Autodesk’s 12-month release cycle – Is it harmful?

Autodesk’s 12-month release cycle – Is it harmful?

I’ve opened a poll asking for your opinion about whether the 12-month release cycle of AutoCAD and its variants is harmful to the quality of the software that Autodesk is providing. I won’t express my own opinion on this subject here yet, but will do so later, once the poll is closed. In the meantime, I’d love to hear your opinions on the subject.


  1. The 12-month cycle is harmfull to book publishers, becaues they need at least two years between releases to make back their expenses on producing and printing AutoCAD books.

    I’ve raised the issue several times with Autodesk executives, but that’s not in their focus of interest.

    As for the AutoCAD suffering from annual releases: each year, the feature set becomes weaker. A couple of years ago, they shoveled in the layer-related express tools. How many man-hours of programming did that require?

    AutoCAD 2009 is mostly about user interface changes. Virtually nothing new for the heads-down drafter — or for those who paid for the subscription.

  2. Matthew Ritzman

    The release cycle is too fast for a variety of reasons:

    1. AutoDesk can’t devote enough time to fixing the errors in the current version of the software. They are working on next year’s version and the year after that.

    2. The users don’t have enough time to learn and truly evaluate the software before it is no longer available. Most of my users haven’t taken advantage of useful features released over three years ago.

    3. A feature that is released while clunky causes users to avoid it well after it is fixed or improved.

    4. Users develop a work around for a clunky feature. If that feature stays with the program and isn’t fixed quickly, when future improvements are finally implemented they are met with resistance as users have come to rely on their work around.

    The end result is that the feedback loop is broken. The users feel alienated by the software and their inability to catch up to the newest version. AutoDesk doesn’t get the feedback that would truly help the products. The feedback they receive is conflicting. And they can’t act on the feedback that they have received to improve the software that is currently on the user’s desktop.

    Now that subscriptions are de rigueur, AutoDesk can’t climb out of this viscous cycle without offending somebody. Users, shareholders, and the market would all have difficulty with a missed release date.

  3. Big features like CUI and SSM suffer because they cannot be developed and tested properly in this short cycle. Then these features are forgotten in the rush to develop even more new features for the next release. The end result is features that never seem to reach their potential.

  4. As a 20+ year customer I’m dissapointed to see the endless parade of change for change’s sake. Customer Service is in the toilet, the direction of the product has suffered deeply, and now another unneeded redesign of the UI. Autodesk’s ivory tower has gotten so tall that end users can’t even see the top anymore.

  5. We teach AutoCAD (and other software) to students of architecture and have decided to only upgrade every three versions (or so), even if EDU licenses are cheap. Since we need to teach the basics, most of what we explain the students has not really changed dramatically since AutoCAD 2000 anyways.

  6. metis

    it’s terrible. new features are rolled out w/o useful vetting, and gui changes are made for no good reason. the tool palates are potentially great for certain types of design, but the ribbons are absurd, especially given the reduced floating tool bar size.

    program functionality shifts not necessarily in the means of a better more stable file, and software bloat goes nuts. why on earth is 2009 significantly slower than 2008? where’s the shiny in that? someone should be publicly humiliated for that screw up. put on stage at AU in front of cases of tomatoes. yes, dynamic layer manager is great, but not great enough to take up to 2x as long to do day to day work in the program.

    personally i’d love a subscription program with major updates every 3 years, with public discussion about feature improvements, and programming tweaks and added express tool type additions in the interim. if i can install acad x and have it get faster and more functional over several years i’ll happily stay on subscription to get better builds and support, but there’s no reason for me to upgrade every year.

    (now, revit is another ball of wax because the program still really is in devolopment, and updates to the file structure are necessary to manage the changes in how it handles content)

  7. Lamar

    Hate it! Increases my stress level 10 times. Users want to be left alone to finish projects, not have a new release of AutoCAD to deal with. The latest UI changes suck and experienced users refuse them. Trying to get Autodesk to fix an issue with 2008 is impossible after 2009 is released. STOP the madness, or at least explain what the rush is all about. We are still trying to get some of our custom menus from 2004 to work. Given a choice our user base, 420 would prefer to stay in 2004 and get some work done. Of course Autodesk has made this impossible. Please reconsider.

  8. Mike

    Wow, I just tried 2009 and 12-months is far too soon – features like the ribbon proved enough for me. 2006 and 2008 were fairly good releases, 2004 is still the work-horse though. Service packs would be a better solution – fix the problems of the last version released, rather than create new problems with a new release. I just got used to 2008 – no way am I spending that money on 2009 to just relearn the software and slow my work even more – I’d rather go back to 2004.

  9. Joe

    The 12 month release cycle is typical of Autodesk’s arrogance and greed, as well as their subtle (and not so subtle) disregard for their customers. They pretty much have a monopoly on the CAD industry, so why not behave like an arrogant money hungry corporate machine of the worst kind? ACAD 2009 is nothing more than UI changes. From a practical and common sense standpoint, it’s like a slap in the face to CAD users. If someone released a viable, cheaper CAD alternative tomorrow, I think you’d be surprised at how many people would drop Autodesk like a bad habit. I use their software, and for the most part I like it, but my hatred and utter disgust with the company speaks volumes. The 12 month release cycle is a crime; on many levels.

  10. I hate and love it. I am curious for every new release, some functions i love, other I ignore. The advantage is, that there is not so much change at one time. But for real work I use one release for longer time – and only “play” with newer release. So I worked with
    – Autocad 9
    – Autocad 12
    – Autocad 14
    – Autocad 2000
    – Autocad 2004
    – Autocad 2006
    – Autocad 2008
    but there is no reason to use every release.

    I hope there will be no force from autodesk, to give up older versions, that would be very bad.

  11. Mike

    I have used Autocad Since R12 for Dos and have used every version since. The 12 month upgrade cycle is very frustrating it can take up to a year to get a corporate install script developed for a version. That’s why the upgrade every 2 years.

  12. The 12 mo cycle is fueled by greed PERIOD! Since I have been using Acad (version 10 DCA) there have been probably only 4-5 useful (though large) jumps. Most of the releases are only marginally better.

    I am wondering why they have 64bit for everything EXCEPT Civil3D. I push the ram limitations (even with the 3GB expantion in boot.ini) every day. I have learned that even in the 2010 release Civil3D 64 bit is STILL not addressed. Civil3D 2008 has been one of those “jump” years (2009 fixing bugs) but it requires the advantages of 64 bit, so I think that, albeit great platform changes, Civil3D will be a lame duck until released in 64 bit!

  13. Chris Cowgill

    64 bit probably doest exist because of the issue with databases and the lack of a Jet driver from Microsoft for 64 bit to access those data bases. 32bit still will install on 64bit windows, and can take advantage of larger amounts of ram.

  14. Dave B

    I’ve been using Autodusk products since the early 90’s and can see that I’m not the only one fed up with more than just their greed driven release cycles and planned obsolescence. I Quote from Joe above: “Autodesk’s arrogance and greed, as well as their subtle (and not so subtle) disregard for their customers.” … I couldn’t have said it better but I’d add hubris and disgusting to that line.

    At least there are alternatives now, IntelliCAD is 1/10th the cost, opens and saves versions from R14 through 2009, commands are virtually the same so no learning curve, software is very stable and customer support is great. BricsCAD is an offspring of IntelliCAD but has taken a slightly different direction to accommodate ObjectARX, DRX, ObjectDRX, BRX, IRX etc plug-ins. SYCODE released TerrainCAD for Bricscad along with a score of other very robust and affordable plug-ins, so support for various platforms within the CAD arena are becoming a non-issue.

    DoubleCAD is now a viable alternative to AutoCAD LT and the list goes on.
    Blender is a great open source alternative to 3DS and SketchUP and DoubleCAD work nicely with Blender.

    I think we’ll see more and better alternatives as time goes on, especially now that the economy has gone south. Many businesses and large corporations alike are looking for ways to cut the large expenditures and rather than having to cut their workforce. are finding very workable solutions to get out from under their current subscriptions or annual Autodusk headaches.

    “Autodesk’s 12-month release cycle – Is it harmful?”

    Oh it harmful alright, but only to unsuspecting customers who fall into their well camouflaged traps and find that they must upgrade or lose compatibility and perhaps even to Autodusk who is bound to be feeling the heat from our current economic environment as customers flock to these alternatives.
    A little research will yield that there are actually quite a few choices with companies that do pay attention to customer satisfaction and do accomodate customer’s needs in upcoming releases.

    I’ve migrated to one of these alternatives and it made great business sense to do so. I doubt I’ll be the only one to research and find a way to avoid the great “monopoly” of Autodusk.

  15. Kea Lim

    My office stuck with 2006, and no one no much about 2007, 2008, and 2009, and now is 2010. The only thing I use it for is to convert file from consultant. Autodesk should get the point that releasing new feather without educate people to use it, it’s worthless. People don’t have time and money to spend on something that they will not use for their day to day work.

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