell was a worthy winner in the hardware category-- they never released a model that didn't have all kinds of quality/reliability problems. There is no such thing as a "good" Packard-Bell and there never was. But putting Symantec here is outrageous. Yes, their quality has been awful since the release of XP (which forced them to throw out all their stuff written for the DOS kernel). But for 20 years, they were the gold standard for utilities. Ditto for Corel and Lotus. They might suck now, but they were really good at one point. As is Adobe. I also have a problem with SAP and Oracle. Not that they don't suck in most situations (I have to implement them), but being overpriced and difficult to configure is not quite the same as poor quality (although that isn't a distinction most people would make after spending $$,$$$,$$$ to implement). Finally, I might vote for CA as "worst software vendor of all time" (because they killed off so many great products), but whatever they sold has always been very good. My list would be: 1. McAfee. Software never was that good at protecting you against viruses and it was always buggy as all get-out. 2. Ashton-Tate. dBase was a bad product-- slow, pricey and hard to learn-- and their other products (Multimate) were much, much worse. What killed them, by the way, was speed. I was working for a sports research company and our end-of-season runs (to generate stats for a season) would take 27 hours to run on stats of the art PCs. You'd call A-T and they'd tell you that you hadn't set up your database properly. We tried Clipper, and that generated results in 18-22 hours. Foxbase did it in 12-16. We called to point that out, and they got angry. Told us that both products were illegal-- copyright violations of their intellectual property. That killed the high-end market and the low-end folks discovered that a spreadsheet often worked just as well. 3. Whoever made Sidekick. The most undisciplined add-on ever. Didn't play well with anything. If one of my clients had a problem with a new piece of software, it was always Sidekick that was causing the problem. Everything they made caused problems and Sidekick was the only thing that worked. 4. Micropro. Wordstar was a breakthrough-- first serious word processor-- but those completely unintuitive commands made it a bear to learn and unsuitable for users who just needed to write simple documents. Calcstar (their spreadsheet) and Datastar (the database) were even worse-- they kept the horrible command set, and the products were underpowered. 5. IBM, Lotus 1-2-3, as I said, was a good program for a time. And Notes can be useful if it is installed properly and not asked to do things it doesn't do well. (Although IBM deserves obloquy for claiming it can do things it can't). But ViaVoice-- voice recognition software that turned everything you said, no matter how slowly or clearly, into garbage-- was never anything but worthless. And TopView-- a character-based multitasking program that was supposed to be a Windows killer-- was a joke. It bothers me that my list slants so much toward the 80's and 90's, but that is as it should be. Bad products would have been created before the bar for software had been raised higher.

No-Dough
No-Dough

I remember when my mom brought home and installed Microsoft Bob. Ugghh!

S,David
S,David

Without a doubt SCO Xenix was the biggest pain in the wazoo I have ever tried to use.

hockeycard
hockeycard

Most of you are not old enough to remember Lotus in 1996 that made a mess of me. One of my customers was the director of Lotus technical support and then things rapidly got fixed. Seems I got a CD that was not supposed to leave the factory.

JSnow
JSnow

Laplink - especially PCSync, which crashed every platform I tried it on.

JWTBeeman
JWTBeeman

What a waist of valuable time.

rAllcorn
rAllcorn

I cannot tell you when I've seen such a "beast" of a software program. It's big, clumsy, and hard to figure out. Oh, it's secure, but then LINUX has secure email coming with it, right out of the box. All you need is a security certificate. But NOTES! Man, I grew to hate that monster while working on a recent IBM contract. It, by far, has to be the worst software ever written. All great ideas, but unlike UNIX where everybody got together and polished it up to be something wonderful, NOTES was like a duct tape party! They just kept taping stuff on it, more and more, until you had a monster of an application! Ok, 'nuff said. - rich - RICH ALLCORN, consultant email: richAllcorn@CFAITH.com website: http://www.richallcorn.com skype: "richallcorn" (512) 782-9949

zclayton2
zclayton2

than 90% of what's out there. I have never had a problem figuring out how to do something in WP, I still can't do things in m$ Word 2003 that were easy one or two step items in WP. Don't even start me on the crapware that is Word 2007. Nothing works there.

hutton_keith
hutton_keith

SAP takes the cake due to being overly complicated and having all options available to confuse operators. This allows specilist areas / operators to be required and keeps wages high for those pers trained on the application even though the job they proform is nothing more than data entry.

bpcan55
bpcan55

I think HP has got to be up there among the worst. Why do they include almost every language in their installation (scanners and printers)and the performance sucks. They also want to force you to use their graphics/photo editors!

cujo321383
cujo321383

Novell - Not because it was bad software, but because they refused to do what needed to be done to compete with Micr$oft. When Micro$oft was giving its Office and network software to universities, Novell (Eric Schmidt) was approached and asked to do the same. It was pointed out that most IT majors would recommend that which they were familiar with. Mr. Schmidt snidely refused any concession. Game over!

hrm2000
hrm2000

SAMNA. It was a word processing package that was almost impossible to learn or use, and their support team seemed to know even less than their users. Some people really liked it just because it was so hard.

dl
dl

I've seen the good and the bad since I bought my first PC in 1982 (an Altos C/PM machine). But the drop-dead worst application I've ever seen was MultiMate word processing. Just incredibly dreadful, awkward to use, junk. A nightmare -- which is probably why nobody else here has ever heard of it. Far superior was the market leader back then, WordStar 3.3. And I can't imagine many fellow WordStar veterans wanting to return to WordStar, except for the wonderful "diamond" of navigation keys on the keyboard that enabled speed typists to type with speed.

tr
tr

Lotus Notes probably set back the timeline for effective corporate BI & CRM systems by five years. Non-intuitive user interface, difficult, expensive and time consuming interface to data from 3rd party apps. It was the software equivalent of a duck-billed platypus that had appeared on the evolutionary tree.

me
me

I think it goes without saying.. Most of the afformentioned 'naff' software houses have been coding for an imperfect OS which is always the grounding for anything. Lumpy meat stock will always create Lumpy gravy! My hats goes off to Steve Gibson who has vreated some of the slickest coding for little apps, isn't funny he is Microsofts Nemesis ??

T.Walpole
T.Walpole

The simpler a software application is the more people like it; the more complicated a software application gets the more people hate it. The Life of a Great Software App: 1. Some programmers develop a simple app that fills a specific customer need very well. 2. They form a company, sell it and build a loyal following. Everybody loves them. 3. Mega software corporation acquires the company in order to add it to their suite of offerings. Now things get complicated. 4. The acquired product must now be integrated into all the other applications offered by the acquirer, increasing complexity. This has to be done quickly so that the investment can begin generating revenue; defects result, customer suffers. 5. To increase sales of the newly acquired product, the previously great app is bundled with all kinds of other applications that the customers may or may not need. 6. In the meantime, the guys that sold their company or product to the Mega Sofware Corp have gone out and started new companies and created more great apps that users love. And the circle continues...

dkavraal
dkavraal

No doubt Microsoft. Even notepad has bugs

jim.flynn
jim.flynn

Who the hell needs anti-virus software the kills your PC stone dead. I purchased their offering a year ago and had to remove it as the start up speed and general operation speed was crap. After a few months of pain and time drain I removed it and overnight the PC was back waorking fast again. Symantic, get your act together and build Internet Security thats not a kin to a Wheel Clamp!!!

MGP2
MGP2

Anytime you have a problem with one of their products, Symantec's standard reply is "uninstall every Symantec product and reinstall". Now, as if that's not bad enough, when you do try to reinstall, you ALWAYS get a message saying that you can't reinstall a certain product because it's already installed. That's because they can't write an uninstall program to save their lives. I can honestly say I've never uninstalled a Symantec product and had it completely and successfully uninstall. Never!

brian.sinclair-james
brian.sinclair-james

What Symantec did to the Norton Utilities is pretty unforgivable, but I have experienced more system crashes, software lockups, frustrated users and bloated common folders from Adobe Acrobat and it's readers than any other vendor except Microsoft, and Microsoft has the excuse of producing 80% of my software. If we toss in the rest of Adobe's resource hogging, bug riddled, bloatware suite, then no one else comes close.

ahumphries
ahumphries

Whoever makes HEAT. It's a festering turd of an application. Expensive, slow, unwieldy and about as user-friendly as a rabid dog. Utter utter junk.

RFink
RFink

ArcServe has to the the worst enterprise backup software I've used. Granted it has some nice features but when I have to label the tapes by hand becasue I can't trust its database that says it all. The name of its database is VLDB (Very Large Database) they aren't kidding. Another feature was I couldn't do mutliple tasks at the same time unless they were scheduled in advance, for example, if I use one drive out of four to inventory a slot I couldn't do anything else becasue the libray is "busy".

NotSoChiGuy
NotSoChiGuy

Symantec edges out SAP for my vote. SAP is swarmy in their sales pitch, no doubt, and will try to sell you an entire office building when you need a pencil holder. However, I have seen their software run effectively (sufficed to say, the organization was almost as plain vanilla as the install...but still). Symantec, though, takes the cake. They purchase software that is known to work well (Ghost, NAV, BKUP EXEC, etc), break it, and continually put out progressively worse versions. If someone told me that that the same woman that ran the Indians in the 'Major League' movies was running Symantec, I wouldn't be the least bit surprised. I don't have any bad experiences with any of the other vendors, so I couldn't in good conscious vote for them.

John Sheesley - TechRepublic Pro
John Sheesley - TechRepublic Pro

Those were some good additions to the list. Like I said before, I had considered Ashton-Tate, but I wasn't thinking past dBase III+. McAfee was a clear miss however. You're right. They used to be the leader in virus scanning by a wide margin, but now they're in Norton Anti-virus league. Micropro might have been if I had been aware of Calcstar and Datastar. I only knew it for Wordstar. Those will be additional programs to look into for future additions to Classics Rock.

Neil Leacy
Neil Leacy

... suggesting we're just a little broader around the girth? That we're all wasted, wasting our time? ;-) Cheers, Neil

lovemuch
lovemuch

Agreed! Couldn't hate anything more than I hate this.

don
don

A simple reg edit will do the trick.

AvengerM1
AvengerM1

I ran into that with older version of Symantec AV Corp, name 8.x and 9.x when I was upgrading to 10.1. The Symantec tech rep has me download an app called NoNav, which essentially removes all Symantec and Norton AV products from your system, namely the left over dll's and registry keys. My big dollar question to Symantec: "Isn't that what an uninstaller is supposed to do?", "Why do I need a secret app from Symantec Tech Support to do what the original uninstaller should have done?. DUH!

larry.lord
larry.lord

Well said my friend, but you forgot to mention that they always want to run your computer for you. Never liked Norton never will. CA comes next.I have a virus on my other computer and CA never found it. Still looking for one that will. MS keeps reporting it as win32.netbooster. Anyone know how to get rid of it? I have tried all that if have on hand to know avail.

John Sheesley - TechRepublic Pro
John Sheesley - TechRepublic Pro

There's one I should have added to the list. Agreed, Reader has become severe bloatware and they're doing the same thing to Flash.

T.Walpole
T.Walpole

Their support quality really took a nosedive after they started routing all calls through Indian callcenters back in the late 90s. I always dreaded having to call and explain my problem several times to support reps with limited english skills. Just giving an email address over the phone was a challenge.

joe
joe

OS/2 was far & away better than Win3.1. OS/2 was another one of those cases where the best product didn't win... MS did.

normhaga
normhaga

IBM held the name for OS/2 but until version 2.1 Microsoft wrote OS/2 under contract with IBM.

AvengerM1
AvengerM1

My company had Veritas Backup Exec, and then upgraded to the next version, when it became a Symantec product. Every version of Backup Exec, after it became a Symantec product, was problematic at best. Installs and upgrades of the product were an experience you hoped to only ever do once. Tech Support was hit or miss, and when they decide not to support a version of a product anymore, you are SOL and on own your own. I learned real quick about the value of "Competive Upgrades" from other software vendors. Backup Exec is scheduled to be history in Q4 at my company.

Neil Leacy
Neil Leacy

... although once I got the drivers right my Backup Exec for Novell has been a work horse with very little problem. Oh, did I mention once I had torn my hair out, searched page after page after web page for possible solutions, tried said possible solutions, cried in to my coffee not once but twice, maybe thrice, before seeing some success? Actually I DO have to agree with you on all accounts! Cheers, Neil

Dumphrey
Dumphrey

Symantec is the only AV I have ever used that crashes enough, and takes down the whole system with it, enough that there are pages of web help for this... Symantec makes a removal tool for their products for a reason... When I begin to clean up a computer (virus infection etc), about 1/2 have no AV, the other half have Symantec, which usually has been trojan-ized or rooted into being useless. Oh, and did I mention Symantecs need to bloat the crap out of all their software? Norton Ghost 2000/2003, fits on a single floppy, works like a champ. Ghost > v.10, must have dvd to boot from to recover... okay, not a big problem, except making a copy of said dvd for use (while storing orig for security) just plain did not work for me. Also, even though it can make an image of a running machine, using the differential feature results in needing a NAS for your backups....HUGE files... Oh, and ever called their tech support line? "Greetings, You have reached Symantec Technical Support. Please get comfortable and settle in for a 6 hour wait. And if you decide to get up and go piss, thats when we will answer the phone, and hang up on you."

Tanderson
Tanderson

I am in total agreement. Seems with every new release, it gets worse.

Woody Goode
Woody Goode

To give MicroPro a little credit, they did at least see the potential of providing an office suite. Also, WordStar was a direct port of the CP/M program (which was written for machines that usually didn't have arrow keys). MicroPro's belief that the program for the new environment should use the same commands as the old ones-- so users could switch over painlessly-- was not entirely misguided. But, like WordPerfect for Windows, it was pretty much a horrendous botch. And both attempts to improve on it-- WordStar 2000 and WordStar for Windows-- were pretty sad.

JohnMcGrew
JohnMcGrew

...a few years ago, I was installing my copy of Pagemaker on my new PC. (I've been using Pagemaker since it came on 5.25 floppies with its own runtime version of Windows) Well, sometime before that I had done some housecleaning and had thrown out the disks to all of my previous versions except the version immediately before the one I was currently using. It turns out that their DRM needed a serial # off of the latest version I had thrown out. Okay, I call Adobe to have them look it up. Well, since my original registration took place some time back during the Reagan Administration, it seems that it didn't make it through the various mergers and database updates. They had most of my "upgrade" versions registered, but not the "original". So they won't give me a key to re-install my current version. But what they would do is sell me an upgrade to their follow up product. So let me see here; I don't qualify to use the older upgrade version that I've been using for the last 4 or 5 years, but I do qualify to purchase the newer follow-up product? When I point this out to a "supervisor", they tell me that I'm right. I don't qualify for that either. Thanks; didn't want it anyway. I write a nasty letter and call HQ, to which an assistant to the president promises to look into it. I never hear back. Oh yes, and Reader has become complete bloatware that now takes forever to load.

techrepublic
techrepublic

Having used ActionScript for the last two years at the specification of our clients, I can confidently say that it is one of the worst written languages I've ever used, and upgrades to the language were planned with all the foresight (apologies to Dilbert) of drunken lemurs. And I don't like Adobe Reader much either.

croeiii
croeiii

I've used both Corels graphic suite and Adobe's and by far the worst resource hog and useless is Adobe's.

sgraves
sgraves

I've had it with off shore support. With few exceptions, the reps have no technical depth. I spent several days over a couple of weeks with MS on a Sharepoint issue (remapping the URL for exported sites) only to have a department lead tell me that it couldn't be done. Prefer to get that information upfront. Symantec is no better and HP is getting as bad. Before purchasing any enterprise product, I now make it a point to find out if they've outsourced their support. It has been a deal breaker in more than one case. M.S. is putting its future into the hands of incompetents who can't communicate. Say what you like about Microsoft, they used to have knowledable, well trained techs who answered the phones and could resolve the issues. Not so any longer. For the first time in my career, I'm looking at LINUX/UNIS for my backend services. Worst software ever? McaFee for DOS. I made a living fixing the instability problems their TSR caused.

Neil Leacy
Neil Leacy

The OS version of the VHS versus Betamax story where the better didn't win. May be if OS/2 had come with built in porn we'd be seeing a different desktop scenario to the bloatware that has become Vista. ;-) Cheers, Neil

carrilion
carrilion

Where do I begin? Adobe, Corel, Quicktime, Roxio, Symantec, etc. Unbox a fresh Windows PC and install a third-party app for instant instability. Even Microsoft's own offerings oft times choke.

RipVan
RipVan

>> Say what you like about Microsoft, they used to have knowledable, well trained techs who answered the phones and could resolve the issues. When was this? Way back, I called for help when I had issues with Windows 3.1 and I listened to a guy flip pages and read to me. He had no knowledge of his own, and after wasting too much of my time, he referred me up to someone who didn't flip pages, but made some pretty bad guesses. Both guys told me to try things I had already tried (I kept letting them know that I "did that already"), and they took me no further than the things I had already read and tried on my own. I was on hold (paying for long distance) for over half an hour before this, and within 5 minutes of reaching this allegedly "live person", I realized I needed to get OFF the phone with this know-nothing tech support. This guy was too tenacious and didn't take the (polite) hints that I wanted to get OFF the line. Finally, when he told me to reboot for the UMPTEENTH time, I said "great, it's rebooting, I'll call back if this doesn't work." Since he finally realized he had no solution to my problem, (and he was stuck with me), he readily agreed. I decided right there and then that I would never be at the mercy of these idiots again. I read a lot and used plenty of trial and error. I started fixing other people's computers and then started assisting people with computer problems at work. I went back to college to finish my degree and changed my major to IT. I have a decent job, and even though I'll never be rich, I do okay. I'm still picking up new skills and I get to deal with new IT challenges so I enjoy my work. In a terribly twisted way, I owe it all to Microsoft! But I am sorry I missed the "knowledable, well trained techs" who apparently once worked at MS. Had they been there when I needed them, I might never have found the need to pick up IT skills at all.

NotSoChiGuy
NotSoChiGuy

....was installing stock ticker systems for traders/firms. They OS choices were OS/2 or WinNT. I always hoped for OS/2, since those were far smoother and required less support afterwards. What I usually got was NT. In retrospect, I wish I would have been more adamant with the customers in steering them towards OS/2. Chalk it up as a lesson learned.