You wouldn’t think of using the milk in your fridge past its expiration date, would you? Or take the aspirin that’s been in the bottom of your medicine cabinet for who knows how long? Of course not. That “use by” date is important.
Unfortunately for design professionals, most software doesn’t come with an expiration date. Technically, you can use it as long as you want. But most programs have an effective lifespan—one that we often want to push to the limits and beyond. (A couple of years ago, I saw a question on a discussion forum from somebody asking about a problem he was having with his AutoCAD Release 12…for DOS. Not AutoCAD 2012—AutoCAD R12. From 1992.) Keeping up with drafting and design software releases isn’t always easy, but it’s worth it. Here are five reasons why.
1. New Features Save Time. You’ve seen the advertisements when a new product comes out. (“New! Better! Improved! Best Yet!”) Sometimes it’s just hype, but sometimes it’s real. Take a look at the release comparison matrix for AutoCAD LT. There are a ton of features in AutoCAD LT 2014 that weren’t there three years ago. If you need to go even further back, here’s the version for AutoCAD LT 2012. (We couldn’t rotate viewports in AutoCAD LT 2009? Wow.)
You may not find a use in your workflow for every new feature. But you’ll never know what’s there if you don’t at least check out the “what’s new” document for a software update. You just might find that single feature that helps you work better and faster.
2. It’s Easier on Your Budget. When you know in advance that you’re going to upgrade your software, you can plan for it in your budget. If you’ve been convinced of the advantages of subscription and maintenance programs, you may not even need to pay any extra for a new version. Rather than shell out a lot of money sporadically (and possibly unexpectedly), plan ahead with a yearly budget, and keep you and your accountant happy. You can even rent some software now, so you can pay for the software only when you need it (upgrades included).
And if you’ve been thinking about exploring the world of BIM, the AutoCAD Revit LT Suite bundle includes both AutoCAD LT and Revit LT, giving you 2D CAD and 3D BIM in one package. It’s also available as a rental, which allows you use the tools you know, try out new ones, and put back money in your budget.
3. It Looks Good to Your Clients. This reason might seem superficial, but I think it has practical value. The way I see it, a dedication to the tools of your trade speaks well for your ability to keep up with other design developments. We’re in a technology-based industry—you owe it to yourself and your customers to keep up. (And really, after a while it gets embarrassing to ask for DWG files in the AutoCAD 2007 format.) It’s also nice to be able to say in your marketing materials that your office uses state-of-the-art design software.
4. Hardware Requirements Change. Are you still using the same computer you had ten years ago? Probably not. Computers are getting more powerful and more affordable every year. And as hardware and operating systems improve, installing old software on a new machine isn’t always a good idea.
When new versions of software programs are released, they’re made for the latest hardware configurations. It doesn’t make sense for a software company to reprogram old versions for new systems that weren’t even in development when the original program was released. I ran into this myself the other day, when I discovered that a program we’d last purchased in 2009 was not supported on Windows 7. (Not surprising, since there was no Windows 7 in 2009.)
If you’re planning on upgrading your hardware, make sure you evaluate your software to see what will also need an upgrade.
5. Waiting Doesn’t Make It Easier. You may think you don’t have time to deal with an upgrade now. But if you keep waiting, they’ll just keep adding new features, and there will be that much more to learn later. Of course, it may not be practical to upgrade your software as soon as a new version comes out. You may even choose to skip a release. But read the release notes anyway, so you can really evaluate what will be best for your business.
And that’s what it all comes down to: What’s best for your business. You’re good at what you do. Don’t shortchange yourself by using obsolete technology.