Software Version Number Inflation

So as I was sitting here typing away in WordPerfect (Mac) version 3.5e, it suddenly occurred to me that we are in a Version 3 Era, with so many s/w packages standing at version 3.x – AOL is at 3.3, Adobe Photoshop recently released 3.3 as well, FileMaker Pro is now at 3.2, and venerable Netscape has its 3.4 version available for download. And regardless of whether you are running MacOS 7.8.1 or Windows 4.2, you’ve got to admit these are all well-seasoned…huh?

::sound of alternative-reality curtain parting::

No, I don’t suppose you HAVE heard of those versions.

You would have if version-numbering had continued on its original trajectory. AOL software (bless its inefficiently compiled little heart) spent a long long time climbing the ladder from version 2.0 to 2.7 as various features were added and improved upon, and the 3.0 release was deserving of the digit, but nothing since then has deserved more than a decimal point. Adobe Photoshop’s version 3.0 was a superlative release, with its separate layers that were so much easier to work with than channels alone, but aside from confusing the hell out of us by moving all the menu commands, keystroke equivs, and palette items around, has Adobe done anything to Photoshop aside from minor treaking since then? I suppose the text-editing layer of what they called version 5 might have been worth a full version number to some folks, but even then by no stretch ought they to be claiming anything beyond 4.x! FileMaker’s 3.0 was the incredible jump from flat-file + some cute tricks you could do with lookups and calling external scripts to fully relational, but has anything that’s been added since justified ratcheting up the version numbers like they’ve been doing? And Netscape…oh please! Only the Java has made version 3.0 substantially different from what they call 6.

Apple is heralding the coming of X, an awkward visual pun combining the “X” of Unix and X-windowing with the “X” of Roman numeral ten, but to get to ten they had to sprint from an 8 that wasn’t spectacularly different from 7 (certainly no more than 7.5 was different from 7.1) and a so-called MacOS 9 that looks and feels a hell of a lot like 8. Heck, Apple spent years improving good old System 6 back in the late 80s and early 90s and STILL was calling it version 6.0.8 when they retired the series, relegating all their modifications to the lowly status of bug fixes in a burst of candor not repeated since.

You notice the prominent lack of any mention of that software company from Redmond. Yeah, Microsoft dodges the bullet by replacing version numbering entirely with year-release dates. So what if Windows98 was not the jump from Windows95 that Windows95 was from Windows 3.11? Did they ever say otherwise? No, they just did their darndest to imply that it was a must-have upgrade for which you should pay more money, and never mind that sub-version upgrades are conventionally free or at least cheaper than that. So they stand above the fray of this diatribe, as it obviously isn’t their fault that the average end user doesn’t realize that Windows Millennium Edition is to Windows95 no more than what 4.2 would be to 4.0 if they were still using numbers…right?

But a completely sincere three cheers for WordPerfect, the version of which on the Mac side still starts with a 3 even after Novell bought the original company and then sold the works to Corel, both corporations having folded in some changes and made new releases along the way. It is a genuine 3 and a pretty nice word processor and if Corel changes their mind and continues to develop the product, I’ll continue to acquire the upgrades as they make improvements.

Even if they don’t try to call it “version 6” and tout it as the biggest thing since the arrival of the mouse and the GUI.

Hey, at least Java’s pretty reserved. We started with 1.0 and almost six years later, we’re still only up to 1.3 (unless you want to count the whole Java 2 Platform thing as a release instead of a reorganization). :slight_smile:

Corel on the other hand really flips my lid. I bought Version 9 at work cause we had nothing and promptly discovered that I WAY prefer my Version 8 at home. WTF? Aren’t new major releases supposed to IMPROVE the software?

HP’s printer drivers are still version 4.x.x.x.

But, these jumps are mostly marketing dept. driven. No one who owns 3.215 is gonna shell out $100 for 3.2.78.

I remember one project for a customer where they wanted the version number to end up a big round number, but at the same time wanted us to increment the version number with every release, yet somehow expected the final release they were happy with to be the one and only with the final number on it.

Which was impossible, since you never build just one “gold” version, and it made testing impossible because by the fourth gold release you were never quite sure which of the four you were looking at. (And we didn’t have good enough version control to build the same driver twice at the time, which didn’t help.)

A few exorcisms were required to put the customer’s marketing department back where it came from, and sanity resumed.

Don’t forget the edit-history (and the History Brush) that goes with it. I’ve always thought that was a pretty handy major feature. There are other little odds and ends here and there too, I think Photoshop generally earns its revision updates.

Then again, who wants to refer to a program as “Blahdy-Blah Version one-point-three-four-point-nine-nine-point-eight-five-seven-seven-five-point-point-slash-hyphen-point-subliminable-point-point-dash”? After a while, it starts sounding like you’re referring to a Stardate or something.

Much, much easier to say “Version FOUR”.

And with regards to Corel… I prefer Wordperfect 7 over anything else. I prefer it over Word 2000. I prefer it over WP 9. I prefer it over sex. Corel shot themselves in the foot, IMOSHO.

As far as Netscape is concerned, I think the numbers are justified. Version 4 was the first with Java support (IIRC) so I think it was OK for it to go up to 4 for that.

Version 5 was supposed to have large parts rewritten because it went Open Source (they had to cut out large parts of it due to licence issues before they could release it).
However, it was eventually decided that the code was too much of a mess as it was, so the Mozilla project was born, and Netscape was completely rewritten from scratch.

Now, that’s got to warrant a new version number, surely? Netscape 6 (with the ‘classic’ skin) may look similar to Netscape 4 but it’s totally different code.

Counterstrike has been pretty good about that(and its much more useful than any of those othe programs mentioned). It jumps from 3.5 to 5.2 to 7.0 7.1 7.2 then to 1.0. Of course it has no marketing department.:slight_smile: And you can never really tell if anything is changed unless its major. People will say, “I can’t play anymore and I hate the new patch even though all the changes were cosmetic.”

My personal favorite is Windows NT starting out at version 3.1.

Windows NT probably started at 3.1 because that was the current version of regular Windows and because people were inadvertently trained by Microsoft’s Windows 1 and 2 to NEVER trust a Microsoft product numbered lower than 3.

In the Autocad world, we went from using version 2.6 to version 9 in one fell swoop. I think that’s the record, not counting the various packages that, like Autocad, went from version X (ie: Autocad R14) to R2000 to cash in on the millenium. (As Spoofe suggests, we have our own shorthand for the revision numbers.)

Apple might have run through its OS 9 so quickly under pressure from Microware, which has been selling its OS-9 for many years.