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To Upgrade or Not To Upgrade

To Upgrade or Not To Upgrade

Mike Lenhart

Software Upgrades

Anyone of us who use graphics software knows how expensive it can be. We also know that there are many different versions of the same software as well as price structures for them. Now, we don’t use the “Educational Version” of our software for professional purposes, right? It is a great deal to take advantage of while you are getting your degree, so don’t pass it up while you can get it. Anyway, once we make the jump to purchase the latest and greatest version of a design software application, there seems to be an upgrade that comes out right afterwards. What’s a frugal designer to do?

As a graphic designer, I’ll give some examples from the software I typically use. I know we can all relate on this, no matter the applications we work with. So, let’s say that we just purchased Adobe Creative Suite 3 Design Premium. Before this bundling, all of these applications were mainly sold as stand-alones, didn’t have so many licensing restrictions, and didn’t have the tendency to break the bank so much. (It’s funny to believe that I started out on Photoshop and Illustrator 6, but I digress.) With this Suite, there are the minor updates that seem to pop-up automatically right when you’re in the middle of using them. That’s OK, though, they’re free. But it seems lately as though there’s a new upgrade to purchase every year. In order to keep up with the Joneses, there is pressure to buy this and keep the design engine moving forward. Do we buy it? When do we buy it? Can we get by without buying it? Well, here are the ideas I have.

First, look into what is included in the new version. What bells and whistles are there? Are they really needed in what you typically do in your design day? Are they things you must have, right now, or can you get by without them for awhile – or forever? Quark, for example (which I still use as well), has just come out with Quark 8. Their new must-haves include “a new, modern and intuitive interface with easier access to tools you use everyday…” – OK… It also offers the capability to expand print pieces across media with built-in Web and Flash tools and “design-driven typography”. What? I know Quark has been struggling a little the past few years and I wish all the best to them as it’s still a good product, but is this new version really needed right now? One good thing about this is that if you don’t have Quark 7 yet, you can buy that version and get v. 8 for free.

Not to be outdone, Adobe now has the CS 3.3 upgrade. This version comes with Acrobat 9 and Fireworks and also supports native Flash files. OK, this is pretty good, especially for the motion graphics folk. I personally think Acrobat 9 could’ve been part of Acrobat 8, but who am I? The upgrade price isn’t too bad, but, again, think about what you really need. (I still refer back to Photoshop 7 and Illustrator 10 for those simple views or quick touchups, OK?)

The bottom line is, think about what you really need and use and do some research into these “new-and-improved” versions. Quark and Adobe are offering live, free tutorials to demonstrate what they’re offering, so I suggest taking advantage of them. I’ve gone to both of these organizations’ educational workshops to get the latest info and demos on their upgrades and other software. I say they’re worth the trip. Quark usually offers some free schwag at these events while Adobe might offer a pamplet or, if you’re lucky, a USB drive that inludes some tutorials or more selling points on the upgrades. I like Quark’s hats and T-shirts, personally.

So, there you have it. I don’t feel it’s always necessary to have the newest and greatest items of anything if you don’t need them. I hate all the overspending and consumerism in the world anyway, but that’s a topic for a different article. The bottom line is, as designers, we have heads to think with and hands to use that don’t necessarily require computers or other electronics. We use the tools associated with our software to enhance what we do. Keep the basics in mind and I think we’ll all have it made. I personally need a brain upgrade, but that’s another story.

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