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ActiveWords - The most useful utility I'm no longer using

Migrating software needs to get easierTo be fair, up front I should warn you: this post is an opinion piece.

About two months ago I moved to a new laptop, and went through all of the nonsense that is involved with setting up a new machine. I've just noticed today that I haven't bothered to install many of the programs that I previously would have gone to the effort and jumped through the hoops necessary to get registered on my new machine. And not because the software isn't good.

I'm picking on ActiveWords in the title here, but this applies to many other programs too. In fact, it applies to any commercial software that requires some form of registration to validate it on a given PC. But since I've named ActiveWords in the title, I'll use it as my example.

ActiveWords is an insanely useful tool for power users on PCs. I've long said that it's the scripting or macro engine that Windows should have had built right in, and I still believe it. The power and simplicity in ActiveWords is virtually unparalleled.

But here's the problem. Like most other commercial software, ActiveWords requires codes to unlock it, and requires users to jump through hoops to get a new unlocking code when they move to a different machine. I understand the reason for this, and I suppose that it's a necessary evil.

But each time I've had to jump through those hoops, it has been increasingly more of a pain. And this time, I didn't even consider it. Instead, I decided to use free software that gives me a few of the crucial features I needed from ActiveWords (AutoHotKey), and decided to give up on the rest of the benefit I was getting from it. Now keep in mind that I own a valid license for this very good software, but the trouble of legitimizing it yet again on a new machine was simply too much.

Worse, even if did manage to get it legitimately installed, I then have to go through the almost always manual process of configuring it. Even if it's a manual import of settings from a previous machine (which it is with ActiveWords), it's still more effort than I'm willing to expend on this kind of thing. We now live in a world where almost every computer can be connected in some way to almost every other computer - this simply shouldn't be necessary to manually reconfigure software on seperate machines anymore!

Now all of this holds true for lots of other software as well. And as web services get better and better, I think the trouble of getting set up on a new machine will be a big motivating factor for users to start replacing desktop software with online equivalents. Obviously this doesn't work in every software category, but consider that there are online word processors, spreadsheets, email clients, task lists, calendars, RSS readers, calculators, photo editing tools, photo libraries... the list goes on and on. How many of these online replacements for traditional desktop software are you already using? What software have you abandoned simply because of the hassle of installing and configuring it on a new machine? And finally, what's the answer?

I'm not trying to say that the future of desktop software is all doom and gloom - there are too many things that can be done in a far superior fashion on the desktop. What I am saying is that for companies that develop desktop software, a solution must be created to make it painless, or even seamless to migrate from one machine to another, and to use the product on more than one machine. Today, I use at least 3 computers on a very regular basis. Most of my commercial software simply doesn't allow for that fact.

Maybe Microsoft needs to come up with a solution for all software providers. It makes sense, considering that they are (above any other software company) the ones with the most to lose if people abandon their desktop software for online equivalents and replacements.

What are your thoughts? How do you deal with "upgrade hell"? Is this a problem for Mac users as well? Leave your thoughts in the comments!

Tags: commercial, software registration, software upgrades, SoftwareRegistration, SoftwareUpgrades, upgrade hell, UpgradeHell, upgrading