I could pick so many angles to this, but I will focus on a very famous piece of software which has been utterly ruined in recent years: Adobe Photoshop. This is not a rant, but related both to software design and psychology.
These days, it is not possible to install it on a PC without going through a program which they call “Adobe Creative Cloud”. It’s sort of a software “hub” from which you download/manage the actual software you want (Photoshop, Illustrator, etc.). It demands that you register an account and log in to use it; if you don’t, you simply cannot install or use Photoshop or any other Adobe software. (Other than some ancient, outdated copy you might still have as a physical box on the shelf.)
Just having that “Creative Cloud” stuff on my computer in the first place gives me the creeps. On top of requiring you to have an Adobe account and log in to it, it aggressively installs itself as a difficult-to-remove icon in File Explorer, and makes itself very “known” overall, with frequent “update notifications” which have been engineered to be difficult to turn off. All you really want as a user is a simple icon that says “Photoshop” which opens Photoshop and nothing else when you click it. There is no benefit to the user to have this intermediate software. Any updates to Photoshop could easily be checked and handled regularly by Photoshop itself. (But even then, I don’t want random updates all the time, anyway.)
When you start Photoshop these days, it shows you this screen:
The sheer idea that Photoshop even has the technical ability to transfer my project files (or finished files) away from my computer within itself is deeply unsettling to me, even though they give you this choice/prompt. There’s also something uncomfortable about the language they use, almost as to suggest that “you can (big smile) upload all your private files to our computers”, but (with a stern look) “for all you annoyingly privacy-conscious, un-hip, stone-age neanderthals, I guess we’ll also allow you to save your stupid files onto your stupid computer… maybe. For now. But you lose this and that benefit and remember that the Cloud is perfectly safe and you are really a very stupid and uncool person if you still want control over your files when we at Adobe could Cloud-store them for you instead in a far superior and more convenient manner. And don’t forget how convenient it is to go for the Cloud route and how uncool and old you seem if you pick this other, lame option.”
That’s how I interpret these “nudges” that all software these days seem to use to push the users into a completely insane situation where they store their private files on somebody else’s computer. This is not just about me and my personal situation; it makes my skin crawl to think of all the people out there who simply don’t have a proper understanding about privacy and security (nor could they be expected to), who are constantly being pushed into this extremely scary direction.
Again, even if they never will move to storing your private files by default in Adobe’s close (which is coming… believe me!), just the fact that the program has the technical ability to do this, and could be doing it if I don’t tread very carefully and vacuum all the settings for obscure little checkboxes which make it possible to turn this off, but 99.99% of all users won’t ever know it’s a setting, nor understand why they should go out of their way to disable it…
Over the years, as Photoshop has gotten worse and worse, not just in terms of privacy-destroying misfeatures, but also in terms of sheer “dumbing down” and bloat, for example, those auto-playing pop-up videos showing you how to use the basic tools, I have evaluated numerous alternatives. They are, I regret to inform, all absolute trash. There is no real comparison whatsoever. Things which just intuitively feel natural in Photoshop (most of its features, I just found out by using it and stumbling upon things which just made sense), are completely gone from those so-called “alternatives”. So, in practice, there is just no alternative/choice.
Maybe it sounds silly, but I’ve seriously lost my creativity and will to use software or computers at all in later years, and it definitely cannot be solely attributed to “unrelated depression”. Modern software, made by “modern people”, is designed with a completely different mentality than that which I remember from the “roaring 1990s”, when the PC truly blossomed and looked extremely promising.
Ever since the turn of the millennia, the mentality has increasingly shifted from “making really polished and great software for great people” toward “constantly change everything around randomly for the sake of change while adding enormous amounts of bloat and spying with zero benefit to the user who we deeply disrespect”.
Staying with old versions of software is impossible for obvious security reasons, but also practical ones. Some good new things are introduced, but get drowned in unwanted software cancer.
I no longer feel like having Photoshop on my computer, because it comes with all this garbage, and it increasingly feels like I’m using a dumb terminal and creating stuff “in the Adobe cloud” rather than on my machine. It feels like, at any given moment, that private image I’m editing might fly right away to some computer somewhere.
Maintaining a dedicated virtual machine with another costly Windows 10 license only to turn off its virtual network card seems like insanity. It’s just not practical or affordable. (Those evaluation copies of Windows 10 only work for 90 days and the rearm stuff never works.)
Basically, even if you can figure out some kind of “trick” to work around this, the fact remains that I’m drained of all my energy and creativity just knowing what they are doing. I want to feel like I’m using a fully “offline”, professional-grade, robust, industrial application — not some kind of toy for babies. I thought they had special editions for consumers, but now, even the “real” Photoshop looks ridiculous visually.