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Show or Prompt readme during install

If you have a readme file, do you show it to the user during installation (like an EULA) or do you prompt them to see IF they want to read it when the installation is done?

I have a readme that gives some information on how to tell if the program installed properly and what systems it's compatible with.  I consider it helpful but not crucial. 

I'm used to be prompted something like "Do show the read me now?" at the end of software installation, but the programmer setting up my installer set it to just show the text during the installation and people can click NEXT to move on.  (No need to check a box that they read it like with a EULA).

I'm wondering if one method is considered the norm/preferred these days.

Emily Jones Send private email
Monday, March 03, 2014
Preferred option is to not have a readme that talks about things that you shouldn't be bothering your users with because it's over their heads approx. 100% of the time.

I f you you have some special requirements needed for your program, then you should check for them at the beginning of installation and if they are not met, abort with appropriate error message.

I don't even know what does that mean "how to tell if the program installed properly". I've never seen an installation procedure so unreliable that it needs to be manually verified by the user (which is, again, approx. 100% of the time beyond what the user can do).
Krzysztof Kowalczyk Send private email
Monday, March 03, 2014
If the readme is some crucial information the users needs to know then they should see it displayed somewhere before they ever do an install because it can help them to decide if the install is even necessary.

In my professional job as a Cad Administrator the only time I read a readme file is for updates to decide if it's an update that I need to do. If the update doesn't address any on going issues then it's not going to happen. If you have several machines to update across multiple sites and it is just maintenance updates that don't fix any ongoing issues that it's not worth doing. That's one of the primary reasons for the slow upgrade cycle in business.

After I've decided to install the software the readme info is to late. I've already committed to an install. I'm not going to be able to easily roll back the install after I've started it. I wouldn't want to do find out after I've done an install or are in the process of an install and find out the update may break my current installations. I want to know that sort of info up front before hand. Other than that I want to see a readme elsewhere to know what work has to happen after I upgrade.
TrippinOnIT Send private email
Monday, March 03, 2014
Always show it before the install starts.  You need to legally protect yourself against dummies.  If someone tries to sue you because they ran your Win 7 app on XP and it trashed some data, but the EULA shown before the install said the app is only for Win 7 or later, then I'm pretty sure you'd have a good legal defense.

But then, I am not a lawyer.
PSB136 Send private email
Monday, March 03, 2014
Thanks for the replies! 

@Krysztof, the "application" is a Word add-in and if someone has redirected their Word startup folder it won't load with Word.  Occasionally it's installed properly but Word just doesn't load the template the first time you open Word.  And then there are those who don't know where to look in Word to see the utility (though they can look in the user guide).

My other issue is that presently it's compatible with 32 bit office, not 64 bit.  I have that information in the system requirements , but many people don't "get it" and they don't discern between 64 bit windows/machines and MS Office.  So I put it in readme too, but I'm thinking it may be pointless force this info on them - if they didn't understand it in the system requirements, odds are they won't suddenly understand it in the readme.  I was trying to avoid someone wasting their time, but I guess it's too late at that point anyhow.
Emily Jones Send private email
Monday, March 03, 2014
@PSB136 - it's a terrible advice.

First, there should be no need to cover things up legally. Your app should never trash data because of triviality like running win 7-only program on XP. If you don't support XP, then installer should detect that, show a message and quit.

But the bigger point is that irrational fear of being sued shouldn't lead you to degrade user experience.

EULAs might matter for companies like Microsoft (shipping lots of software and having lots of money and therefore being good target for lawsuits) but your software shouldn't be doing things that are lawsuit worthy.

And if it does, then EULA won't protect you - you can still be found negligent even if you try to indemnify yourself in EULA.
Krzysztof Kowalczyk Send private email
Monday, March 03, 2014
@Emily - if there are steps that user can do to determine if Word startup folder was redirected, a piece of code (your installer) can do that too.

The same goes for detecting if the Office version is 32 bit or 64 bit (it's probably as simple as checking if it's installed in %ProgramFiles% of %ProgramFiles(x86)%
Krzysztof Kowalczyk Send private email
Monday, March 03, 2014
I show an EULA for my product the first time you run it; then never again. You must click a check box before you accept it. It is on my website so you can read it whenever you like. It is very simply; I took a pre-existing EULA and rewrote it. You don't need to be a lawyer to understand it.

I have often wondered about the usefulness of such things. I have never ever heard of someone being sued for making a defective *consumer* application. However, maybe no one sued because most software has EULAs. Still, there is a lot of software out there that doesn't have an EULA and those people never got sued either.

In a court case, could you prove that a certain app deleted important files when it crashed ? Could you prove how much money you lost because of that ? Would the fact that you didn't have a back up thus causing your loss to be worse have a bearing, because it could be argued that you are a bit reckless ? And if you had been using the app happily for more than 6 months before it crashed would that have a bearing ?

Would it be a reasonable expectation that a $50 app crashing should make the author of that app liable for damages  exceeding the original cost ?
koan Send private email
Monday, March 03, 2014
I do not show a read me during installation, nor do I force them to agree to a license with a click through since such things aren't practically enforceable anyway so it's pointless. Read me and license files are placed in the installation directory. I would be surprised if anyone has ever read either of them. When people have questions about the license, usually if they can install on two computers, they email us. This question is answered clearly in both documents using plain language.
Scott Send private email
Monday, March 03, 2014
@Krzysztof:  Of course the installer (and also the app itself with every launch) should check the OS and refuse to run on systems it wasn't designed for.  But, that doesn't stop some wise guy trying to find ways around it to force it to run.  You need to have some sort of proof that you warned them and tried to actively prevent them running it, should they decide to sue you.  It helps in court.
PSB136 Send private email
Tuesday, March 04, 2014
And no, I didn't say "it helps in court" from experience.  :)
PSB136 Send private email
Tuesday, March 04, 2014
I've decided to scrap the ReadMe for now.  I was never afraid of the software damaging anything nor of being sued by someone because they bought my software and it doesn't match the version of MS Office that they have.  And my installer does make sure they are running the right version of Office.  (I'll just reimburse their money if that happens.)

I was thinking the readme might serve as one more attempt to say "Hey, look, I tried to tell you..." to people, but who am I kidding?  Anyone who doesn't read and understand the system requirements before downloading and attempting to install, probably isn't going to read and understand the readme file either.

The EULA on the other hand I like having -- I know it's probably not a "real" protection of any sort but what I like about it is that to me it makes the installation feel more "legitimate."  I think people expect to have to check off an EULA.

Since many of my clients are lawyers, I think some of them do take not breaking the law seriously. (Though I could be deluding myself.)
Emily Jones Send private email
Thursday, March 06, 2014

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