As Long As I Live, I Will Never Buy Another Product From AVID

June 01, 2013

I've been a musician and composer all of my life, and have always spent money on music products. I even bought Finale 1.0, which was a complete nightmare of an application (the programmer admitted he'd never written an app before). I've also always been a Mac user and for half my career, a Mac programmer and currently iOS programmer.

When Sibelius 1.0 came out on the Mac it was an amazing product from a team that obviously understood both music, app design and the Mac. There was no music notation like it, it was a joy to use. I've always updated each version faithfully. Then AVID, which is a giant audio company, bought the company. I assumed not much would change.

Was I ever wrong, I just updated Sibelius to the latest version, 7, and now it's a completely Windows-centric application. Running on OSX, it looks exactly like it does on Windows and even has an in-window Windows style menu bar and icon ribbon toolbar thing like a bad Microsoft design. There are no menus at all, everything is an icon. Pisses me off completely both as a user and a programmer. Ribbons of icons are a bad idea that needs to die.

It's bad enough that Scorch, their plugin for displaying Sibelius files on the web, no longer supports any browser I use and hasn't since they bought Sibelius. Of course, virtually every online music publishing site uses Sibelius as their file format, so I can no longer view them. I emailed AVID and the response I got was pretty much an admission they didn't care. Only Firefox is supported, but I only use Safari and Chrome these days.

Even Microsoft writes real Mac apps with real OSX windows and menus. But AVID, oh no, it's too hard for us, Apple is such a small company, our programmers can't be bothered to write cross platform code, screw you. I don't know of any other major company supporting cross platform products that still does this.

Mind you music programs have always been strangely designed, even Apple's Logic Pro which I also use, has baroque UI in places leftover from the original owners. I can only imagine what AVID's equivalent looks like (Pro Tools). Makes one want to go back to writing on paper like Mozart.

Now I am stuck with this abomination with a UI from hell and there are no real alternatives with the feature set I need. Of course all of my music is now in this abomination's file format. Great.

But two can play at this game, I simply won't buy anything further from them. Ever. Anyone who needs some music product will hear the same from me: Don't Buy From AVID. Support small companies that care.

When Apple was a failing company you could argue this made sense, but today most music is still created on Macs, and treating them like it was the mid-90's is so stupid. If they ever make an iPad version, I hope they stick the same UI on it and really get laughed out of the App Store.

Designing a great UI is a lot of work, I spent nearly 10 years doing it even though today we have UX designers and I don't get to do much anymore, but I still know a good one when I see it. Here there are lots of icons, absolutely no way to know any command key equivalents (none are visible in the UI except for tapping the control key which brings up some truly bizarre little windows). It's a complete disaster as a user experience. There is even a Find In Ribbon feature as an added crock. In fact, it reminds me a lot of Finale 1.0, but even that had real menus back in 1990.

This is 100% the worst OSX UX I have seen since OSX came out. Their floating windows have the full 3 button style of a standard Mac window, but none of them are active. That's pathetic. It's trivial to remove them. Strangely enough there are still contextual menus in the OSX style. So they actual went out of their way to support two different kinds of menus. Such consistency. I wonder if they simply wrote the app on Win7 and ran it through a tool like Crossover and patched up whatever didn't work.

I'm guessing that Sibelius had to sell, maybe they had no choice, and AVID's management insisted on a Microsoft like design. The Finn brothers who started the company still appear on the list of programmers, not sure if they are still involved.

I wish Apple had a Worst Design Contest at WWDC. We have a winner!