I rarely put warnings before my blog posts. I think I will today: upgrading software is a complex yet super simple decision. The discussion that follows is an attempt to navigate that contradiction.

Converging Forces

Over on my blog, there are two regular features that started in the very early days of Shoegnome. I share and write about every Hotfix and Update that GRAPHISOFT releases. Yes most of us have ARCHICAD automatically set to inform us of updates, but my posts provide some extra context and links to what the changes are for. Additionally I think it’s good practice to install all Hotfixes and Updates, even for versions of ARCHICAD you aren’t regularly using. This isn’t such a huge burden because GRAPHISOFT only actively supports two versions of ARCHICAD. So as of July 27th, 2015 there are only Hotfixes and Updates for ARCHICAD 18 and ARCHICAD 19. At this time next year, ARCHICAD 18 will be static and GRAPHISOFT will support ARCHICAD 19 and whatever version comes next (assuming that the next version is out). In my view,  you should continually update the previous version of ARCHICAD, even if you aren’t regularly using it. Why? Because it’s safer. If you aren’t updating the previous version and then come across a reason you need to use it for an hour, a day, or a week (old projects come alive, the new version hits a snag, or whatever the reason), you might run into other trouble. So update both. Plus, keep reading…

In addition to writing about ARCHICAD updates between releases, I also share news and opinions on compatibility between ARCHICAD and the current operating systems. These compatibility posts go back to 2011, but in recent years they have gotten more frequent, and more important. Why? Because just like most of the software we use, operating system updates are becoming more frequent. For many years now OS X has been yearly. And while Windows is not (yet) yearly, the time between versions is decreasing (Windows 10: 2015, Windows 8.1: 2013, Windows 8: 2012, Windows 7: 2009, Windows Vista 2007, Windows XP: 2001). While we acknowledge the huge differences between versions of ARCHICAD, we often fail to appreciate the massive changes between operating system releases. Here’s a quick thought exercise: Which team has more money and manpower for developing the next version of their software? The group working on the next release of ARCHICAD (or any BIM program) or the armies developing the next OSX or version of Windows? I don’t know the answer to this question, but I am fairly confident I can guess the correct answer.  Spoiler: armies is probably an apt description.

The convergence of these two topics creates friction that we must be aware of. ARCHICAD is on a yearly upgrade cycle. Operating Systems are updating as often but probably evolving faster because of ubiquity and resources. And all this is happening in a semi-shared space. As a software developer, GRAPHISOFT has better access to the future versions of various operating systems than you or I do. I’m sure they also have much better direct channels to those other companies. Presumably they are developing ARCHICAD with an understanding of what’s coming from Apple or Microsoft. But everything is out of sync. ARCHICAD 19 came out in June, Windows 10 comes out in July, and OS X 10.11 will be released this fall. And then the cycle repeats. In other words, ARCHICAD is released while the operating systems most of us will use it on are still in development. And no company can solve all the problems of how software will interact until all of those programs are released.

Let’s recap. Everything is constantly changing. Everyone has to react to everyone else moving out of sync at ever increasing speed. No one has complete control.

Now what? As we are in Version Release Season (the third of four yearly AEC software seasons), this is the perfect time to look at some details of how one decides in what order to upgrade their software and OS. Fortunately I recently exchanged some e-mails, and then had a wonderful Skype conversation, with technical support on this very issue. Here’s the advice, anecdotes, and points of interest that came out of our correspondences:

General Advice

ac19-headerAll software packages are developed for the operating system (OS) that is current at that time. Any operating system developed after the software is released introduces many new variables and it is not a trivial matter to make the software compatible with the new OS. Although Graphisoft will issue updates to improve compatibility with operating systems released after the specific version of ARCHICAD was developed, it can be months before all the wrinkles get smoothed. If you choose to be an early adopter of the latest OS, please be prepared for some bumps in the road.

When you update your OS, here are some Best Practices to keep in mind:

  • Generate external back-ups of your data.
  • Pick an appropriate time to upgrade the OS, when deadline pressures are minimal.
  • Have a computer restoration method in place to revert to the previous state if necessary.
  • Update your OS and then spend the weekend doing some prototypical stuff in ARCHICAD. Open project files, do some standard/basic/critical things. Look ahead to what you need to do next. This doesn’t provide guarantees, but it helps you understand the lay of the land.

It’s too soon to know the major or minor issues of Windows 10 or OS X 10.11 (as it relates to ARCHICAD, and all other software you use) . The biggest sample of testing happens after the public release and people start using it. So before upgrading your operating system, ask yourself:   Why am I upgrading? Is there something I need in the new OS? Do I want to be part of that first wave? Or is it just to be current and new. How will I react to a small flaw in the upgrade? What about a major flaw?

If you can handle the perceived level of risk, upgrade your OS. GRAPHISOFT would appreciate the help finding the issues. They want to hear from you too.

If you are eager to upgrade to the latest OS, one option you might consider is a Virtual Machine. This allows you to run an operating system inside of an operating system. That way you can keep both the older and newer operating systems available so that you have a back-up strategy if there are any issues discovered in the newer OS.

Additional Advice and AnecdotesWindows-10-logo

  • ARCHICAD is the cornerstone of your business, keep that in mind at all times when making technology related decisions.
  • ARCHICAD 19 was developed for OS X 10.10 and Windows 8.1. Windows 10 and OS X 10.11 are both newer pieces of software.
  • It’s easy for a user to understand the difference between ARCHICAD 18 and ARCHICAD 19, than OS X 10.10 and OS X 10.11 (or Windows 8.1 and 10). It is important to remember that OS X 10.10 to OS X 10.11 is a FULL upgrade. It is the equivalent (at least) of going from one version of ARCHICAD to another. It is not just a Hotfix or Update.
  • Do not make major changes to your computer within a few short weeks of a deadline. Would you update to the new version of ARCHICAD with a deadline in a week? Operating system upgrades should be treated with the same care.
  • Some users will continue to use ARCHICAD 19 on OS X 10.10 (or windows 8.1) until ARCHICAD 19 Update 1 or 2 comes out to solve compatibility issues, then upgrade their OS. Other users will stick with ARCHICAD 18 until the version after 19 comes out; then they will switch to ARCHICAD 19. The Swiss localization doesn’t come out until next Spring (or so I’ve heard). These are all extreme measures, but maybe that fits better with your business model.
  • We live in the constant upgrade cycle. Just Google “major operating system problems at release”. Or “Day 1 patches for video games”. No software is perfect, especially because no software lives in isolation. Know this and don’t be afraid.

I’ll be the first to admit, all of this advice is a bit extreme. Many of us will upgrade to the latest OS and/or the latest version of ARCHICAD on day one and have zero productivity issues. Sure there might be one or two surprises, but many of us will update to OS X 10.11 and Windows 10 the moment they are officially released without any trouble. We look at the update, reflect on our past experiences and jump right in. Hopefully we are also wise enough to follow some of these warnings (especially the dearth of deadlines and proper backups). I’m sure I will update to OS X 10.11 within the first week of its release, depending on my schedule and immediate warnings from people a few days quicker than me. This advise—and the caveats I gave about OS X 10.10 and OS X 10.11 beta—are meant to inform you, not scare you. Know where you fit on the early adopter curve and align that with when you should update your OS.

Fun Stuff I learned about previous upgrades

OS X 10-11When I was talking with Tech Support, I asked for some examples of how OS upgrades can make a difference. It turns out for many years OS updates have been making life harder for those of us who need to/want to/try to access older versions of ARCHICAD.

  • OS X 10.7: ARCHICAD 9 and earlier became inaccessible, as Apple no longer supported applications developed for the PowerPC processor.
  • OS X 10.9: ARCHICAD 12 and earlier became inaccessible. Some people could get ARCHICAD12 working, but pre-11 were no longer functional. Too much of the OS had changed. It is important to note that there is still a version of ARCHICAD 10 that does work on current operating systems, which you can download and use to access files as old as ARCHICAD 6.5.
  • OS X 10.10: ARCHICAD 13-16 technically run but you wouldn’t want to do your day to day work on them. In OS X 10.10, Apple changed networking protocols in the OS which affected ARCHICAD. This change affected Publishing, Linked Drawings, Hotlinks, and more. The resulting problems were fixed in ARCHICAD 17 and 18, but not earlier versions. ARCHICAD 19 was developed with this different protocol in mind. You might wonder what does “technically work, but you wouldn’t want to do your day to day work on them” mean? I asked. In ARCHICAD 16 and below on OS X 10.10 you can’t edit a stair. And you reach a point where you can’t edit the settings in Doors and Windows. I don’t know the specific details, but after a while things just lock up. In other words, ARCHICAD 16 and earlier might open but they should not be considered production software anymore.
  • OS X 10.11: We will find out soon. GRAPHISOFT supports the two latest versions, so ARCHICAD 17 and below won’t get compatibility updates. That means maybe ARCHICAD 17 will be okay to use. But maybe not. Maybe it’ll be fine until some hidden problem appears that you only face every so often (like editing a stair) and suddenly you are stuck.

Every year another old version of ARCHICAD becomes harder to use. And that’s okay. Can you imagine how much effort and expense it’d take to continuously update so many versions of ARCHICAD? Here’s some more bullet points for you:

  • ARCHICAD 18 will be supported for OS X 10.8 to 10.11. Outside of that range it might work, but you are on your own.
  • ARCHICAD 19 will be supported for OS X 10.9 to 10.12. Outside of that range it might work, but you are on your own.
  • Logic dictates that the future will look like the past…
You can do the math. Everything keeps moving and if you choose to stand still, you have to stand still with everything. You can’t just upgrade ARCHICAD or just your OS—or for that matter, just your computer. You have to have a system in place to balance all three. A lot of this article might feel fatalistic and aimed at scaring you. It’s not. It’s just about education. Because in fact, as much as this post is about the pitfalls of fast upgrades, it is also about being too far behind. Slowness easily has more penalties than forging ahead and being in the avant-garde.

Bonus Trouble

Let’s briefly discuss that last constant pressure: system requirements and computer upgrades. I last wrote about those in 2013 and the general concept is still worth reviewing. Fortunately we use ARCHICAD and this is actually the least of our worries. GRAPHISOFT has been working hard to optimize ARCHICAD so that our existing hardware can go farther. For instance the RAM requirements for ARCHICAD 19 aren’t really different than ARCHICAD 18 (it still stands at 16 GB, which is what I’ve been advocating since ARCHICAD 16). I use a Late 2011 Macbook Pro that has been upgraded to 16 GB of RAM and a brand new SSD drive. It runs ARCHICAD 19 fine. And hopefully it’ll handle the next version of ARCHICAD as well. I’ll find out soon enough, I’m sure. Even so, remember that as we constantly upgrade our software we eventually also have to upgrade our computers. Make sure to find the right balance of ARCHICAD, OS, and hardware that works best for your business model. Never forget that ARCHICAD trumps all other demands and that before you upgrade your other software or hardware, make sure to ask yourself: will this make using ARCHICAD easier? Will it improve my investment?

OS-ARCHICAD-COMPUTERAlso because I can’t say this enough either, getting value out of every new version of ARCHICAD is easy and should be non-negotiable. If you see a new version of ARCHICAD and can’t figure out how to get your money’s worth out of the upgrade: ask for help.

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