Archive for August, 2009

The shoemaker goes barefoot!

Saturday, August 22nd, 2009

Libraries are the most known ‘information houses’. So you’d hope that a library (and its Web site) would exhibit stellar information presentation properties. No such luck. In my experience library Web site are among the most confusing, convoluted, frustrating site you’ll ever run into. I have had numerous encounters, which could provide dozens or more examples of this. I was just trying to access a book on one of our University’s Library’s electronic book subscriptions. With all the site hand-overs I cannot categorically state whose to blame for creating such a Kafka-like experience, but I still hold my Library responsible for not complaining and demanding a correction. Maybe it will happen. Here is what I sent to my library representative:

“Dear <name removed>,


I have just spent (wasted?) an hour trying to access a book on our Safari collection. I managed to find it (<link removed>) and the page gives me a link. Given that there is no indication what I can/not do with this ‘hit’ (other than export/save/email the ref — which is a separate link) I did the only reasonable thing, clicked on the link. That sent me to another page (<link removed>) which is totally blank, except for a link (<link removed>) and some search fields, all of which keep taking me further AWAY from (what I thought to be) my ‘hit’.

Maybe I’m an idiot, assuming (that awful word) that I could just click the link and see the book. But that would be way too easy, wouldn’t it?

Please do not hesitate to show me in which way I’m an idiot — as long as I can get to see the book; or, perhaps it’s not me?

Thanks, all the best.  ”

So far no reply. Will report further, if there’s anything worth reporting.

Ooops, FYI, you just destroyed some of your data; oh, well, too bad. OK?

Saturday, August 22nd, 2009

So you have created several PDF files, then you figured out the best would be to merge them into a single file. Acrobat lets you insert PDF files into other ones. But …

If you want to insert one PDF into another, and they have form fields, you will get a message telling you that any form fields that have the same name ‘are now one and the same’; in other words, if you had in each document a form field with the same name (e.g., generic ‘name’) but with different values (say, because you filled out the same original form for two individuals), you now stand to lose one of those values because within the same file, form fields with the same name assume the same value — the last one entered.

While that ‘feature’ is a nuisance, the real problem is that the message box that is trying to alert you to this ‘feature’ only has an “OK” button, no other option. No “Cancel”, “back”, “abort”, “oops”, nada. The only option is the equivalent of “OK, go ahead, destroy my data”.

Your only way out is to (externally, from the Operating System) to kill Acrobat and start all over again. Very graceful.

Why make things difficult if you can make them more difficult?

Saturday, August 22nd, 2009

When scanning a document into Acrobat, you have to decide whether to scan to a new document or to append to an existing one. What if you think you have a document that you’d like to append to, but find out that you don’t? Too bad; you’ll have to start all over again. Wouldn’t it make more sense to just let you browse for the file to append to, and if you don’t find it, just create a new one right there and then? Conceivably, you’d want that new file in the same location you thought you’d already had the appropriate one to append to. Ahhhhh.