The Latest Version of Blackberry Desktop Software Broke Outlook Syncing

RIM have gone and “updated” their desktop software, and they have “updated” it good and proper this time.

They have taken a functional PIM synchronisation tool, and completely broken it.  Worse, the previous version didn’t need fixing.  They’ve not added a single new feature, only bugs.  So many bugs, that it prompted this blog entry, and a downgrade to their previous version.

Lets take a look at the brokeness.

Redemption. How apt. And the lack of it quite ironic.

It starts with this wonderfully ironic error message.  Redemption appears to be a third party library to enable better access to Outlook data.  However, “redemption” is defined thus:

re·demp·tion [ri-demp-shuhn]
noun
1. an act of redeeming or the state of being redeemed.
2. deliverance; rescue.
3. Theology . deliverance from sin; salvation.
4. atonement for guilt.
5. repurchase, as of something sold.

Is RIM is atoning for the complete lack of QA? Or is it hoping for deliverance from a slow and painful corporate death, by releasing suicide software that everyone will hate? (mind you, iTunes is not that much better).

When all else fails, exit the program and announce that you’re done. Computer Science 101.

Syncing with Outlook data, while Outlook is running, doesn’t work.  You don’t know that though, because when it fails, you get the above dialogue. Configuring Outlook sync with Outlook running also doesn’t work.  You must close Outlook anytime you want to view or modify any settings, or indeed sync any data.  This resulted in the following sequence:

  • Try to configure Outlook settings
  • Discover that it can’t see any Outlook profiles.
  • Swear
  • Close Outlook
  • Restart the BB desktop software
  • Try to configure Outlook settings
  • Select the only Outlook profile configured on the machine
  • Configure the sync
  • (… time passes …)
  • Start Outlook
  • Try to configure Outlook settings in BB desktop software
  • All the settings are gone
  • Swear

That actually happened.

Conflict resolution screen.
Conflict resolution, with “Entry Updated” being the only clue
Conflict detail screen with no details.
Conflict details screen with no more details than what was shown on the previous screen. Lack of context makes it hard to know which entry to choose.

Now we come to the crux of the problem.  There are so many things wrong with these screens.  Here are some:

  • No feedback as to which entry you are modifying
  • Name column is fixed, and no way to change it.  Too bad if you have contacts with long names that all start similarly.
  • Since I didn’t trust the data I was being shown but still wanted to sync and eliminate conflicts, I wanted to copy some of the information to the clipboard in case I lost it.  Nope.  None of the text is selectable on any of these screens.
  • If a contact entry has been modified in two places at the same time, there is a chance that you will want to keep some fields from one edit, and other fields from another edit.  You know, merging.  Nope.  Not only can you not select fields from either side to merge, but no other fields are shown.  This lack of context means it’s very hard to know which copy you should take.
Finally, a screen that shows some context about the conflicting entries. But you can’t go back to correct anything!

Once you taken the plunge and  guess which entries to choose, you are presented with this screen, which looks more like the first screen in the conflict resolution process from the previous version of the software.

From here, you click on the information button, and you get a popup that contains the entire record, and highlights what has changed. This is much better, but it should have been the first screen you see, not the last.  At this point, having all that contextual information is useless, because you can’t go back and adjust your choices.  From here, you can cancel, and start all over again.

Lots of people are having problems with this version, many of them far worse than my gripes.  In some cases, the software crashes or hangs, and doesn’t work at all.  I came across this thread at Crackberry.  In it, they point to this link to download the previous version, which I plan to do. Update: That link is reportedly broken.

I’ve been saying for some time now, that I don’t understand it when people say they love their Blackberry.  To me, that is like saying you love your stapler.  And when my stapler starts to piss me off, I throw it away.   Unfortunately this is not my Blackberry.

3 thoughts on “The Latest Version of Blackberry Desktop Software Broke Outlook Syncing”

  1. Thank you for the link to Crackberry and the download. I came across your blog post with search criteria expressing my agitation over this ‘upgraded’ version, with a synchronization process that wreaks havoc on my method of updating my phone contacts independantly of my Outlook contacts, and then synchronizing them when convenient. v6 synchronization did what I wanted while this new method created duplicate contacts and the interface was terribly unintuitive. Thanks again!

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