When a software company releases a new version of a product, in theory, the product is supposed to improve. Ideally, the software becomes faster, is easier to use, and maybe includes a few features that make it more useful along the way.

More often than not, what happens is that a once useful program becomes a bloated mess. Rather than fixing old bugs, the new version adds bugs and leaves ones that were from a previous version unaddressed. The new version runs more slowly, takes more resources, and occasionally changes the interface, making it impossible to remember where common commands are stored.

Plus, there’s always the issue with feature creep. In order to justify charging for a new feature, a vendor will add in all sorts of new features, the vast majority of which will never be used by anyone. But they look really good on the press release and in the product spec sheet if nothing else.

Going backward

In many cases you can avoid the hassles by not upgrading altogether. If you’ve made the mistake of doing an upgrade, you can always try uninstalling the old version and reinstalling a previous version.  This, of course, is usually only useful when you have the original CDs.

In the cases where you’ve downloaded the software, the complications increase. Many times when a vendor revs software that’s available only for download, they’ll take the previous version off their Web site. Unless you still have the original installation program, you’re out of luck.

For such a situation, you might try Oldversion.com. This site serves as a repository for previous versions of many software packages like Reader, RealPlayer, AIM, and others. It’s a pretty good place to start when you want to downgrade to a previous version.

Remember, however, that downgrading to a previous version can cause problems of its own. Along with all the other junk that can be introduced into new versions, security patches may be added as well. By downgrading to an old version, you may be opening yourself up to these now-unpatched vulnerabilities. So, way the costs and benefits before downgrading.

What software has bloated the worst?

It’s hard to tell what software has suffered the most from version bloat. I thought I’d run a quick poll and see what you had to say. I was tempted to add “Anything from Microsoft” to the poll, but, as always, I’m going to keep that out to keep from skewing the results.

Pick your selection for the software that’s suffered the most from each new version: