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Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Do Less for Me

Jason Fried, of 37 Signals fame, has said on numerous occassions that adding features actually decreases your market instead of increasing it. That seems counter-intuitive, but I've been living a perfect example recently.

When I first found it circa 1996, Paint Shop Pro was a great little image editing app. So great, in fact, that I actually paid for a downloaded copy (no small commitment on 33k dialup!) It was a large step up from Windows Paintbrush, but was a lot cheaper than Photoshop, even then. Photoshop had many more features, of course, but few that I ever needed.

Several years later, now on Windows 98, I found myself ordering a boxed copy of the latest version of Paint Shop Pro. I was pleasantly surprised that it had added some new features, although I didn't use many of them, and besides, all the stuff I'd used before was still there. Actually, I should say "most of the stuff," since a few things I'd become accustomed to were noticeably harder, but I didn't think anything about it.

Finally, several more years down the road, I'd just built a wizbang new Windows XP system, and I figured I'd ditch my stodgy old version of PSP in favor of the shiny new model. Wow, what a mistake! Even after using it (or trying to, at least) for close to four years now, I still can't consistently make it do what I want. Supposedly simple things like swapping colors are either impossible (sometimes) or behave unexpectedly (nearly all the time).

It's obvious that in a classic case of Photoshop Envy, they've been trying to match the big boys feature-for-feature. I dunno, maybe they've succeed. Maybe there's almost nothing that Photoshop can do for $500 that Paint Shop Pro can't do for $50. Maybe if I were doing complex image editing, I'd be thrilled. Guess what: I don't, and I'm not.

What I need is an app that makes it really easy to do the things that I need to do 80% of the time: resize, recolor, and rearrange. I really don't much care about the other features most of the time. I see that Paint Shop Pro X is out now. Good for them. I hope they sell a million copies, but I don't think they'll be selling one to me.

I've become pretty happy with GIMP on Windows, and I'm trying out some Mac apps to fill the same niche. It has nothing to do with cost or open source software, it's just a preference for apps that do what I need very well and very easily, regardless of how much or well they do things that I don't need.


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