Visioneer Paperport

Stuart Cheshire, August 1996.

The Visioneer Paperport is a great product. It's small, it's fast, and it's easy to use. The product is great, but dealing with the company is an exercise in frustration.

When I bought a Visioneer Paperport in 1995, I thought it was a great idea, if not quite ready for market yet. The software was too slow, it was not PowerPC native, it crashed a lot, and the software somehow managed to corrupt itself and need to be reinstalled all the time.

However, instead of returning it for refund I applied "shareware logic" to the purchase. I wanted my money to encourage Visioneer to continue work on the project, just like the way you send money to shareware authors to encourage them to continue improving some piece of software you like. I concluded that since the hardware itself seemed fine, all I'd have to do was wait for the bug-fix update of the software to arrive.

Well, a year later something did arrive, but it wasn't the software. It was a form telling me that if only I'd returned the Paperport for a refund, I'd now be able to get the grey-scale Paperport Vx for less money than I originally paid, but since I'd been stupid enough to support Visioneer in its early days, I'd now have to pay an *extra* $80 to get the software to finally make my Paperport work.

I was not very impressed.

At MacWorld in San Francisco in January, I stopped at the Visioneer booth and asked to speak to someone in charge. The salesman told me there was no one in charge. I explained my complaint to him, and told me it was tough luck. I tried to explain to him my "shareware logic" of supporting companies with good products, and he openly laughed at the idea that anyone would be stupid enough to pay for shareware. I said if I didn't get to speak to someone in charge I'd write a letter to MacWeek complaining about it. The salesman told me to go ahead, so I did. It was a very nice letter, and very polite, and I was kind enough not to bring up all the crashing bugs in their software, but Visioneer still didn't seem to like it very much.

They haven't got any better since.

They don't return phone calls.

They don't answer technical support calls by e-mail. Instead you have to go to their web site and post messages on a baroque bulletin board system they have.

Worse, you can't quickly and easily get to the web site. They make you register and log in, and play stupid games and answer stupid questions before you can actually get to the information you are looking for.

If you spend too long using web site then they log you out with "Session timeout" error:

Application Error
An unrecoverable error has occured in page . The error was reported as error code 2050 with a description of "Session timeout"

After you've put your question on their baroque bulletin board system, they won't e-mail you an answer. You have to go through all the stupid games again just to find if they've even answered your question.

Then you find they lost it:

From: "Stephen Visioneer Employee"
"Due to the addition of the new web site, we are asking that customers repost their messages. We apologize for the inconvenience and do look forward to hearing from you."

If your question explaining bugs and asking if or when they might be fixed finally does make it, the answer is usually:

From: "Jim Visioneer Employee"
Thank you for your questions. It is Visioneer policy not to pre-announce any new releases.

They tell Mac users to "Turn off the Modern Memory Manager" which is another way of saying "Our code is full of bugs that a shareware programmer would be ashamed of, but we aren't going to fix them." It's just like when Microsoft technical support told me that the reason Microsoft Word crashed on my Mac was because I had "too much RAM" in my computer (I had 20MB) and the solution was to "remove the excess RAM" (to reduce the memory to 8MB or less).

Finally, the Visioneer web site tells users to go to America Online for software updates.

Great product, lousy company. I don't understand why.

When you buy a product from Connectix, you get regular updates and bug fixes on the web. The product may be raw when you first purchase it, but it matures with time. You're not just buying the product as-is, you're buying an investment into what the product will become after they have fixed all the bugs and made other improvements to the software.

When you report a bug to Connectix they thank you, fix the bug and ship a free update.

When you report a bug to Visioneer they ignore you, deny that it's a bug, refuse to tell you if or when they might fix it at all, then then if they do fix it they charge you $80 for the new version, even while the product you bought is still under it's so-called 12 month warranty.

Remember, treat buying a product from Visioneer like buying a second-hand car. You're getting it as-is. No warranty. If it works fine for you then that's great, but if you find later it has problems you'll end up paying a lot of money on maintenance.

I would buy a new Paperport Vx with the SCSI interface right now, if it weren't for the fact that I have no confidence in Visioneer to support their software. What's going to happen when MacOS 8 ships? (The current software won't work on MacOS 8.) Will Visioneer do a version of the Paperport sofware for MacOS 8? If they do, how much will they charge you for it? $100? $200? Who knows? Remember, "It is Visioneer policy not to pre-announce any new releases."

Anyway, here's my tip. When viewing documents on the Paperport desktop, it takes about five seconds to open each window. However, if you don't close the previous window first, and just bring the Paperport desktop to the front and double-click on the next document you want to see, it appears in less than a second. I don't know why. I sent this question to Visioneer, but I never heard any answer back about whether they found what was causing the bug or whether they planned to fix it.

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