Resolved: The One Year Release Cycle is Good for Civil 3D Users

You guys know I love a good soapbox rant, but I love a good debate almost as much. This morning the one-year release cycle came to the front of the Discussion groups as a user was looking for a way to deal with 2010 dwg files in an older version. Sinc’s an advocate for change, but personally, I think he’s too narrow in his vision of the product’s worldwide and industry wide scope. I’ve put in the major points here as quotes, but I hope you’ll join the debate in the comments section. Make the jump to read the thread.

It started with Matt Kolberg posting:

It would take an enormous effort to make everything backwards compatible. It would effect the price of the software negatively.  We could think of maybe showing the new objects as proxies and allow us to add objects from the current version.  I have no idea what goes on under the hood, but I doubt it’s a conspiracy. I just think it’s pretty tough to make everything
round trip-able.

Sinc replied :

It could be done without having a dramatic impact, but not without fundamental changes to the current design of Autocad.  At this point, it would take extensive rewriting of existing code, including a lot of code that has been there for years or even decades, and essentially require a replacement of much of the current “DWG technology”.  That’s probably why it is considered to be “not worth it”, despite the nightmare it creates for the users.

That’s why I’m such a big advocate for a change to the annual release cycle.  A new incompatible release once every two years would create less than half as many problems as we have now.  If we must have incompatible releases, it would be much less disruptive if we had fewer of them.  Then just give us more in the way of Subscription Advantage Packs in those off-years that don’t have a new release.

So of course I took the contrarian view (cause that’s how I roll,)

Would you be willing to wait two years, or likely four for new features to be considered? As a rule, new full-blown features can only be included at full releases, based on the language and support requirements. There is a certain amount of flexibility afforded by the current system that allows Autodesk to focus on market requirements and
user demands much quicker than they could in a two-year cycle.

I’m not saying there aren’t problems with the annual release treadmill, but I think many people overlook the advantages in terms of their own demands.

And Sinc”s last post (before I pulled it here.)

I don’t really understand why those are the only choices.

Why can’t we have a major release every other year, with a major add-on upgrade in the off-years?  One that doesn’t require a new incompatible format every year.  True, that won’t work with the three-year DWG format cycle, but that was always rather artificial, too.

It is frankly impossible for every company to switch versions of C3D at the same time.  Working in multiple versions of C3D at the same time is distasteful on many levels.  But working with others who are on a different version of C3D is pretty much impossible.  A two-year cycle would naturally result in a lot fewer disconnects, as people would tend to switch more together.  As it is right now, there are an awful lot of people who seem to be skipping every other release, and that causes problems when one company is on odd-numbered years, and another is on even-numbered years, and they need to do a project together.

This problem may not be so bad yet, but I think that’s only because hardly anyone is using C3D right now.  Personally, I think the software has gotten much better, and a lot more people will start to adopt it in the near future.  As more and more people start using this software, this problem will get bigger and bigger and bigger…

Not to mention, all of those people are going every other year without even getting bug fixes, under the current system.  Every other version simply sits on a shelf, and they wait it out.  It seems to me like things could be done better.  And a two-year major release cycle may give Autodesk more time to focus on making sure new features are stable – after all, stability is the most important factor in making this software usable.  Right now, stability and reliability are far more important than new features.

So, what’s your take? Throw in some comments, I’m curious where this falls. Have any of you seen the pleasure in new features that addressed your market? Seen changes you liked in the annual release? Remember complaining, “I paid Subscription money but didn’t get a new box?” I’ve got some more thoughts, but I want to hear yours first.

Get your rant on in the comments below!


  1. Kevin Clark says:

    My experience is that the users feel that as soon as they get the new version figured out and start gaining the speed to do their work with it everything changes. They feel like they are just being held at gun point by Autodesk. If they don’t upgrade it’s really easy to get left behind. If they do then their job performance suffers for a while.
    From a managers point of view I know that most feel that it’s a cost they can’t afford. The roll out by IT and the additional training and support is just something they don’t want to spend the money on.
    All in all, I have seen nothing but frustration on the yearly release. Don’t get me wrong I love to see the new tools and abilities of the product every year. But from a running a business it’s a real pain.

  2. Rick Graham says:

    We are not rolling out new releases to users each year despite how ADSK does. My main argument over the whole thing is to look at other companies and how they deal with backward compatibilities. Microsoft doesn’t seem to have issues, Bentley doesn’t, and the list goes on.

  3. Ron Pemberton says:

    I was the one who posted the original question. Some of our seats are just now switching over to 2010 and that’s the problem. Different groups in our office are now not able to work on the same drawings which is a major problem. I’ve never noticed this problem in earlier versions. Our company has over 45,000 employees world wide. I don’t know how many Autocad seats we have total but we cannot switch to a new version every year. Transfering work between groups and offices will come to a screeching halt until we get this compatibility problem resolved. I can’t believe this issue was not anticipated by Autodesk. The whole AutoCAD world is not going to upgrade with every release. We need to have a huddle in the company to try and figure out our options.

  4. Kyle Newcomer says:

    I’m convinced the only people that the annual release cycle is good for are Autodesk and those who make their living supporting and teaching the software. I’d be more than happy to wait for new features if we got stability and (more importantly) more user friendly software in return.

    Whether or not there is some kind of conspiracy, the result is the same. Civil 3D is an overly complex, unintuitive behemoth.

  5. Jon Rizzo says:

    I say exchange the current “annual release + 2 service packs” cycle for an 18 month release cycle where the product is fully cooked out of the box. The same development scope and cycle, except public release is delayed by 6 months for TESTING (gosh, imagine that). At the one year point, release the product as a “public beta” for subscription customers. It is basically a public beta now, anyways. You have to be insane to advise all of your users/clients to use a pre-service-packed C3D in production (or even Vanilla AutoCAD, for that matter). By officially declairing it a “beta” that signals that the program should not be used for production work (unless you’re a hot shot who can deal with the problems). This way, folks get new functionality in 18 months instead of 12 but it’s rock solid out of the box. It relaxes the sense that you’re constnantly upgrading and gives you peace of mind that Autodesk didn’t dump a world of hurt on you for having the audacity to install a new version on the day it is released.

  6. Matt Kolberg says:

    I’m all for the yearly release. I love the new features and I want ’em now! I worked in a medium sized company and I had no trouble deploying to everyone in a short time. This is of course after taking a little time to alter my customization to match. I have no idea how it takes some companies sooooo long to deploy a new release, though I don’t have experience with a huige number of users. No, we installed every year and there wasn’t much grief with the deployments.

    That’s one issue. What Jon is talking about is a completely separate issue. He’s talking stability. If Civil 3D were perfectly stable every time out of the gun would you care about the yearly release? So maybe the issue isn’t the annual cycle, but getting the product to a point where no Service Packs are required. I’m no developer, but I’m sure that’s a tall order having zero bugs. Again, in my experience this really hasn’t been a major issue. We were always able to find a solution to any problems that did arise. Now, sometimes it wasn’t fun at all staying late.

    Of course, the third issue is the imcompatibility between releases. I certainly can’t say that this hasn’t caused at least some grief within my circle of experience, so yeah, I wish files were interchangeable between versions too. Tell me if I’m wrong, but isn’t this the same for all Autodesk vertical products? It just seems to be the norm for the verticals if it is.


  7. Do you think you’d actually see more “testing” from the Beta community than you do now? The involvement from users is shockingly low in my opinion, with a handful of users being the ones that actually test, while a larger handful simply play to get ahead. I’m not convinced 18 month cycles does anything but stretch that process out.

  8. Jon Rizzo says:

    …and I think stretching out the process would be good because it increases the likelyhood that more folks will be on the current version. You’re right, this wouldn’t result in more testing, but it WOULD result in more FIXING. The problem with the current release cycle isn’t that nobody is testing, it’s that the fixes aren’t making it to the customer for 6 months. It’s really just a perception issue, and the current release cycle makes perceptions worse. Autodesk shoves the product out the door to meet a deadline, and that is obvious to customers. Push that schedule back, and more stuff gets fixed.

    The two biggest gripes with the 1 year cycle are that the RTM version is always unreliable and 1 year is too frequent to deploy enterprise wide. If the current version does not change for 18 months and if the software was reliable on day 1 instead of day 180, that takes away 2 big reasons why a lot of folks are 1-2 versions back. Of course, this would be better for the customer than for the bottom line – subscription customers would expect their contracts to last 18 months instead of a year.

  9. Ron Pemberton says:

    I think 2 years would be sufficient for major releases as long as the fixes and service packs were sent out as soon as possible in the interim. James posted “Would you be willing to wait two years, or likely four for new features to be considered?” I would personally love for Autodesk to leave it alone for 2 or more years. Especially when lately the new releases involve whole new interfaces. You can barely get a grip on one release before another comes out. forget about ever mastering it. There is always room for improvement but it does pretty much everything I need it to do. Just work on fixing all the bugs in the interim.

    [Ron, if you’ll use Ron Pemberton as your name, your comments should be automatically approved. Thanks. JW]

  10. Matt Anderson says:

    Is there a trend on the beta testing, ie, is it smaller this year than years prior? I don’t have much of an issue with the annual releases, but I hear many excuses when we do role them out.
    As for needing the ablility to go backwards with a file is something I rarely have to do, and when we do, exploded AEC entities are sufficient.
    Sinc’s in a different spot than we are. His firm deals with various engineering firms that likely are on different Civil 3d versions. Since we consume are own surveying, its not an issue for us.
    As a stockholder, I love the annual release.
    As a customer, I do like the uniform budget cycle. I did not like our pre-subscription environment where we waited three years between releases – but then again that was Land Desktop when not much changed other than the base AutoCAD product.

  11. Dave Ness says:

    I work for a small civil firm, 35 employees, about 40% registered professionals + support staff. We have 10 seats of C3D on subscription our IT person is also one of the material lab techs and with Autodesks release schedule coinciding with the beginning of the construction season we usually can’t get the new version installed until November or December that really hasn’t worked out badly as by then most of the bugs have been worked out and most of the firms we work with are one or more releases of Autodesk software behind us. So, unless there are radically new tools that will improve the product/process we do not install every release. So while I like new features I’d much rather see a longer cycle. That said if I’m paying an annual subscription fee and I don’t see improvements to the software every year I might feel I’m over paying.

    [Dave, please use your full name and your comments should be approved automatically from now on. Thanks, JW.]

  12. James,
    The thing that has bothered me Beta Testing every year since the first release of Civil 3D, is that the common response to most of the reports is… “There’s just not enough time left to get that in this years release”. It’s very frustrating. I have made many requests from day one! There’s a simple one that’s still on my list that has been reported for the last 4 or 5 years. (you know which one I’m thinking about). 😉

    During testing, I feel like I’m walking in a toy store, at the age of 3, and my mom says “you can look, but don’t touch anything!”; or I have a $10 limit to spend and the cheapest thing in the store is $25. Thanks mom. 🙁

    The involvment from the community is low because Autodesk does not offer any incentive to those that have volunteered a huge amount of their own time to make a software package better. Then the volunteers have to spend a ton of money for the product they contributed to only to find out that those items, they reported a year ago, are still not fixed.

    It starts at the top. And the top is made up of executive sales men and woman. In their eyes, “Better By Design” is not being able to “Design Better”. It’s about how can we design our sales pitch better so that we can try to sustain our customers, becuase our customers haven’t been completely satisfied with our products we sell as of late.
    I truly believe there is so much denial going on at the top, that it’s creating a mess for those of us at the bottom that really care about the product.

    My suggestion to the “top”, is let AutoCAD be a version ahead of Civil 3D. Don’t “force” the Civil 3D team to try and keep up with all the new changes to the vanilla product.

    In my opinion all of these vanilla AutoCAD “Sales” features are slowing down the development of Civil 3D as well as slowing down the performance and stability.

    What’s an interesting thought is… “I wonder how today’s Civil 3D would run on R14?” (Go ahead Nick… Tell me that that’s impossible because the prgramming language is completely different now.) I’m just saying if it “could” be done. 😉

    Ok, I’m off my soap box.

    • And having been around the block a few times you know well and good that beta is not feature addition time, it’s testing time. By the time any product hits beta, it’s past the point of change. Autodesk is not special in that regard.

      • Okay so how do we get involved during feature addition time then? They need to find a way to get more “My Feedback” outside of Beta testing time.

        • Ah, therein lies the rub, doesn’t it? The Wishlists, etc are the best place to start. And let’s be blunt, just wishing doesn’t make something happen. You have to justify it, because I can tell you that the list of desired features is pretty long, and each item on it has to earn its place.

          You’ll notice Jonathan’s STB pleas in the DG this week. I’m not sure that he has enough voices there to make a full on business case, but I DO know that he has more attention than he would have with two or three random requests.

          I’ve always kind of hoped for a MyFeedback window outside the Beta cycle. That’s my wish, but I’ve never made much of a business case for it apparently.

  13. Dennis Schmidt, P. Eng. says:

    It sounds to me like the biggest problem is that, when a company is coordinating with another, they aren’t always running the same version of C3D. The simplest solution in my mind would be to make it a project requirement that all civil consultants run the same version for the project. In my view, which seems a little odd I know, I’d use the previous year’s version since the bugs should have been worked out and most people designers are familiar with it. If not, maybe some “inter-office cooperation” can be employed when one office lacks the expertise another has to get the job done. Autodesk isn’t going to change their policy soon or easily, and it will be impossible to standardize the entire civil industry on a single C3D platform, so it should be approached on a project by project basis.

  14. Eric Colburn says:

    In general I like the annual upgrades with the following exceptions and issues kept in mind:

    1. The 1 year subscription program benefits Autodesk monetarily more than users benefit by any increase functionality and usability. Autodesk would be better served if it separated the versioning issue from the payment/cost/budgeting issue. They are not related at all and if the next issue is taken into account they can be divorced and the yearly upgrade will make better sense from a payment/cost/budgeting standpoint.

    2. It’s old-fashioned, but, don’t release a product unless it works 100 percent. Users did not pay top dollar for the opportunity to be guinea pigs. Then to force them to pay more after one year for another less than 100 percent piece of software is a bitter pill to swallow.

    3. Backwards/forward compatibility is a complex issue with serious business and financial ramifications. First, alienating your paying customer who paid for a so-called “older version” (a year, really?) is a questionable practice. Second, it can be a trap for those who are “early adopters’, if you will, when trying to work in the real world where due to the yearly upgrades, cost, stability issues, and integration of those upgrades, many organizations don’t implement upgrades (perhaps smartly) concurrently, if at all. This creates more work and cost money for the person using the “latest and the greatest” when delivering or sharing a digital work product. Third, even within the smallest of organizations, backwards incompatibility can be burdensome.

    4. It seems counterintuitive, but I think Autodesk would get a lot less flak about annual renewal if they allowed, and even encouraged, monthly payments throughout the year. Then, they could concentrate on producing a flawless software solution with long-term purposeful improvements to functionality and usability making their software a better business and technical tool.

    Just a few thoughts.

    • #1, I think you’re forgetting the huge number of complaints that came during the 18 month cycle while there was an annual VIP payment. Lots of firms played roulette, renewing about 6-9 months after a release, hoping they’d catch the SP1 version of the app at the right time, and then be on the next version when their subscription came out. While it’s an interesting tactic, it led to a huge amount of flux in the Autodesk line I’m sure.

      #2 is an impossible goal. No product is 100% in software anymore. You may never see the issues with other software you use, but I guarantee there are at least 1,000 bugs in Outlook alone. It’s simply a business matter of how many people does a given issue effect versus the time and labor to address it. I also think that a lot of users (including myself at times,) have taken to calling annoyances as bugs. If you don’t lose data, it’s an annoyance, not a defect. And the issues that DO cause data loss? They’re absolutely top priority, and we work very deliberately to make sure they ARE addressed.

      #3 I find backwards compatibility to be a bit of a red herring. Yes, there are legitimate cases where it causes issues across company boundaries, but internally, I think you should be able to address these problems and move forward with good planning and management. If you’re the primary and your sub is using an older version, get a new sub. If you’re the sub, and your primary is asking you to work on an older version, then do so, but charge for the hassle of being behind. If the economics don’t work, then suck it up and move on, but you can’t blame Autodesk for what is a business expectation issue. A well laid plan of growth takes into account the plans of your primary vendors, and if Autodesk is one of those vendors, then you plan accordingly.

      #4, they DO offer this, you just have to do a financing deal. I’m not sure anyone will let you take layaway payments for 0%, but I do know a number of resellers have done it in the past if you would sign a three-year deal.

      Please remember, these are purely my own opinions. I do not claim to speak for Autodesk or any of their partners.

  15. Darby Schock says:

    It seems that AutoDesk lives in a bubble with regards to their release cycle, beta testing and backwards compatibility of their own program. I think this ‘bubble’ is driven by their business model of get on a subscription and pay us a yearly fee for the use of our program. Granted everyone has to make a living and I’m sure the code is challenging to produce, but the release cycle seems to be geared more towards producing revenue than quality. At what point does this go from providing a worthy product to the consumer to gouging the consumer? I don’t buy the argument of a user community being responsible for beta testing when the same users are being required to pay for what they’re testing. I wouldn’t pay a barber for a haircut and then expect to hear him say, “Go ahead and trim up the spots I missed” as he hands me the scissors. Lastly, are there any major, successful software providers out there who don’t provide backwards compatibility between concurrent releases? The only one I can think of is AutoDesk.

    • If you save a DOCX as a DOC, you lose certain functions (primarily some formatting.) If you save C3D backwards, you lose certain functions. In both cases. you can still open it, and make changes, but no, it’s not the same document.

      • MS Word doesn’t cost $7995 a seat. (MSRP)

        [Edit for thread clarity. JW]

        • Yes, and that sort of makes my point. In something as basic as Word, you don’t get full compatibility, I’m surprised you would expect it in something as specialized as C3D. Every single part in this year’s Ferrari doesn’t fit in last year’s model. Same applies at a Honda level if you don’t like the Ferrari metaphor.

          I’m not saying it shouldn’t be considered, I’m saying there’s a business, and to this point, feature gaps have been on the lips of more customers than the ability to take data backwards.

  16. I have been avoiding commenting because to be honest I am torn.

    However, whenever I hear backwards compatible I think of a company I worked with who was using LDT 2005. Even though they were using 2005, they kept referring to the need to be backwards compatible. So the company did not use layouts or any additional tools that were not available in R14 just so that their drawings could be backwards compatible. We had not clients or consultants on R14 but they wanted all their drawings to be able to be open and run the same way as when they opened their doors.

    My argument was at some point you had to cut the loss so as to move forward and be progressive. For example, at some point companies said it is time to move to CAD (from the board). At some point companies said it is time to move to LDT and at some point companies said it is time to move to C3D.
    That fact that you have to ‘cut the loss’ or plan ahead for potential difficulties due to no backwards compatibility is not really the issue so much as WHEN this should be the case.
    The WHEN is connected to ability for the WHOLE company to make the switch as unified as possible and how much the company’s switch would effect its work with the outside world.

    Backwards incompatibility is a part of life and moving forward. (Records, 8Track, Cassete Tapes, CD’s, DVD’s, BluRay, etc.)

    To have backwards compatibility would be nice. However, I would be willing to sacrifice it in a second for the awesome software that C3D is. As long as I was aware of the incompatibility and planned the when.

    If I was to guess, I would think that the annual incompatibility of C3D may be removed as the software grows into its own. It will all depend on how many new features and objects are added to C3D each year. The more objects/features the less likely it will be backwards compatible.

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  18. I think the real issue is lack of immediate fixes to known bugs. You report a bug and get told it will be fixed in the next SP or release. Hotfixes are nearly non-existent for the Civil 3D product, maybe one in the last three or four releases. I think it would go a long way in customer acceptance of the yearly release process that bugs would be addressed weekly, monthly or bi-monthly instead of once every three to six months or not at all until the next release.

  19. Rick Graham says:

    Sorry to rant on – using the Word metaphor. Yes, there are some formatting issues, but it DOES recognize and work fine. Case in point, we have a couple hundred Wordperfect files in our company. I don’t expect us to maintain Wordperfect just for those files. word can and does import those in fine with *some* formatting issues, but the bottom line is that I can import them in and do something with them. With Autodesk, I get a friendly message on my screen saying you can view the file, but most of the other things, you are just going to get nice rectangles even if you have simply opened the file and mistakenly saved it. At least in Word, it gives you a warning of some sort that it is going to save it in a new format. ADSK doesn’t do that.

    As for subs – sorry that doesn’t wash. It seems to me that ADSK is forcing strong arm tactics – well you don’t have the latest version? So sorry, but for $$$$ you can. BUT next year, you’ll have to pay $$$ more in order to read the newer files that ProgressiveCompany XYZ has.

    Don’t get me wrong – I’m all for progress, but the the backward compatibility has been a real pain in our company’s butt for many years. In our area, where our billable rate is right now around 15%, we are being as competitive as possible to stay in business. We never know when a 3rd party contractor is going to request our CAD files for their take-off. And the procedure for making a C3D file ‘backward compatible’ is, and has been laborious, unlike Word (our running example), where you can simply do a file saveas, and it works as advertised.

    Off soapbox for now.

    • I’m not sure what Autodesk has to do with subs. You want to work with us, you’ll deliver in this format. That’s an engineering business decision. I’ve made the commitment to keep my company on the leading edge of technology, and I will give work to others that do the same. That would apply to communication, construction, and CAD, every phase of the job.

      I wouldn’t do business with a company that didn’t have e-mail. Yes, you can get the job done with faxes, but it’s not worth the hassle.

      Yeah, I know I’m poking the bear a bit and taking it to an extreme, but it’s still interesting, so I’ll keep playing.

      • Quan Nguyen says:

        “You want to work with us, you’ll deliver in this format.” : Only Autodesk can state/think that way. In real world, not many business do that. No owner really want to pay extras to a consultant just because that consultant will deliver newer CAD files for the his contractor. Consultants also cannot ask contractors or other partner to upgrade to newer release of AutoCAD/Civil 3D in other to use theirs CAD files. We work together; and we has been all worked/paid for Autodesk’s needs.

        “I wouldn’t do business with a company that didn’t have e-mail. Yes, you can get the job done with faxes, but it’s not worth the hass”: In real world, if you do business with someone has no e-mail, you even have to hand deliver the package to them. Can any consultants say “If you don’t have Civil 3D 2010, I will not do business with you”?

        • Quan, I don’t find your first statement to be true. We very clearly had a rider in the contracts at my old engineering firm that said we would deliver data in the current DWG format to all of our subcontractors. They had the decision to make if they wanted to deal with that, or pay us for the time to convert. Anything is negotiable, it’s a question of what your time is worth.

          And no, I wouldn’t do business with companies that don’t stay up to date. I changed accountants because they refused to handle Quickbooks upgrades. It’s a matter of what’s important, and who’s paying the bills.

          • Ryan Noyes says:

            James, your “you want to work with us you’ll deliver in our format” is true but I think you are looking at it completely from the wrong side. The complete lack of compatibility between release years for Civil 3D means if we have clients that want a particular version of Civil 3D files due to the lack of backwards compatibility we can’t upgrade. An example I would give is DOTs, which last time I checked Autodesk was targeting these clients. Let’s say DOT X has a deliverable Civil 3D 2007, now let’s say my firm, has decided Civil 3D 2007 is horrible, and want to use 2009 (trying to stay in the same dwg file format here) I can’t use the newer tool. Should I go to my client, a HUGE agency and say “you guys have to upgrade because the vendor says so”? Wouldn’t it be much better if the product most of us here are championing could handle sharing files back and forth between what is the same base version? Do I instead say “I won’t work with this client because they aren’t on the newest release of the application how shortsighted on their part”?
            I think Autodesk has no appreciation for the pain the lack of compatibility between versions causes. Please don’t use the “well export to dwg and use LandXML” line. Not everything comes across, how do I get people my corridors, assemblies, etc if my CLIENT has an older version. I think Autodesk has failed to recognize as they look at the DOT market how much happier their customers would be if they created a product that would “eat it’s own garbage” between versions of files that Autodesk claims share the same DWG format. DOTs will never upgrade annually and those of us that work for them will get handcuffed due to the data sharing limitations our software vendor has created.
            Why won’t DOT’s upgrade annually, 1) They don’t change processes that quickly so to take advantage of a new feature many times does not occur over a release cycle. 2) They use custom internal apps and 3rd party apps that need to be checked/updated every time they update, not an effort that is efficient to undertake annually. 3) System requirements/performance limitations every release of C3D requires more system resources, look how the requirements have changed as well as the recommendations for operating systems. DOTs (as well as large firms) need to consider how will C3D perform as we upgrade versions on our current hardware and OS. Autodesk has been pushing lately Win 7 64bit, that’s great but not practical to just ask everyone to upgrade immediately as DOT’s or others look at other applications that would need to be upgraded, print drivers/ queues that need to be replaced and rebuilt to upgrade the OS. This is a particular issue now for those of us finishing up jobs in LDD as we migrate to C3D since LDD won’t install on the 64 bit OS without a hack. Anyway this started as a response to the make people work in the format you want statement so let me wrap up.
            My point here is it isn’t as simple as Autodesk (and you) want to make it sound and the engineering firm isn’t always the one driving the software version decision. Dismissing the concerns posted here by the customers as “a Red Herring” or telling people to force everyone to upgrade may sound great in a conference room in Waltham or Manchester but they aren’t that practical in the real world. I think the C3D team has done a great job giving us a tool that is incredibly powerful for design and every release is better than the previous version. I think they have plenty of room to improve the way this tool stores data and shares data between design team members who NEED or want to work on different versions that supposedly share the same DWG format.

            • At this point, I’m playing Devil’s Advocate. I think there’s some really good stuff in here, and I’ve sent links to this thread to everyone I know that has any actualy influence in these discussions.

              So, to be flip about it, thumbs up or down on this: Next year (2012 release,) you get backwards compatibility with all C3D to 2009, but no new features. Bug fixes, but not a single addition to the feature set.

              Would you take that?

            • Mark Spatz says:

              Sounds like a great idea!! Thumbs UP.

            • Ryan Noyes says:

              James, Sign me up! As long as it means it’s how the product will be carried forward with support for objects between 3 versions. I would love to see a release where they said let’s focus on only compatibility and stability if it meant they could address the concerns voiced throughout this thread about versioning. Thanks for putting these kinds of questions out there. I think the number of comments here means you hit on an issue important to many users.

            • Matt Anderson says:

              Why not just tweak vault to do the spanning to provide 3 version compatibility? That you if you have to save back from 2012, you open 2010, logon to Vault, and extract the data into a new 2010 drawing…

            • Ryan Noyes says:

              And what percentage of Civil 3D users out there use vault? I guess that would be an idea if they wanted to try to get our industry to actually adopt vault. I think this is a core issue with the application.

  20. Brent Daley says:

    Everyone makes such good points on both sides of the fence. I’m also sitting on the fence. This economy makes decisions very hard. If you had the choice of keeping someone employed for another year or having to renew all your licenses…it’s pretty easy to see the humane choice you would “want” to make, but unfortenatly it would have to be the business choice, and especially with the pricing and terms laid out the way they are now…even more so a business choice…a forced business choice. I’m not asking for a freebie, or handouts because it’s a bad economy, but why keep on with more sales and marketing propoganda instead of just freezing terms and conditions as they are until things are on the turn around. Why give something, then take it away, or find ways of lumping things together, or seperating them apart…just be reasonable with things. Quit looking for ways to change everything, come up with something simple that works, that the consumer is happy with and stick with it, quit jerking us around every year with all this nonsense.

    I say rolling out a new version every few years isn’t unreasonable, and adding stability to a product during that time before it’s release would be totally cool. I would respect a product more if it was trustworthy then giving me more bells and whistles that aren’t going to fully work till a couple service packs down the line, I need something I can count on. If it’s the only product you had then I would still go to you for it. You bet I’d want to have that product.

    It’s pretty simple really….Make me want your product…Don’t force me to have to have it.

  21. Shawn Caldwell says:

    My outfit is still rolling with 2008. Couple reasons, I have surveyors who are still using DOS based programs for data reduction (because it works for them). I’m the CAD Manager responsible for 50 users, plus a design tech (pseudo engineer). I have to do support and do actual billable work. Rolling out a new version every year would just make me miserable. I have a hard time keeping all the balls in the air as it is. I push new versions out when I think we as a company are ready for it and I’m ready for the stress. (which is not every year).

    That being said I am looking at going ahead and pushing us on into 2010(yeah I know 2011 will be out soon). We’re looking at moving our users to Win7 64, so I thought now would be a good time to do it. Fresh builds and new C3D. Should make for a more stable situation.

    I can see James’ point on paying yearly and only getting stuff every 18-24 months. People wil complain that they aren’t getting their moneys worth. People are going to complain no matter what the situation. I think for me the best situation would be a base program that was rolled out every 24 months or 36. Then things like the subscription pack released every or so. The users don’t get smacked with a new version every year. They get two nice upgrades each year instead. Adesk still gets their annual subscription fee. You start looking at a beta version at the halfway mark for the base software. The subscription packs could be in constant beta.

  22. If Autodesk, and others, want to keep the 1-year software release cycle that’s OK, but how about extending the service pack cycle another year after the product release [SPs for 2 years after release – at least for Subscription customers 😉 ]. It seems that once the next major release comes out the service packs stop for the earlier versions when they still have things that need to be addressed.

    Personally, I would like to see an every-other year cycle as well on major product releases. I think quality would go up and in the extended time the beta should be an OPEN BETA like Microsoft did for Win 7. Notice the better product…

    Also, if there was a method to use the new version on older Vault versions I could actually participate in beta testing on REAL projects and provide valid feedback.

  23. John Mayo says:

    I just can’t help to think that we would get a more reliable product with more features for Civil Engineers (not drafters) if they kept the annual cycle but only pushed C3D into the new version of AutoCAD every other year (never on the 1st dwg release). In principle, it seems the developers would have an extra year to work on tools for us & we would deal with fewer Acad bugs.

    We still do not have a grading object that does not need to be exploded.

  24. John Mayo says:

    I skipped a mjor point of this post but backward compatabilty has little value to our firm since we are all always using the same product.

  25. A brief history:
    My company decided to go to C3D with 2006. The original plan was to upgrade every release. This quickly changed to a as-needed basis of upgrade do to the stability of the program, the lack of complete features (survey), and the lack of training available (styles, parts). I argued that to fully take advantage of improvements in the software we needed to keep up with the upgrades.
    We looked at 2007. 2007 didn’t back up my argument.
    We looked at 2008 and decided to upgrade. While 2008 was an improvement from ’06 and ’07, it still had the same problems as ’06 (stability, features, and training.) While some of the features from ’06 were improved, some were not, and new features in ’08 were as unstable as new features in ’06. My employers saw the cycle of fix old problems, add new problems, wait a year, fix old problems, add new problems. They wanted to go back to the three year cycle, regardless of the subscription, and didn’t not plan to upgrade until 2011.
    After much debate, they decided to try 2010. My employers’ cycle was there. They contacted the distributor. They had meetings with Autodesk. They weren’t happy with the results. The concept of an interactive drawing had become interactive drawings. The styles that we worked hard to learn how to create were bogging down our drawings. The parts list creator was a program unlike any other in Autodesk with no training. No more than a couple of grading objects together in a grading group or the group will corrupt and possibly the drawing as well. Well, the list goes on.
    Now a client has there site done in 2010, then decides that 2009 will be needed. Not our choice, not our decision (and no we cannot just say you’ll have to pay for that, not if we want to stay in business.)

    Working in a competitive market, in the current economy, we cannot afford to learn this on our own, find the problems, and find the solutions, before we can do our job.

    From what I’ve read on posts, my company isn’t unique. From what I’ve seen on Autodesk sites about the percentage of companies using the software, most didn’t start C3D until 2010, and the portion that started with ’08 are still using ‘08. I don’t know how accurate their numbers are, but it gives me the feeling that most are in the same position as my company.

    Most means there’s a problem.

    I don’t think the problem is the program completely. I like the program and I like where it’s going. I see the main problem as lack of information. The program has changed direction and if we hadn’t met with Autodesk, we wouldn’t have known. I try to keep up with the threads, white papers, work flows, but this is overhead. Being on overhead right now is not the place to be (no, it can’t be charged to jobs.)

    I’m the advocate for C3D. I’m the one looking for problems, looking for solutions, and trying to make it a viable part of our company. So far it’s been an uphill battle. It seems like I’m walking a tight-rope with a blindfold on, and I’m not sure, but I don’t think there’s a net.

  26. Dennis Schmidt, P. Eng. says:

    John has a good point. A point I would like to make is that as a business decision, it is a BUSINESS choice to adopt a new version every year, it’s not being forced upon you by Autodesk. For those companies which choose to be on the “cutting edge”, new technology and the problems associated with it is a risk they take. It is also just as valid to stick with something you know, like an older version for a couple of years until you are ready to upgrade. Maybe if Autodesk could come up with a routine to export to older versions of civil 3D, it might help. Also, the comment about extending the time service packs for older versions are developed is good, because not all the bugs are worked out of previous releases when a new one is introduced.

  27. Jeff York says:

    I would like to see a 2 year release cycle. The product is more important than the tool, but the tool needs to be solid to build the best product.

  28. Jason Oberg says:

    I’ve been reading this post and have to say that James Wedding’s arguments are absolutely absurd. Comparing relatively stable Microsoft Word or Outlook to overpriced Civil 3D is the act of a salesman desperate for some shred of legitimization. Our company has been using 2010 Civil 3D for almost 1 year now and to say that we’re underwhelmed is not to even make a start of it. I have raised numerous major issues with Autodesk, but to no avail with their typical ho-hum unresponsive (and I believe ultimately unsustaining) manner. The grading utlitity, as you all know, is nothing short of a disaster, as well as the useless QTO Manager. I challenge James to calculate quantities in QTO faster then I can with Micrsoft Excel – on a real project. And not offering 64 bit in Civil 3D imitates a comedic skit.
    The bottom line is this – if we ran our business and sold our product in the same way Autodesk does, and James perpetuates, then we would have to shut our doors inside of a year. It only gives us cause to seek solutions elsewhere.

    • Absurd? Perhaps, but the stock price continues to back the track Autodesk is on. If you (we) want to change things, you’ll have to get specific and make it financially worthwhile for Autodesk to address your concerns.

  29. Good Discussion… However, we am having some major issues with the product and I don’t believe that the customer needs to be the beta tester for every new release. Yes a new program has issues that is expected, but for the Civil 3D it is now become the “norm” instead of the exception. The paradigm of “shoving out the product and let the customer tell us where the problems are”, does not cut it in the “professional world”. That’s like turning out a set of plans without checking them… and let the clent reviewers tell us where the discrepancies are. (After all they will always be relines). That customer will not be a customer for long! The difference here is that Autodesk has a subscription and market headlock on an most companies that they can’t afford to make changes. This has made Autodesk and Civil 3D quality control lazy and virtually non-existent.

    The idea of a quality version fix is also dropping… that the idea 2010 is better that 2009, 2009 better than 2010, etc doesn’t hold water. We are now seeing bugs, limited piecemeal routines, memory leaks traversing across several versions.
    1) Check on the Civil 3D Plan Productions tools a 2009 issue was discovered and we were told that the same problem still exists in 2010. They really haven’t been addressed since their conception.
    2) Memory leaks go from 2008 to 2009 to 2010 and nothing is done… other than tell the client to spend more money and upgrade to 64-Bit machines, add more memory… Is the problem fixed NO! The hardware upgrade only “masks” the problem temporarily.
    3) Grading Objects and feature lines creating problems in 2008… We were told it was much better in 2009… NOT! Drawings blow up at a drop-of-a-hat, time and money is lost in production…

    and the boss asks why?

    This is a quality control issue for AutoCAD, maybe they had look at a 2 year cycle this will improve the quality. But that won’t happen “Follow the money”.

    Is it too old fashion to ask “If I spend my money to get a Ferrari shouldn’t I get a Ferrari? One that runs?”.

  30. Jason Oberg says:


    How much more specific do we have to get? Open up any Civil 3D discussion board and the issues are all the same. Just reading the above posts one can find patterns of concern. You don’t realize it, but you (Autodesk) are our customer. The burden of improvement falls on your shoulders. Don’t play stupid with your customers and conive the ‘get specific’ routine. You know very well what the issues are. And if you disagree with that, then don’t count on having a sustaining business model.

    I strongly encourage you to read the book ‘From Good to Great.’ It was published a few years ago and is about sustained business models. Conversely, it analyses how most companies, despite years of past success, go from great to good to average and eventually to ruin. I fear that Autodesk is on this track due to prevailing attitudes like yours.

    • Specifics are the nature of the beast. Telling the Product Designers that something suck doesn’t get any change. Telling them you want the feature to do X,Y, & Z at least gets the request on the list for evaluation.

      I think we all agree that there are issues, but I will fall back again on the fact that there are issues that are life and death to folks in the subdivision game that don’t rate a second thought to the environmental guys. There are things the environmental guys would kill for that the transportation guys would kill you for wasting the development time. This to me is the leading source of discontent. For years, the product was wrapped around the land development industry. As that industry has faded (to be honest, cratered,) you’ve seen more tools focused on other industries. This leads to the land development guys feeling like they’ve been left out in the cold. They supported the initial wave of development, took the hard road of adoption, and now, they don’t feel the love from Autodesk. I’d be pissed too.

      Now, is that right? It is if you’re trying to sell software. Do I wish that Autodesk would add in every feature request for every user every year. Sure. But I also know that if they put in a bunch of new features for firms that won’t be buying anything anyway, then the opportunities for the year after that go downhill as Corporate slashes development budget for a product that didn’t sell very well.

      Let’s get back on topic, just a bit. In your ideal world, how would you like the software delivered to you? Annual release? Bi-annual with more of the SAP-type releases along the way? Describe your perfect environment.

  31. Jason Oberg says:

    The problems with Civil 3D are obvious. You know what they are along with everyone else on this board. I don’t want a perfect product. Instead, let’s get one that does what it claims it does. As a loyal patron I want less selling and more performance.

    The answer to your question is this: It really doesn’t matter how the software is delivered. What matters is that the product we receive does what you (Autodesk) claims it does. I don’t care about new features unique to environmental, but not transporation, visa versa…. What matters is that the quality improves from its current wretched state. After that occurs, then we can have a discussion about how the software is delivered.


  32. My vote is for Bi-annual, but I really don’t think it makes any difference Autodesk will do what they want. Regardless of either software delivery; my perfect environment… if the routine is in the package, then make useful to the real world and make it work… bottom line.

    It really doesn’t cross discipline lines or what economic sector has cratered. It is about a quality product.

  33. Dennis Schmidt, P. Eng. says:

    I wouldn’t mind seeing a two year release cycle. By the time I upgrade versions, I’d plan to put away enough to make up the difference between having subscription and upgrading from a version a few years old.

    Maybe the new features can be released as a “feature pack”, which can be loaded or unloaded without losing the whole product. That way, the problems with new features could be ironed out completely before they become a permanent part of the civil 3d program code, and if people have problems, they can just revert back to what was working before. After, say 2 years when the bugs are 100% worked out, the feature packs could be integrated into the next version of C3D. Those interested in living on the edge could try out the feature packs and provide feedback to Autodesk so that the programmers could do their job and solve the problems, while those not so adventurous types could still get things done.

  34. James Maeding says:

    Don’t you guys think that C3D is a small part of AutoDesk’s products, so stock prices are not reflective of the ups and downs? AutoCad itself is big, but I bet the revenue percentage of C3D is not that major. I’d like to know the percent.
    And guessing that it is small, what really is the driving force of decisions on C3D features? I am guessing it plays back into AutoCad purchases. So Autodesk can advertise a “dynamic model” (while not mentioning what the model is of or if it meets their needs) and reap the rewards of people’s hopes that it really does work for their application. The sale of AutoCad is assumed in that deal.
    This marketing is having some nice side effects, as people start to expect a high level of automation, which keeps us employed, but we have so far to go before a “production ready” set of tools is arrived at.
    I still crack up at the name of Civil 3D. Like a movie or something. Only problem is the industry moved past that in a wink, and now are looking for BIM. I think third party programmers will get there before AutoDesk, because they know what they need, start to finish, for production.
    In the mean time, alignments, profiles, surfaces, and some home brew automation fill the needs very nicely, and that is what 95% of the people use in C3D from my discussions with various firms.

  35. Rick Graham says:

    It does not matter to me what release cycle Autodesk releases new versions. As a company, we have decided that our internal release cycle will be every 2 years.

    And it does make perfect sense. As CAD Manager, I will always have the latest on my computer just for testing, styles integration, and prepping documentation for new features included in the new release. Plus in a year, the outstanding bugs will have been addressed via Service Packs, or whatever they will be called. IT gives me a whole year to prep the release instead of the hurried rollouts that we used to do only to do it all over when a SR comes out.

    So, when the time comes to roll the version out to my users, it will have been proven by us ‘cutting edgers’, if you will.

    I, personally will always be on the cutting edge for the above mentioned reasons.

    • I think you’ve probably hit on the most practical answer. While I was very happy at JBI to always be on the cutting (sometimes bleeding) edge of the software, I knew what I was getting into, and had what I considered the good support network to lean out that far.

      I seriously doubt we’re going to see any change in the release cycle, so taking a step back and figuring out a way to work within that cycle is the next step to finding some happiness in the Autodesk release world.

      • James Maeding says:

        Anyone have a real idea of what percent income C3D represents to Adesk?
        If its a public company, maybe this info is published somewhere…

  36. James, since you seem to the only real advocate for the yearly release, can you explain why?

    The only thing I’ve heard you say so far is that you like new features. But why do we have to have an entire new release to get new features? You know my software, and how many features it adds to C3D. It is quite easy to do elaborate additions to Civil 3D without changing the core product.

    Not to mention, development done that way can be done much faster than changes to the core product. Programming can be done in high-level .NET languages, new features can be worked out quickly, and there’s been a real proof of concept, BEFORE significant changes are integrated into the core product. This method of development is typically not only faster, but creates fewer problems and bugs. And the end user can get timely new features, without the need to undergo traumatic yearly upgrades.

    Not to mention, there are serious problems in Civil 3D right now that are not being solved. I suspect that a good part of the reason is that the problems are so severe that it would be extremely difficult to make a real change in one year of development. So the needed changes are not made, and more stuff is simply piled on top of the existing bad foundation. This leads to problems down the line, as the bad design results in more and more problems and hack fix upon hack fix and the inevitable spaghetti code. I think a two-year major release cycle would dramatically reduce this problem.

    And right now, Civil 3D is so powerful that, if all its features worked flawlessly, we could really whip out work, and HAVE FUN doing it. That would be a great selling point for C3D. How many people actually HAVE FUN doing their work? Land Desktop definitely was not “fun”, by any sense of the word. By contrast, C3D can be lots of fun. But here again recently, I’ve been trying to use FDO and raster images, and suffering. I’ve been eventually managing to get results that wow our clients, but it hasn’t been a fun process, because of all the bugs/problems/issues. New features simply are nowhere near as important as reliable features that don’t require elaborate, non-intuitive procedures and multiple bug work-arounds.

    • Basically because I’m a pragmatist. While C3D could stop down and perfect what’s in there and be good for you, it would drastically underserve the transportation guys. The all things to all people approach (and I won’t argue the merits of that, but that’s the Autodesk mantra,) has put us in a position where to do anything at all, you have to keep banging away at it in fits and spurts. As one market heats up, those features move up in priority. As a market goes cold, those features lose priority. I don’t think it’s any shock to say that adding features for the single-family home market isn’t a top task.

      Realistically though, the arguments in here are overwhelmingly against the cycle, and I admit defeat. I’ve passed this thread to everyone that might have any influence, I can only hope they recognize the nuggets of customer truth buried in our collective rhetoric.

  37. Why does the question have to be about the release cycle? The core AutoCAD product has a one year release cycle, but they’ve set the drawing format cycle to 3 years. This doesn’t mean that they don’t introduce new features, they just do it within the parameters of the current format and target changes that go beyond that to a different release time.

    My biggest issue is the incompatibility between versions. Not backwards compatibility exactly, but the idea that the data format has to change every year in order to move forward. This is not something I really want to see addressed with import/export tools. I want to see the data format actually stay the same between versions. I don’t think this should preclude the introduction of new features, but it would likely make it easier to find and fix issues.

    What would it take for us to adopt a yearly update to our software? Well it would have to be easy…installing on 300 PC’s is a lot of work currently. It would have to work, and be worth it (so no new features or fixes, what’s in it for me?). It would also have to work between versions…we haven’t found a way to update 300 PC’s instantly to avoid interoperability issues. Finally, it shouldn’t break our ability to work with our clients…maybe we could maintain 2 versions (i.e have 2010 or 2011 as our standard, but have 2009 available to talk to anything back to 2007), but we’re not reasonably going to try to maintain 4-6 versions to talk to every version of c3d we might need to deal with.

    Stock prices may look good today, but that doesn’t excuse shoddy business practices (to be flip about it… if the bottom line looks so good, then why the layoffs in the golden castle?). if you don’t introduce meaningful new features every year and keep raising subscription costs, you will eventually see people question the value of that. And they will eventually question the value of having “upgrades” every year that we can’t implement because it breaks our compatibility with other users, other firms, and our clients.

    • I actually think you’ve hit on the real goal: achieving such a maturity of the feature set that Autodesk can lock down the objects as you suggested. It’s a good thought.

  38. Dennis Schmidt, P. Eng. says:

    I can honestly say, having known other engineers that use civil 3d up here in Canada and the technologists doing a lot of the land development design and drafting work, that no one would complain if autodesk didn’t release a new version every year and worked out the bugs that exist in the software. A number of users I’ve dealt with have had such issues with civil 3D that they were actually contemplating going back to LDD. “at least we know what we’re getting into” seemed to be the sentiment there. Part of the problem (up here anyway) is education. No one seems to be actually teching C3D to new technologists coming out of school, and the more experienced technologists are having enough of a problem dealing with bugs, let alone teaching others the workarounds. If autodesk were to go to a different release cycle, perhaps some changes to the subscription pricing would be in order as well. I agree with Mike though, solidify the core product before adding more new features to software that already has problems. Otherwise, Autodesk will just keep compounding errors instead of solving them.

    • Mark Spatz says:


      I love the product, it is way better than LDT, is saving my company time on those strained budgets, and it does 99.99%+ of what LDT could do – the only thing I can think of that is missing is the superelevation methods -, but it is time to get the big bugs squared away.

      Version compatability
      Grading objects
      Cross sections
      General performance when Xrefing

      I would be willing to bet it would only help stock performance of Autodesk. Folks respect a good solid product and with the current awesome power of Civil 3D it would be a combination that is un-matched in the market today; a real selling feature!

  39. James Hall says:

    I work as a Civil Designer and Survey Technician and was involved with the Bata testing of Civil 3D 2010.

    The Civil side of C3D has for the most part been getting better with every release.
    In 2010 the annotative text, insertions and corridors are marked improvements over earlier releases of C3D. 95% of the features I would need to for pipe networks, roads and parcels are present in the software and work in a relatively predictable fashion.
    C3D 2010 has matured to a level where it will do most anything I need it to with some issues creeping up.

    Where the one year release cycle has been lacking in my option is fixing long standing known issues. The focus is put on the new bells and whistles for the Civil side of the software. Autodesk’s general response to problems with C3D’s surveying module is to say they know it’s not well suited for surveyors. There are a few problems that persist from year to year and frankly I see little reason for it. All projects begin with some kind of existing information. The one year cycle compresses the time they have to work on these issues putting them on the back burner. Now that they have pipe networks and other problems areas more under control, how about getting the Survey end of things working better. Every minute I save with C3Ds really good tools I have to spend two getting the existing tin to behave and the point objects / labels to display correctly.

    A good example of long standing issues found in every release of C3D and LDT is Survey Link. C3D 2010 has Survey Link 7.5.5 integrated in to the software. This version of Survey Link was written for Windows 95. I have no problem keeping things that work. If it’s not broken don’t fix it right. Well it has a few known issues that get carried on to each new release of C3D. Namely an angler rounding issue where it codes 59.99 seconds as 60 seconds instead a full minute.
    If you import an FBK in C3D with a degree that rounds to 60 seconds you will get an error saying “Angle out of range” and the Point will not draw in. You then have to open the FBK and round the point. I would admit the 108,000 degrees that fall in that range is numerically small when compared to all the angler degrees possible. However the number of times I have encountered this over the past decade is significant.
    The response I heard back was that Survey Link is not part C3D beta testing. Fine ok, then why keep using 10+ year old flawed code in your cutting edge $7559 product.
    I would suggest getting the basics right and then thinking about what new stuff would be useful.

    The 2 year cycle seams more freezable to me.

    • Matt Anderson says:

      Survey Link is not an Autodesk product, but rather a product licensed from Trimble. Version 7.5.5 was and is the last version ever developed by Trimble.