Software Updates (Still) Need An Upgrade
A couple of weeks ago, my Help File column noted the arrival of a new, Microsoft Vista-ready version of the free OpenOffice productivity suite. OpenOffice has long one of my favored open-source applications, and I'm glad to see it's keeping up with the times.
But updating a copy of OpenOffice 2.0 to the new 2.2 release reminded me of how this program--and others--still make it unnecessarily difficult to stay on top of software updates.
First, there was no update installer available; I had to download a complete copy of the program and install that over my existing copy. This installer--almost 97 megabytes!--arrived as a compressed file, not the usual installer program. Double-clicking it only led to a prompt asking if I'd like its contents to be unpacked to the desktop or someplace else (like I care; just put them in a new folder in the same spot that I saved the first download to, OK?). After a notable wait for this unpacking process to complete, I was left with a folder full of separate files, which was only four megs bigger than the original compressed file.
The OpenOffice installer then asked where I'd like to install the new version, but ignored where I'd put the older copy and instead suggested creating a brand-new "OpenOffice.org 2.2" in my Program Files directory. This has been an annoying habit of previous OpenOffice installers--the developers seem to think that we should put each new release of this program, no matter how minor, in its own folder--so I changed that to keep the program in the same "OpenOffice" folder as before. (Yes, I can be a little obsessive in my computing-neatnik habits, but most software updates are polite enough not to move things around on me.)
Oh, and the installer itself happened to be one of the slowest that I've had to sit through.
At least my next OpenOffice update will be simpler in one way--it now includes an automatic update checker to let users know when a new release is available. (Actually, that feature debuted in OpenOffice 2.0.4, but I missed out on that release and the subsequent 2.1 version because this computer's copy of 2.0 didn't have any such auto-update notification. I might have overlooked the 2.2 update as well, but its Vista support made it noteworthy enough to be covered in a few tech-news sites.)
All of which is to say that it continues to be a pain to keep your computer's non-system software current. So in a future Help File, I'm going to cover ways to ease this burden. Got any suggestions or tips on how you do that? Please share in the comments.
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