Before They Spoiled the Software

Software developers would like you to believe that with every new version, their products improve substantially, adding slicker interfaces and more powerful features, and making better use of faster processors and more RAM. As applications mature, they imply, we are all moving toward the Golden Age of Software.

But we know that's not always the case.

We've all seen programs that started out as a simple 1MB utility become a Jabba-the-Hutt-sized monster with an interface so complex you need a Ph.D. in physics to understand it. We've seen software that dropped some of its niftiest features to lure you into buying a more-expensive Pro version. We've seen a once-unassuming application become greedy for as much of your system resources as it can grab.

Of course, sometimes bloat is in the eye of the beholder. Additions that are great new features for somebody else may be, for you, useless buttons that just get in the way.

You don't have to put up with it, though. We've rounded up a list of good software that went bad, and we'll show you how you can turn back the clock by downloading and installing the earlier, better versions.

How We Found Them

For our compilation of earlier-is-better software, we went to the pros--the people who use plenty of programs every day. We asked our own PC World editors for their lists of applications that were better before developers started mucking around. And we also went to an online treasure trove of older-but-better software--the site OldVersion.com, which has rounded up countless earlier versions of dozens and dozens of programs. We asked site founder and editor Alex Levine to give us his picks of the best oldies, and we asked site users to weigh in as well.

Note: When clicking on a link for software at OldVersion.com, you may need to scroll down the resulting page to find the version you want. Also, OldVersion.com isn't the only site that archives old software. If you're looking for a hard-to-find older application, try oldapps.com and old-versions.net.

The Safety Tradeoff

Before we start on our list of Golden Oldies, though, keep in mind one big caveat: An undeniably good thing that comes with new versions of software is the fixes you get for security holes, sometimes very serious ones. So if you choose to run old versions of programs, you are taking a calculated risk. Make sure your other defenses are as strong as you can make them, and be extra careful about what you click.

Got a favorite piece of software from the past? Vote in our poll for the software you wish they'd never "improved."

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