Top Ten Pieces of Software I Don’t Use Anymore (But Miss)

I was thinking the other day about a few applications that I miss. They were good applications that worked well for me at the time. In some cases, they were state of the art, or de facto standards. But, for one reason or another, I don’t use anymore. Somtimes I really would prefer to be using them, but am unable to. Or the overall requirement for the software is gone, but I still remember those days fondly. Finally, there is some software where I have chosen to move to something else, but appreciate what it did for me (and even see some gaps in my current system).

What does this include?

#1: Irfanview

Irvanview is a very lightweight image viewer and editor. I could open an image file, do some basic image adjustments (such as brightness, cropping), rescale and resample, then save it in the same or a different format. It even had the capability to do batch adjustments. This was the multitool I carry on my bike, not the full toolbox at home (that would be Photoshop).

These adjustments are fairly basic, but 80% of the time, it’s all you really needed. Really. A lot of the time all I need to do is take an image, tweaking it a bit (cropping it, resizing it, etc.), and upload it somehwere else. Or taking a bunch of JPGs that were relatively huge (3-5 MB), rescaling them, and saving them as files a tenth of their orginal size for a PowerPoint. I don’t need to get into layers and masks–I just need to fix something and move on.

Best of all, it was free, and didn’t have to be installed. I could put it on a USB drive (even a small one–the whole shebang was less than 30 MB), and run it from there.

Why don’t I still use it?

The program is Windows-only. At home, I’ve been a Mac or LINUX user for almost fifteen years. Not only does it not work on those platforms, I haven’t really found anything that matches it for them. There are a few things that offer part of the functionality in a small program, or I have to fire up a program like GIMP, which, while it has all that functionality and more, but is overkill if I’m looking to do something fast.

I used to load it on my WorkTop at my prior company, as I had the need for it a bit more often and they had a more liberal approach to what software you could load. I have less call for it in my new job (so far), and lack the flexibility to install it.

What I use instead?

I haven’t found a real alternative. There are a variety of “preview” applications that come with the OS that can do some of this. Otherwise, I’m firing up something that is bigger and more advanced. It’s sitll there, so I can use it on Windows, but I’d love a Mac versoin.

#2: Aperture

Aperture was Apple’s photo management and editing solution. It provided a way to catalog my photos, process them, then send them to final publication (either printing them or sending the to the web). It integrated well with OS X, with gestures on the trackpad and tie-ins to other programs.

The editing was way more advanced than Irfanview, but it’s what I would use when I wanted a full featured photo solution. I could take photos from my DSLR and process them, including adjusting histograms, setting up masking, and other serious edits. It supported non-destructive editing: I could make changes, and the new picture wasn’t a new file, per say, but a list of the changes I made. I could make several version, or back out to the original without care. When I was ready to use the final version somewhere, I would “publish” it, creating a file that reflected those changes, and print it or upload it.

Why don’t I still use it?

Apple discontinued it in 2016. I ran my old copy for a long time until that laptop died. When I got my newest MacBook, I was able to download it. However, Apple never ported it to 64-bit, and the latest OS X, 10.15, does not support 32-bit apps.

What I use instead?

Corel AfterShot Pro. I’m not wild about the cataloging system, but the editing works great. The price point relative to my needs as an “enthusiastic amature” photographer is much more preferable to Adobe Lightroom. I can’t say I love it, but it meets a fit-to-purpose criteria that means I can live with it.

That said, I’ve heard the Apple Photos (which merged Aperture and iPhoto) is a lot better than I iniitally thought, and has good extensions. I’ll probably give it another chance at some point.

#3: WordPerfect 5.1

When I was in college, the go-to word processor was WordPerfect. There were a few Windows and Mac users using an early version of Microsoft Word, and a few other alternativs kicking around, but most folks were writing in WordPerfect.

The state of word processors at that time (early Nineties) were primarily DOS-based. To trigger an action, you had to have a keyboard command, which meant you could type out your document, format it, and proof it, without taking your hands off the keyboard. Each program had their own keyboard mappings–you’d often find folks with cheatsheets or templates on their keyboards, until they learned the one they knew. This hands-on-keyboard writing is something I really miss.

One trend in applications over the last decade is “distractionless” applications: software that is designed to be the only thing on your screen. It would limit how much you can shift out of the app. The idea is to prevent an urge to check email or surf the web and just write. WordPerfect (and its contemporaries) were, by their nature, distractionless. You’d fire it up to a blue screen with grey text, and just type. If you needed to do anything else, you had to save your file, then close the program, and open up whatever else you wanted to do. To go back to writing, you had to fire up WordPerfect and load your file back up. There was no way you could check Facebook every three sentances.

WordPerfect had a mode called “reveal codes.” If you had some formatting that you couldn’t make work right and kept getting messier, you could hit a key, and see symbols showing where a bold region started and ended, or where the margins varied. You could then delete the codes, or move text inside or out of them. This was similar to writing text in Markdown.

One thing I thought was cool at the time was that the compatibility was extremely broad. In 1993, they ran an ad showing they had WordPerfect versions for not just DOS, Windows, and Mac, but OS/2, VMS, and a few flavors of UNIX. This is not something I exactly took advantage of–I pretty much just used it on DOS and later the Windows version. But it spoke to the nature of the technology of the day. So long as you could put characters on the terminal, it didn’t take much to port a piece of software like WordPerfect.

Maybe I just miss old school, terminal-only word processing.

I look at this now, and, combined with my current desired default of EMACS/Markdown/Pandoc, and realize I may not miss WordPerfect, per say, but word processing of the era. It was focussed, stripped down, and got out of your way. Any DOS-based word processor offers much of that. Truthfully, the EMACS/Markdown/Pandoc system may just be how I’m trying to recreate that era. WordPerfect was just the quintisential example of this era.

Why don’t I still use it?

Let’s face it: GUIs killed off that era. Everyone wants a WYSIWYG word processor, and support for multitasking. With Windows and Mac came a different philosphy on operating systems: print drivers didn’t have to be built into each application, they just had to tell the OS to print. The red squiggle, of which I’m extremely dependent, would be challenging at best to incorporate into a DOS word processor.

WordPerfect is still around, but it is a bit of an outlier. They didn’t jump to Windows fast enough as personal systems converged on that platform. Now, like it or not, Microsoft Word is the standard.

What I use instead?

Basically, I’m using three things:

  1. Microsoft Word is the de facto standard. It’s what I use at work, and I use an online version to ensure anything I need to send out in Word format will go as I intend.
  2. My go-to document productoin system is to write the text as a flat file in EMACS (though any text editor will do). I use Markdown for formatting, and Pandoc to make it into whatever sort of file I need. If I’m writing something for personal use, that’s where I start.
  3. If I need a true WYSIWYG word processor at home, I use Apple Pages, mostly because I don’t have a high demand for this, and Pages is free and works quite well. Often, the draft may be in Markdown, converted to Word, then tweaked in Pages.

#4: ProComm

Before the internet was ubiquitous, you got “online” one of two ways. Either you would log on to a local Bulitain Board System (BBS), which would have some forums and shareware downloads, or connect to a computer with a shell account, from which you would be able to “surf” the pre-web Internet (USENET, telnetting to MUDs, etc.). If you want a sense of what this was like, I’d recommend checking out SDF.

To connect, you’d need some “terminal program” to dial in with. The de facto standard was ProComm. This shareware program is another example of a lightweight program (I seem to recall it could fit on a 360KB disk) that did it’s job and did it really, really well. I spent many nights tapping away on the VAX in college, with ProComm as my entry point.

They came out with ProComm Plus, and a version for Windows. I know I got a copy, and even utilized it’s scripting language to automate download the latest Dilbert comic via Delphi (this was 1994).

Why don’t I still use it?

While the shareware version is still out there for DOS, development for ProComm Plus for Windows ended in 2002. The program is extinct.

Moreover, in order to support things like web access, ISPs started using the Point-to-Point Protocol (PPP), which acted like a network interface on the computer–terminal emulators like ProComm were moot. Gradually, ISPs shifted to faster networks (cable modems, etc.), which made the connection even more like a LAN, effectively killing off dial up service (again, SDF is one of the few organizations offering such service).

What I use instead?

It’s not really needed anymore. I’m almost always “online” via WiFi or cellular data, connected directly to the internet (give or take a few firewalls). If I want to get Old School with SDF, I’m using a command prompt and an SSH client (they come by default with UNIXes like OS X, and PuTTY is my go-to on Windows).

#5: Google Reader

There are a bunch of blogs I followed, but, frankly, it takes a lot of time to poke through them. I have to load the blog, along with all the adds, formating, and other crap, to pick through the front page to decide if I want to read a given article. RSS allows me to pull all those feeds into a reader, and gives me just the headlines. Once there, I can then click through to see the article (either on their page, or, depending on the reader, just the text). There are readers for most platforms, and I can import my list of feeds to different readers.

Google Reader was a browser-based reader. I could have my list of feeds there, and, when the mood struck, go there with a browser. What’s more, other apps were designed to sync with it, allowing a stand-alone reader on my laptop (some of which had features I preferred to use) to sync with a reader on my phone (which might have better support for the smaller screen), as well as the browser.

Why don’t I still use it?

Google disconinued the service in 2013.

What I use instead?

I have been using Tiny Tiny RSS, on my own host, but something broke, and, frankly, I don’t have the patience to fix it. Part of the issue is it requires running a mySQL instance as its database. That was a lot of strain to put on my poor server.

I’ve been looking at a couple options where they have a Tiny Tiny RSS server I can tap into. Frankly, the death of Google Reader killed my use of RSS, limiting the number of blogs I read.

That may be for the best.

#6: Ascent

When I first started using my first Garmin cyclecomputer, the software that came with it was aweful. I was on a Mac, and it looked very un-Mac-y. It barely looked like a Windows port–maybe some graphics mode DOS application. The maps were aweful, the interface was awkward, and it was horrid to use.

I did a search, and found Ascent. It was a shareware application that could take the data files from the Garmin, and catalog them well. The interface fit well within the overall OS X ecosystem, and the maps were lovely. I could get graphs for performace over time or with in a ride. It had features for importing and exporting activities, and simply worked well. I paid for a registratoin, and used it until around 2012.

Why I don’t still use it?

Though it had already been around, 2012 marked when I started using Strava. I describe it as a “social network for enduranc athletes.” It could act is my log for my rides, and give all sort of summary statistics. It had “segments,” chunks of a ride that I could could compare my performance ride-to-ride, or against other users. It also had connections to other apps I use, like MyFitnessPal, to let the data get used in multiple places.

I ran them in parallel until I realized that I simply wasn’t using Ascent. I phased it out. Ascent doesn’t seem to be available anymore. While I have my data files, I’m not sure I have the installer files. All my pre-2012 logs are now in a sort of data-limbo.

What I use instead?

I use Strava exlusively now. The main reason I might say I miss Ascent is that I’m always a bit leery of putting my data only in the Cloud, especially my cycling data (both from a privacy perspective, as well as just wanting to access the data).

Strava has the option to export everything, so I can hypothetically walk away. But how can I make use of that data? I’d have to find some new application or service to load it in to, and I am just not aware of one.

#7: Microsoft Word 95 (and Word 6)

I don’t think there has been any noteworthy change to Microsoft Word since Word 95 came out. This was released alongside Windows 95, and could run on any 32-bit Windows OS (such as Windows NT 3.51). It was also the first version to have real-time spell checking–my beloved red squiggle! Clippy came and went, and they added a few odds and ends, but, for the most part, recent versions are little more than fresh coats of paint.

Word 6 was the immediate predecessor. I ran it on Windows 3.1. I was able to get my hands on a 32-bit version, which I used on NT 4 and Windows 2000.

Why did I like it? Because the splash screen was the rollerball version of the “new” (modern production) Parker Duofold, one of my favorite fountain pens. Pretty much that’s it. Aside from the red squiggle, subsequent versions didn’t offer major functionality improvements, nor was Word 6 dramatically better than it’s predecessor. The jump from Word 6 to Word 95 was the last major positive improvement.

Why I don’t still use it?

I moved past Word 6 due to a red squiggle dependancy: I need it to see how I’m spelling.

Like most white-collar workers, I still use Microsoft Word, though a version that is less than twenty-five years old. As Microsoft started incorporating web features and advanced macro languages into it, staying on a relatively curret and fully patched version is critical to safety.

What I use instead?

I’m using whatever version of Word my corporate overlords tell me to. They’re paying me, and, frankly, there is just not that much difference version-to-version. I was actually downgraded when I switched jobs, and it took me a week to figure that out. It just looked different in a way I couldn’t put my finger on.

For personal use, I’ve been favoring combination of using EMACS/Markdown/Pandoc for formatted text generation.

#8: Microsoft Lync/Skype/Teams

At my old company, we were all-in on Microsoft. We used Office 365 exclusively, which meant our email was Outlook, and our messaging was whatever Microsoft declared primary–Lync, Skype, or Teams, depending on the era. Our office phones were actually integrated into that system as well. By the time I left, there were only a handfull of desk phones in the office–everyone used their laptop as a “phone.”

My new company uses the core Office suite (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and Visio), but our messaging is a hodge podge of other systems. It gets the job done, but with a few quirks. The biggest one is how it displays status.

In the Microsoft system, if your status was green, you were available, and amber was away. If you were in a meeting, on the phone, or “busy,” it was red. There was also a “do not disturb” status, which you would manually set, and have a red status with a bar over it. While it would look at your calendar for hints, and would put “in a meeting” if you were scheduled to be in a meeting, your actual presence took priority–if it sensed you were away (a locked screen or a long period of inactivity), that status would override the status suggested by your calendar. This system was pretty clear: your status was “amber” only if you were not likely to see a message. Red and green meant you were at your computer.

The system at my current company is a bit different. Red is only if you set yourself as “busy”–it’s more of a “do not disturb.” Amber is not just for away, but in a meeting or in a call. The calendar status seems to overide “away.” While I somewhat get the logic of amber being softer than red (i.e. I can receive IMs versus totally unavailable), it’s not as clear at a glance. I have to hover over each individual to determine if they are away or just on a call. Since the calendar takes priority over detected presence, I can’t tell if someone is joining a meeting I scheduled, or if they are away.

The mobile application increases the uncertainty–it’s never quite clear if they are “available,” or logged in on their phone, which is in their pocket.

“Maybe you just need to get used to it.” That’s a fair statement. I waited six weeks to make the call: I don’t like it. I’ll get the hang of it, and accept the difference. But I still give the nod to Microsoft on this one.

Why I don’t still use it?

As I said, a new job that uses a different system. This is one that’s work-only. Every company will have their own tools and solutions. I used to push back on some of these sort of things, thinking that a given browser or operating system was better, and of course we should be using that. That attitude, at best, caused me frustration, and, in some cases, cost me credibility with management. I find that it’s best just to accept that you don’t own the company, and it goes with the paycheck.

What I use instead?

The corporate system, which is based on Cisco’s solution. For the most part, it works fine. It has a few quirks, which are more “different than what I’m used to” than actual issues. The status quirk is the only functionality I find that goes beyond simply different to an actual negative. I’ll adapt.

9: Toodledo

Toodledo is a web-based to-do application. It seems to have some solid hooks for a GTD system, like having contexts and folders. It takes a look at the tasks you have, priorities, and scheudle, an puts them in a good order. They make a good iOS app for it, as well as allowing a lot of other apps to sync with it.

I particularly liked the prioritization helped keep things on track: even if something was due a couple days out, if it was a high enough priority, it’d bubble ahead of less-critical but due-sooner tasks. I always seemed to be more productive when I was using Toodledo as part of my system.

Why I don’t still use it?

I still do. One tenant of GTD is to have one to-do list, not one for home and another for work. As the user, I could assess if I needed to take care of a personal task during the day, or note that I missed something at work in the evening. At present, I keep my personal to-dos in Toodledo.

However, it’s use fell victem to the new job. The tasks are stored in the cloud, which I felt is reasonably secure for most situations. At my prior employer, I dealt with less sensitive data–I could put tasks in with a level of abstration, and still be reasonably compliant with data security policies. At the new employer, I have a bit more sensitive material crossing my desk, and a higher degree of scrutiny. Rather than risk data leaking (or having to explain what’s going on), I decided to avoid cloud systems for work stuff.

What I use instead?

I spent a few hours playing with the Tasks function in Microsoft Outlook, and syncing it to my work phone. By defining how I use a few fields, combined with creating a few rules, I have something reasonably similar. I’m still playing with it, and do a bit of prioritization manually. It’s not as clean a solution as Toodledo, but my data stays in the corporate network.


Six Apart, a tech company that created a blogging platform called Moveable Type, had a blogging service called Vox from roughly 2006 to 2010. It was the home of my first blog. There were some efforts to make a level of community around it–almost a social network. It had a very simple interface for mixed content (images, media, and text). Posts could be made via simply emailing an address.

Why don’t I still use it?

Six Apart closed the site, sold the name, and eventually folded themselves. My blog got migrated to TypePad, where it remains, but the interface was much clunkier.

What do I use instead?

After moving around a few alternatives, this blog is now self-hosted using Jekyll. I don’t feel I have quite the formatting options I once did, and still need to figure out how to move pictures into it.

That said, I also find I’m using social media, like Instagram and Twitter, for sharing things. I haven’t quite decided what I feel about that. The vibe at those sites is not long form posts like this. While I certianly enjoy some aspects of social media, I fear it has produced echo chambers that, instead of promoting the open exchange of ideas, reenforces tribalism and division. It’s easy to click a “share” button; it’s harder to type a couple hundred lines of thoughtful text.

What are the Tends?

I look at this list, and see a few things

  • A few bits of software that, end-to-end, I miss. Irfanview and Aperture are two great examples of this. Losing Aperture was a factor in my stepping away from Macs for a couple of years.
  • Some software has specific functionality I miss, but the overall capability remains. I can see this in my complaints around losing Microsoft messaging and Toodledo.
  • Several things reflect nostolgia for earlier iterations of my computing. No one needs Procomm anymore, and, for the most part, modern word processors do everything earlier ones can do. I confess I actually thought for a moment or two about including some Commodore 64 software on the list.

It’s interesting to see what’s not metioned. There is no spreadsheet I don’t use anymore that has some feature or capability I miss. There is no email program that has a soft spot in my heart.

Computing simply has become more and more “feature complete” where each class of application has reached an end state that truly reflects the idealized product–you can’t do much to improve the overall functionality. I said repeatedly that word processing really hasn’t evolved that much since Word 95 brought the red squiggle. The next level of improvement would come from changing the paradigm. Accessing the internet via browser or dedicated app is much cleaner than firing up Procomm, and reflects a change from the networks it accessed.