Avery offers full-featured, free DesignPro

Avery DesignPro

Avery, the office product and label-making company, now offers a free Mac application called DesignPro to help customers design everything from labels to T-shirts to CD art. This is the classic 'give away the razor and charge a premium for the razor blades' marketing model: you get the free software, but to use it you will need to buy custom Avery packages to cram into your inkjet printer.

Of course, I had to try it.

First, some discussion about the software package is warranted. To get it, you must register. I always find this a bit off-putting, but I dove right it. Hey, it's free. Then I proceeded to the download, which is a jarringly-large 232 MB file. This worried me somewhat. Why on earth was it so large? Proceeding to the installation, my worries grew apace. You put this package on your system via an installer that requires your admin password, which is indication that it's (at a minimum) going to put stuff in your main Library folder. Ok, but what's going to go there? I proceeded with the install, expecting some sort of indicator of what it installed and where it put it. I got nothing of the sort.

In an attempt to figure out where all those megabytes went (the app itself is only 8 MB!), I used AppZapper, a great little uninstaller program that gets rid of all the odds and ends a program typically leaves behind. This is a lazy method I sometime use to see what is installed where for a given package. When you drop a program into the AppZapper target window, it lists all of the program components it will uninstall (including the path of the files).

When I did this for DesignPro, however, it only found about 8MB of data to uninstall: a preference file and the main application from the app folder. Ok...so where were the hundreds of megabytes of data I just installed? I suspect that this is not the fault of AppZapper; my guess is that it's tied to the unique installation process of Avery DesignPro.

I then completely deleted the program and reinstalled it, hoping to get some clues from the DesignPro installer by paying closer attention this time around. Alas, it was to no avail. The only noteworthy option I could find in the installation process was a 'customize' prompt within the installer. This option presented me with three choices (meaning I could choose to install or not install three different components by checking a box). The choices: the DesignPro application, a QuickLook plug in, and 'resource files.' No path information was presented. Oddly, each selection displayed as 0 bytes in size regardless of whether the box was checked or not. And there was no indication of what the 'resource files' were and if I really needed them. Not too helpful.

Finally, after the reinstall, I decided to manually search through my Library folders to discover where the application installed its bits and peices (Spotlight, in case you're wondering, did not offer up any clues about the locations of the mystery files...although, in retrospect, I suspect it would have if I had refreshed the index).

Turns out that this app installs in a few locations: your main Library in a folder called DesignPro (which contains about 318 MB of data) and in your user account Library in a folder called DesignPro (which is about 7 MB). The user account library contains a sqlite database, by the way. I'm not sure what the app is storing there, though. I created a few labels and saved them, and the sqlite database remained the exact same size.

When you create a project and save it, it is placed by default in your documents folder. And if you open up your projects, it opens up in the app as expected. I tried out QuickLook on one of these documents, and it does present a preview of the project as advertised.

The moral of the story is this: if you want to delete this application completely, there is an entry in your main Library and your user account Library labeled 'DesignPro.' There is a preference (plist) file located in your user account Preferences folder, as expected. And there is the main application in your Applications folder. I thought this would be handy to pass on since the data that AppZapper missed was over 300 MB in size).

Most of that data is nothing more than templates and clip art. It would be nice to have a choice to NOT install this 'extra' stuff. I suspect this alone would decrease this very large package down to a much more reasonable 20 MB or so. I would also prefer the option to install this app in one user account only. I don't want to install it system-wide.

One thing is certain: if I start to experience weird system behavior and bugginess, at least I know where to start. My first step will be to delete this app.

At any rate, DesignPro seems to work just fine so far.

So what does it do? It helps you create labels of every imaginable shape and size, business cards, name badges, cards, T-shirts, CD/DVD labels, photo badges and more. You can choose from what appears to be about million Avery templates and create a quick design from a template (or create your own design). There are, in fact, over 1,300 template designs and over 2,000 clip art files from which you may choose.

DesignPro handily allows for data merging from Apple Mail and Address Book. It allows you to import images from iPhoto and import playlist data from iTunes for media projects. My initial take is that this is a full-featured product that may come in very handy for designing and printing simple projects using Avery standard labels. As someone who does not use MS Word (I use Pages), it's a welcome addition to quickly create mailing labels, badges, or other sticky-backed print jobs with ease.

Having said that, I would not say that this is the easy-to-use and intuitive Mac user experience claimed by Avery. It will take some getting used to. The user interface is odd. It has the weird feel of a ported Windows application haphazardly mixed with only a few familiar Mac OS elements and controls. It is confusing. It is also packed to the rafters will gratuitous clip art, templates and special effect options which are hauntingly reminiscent of low-cost commercial print packages I recall from my Windows days. But, hey, it is free and it does do the job. It's worth a look.

Troy Kitch @troykitch