Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Corel Painter Instability

This is only the second time I'm using this blog to rant, normally I like to stay positive. I sent a letter to Corel this morning, Painter's instability really made me mad. It crashes significantly more than my any of the other professional caliber programs I use. My eight-year-old has been interested in Painter and started learning it. He started a painting and spent twenty minutes on it and Painter crashed. He had not saved it and was crushed. I'm a veteran of over 20 years of computer use and I still find it unsettling to lose work. Nothing like your child being affected to really get you going.

This reminds me of some years ago when my daughter was interested in learning 3d. I had been giving Animation:Master another shot, but it was still unstable, it crashed frequently. The company said that there were a variety of things that could cause problems because of all the programs that run in the background in Windows. I liked it enough that I even asked the company what kind of system do they use, I was willing to buy a computer and configure it just for its use. They never gave me a configuration. I remember one person from the company even telling me how Photoshop crashes more than Animation:Master. Photoshop crashing is so rare and in the 17 years I've used it, I've never had it corrupt a file. In the meantime, my daughter decided she didn't like crashing and losing stuff so often and moved on to other programs like Photoshop and Premiere. My boy may end up going the Photoshop route as well.

Now Painter does not crash as much as Animation:Master but it is still a significant problem for a program that is supposed to be a program for professionals. I know my workflow is not pressing CTRL-S every minute or two, especially when I'm drawing or painting (time seems to fly when you're in the "right brain" mode). I'd really like Corel to spend some effort in this direction, I've been able to use Painter more and more lately and I'd like to continue to.

So I get a response from Corel saying I need to call in to deal with this problem. After 20 minutes on hold, someone picks up. The support person has me check my driver version of my tablet (it's up to date). He tells me I should reset Painter completely via %APPDATA%, saying the work environment can become corrupt. I tell him that I have experienced this problem before customizing Painter. I'm told that Painter is stable and that it must be something on my system causing the problem (same thing the Animation:Master folks used to say). I mention to him that I use Painter at work with an entirely different configuration and experience the same behavior. He tells me it must be something I'm doing. I mention that in a Painter class I took other folks were familiar with Painter suddenly quitting. He says there is nothing he can do. I suggest he communicate to engineering or whomever that QA needs to be bumped up a notch.

I use Photoshop, Illustrator, Flash, Dreamweaver, Visual Studio, and more and I don't have these sudden crashes no error message(though Adobe's CS3 Suite was hellish to install, the programs run smoothly). Having programming in a variety of languages on multiple platforms over the years, I have an idea of the complexity involved in a product like Painter, but I also know other companies are able to make solid products. Even something as simple as throwing up a dialog box with some info when there is a fatal error might be helpful.

I like Painter, I'd hate to give up on it. Especially after all the time and money I've spent getting into it over the last year! It is a great tool when it is working. The crashing is the worst, but I've noticed other problems. If I use following commands:
Zoom In
Zoom Out
Zoom To Fit

I get horrible redraw problems. Very frustrating. But.. If I use the Magnifier tool, I don't get the redraw errors. I don't think these problems are new, as I was watching a video where the user was working with a version of Painter from 3 years ago and it show some redrawing problems.

Workspaces are another problem. Apparently they get corrupted often enough that they are the first things tech support wants to whack when you contact them with any problem. While this is an irriation, the crashing is the worst. No... I think writing and then calling about their crashing product only to have them blame your system(s) is the worst. Corel's net promoter score dropped quite a few points in my book today.