The Trouble With Intelligent Software

GeekSpeak comments edit

I’m working with a print program - Microsoft Publisher - on a little project at home and without going into a bunch of crap you don’t care about, let it suffice to say I’m trying to get it to print full-bleed on my HP Deskjet 5940. It’s just not happening.

The printer is fully capable of printing full-bleed on 8.5 x 11 paper. I’ve seen it work. But right now, I’m frustrated because no matter what I do, no matter what I try, there’s always this half-inch border along the bottom of the page I’m trying to print.

I know what you’re going to say - that you need that half inch because the printer has to have something to hang onto at the end as it prints the last bit on the page and pushes it out. I thought so, too, and since the stuff I’m printing is mostly at the bottom, I used the printer driver option to automatically rotate the thing I’m trying to print 180 degrees. Put the bottom at the top and there’s no border, right? Or at least the border’s reduced to that little quarter-inch bit that’s always at the top?

Nope. Still getting the half inch, as though it was still printing the bottom of the page at the bottom.

After fussing with this for a half hour or so, using up probably 20 sheets of paper and more ink than it would have taken to print the whole project eight times over, I finally realized what it was:

Microsoft Publisher is trying to help.

Rather than letting the printer take care of the fact it can’t print that last half inch, Publisher is actually determining the capabilities of my printer and sending the print job to the printer minus that half inch, anticipating the border the printer will require.

And there’s the problem with software trying to be too smart. I’m not a big Publisher wiz by any means, but in no dialog I’ve seen has there been an option for “Stop trying to help me by optimizing the printer output and nuking the half inch I really wish was there.” It’s designed for folks who need the default options, making intelligent guesses at what needs to happen.

This is why I shy away from software that exposes only exposes the big “DO IT” button. Sometimes the big “DO IT” button is exactly what I need. Maybe even 70% of the time. The rest of the time, I need the options. If there’s something you’re going to automatically assume for me - especially with respect to printing when you’re a printing program - I need to be able to override it. Ah, the trouble with intelligent software.