View from the Other Side: Why I Chose Carlson Over Civil 3D®

Jennifer DiBona, aka, That CAD Girl was kind enough to put together her thoughts on why she’s no longer part of the Autodesk reseller channel, but part of the Carlson channel. [Note to clarify: Ms. DiBona worked for an Autodesk Channel partner, then as an independent LDT/C3D consultant before joining the Carlson channel. JW] I don’t agree with all of her bullet points, but I think it’s good to read from diverse sources. Check out her post here:

That CAD Girl | Why I Chose Carlson Over Civil 3D®.

Want to comment? Feel free to do it here, but be nice or be banned.


  1. It seems the problem is Civil 3D forces a user to use the program where as the other programs provide more leeway to do things outside the program.

  2. ThatCADGirl says:

    I think it’s fantastic that James has allowed this discussion to happen here – hats off to you!

    A small point of clarification in case it matters: I used to work for a couple of different Autodesk resellers. When I went out on my own as That CAD Girl I supported only Civil 3D and Land Desktop as a consultant but was never a reseller on my own. I asked for a demo of Carlson so I could see what they had and that’s when discussions about my being a Carlson Reseller started. I still push AutoCAD and Map sales to Autodesk resellers when I think it’s the right solution.

    • Sorry it took so long Jennifer. Every commenter has to have one approved before the rest will go live. I didn’t see the notice that I had comments waiting.

      Thanks for the clarification, I’ll update the original article.

  3. […] Update 9/1/2009: Folks at have started a post comparing Carlson to Civil 3D. Link is here. James has a minor detail wrong about my background. As a sole-proprietor, I was never an Autodesk […]

  4. Juan Soto says:

    Wow! What a good read, very interesting. Why cant we get this from re-sellers before they jump ship.

  5. Rick Graham says:

    While I won’t deny that there are issues with Civil 3D and that I have not looked at Carlson, I’m wondering why most of the Civil 3D discussion group issues cited were from 2008? I’d be curious from those who are using Carlson (not reselling it) what kind of learning curve is involved.

  6. Kevin Clark, P.E. says:

    There are so good things with Carlson. They have a great field to design back to field concept. Wish Autodesk would just buy them. I had a bad experience with them though. We brought them in to demo their product. They were real down on the strides we had made with civil 3d and vault. I quit listening and left the room within 5 minutes.

  7. I disagree with:

    Development of styles:
    This will be an ongoing effort. Most companies will find themselves needing new styles for every project. You’ll need an expert on staff or will need to rely on a consultant or reseller to keep up with the technology and demand.

    [mspatz-maybe our template is just awesome but we don’t need new styles for each project. However, you do need to work on building better and better styles till have have a set that covers everything.]

    True Cost of Implementation:
    Unbelievably, the cost of the software, subscription and hardware is typically just the beginning. I’ve heard that, not including software, hardware or loss of productivity, the cost of implementing Civil 3D in an office ranges from $6,000-$10,000 per person.

    [mspatz- looking at our number it is around $600 / person for ~50 folks.]

  8. Some items that still may be lacking from Carlson:

    1. Possibly pipe network functionality.

    2. The ability to label the same object in different drawings but have the text be linked to the object.

    (i.e.: label an inlet in the Land Dev plans, HOP plans, exhibits, etc… – having the label at different locations and sizes in each plan – but if I change the inlet number ALL the plans update. This is across the board for all objects and text in Civil 3D).

    3. Possibly labeling cross section automatically and dynamically.

    (i.e.: auto-label distance to striping, slopes, grades, distance to pavement breaks, width of road, width of ROW and distance from the CL. All automatic and dynamic).

    4. Having the same design object look totally differently in different drawings. We have to follow two standards at my company, company standard and PA DOT Design Manual 3 (PENNDOT DM3) standard. With Civil 3D, data-references, and styles we can have the same pipe look TOTALLY different in different drawings, but essentially still be the same pipe. Same for alignments, labels, profiles (“profile views”), etc… It is not a layer thing, it is a style thing – KEY.

  9. Arthur Miller says:

    A very interesting article. I have evaluated MXRoads, InRoads, Geopack and Eagle Point, but never Carlson, so I will have to try that one out when I have free time.

    My Transportation Group has been using Civil 3D on all new projects for 2 years now. Styles are easy to set up and certainly does not take an outside consultant to accomplish. It does take some time, I will admit. We had our CAD Manager set up the styles in a template before implementing the software on new projects. This type of set up is done on any new software though so when it hits production the software is ready for use. So I did not see a big drawback (our CAD manager might think differently. lol).

    After using it as our software on many transportation projects over the past two years I would say that we can do just about everything we used to do in LDT and implement the same type of work flow as well, but we don’t. Using a different workflow that is distinctivly C3D has allowed us to spend the same amount of time as in LDT to set up the design. But we save roughly 40% in design time when design changes happen and C3D allows more checks to be added so errors are greatly reduced by having QA and QC inherent within the design processes. I recently asked everyone in my group individually what their thoughts were on C3D and if they would desire to ever go back to LDT. Everyone one of them laughed and thought that was the most stupid question ever asked. C3D is a far better product than LDT they said. I agree.

  10. Morrison Maierle says:

    Is there a survey out there shows who is using what and in what descpline, that is not tied to any company or reseller ?

    If there could someone posted it ?

    By the way I love Civil 3D and would not dream of switching back or to another software package at this time. LDT is dead so you either go with Civil 3D and pay for the learning curve or you go with some one else and pay for the learning curve. All programs have there plus and minus. The key is who will be there tomorrow ?

    Thanks for the post James and Jennifer (aka CAD Girl)


  11. ThatCADGirl says:

    Again, many thanks to James for opening up comments here on this site. It’s a good discussion. Fortunately or unfortunately, this discussion is somewhat split between here on and a parallel post on the Autodesk Discussion Group. I have kept track of comments in both places and, for those interested, posted a lengthy reply on the DG and at my site.