THE ULTIMATE INEFFICIENT LEARNING OF A GRAPHICS APP

INEFFICIENCY AT IT’S BEST – LEARNING ACDsee WHEN WORDS MEAN NOTHING


I have been using a very old version of Photoshop for a long time. It’s CSS5 and I know I got it when I left my last job — and that was 2008? Maybe a year earlier. It could have been 2007. That it actually works at all is amazing and works quite well is more amazing.

But the clock is ticking. Sooner or later, Windows 10 will upgrade and  Photoshop CSS5 will stop working. I refuse to subscribe to Adobe. We are on a fixed income. Today, Adobe wants $10 a month. In ten years, what will they want? $25? $50?

Our income is not going up. Ever. That’s what they mean when they say “fixed” income. It never goes up . What may be a reasonable income when you retire can easily be half of what you need 20 years later. Many of us live longer than we used to and since I’m not planning to quit taking pictures until they pull the camera from my cold, dead hands, I need to make arrangements that work for me.

I needed a new graphics program.

I finally settled down to two possibilities: ACDsee and Corel. I had used Corel for years until I lucked into Photoshop, but back then it was highly destructive to the original photograph. Rumor had it that Corel has come a long way. I downloaded the trial versions of both applications.

I required a few things:

1 – The application had to work with my Topaz and NIK filter

2 – It must be non-destructive.

3 – I need to be able to figure out how it works without a masters in that application.

I’ve been using Photoshop for years and I’ve learned maybe 10% of its potential. Possibly less. I’ve learned what I need to know and nothing more. Photoshop is difficult. Although photography is my hobby, it is not my profession. I love taking pictures, but I’ve served my time in the high-tech world. I’m just not willing to work that hard these days. Lazy? Absolutely. I’m retired.

No one makes a better graphics processor than Adobe, but no one has created any application as non-intuitive. Functions are put wherever a developer felt like putting it — without regard for logic or reason. Why is the “level” option located under the color dropper? What does one have to do with the other? Answer: Nothing. They had a slot, so that’s where they put it.

I wanted something I could figure out without a spirit guide on my shoulder whispering in my ear.

Corel was clearly the winner in the “ease of use” department. I could almost immediately understand what the little symbols meant and pretty quickly deduce how to use them. But the application would not install properly. It first refused to install on my C drive. I have two drives. Drive C is a 256 GB solid state drive. It’s where I put applications and where Windows lives. I eventually tricked it into installing on Drive C, but it was determined to live and die as a document.

Nothing would make it install as a graphics application. I installed it, uninstalled it. Reinstalled it. Got in touch with technical support and they were fuzzy about exactly how to add the Topaz filters and whether or not the trial version would even support them — regardless of whether or not the full version would allow them. Or, for that matter, how to convince it to not be a document.

Meanwhile, ACDsee installed exactly as it should. The Topaz and NIK filters installed perfectly and worked fine. While Corel was diddling around, trying to find a time to figure out how to make their application install, I had ACDsee working, with filters. Work was slow, but it was working. Which was more than I could say for Corel.

So I bought ACDsee.

And this is where words began to matter.

In ACDsee, every item you need to use is worded differently than it is in Photoshop — or for that matter, Corel.When I was a working technical writer, I wanted to set up a cross industry group to try and create a dictionary of words we commonly use in building applications for the high-tech industry. They said “Good idea” and moved one. Every other industry has a basic, standard vocabulary.

Electronics has a dictionary. Regardless of what kind of electronic item you work on, any electrician can read the schematic and know what each item is. They don’t have to relearn their entire vocabulary to use a new device.

But in applications and particularly in graphics applications, each company called each function whatever someone felt like calling it. And put it wherever someone felt like hanging it. You think a word like “file” will mean a file, but it may be an image or a document or a schematic. Or some other word that may make no sense to anyone but the developer.

The thing is, there’s absolutely nothing in any of these applications I haven’t seen and used before. What’s different are the words describing them. Every item is listed in a category unlike other similar applications — and each of them not merely confusing. It’s downright abstruse.

I’m no longer in the tech business, but what I predicted happened. Without a standard dictionary, every application requires an exceptionally high degree of relearning.  Users are left working twice as hard to do something that ought to be transparent.

Words matter. Even though there’s nothing I can do about it, I resent having to waste the time simply figuring out what “geometry” means and why filters don’t contain my filters, but merely their filters. Meanwhile, my filters are actually located under “Tools” and subbed as “Photoshop plugins.” Even though they aren’t part of Photoshop and not made by Adobe. Apparently ACDsee’s developers decided anything that can work with Photoshop is a Photoshop plugin. Regardless of who makes the filter. I’m sure Topaz will be happy to hear that.

I bought ACDsee because I know it works, but I’m not using it. I’m using my old version of Photoshop because I know how. I realized finally that I will not use the new application until the old one breaks down and I can’t make it work.

And why not? Because the amount of learning I need to do to figure out where the simple things I need are located. No simple leveling tool — I have to use the perspective or distortion correction device. No easy way to save the photograph and exit. Two hundred questions about whether you want to save it and every other version of anything you did to it before you exit. I did actually complete fixing one photograph and it looked okay, but it was so slow and painstaking … It’s going to take a real poke in the ribs to get me to really use it. If they had named everything in some normal way, that might have helped.

Words really DO matter.

Author: Marilyn Armstrong

Writer, photography, blogger. Previously, technical writer. Retired! Yay!

35 thoughts on “THE ULTIMATE INEFFICIENT LEARNING OF A GRAPHICS APP”

  1. This was an great article of a subject I’m interested in. As a software development student with interest in design I’ve experienced at least some of the problems you mention. I’ve used photoshop and I believe that it’s actually one of the best tools out there, at least compared to many other free or low-cost ones. But just as you do, I don’t like that I can’t just buy one copy of photoshop and then use it forever anymore. Hopefully there will be some kind of improvement or a new tool sometime in the future.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. There are quite a few good (newer) tools out there and some of them are free for use. But every single one has its own vocabulary and definition of the tools. It’s maddening to have to relearn every single thing from scratch each time you try something different. The lack of a consistent terminology in applications is a serious weakness and it limits our choice of applications. At some point in our lives, we get tired of relearning the same material over and over because the developers can’t be bothered to make it easier for us. They do NOT gain from this either. I think they LOSE a lot of sales.

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  2. Um, you may know this, but apparently (and I’m more stubborn than you, I refuse to upgrade to Windows 10 AND I’m using a version of Photoshop that’s well over 15 years old at this point)…apparently Topaz has come out with their own version of photo manipulation software. I found this out from a site I often frequent to tutor myself on Photoshop. They give free tutorials. ShiftArt is the site. ANYWAY. I was grousing to the site about a few of their artists using terminology and filters that my old version did not have. And someone directed me to Topaz and the photo manipulation software which was free yet. Here’s a link in case you’re interested in checking it out.

    Topaz Studio – The Photographer’s Editing Toolbox
    https://web.topazlabs.com/

    I don’t know how well it works, and as you point out EVERYONE in the graphic editing game uses differing terminology. I found Topaz Studio not that dissimilar to Photoshop, but like you returned to my comfort zone eventually.

    Good luck! Your photos turn out stunningly and if it ain’t broke, why fix it? And who knows? Photoshop might prove a lot more adaptive than we think..

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    1. I own everything Topaz makes including their studio. If they would just add a simple leveling tool and a way to save a photo in the form you want it — ala Photoshop Bridge — I’d use it all the time. Well, almost all the time. There are things it doesn’t do — yet. But they are getting there.

      The Studio is free, but the extended filters are not. If you own the filters AND the studio, the filters you bought with a few exceptions, integrate with the studio. A few of them — like “clean” and “denoise” are essentially stand alone applications. But Topaz is WONDERFUL. I love them to pieces.

      Mostly, I like windows 10, but I didn’t migrate to it. I bought it embedded in this computer. I don’t like the migration process. I think computers run better on their native operating systems. All my windows 7 machines are still windows 7 machines. Garry’s and “the spare” — all windows 7.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. No one is going to work on it. Ever. I did my best when i was in the industry and no one wanted to hear me. I KNEW this was going to work out badly and it has. It’s way late in the game. This is not an industry that has conventions where they work this stuff out. Every high tech company thinks it has the right answers and doesn’t bother to figure out what might be better for us, the users, also known as CUSTOMERS.

      Liked by 1 person

            1. If they think that, they are totally wrong. What really happens is that people hang on to their old applications until they finally stop working entirely rather than trying anything new. It’s arrogant and it’s stupid. And it costs them money.

              Liked by 1 person

    2. When I was in college to obtain a Graphic Design degree, the platform was Apple (Mac) EVERYTHING. I ‘grew up’ with PCs. Used an IBM word processor first, then a Wang computer, and then IBM desktop PCs during my career. It was HUGELY annoying to know all the short cuts and be familiar with a PC and have to use a ‘graphic computer’ – the Mac. I found Macs to be frustrating and too simplistic. At the end of my college time, someone (Adobe?) began to develop a multi-platform way of using Illustrator and Photoshop. Hallejuiah. But, if as Marilyn says, nobody is going to go any further with that, well phooey. Just another example perhaps of greedy corporations who are out to make the most money they can and screw the consumer. They ought to remember who is in charge in that scenario and what happens when people stop buying their products. Ask places like Footlocker…

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I would like to agree it’s all about money, but I’m more inclined to think it’s more about arrogance and stupidity. I’m sure they don’t make MORE money by making it so difficult to move from one platform to another. Quite the opposite. It makes us very reluctant to ever change platforms. We hang on to our old platforms until they finally die and cannot be revived.

        I didn’t like the Mac either. I felt like it was missing too many functions I needed, but for many years, it was THE machine for graphics. I used to get upgrade prices so I could use the same Adobe product on both machines. Eventually, I ditched the Mac entirely. They always promised it would be upgradeable — and it never was. I would spend a fortune and a week later, there’d be a new Mac and the old one was a doorstop.. I got seriously angry about it and I know I wasn’t the only one.

        I do everyone on the PC now. Those who insist that Macs are so easy to use must think differently than me because I’ve never found that to be true. Not even close! And ANYONE can fix a PC.

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      2. If enough people feel like you do I would imagine they will eventually have to be more interactive. When people stop buying their product the bottom line will rule.
        Leslie

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            1. There’s no convention of “software makers” like there is for electricians and other professionals. That’s where the problem starts. If they don’t eventually realize they need to do at least a few things together, the problem never gets fixed.

              Liked by 1 person

  3. Have a neighbor who used photoshop, she swears by it. I swear at it. My husband has a copy, and he uses what I would consider the very edge of the hem of the garment on it. For my own learning curve, if I can’t pick it up reasonably intuitively reasonably fast, then Im not playin’. Life is too short.

    At this stage I admire anyone who can handle Photoshop. I have two dinosaurs, PhotoDraw (which is slowing closing all it’s tools down, one bit at a time) and Microsoft Office Picture Manager. Not the most sophisticated duck in the box, but it works, and I don’t need helpers to follow along.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. And you know — the applications aren’t really that difficult. It’s just that they change the meanings of all the terms and put user functions in absurd places. So what ought to be easy is really difficult. If they think by doing this they are somehow improving their sales curve, I would like to assure them that it’s quite the opposite. I dread having to change applications. I don’t have the patience to work my way through the muck and mire anymore. When it was life, death, and a paycheck, I did it. Now? No one is paying my so I’m not going to make myself crazy just for fun.

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  4. Standard terms.., what’s that? I live in the electronics world where, as Marilyn mentioned, standards have been in place for decades with little fear of change anytime soon.., BUT…, since my expertise is in location audio recording, I have been forced to go digital. I’m not complaining as that means I don’t carry bulky, heavy tape machines around (to old anyway), but now use a laptop computer and an interface. Now here’s where our worlds converge.

    In order to use a computer, you have to load it with audio software that is seldom written by audio engineers. “They” whoever they are, use terms, of their own making, to describe stuff we’ve been doing for years.., and, as Marilyn so aptly puts it, drop them wherever they want to. They also, willy nilly, eliminate functions we use all the time as unnecessary. As computers and operating systems move ahead, the software we’ve come to love, through much research and learning, is now obsolete or will no longer work with a new computer or updated OS. Money is the new “tech standard” because now we have to spend more money to get a compatible system working. If your business depends on your efficiency at completing work, “CAUTION, ROAD WORK AHEAD. REDUCED SPEED. FINES INCREASE WHEN WORKERS PRESENT.”

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You said it better than I could. If I had to do all this relearning in a work environment, it would drive me nuts. At least it’s a hobby now and I don’t have to worry about the boss standing behind me, frowning because I can’t figure out what is supposed to do what!

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  5. I tried a few before settling on Photoshop as my favorite. Doug likes GIMP. I dunno why. Maybe because it’s free. Learning does take time but right now, time is all I have.

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  6. AMEN to that – to all of it – WORDS ALWAYS MATTERED and will continue to matter!

    Did the same thing years ago – now my eyesight is so bad that if I couldn’t figure it out then, I couldn’t even ‘read’ the icons any longer and I had a problem even when I bought my programme…. Now WORDS matter so much to me that I write a lot more, I still take hundreds of photos but the very basic treatment I can give them and the ‘pairing with the story or A Story’ take too much of my precious sight to also upload them – I terribly miss the input I got from my output but I also realise that as I still have the words I can do a lot about giving joy with ‘just writing’ and adding pics in my personal mails and printing them in my letters.

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    1. My eyes are not what they were and they are getting worse. It’s why I don’t like these complicated menus with all those tiny icons. It’s also why I’m so addicted to audiobooks. I can’t focus on a text page very long. Everything is designed by youngersters who never consider “sight” as an issue. They don’t even think about simple stuff, like color blindness. One of my bosses was color blind and he made it his personal specialty to make sure every color we used could be seen by anyone, color blind or not. And he made the text big enough so someone with limited vision could read it. But he was an exception in many ways.

      Between my fading vision and Garry’s limited hearing, we really ARE the lame and the halt!

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Howdy Marilyn.
    I use Corel Home and Student edition. It’s much cheaper than the real Corel (about $125) and has most every feature … including Corel Photopaint … which I use a lot. You don’t need to update every year if you don’t want. It doesn’t seem to change all that much.
    There are some free things out there, but I know this program pretty well so …

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    1. I’m getting used to ACDsee and it’s pretty good. Less expensive than Corel, though I had a coupon for Corel, so I could have gotten it for about $80. But I’m pleased with ACDsee and I’m just beginning to figure it out. It’s got a lot of cool features. The problem is FINDING them.

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  8. One thing that I liked about Microsoft office was the continuity of icons and functions.
    Now that Office is a subscription app hosted in the cloud and not my C drive, things change over night with no warning or explanation.
    I’d really like to find the last version of Office that came on CD and buy it.

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    1. Get Open Office (free). It’s everything you want, a few things you’ll never need, and it really IS free (though they wouldn’t mind a donation). It’s a great application and I haven’t bought Office for more than a dozen years, but I can open any .doc file using it.

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