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Software: Epic Fail

Note: I’ve had this post in draft for several weeks. I forgot about it and only found it today.

I recently bought a Google Nexus 7. I figured I could use it to read stuff for work while commuting. It looked very handy and convenient.

But, it’s been probably the worst experience ever with mobile software.

I’m not sure if it’s a problem in the Android ecosystem and, for example on iOS, everything is better, but it took me about one hour and several failed attempts to open a longish Word document.

The integrated Office viewer sort of works, bit it’s clunky and has no text reflowing.
I tried a few other free apps on Google Play but they either didn’t offer anything better, or they simply crashed when opening the document.
I hoped Kindle would be able to convert the document and send it to my device, but the conversion failed with an unknown error.

I ended up converting the Word .docx in PDF and opening it with Android’s built-in PDF reader, which for some reason supports text reflowing. I’m a pathological nitpicker, so this app’s sluggyness made me mad. So, I reasoned, Adobe’s official PDF Reader app should work much better.
Well, I don’t know how, but it’s even worse.

How can this happen? How can we users even tolerate this?

You see, “good enough” is not good enough. Being able to barely open a Word document is not enough. You must be able to open it, browse it, search it, reflow its text and zoom it as needed. Providing a basic set of functionality and leaving out advanced tools is fine. It really is. But what’s included should be flawless.

I know, we’re all used to Google’s experimental, half-baked apps, and we all know they get better over time (and making the world a tiny bit better in the process). Google turns experimental kludges to rock-solid applications. But, seriously, a document reader? That should be the baseline on a tablet. The bare minimum.

I know what you’re thinking: it’s easy to lay blame on others.
It’s true, I admit that. On the other hand, even if we developers know how these things go, and how projects sometimes get out of control, this is not rocket science. It’s a damn document reader.

But I’m not laying blame carelessly. As they say, when the shit starts hitting the fan, few are spared. Personally, when I receive negative feedback, perhaps without much sugar-coating, it hurts me. I take it personally, even if it’s the tiniest of the problems. I know how it feels.

Getting back to the original issue, perhaps they left text reflowing out because it was not good enough. But then all the rest should be close to perfection. The point is, it’s not.
I’ve came to the conclusion that average users typically tolerate many more problems than we generally believe, but that shouldn’t be taken for an excuse to release mediocre software. I also perfectly understand that there are much worse cases. Yet again, that’s not an excuse.

Google’s mantra “Don’t be evil” should perhaps be extended with “Don’t be mediocre”.