The Web's Most Annoying Apps

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Adobe Reader

For an app that I don’t use all that much, Adobe Reader sure demands a lot of attention and upkeep. It’s constantly pestering me to update, so that Adobe can add several more esoteric document-handling features to my version of the program--features I’ll never use.

The updates don’t always go smoothly, either. “The annoying little icon pops up on my system tray on a regular basis,” offers Nir Gryn of New York City. “I have tried to download the update, and it has failed on several occasions. Now I mostly ignore it, but would love to have it install successfully and let me work.” And people can ignore that little icon bouncing at the bottom of their desktop (that’s what it does on my Mac) for only so long.

Reader can be a bad guest even when it isn't whining for an update. “It seems they are always putting launch icons in the tray even when I tell them not to,” writes Anne Hellmich of Muskego, Wisconsin, on the PCWorld Facebook page.

Sure you can use an alternative PDF viewer, but it may not be able to open files that were created using the latest version of Adobe Acrobat.


In the past, RealPlayer was extremely pushy about selling you stuff like a for-pay version of the player. I remember searching for the free version of the player at RealNetworks' Website and for the longest time not being able to find a link to it. I finally found the download button on another page that was a click deep in the site. Meanwhile, offers for a Rhapsody music subscription or a “SuperPass” were jumping out at me from all over the page. RealPlayer wants badly to be the go-to media player on your PC, and it isn’t shy about asking you for that privilege.

For people who still use RealPlayer, getting a new version seems to have gotten easier. I just upgraded my free RealPlayer, and I found the link to the free app (it’s now called RealPlayer SP) front and center on the home page. In addition, I managed to install the app without getting bombarded with offers for other for-pay RealNetworks services. So kudos to the good people at Still, I’ll have to live with the new RealPlayer SP for a while before I'll be ready to give it the “Not Annoying” seal of approval. And of course, there are alternatives.


When the McAfee security app feels that it's time for a security scan, a timer counts down and then the scan runs with or without your consent.

I have McAfee antivirus software on my computer at work, and every other day I look down at the open programs icons and see that the program has once again burst unwanted from the background. It usually wants me to run some scheduled hard-drive scan (scheduled by whom?) and even gives me the added anxiety of a second-by-second countdown until the scan runs automatically. If that’s not what's on its mind, the program is nagging me to register or install another update, complete with a 'remind me later' button but no 'No, not ever' button. When I try to imagine human beings communicating in that way, boiler-room telemarketers and used-car salesmen up against an end-of-the-month quota come to mind.

Adobe Flash Plug-In

The Adobe Flash app is perhaps the most versatile and artistic Web development tool ever. So naturally Web developers love using it. Problem is, if you don’t have the right Flash plug-in for your browser, instead of the developer’s lovely Flash work, you'll see a big blank space on the page. Flash is so widespread that you’re almost required to have the latest updates of the plug-in.

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