Troubleshooting software problems calls for patience, creativity and a solution … usually on deadline

Developing a troubleshooting system that can be the basis for all software emergencies is crucial.

It is fundamentally a set of trial and error steps that eliminates problems one by one. Be as creative with those steps as you are with your designs. The more you eliminate, the closer you are to finding a solution.

10 Tips for creating your own software troubleshooting system

  1. Write down your operating system (Windows XP, Mac Leopard, etc.), the version of software you are using (CS2, CS3, etc.) and the exact nature of your problem. It helps to see this in type and it gives you a great reference point later when you are searching for help on the Web or talking with someone about the problem.
  2. Turn the machine off, then on.
  3. Close the program and launch it again. I know steps two and three sound way too simple, but at times, simple works!
  4. Reset or delete preferences for the program.
  5. Try to work with the file on another machine. Certain problems travel with the file, others prefer to take up residence on the machine.
  6. Confirm what the software program still does correctly. In the above case, I would see what other formats I could save it in. It might help identify a particular pattern, i.e. vector images work, raster images do not; color works, black and white will not.
  7. Eliminate elements. Will the process work with type only? With images only? Again, you are trying to find clues.
  8. If there is a font problem, try changing to a different font. If it will work with a different font you might end up reinstalling fonts and/or deleting corrupt packages.
  9. Search for help on the Web. Don’t get disappointed and give up if you don’t find the answer to your problem immediately. Look for similar problems, key words, etc. that create a trail to your solution.
    For example, to confirm my suspicions on an Illustrator problem I started with the search: “Adobe Illustrator will not save .ai , unknown error” and found several forum and discussion threads on Adobe forums and tech sites.
    As I read and searched further, I found I needed more info and added terms i.e. Mac, Windows, preferences, etc. This is where the reference information I wrote down in step one helped speed my searches along.
  10. Post a help request with a discussion group or thread. You can often register with a forum or help group for free and post your question. Be specific and give as much information as possible. On some sites, help can arrive in less than an hour. On other sites, it might take days for someone to volunteer information.

If all else fails, call a friend, a colleague or a stranger.

It might surprise you to find out that they have faced the same problem and are more than happy to help you through the crisis.

What might be even more surprising: One day these folks may call you back for assistance with their software problems.

Helpful links

By Broc Sears

Broc Sears has been involved with publications for over 30 years. He a former Senior Editor for Design and Graphics at the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, where he and supervised a creative team of 35 editors, designers and artists who are responsible for the daily visual report of the paper. He is currently a professional in residence at the TCU Schieffer School of Journalism and has also taught at UTA and SMU. He was Art Director of the Dallas Times Herald, Dallas Morning News and University of North Texas Public Information Office.

He has been responsible for three redesigns at the Star-Telegram, the Dallas Times Herald in the mid 1980s and directed the redesign team of the Dallas Morning News in the early 1980s.

He has received recognition as an editor, designer, illustrator and art director by the Society of News Design, Council for the Advancement and Support of Education, Print Magazine, Society of Illustrators, American Illustration, Graphis, Art Director's Club of NYC, Associated Press Managing Editors of Texas and Dallas Press Club.

He has been a featured speaker and guest lecturer at numerous schools and seminars including Texas A&M, University of Missouri, University of North Texas, Louisiana Press Association, Society of Newspaper Design, API, APME, APSE, Texas Press Association and others.