Bentley marketers love Autodesk

Bentley Systems marketers are currently taking advantage of Autodesk customers’ distaste for the Big A’s rent-or-GTFO business model.

For any Autodesk competitor, this is a fairly smart move. Autodesk has offered a free kick to its competitors and is betting on them all kicking the ball wide of the net. How accurate is Bentley’s shooting?

In this case, AutoCAD customers are being encouraged to take up MicroStation. Via the Cadalyst Direct opt-in advertising list, I received an email entitled AutoCAD Users, you need options. We listened:


Talk about feeling trapped (which has many Autodesk customers angry), options and flexibility (which Autodesk has removed) and listening (which Autodesk really sucks at) are clearly taking advantage of Autodesk’s self-inflicted subscription …

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The big Bricsys interview 11 – free viewer?

This is the final post in a series covering an extensive interview with Bricsys CEO Erik De Keyser and COO Mark Van Den Bergh. If you’ve made it through to the end of this series, congratulations! I hope you found it illuminating.

In this post, R.K. McSwain asks a question about a possible BricsCAD-based DWG viewer, which turns into a brainstorming session!

R.K.: Do you guys have a viewer? A read-only viewer? Is it something you’re looking to do?

Erik: No. BricsCAD classic costs, you know, $400.

Steve: Autodesk is giving one away anyway.

R.K.: They give it away, but you know what it is. It’s almost a 1 GB download, I was thinking as maybe a way to get people interested in BricsCAD? Here’s a viewer, I wonder what else it can do…

Mark: What? (disbelieving) The viewer is almost one gig?

Steve: …

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The big Bricsys interview 10 – platforms

This is one of a series of posts covering an extensive interview with Bricsys CEO Erik De Keyser and COO Mark Van Den Bergh.

In this post, R.K. McSwain asks about BricsCAD running on three different platforms. Erik explains why BricsCAD for Mac (and Linux) is so much more complete than AutoCAD for Mac, which has more holes than a block of Swiss cheese.

R.K.: Do all three platforms (Windows, Linux, Mac) contain the same functionality?

Erik: Yes. Sometimes it’s a bit hard with the Mac to bring it along but so far, so good. The only problem sometimes is in the APIs.

We are using wxWidgets and not the Microsoft classes. This gives us the ability, with the same source code more or less, to serve Mac, Linux and Windows. By far Windows is the most important one. By history, all the applications …

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The big Bricsys interview 9 – treading on developers

This is one of a series of posts covering an extensive interview with Bricsys CEO Erik De Keyser and COO Mark Van Den Bergh. Erik explains that Bricsys won’t trample over its application partners in Autodesk-like fashion, except…

Steve: Autodesk is known for treading on its third-party developers and replacing their market. Can you tell us about your attitude to doing that?

Erik: We have always said that we are not stepping into any application market. We will not do it.

There’s only one exception, that’s where there is no [other] possibility. There was no sheet metal. There is no viable [third-party] DWG sheet metal product in the market today for sheet metal. Then we do it, of course.

For BIM, there are. There is a German product. We have talked to those guys, but the problem is, for BIM the way we do it, it’s so deep …

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The big Bricsys interview 8 – boundaries and BIM

This is one of a series of posts covering an extensive interview with Bricsys CEO Erik De Keyser and COO Mark Van Den Bergh.

Erik discusses where Bricsys can go in future and the place BIM has in that.

Cyrena: So what is your vision, ultimately, of what Bricsys will become in tandem with your partners? Do you have limits or boundaries of which markets you will address and which you won’t? Are you going to be bigger than… “somebody else” one day?

Erik: If it comes to the number of customers, challenging AutoCAD is difficult. 12 million registered users. If you count illegal users it might add up to, I don’t know, 20 million, 30 million? I don’t know, nobody knows.

What are the boundaries of where we can go? It’s more or less dictated by the application markets. We have application developers in GIS, we have …

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The big Bricsys interview 7 – the applications ecosystem

This is one of a series of posts covering an extensive interview with Bricsys CEO Erik De Keyser and COO Mark Van Den Bergh.

In this post, Erik discusses the Bricsys efforts to work with and assist third-party developers. He does this without being prompted by a question – it’s obviously very important to him.

Erik: For our future growth it’s very important, the ecosystem of the applications we have now. We have talked a lot about what we are doing and about our own products, but we should maybe have spent more time on the importance of the ecosystem. The worst thing we could do is forget the application market for us.

We will not, and we are not able, to develop another HVAC system or a [inaudible] system. We are limited in our resources and focused too much in our development. We believe that if there are five …

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The big Bricsys interview 6 – lean and focused

This is one of a series of posts covering an extensive interview with Bricsys CEO Erik De Keyser and COO Mark Van Den Bergh. In this post, the dynamic duo explain the mystery of how Bricsys can sell smaller numbers of a more capable product than AutoCAD for a fraction of the cost – and still make money.

Steve: It’s kind of interesting that your product is so much cheaper than AutoCAD, and more capable. They’re making a loss and you’re making increasing profits. How does that work?

Erik: I think it has to do with being lean and being focused. I mean, we’re talking about Autodesk, and we’re talking about AutoCAD and Revit and Inventor, but did you have a look at all the products they have? The managers that have to work on those products… I don’t study the detail of their annual figures, but I think it’s …

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The big Bricsys interview 5 – perpetual licensing and choice

This is one of a series of posts covering an extensive interview with Bricsys CEO Erik De Keyser and COO Mark Van Den Bergh.

In this post, Erik confirms the Bricsys commitment to perpetual licensing. That’s a statement important enough to preserve, so here’s the recorded audio for posterity.

We also learn what proportion of CAD customers choose perpetual licenses over rental when given fair pricing and the choice. Hint to Autodesk: it’s not 0%.

Steve: Are you committed to the perpetual licensing model?

Erik: Yes, yes. We are committed to choice. If somebody wants another way of licensing our stuff, that’s fine as well. I mean you can hire our stuff, you can pay per month, it’s possible.

Steve: That’s not in all markets, is it?

Erik: We don’t promote it, but it’s possible if somebody contacts us, no problem. It’s choice, and we believe …

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The big Bricsys interview 4 – thank you, Autodesk

This is one of a series of posts covering an extensive interview with Bricsys CEO Erik De Keyser and COO Mark Van Den Bergh. In this post, we learn that Autodesk’s move to all-rental has helped drive BricsCAD sales higher and continues to do so.

Cyrena: Backing up just a step to sales, were you able to track any impact on your sales numbers with the chronology of Autodesk’s announcements of ending perpetual? Did you see an effect that you could map to that?

Erik/Mark (together): Yes.

Erik: We see that especially with large companies. I hear it from Mark always!

Mark: That’s what I wanted to explain this morning too, although we have an indirect sales channel, we have our resellers at work out there, especially with the large deals, we are involved always. So there’s always one of our guys, a business development manager together with the local …

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The big Bricsys interview 3 – looking after people

This is one of a series of posts covering an extensive interview with Bricsys CEO Erik De Keyser and COO Mark Van Den Bergh. In this post, I learn about Bricsys’ astonishingly good staff retention record and the reasons behind it.

Autodesk likes to periodically pat itself on the back for being a great employer, but history shows it’s a company that discards about 10% of its workforce every few years to keep the share market happy. I suspect another round is coming up soon, unfortunately. There’s a stark contrast between a company that disposes of its chattels in that way and one with a CEO that says, “…every time somebody leaves the company that’s really, really bad.”

You as a customer may not think that matters to you, but it does. I believe there is a direct correlation between Autodesk losing knowledgeable staff and Autodesk repeating old mistakes and …

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The big Bricsys interview 2 – making money

This is one of a series of posts covering an extensive interview with Bricsys CEO Erik De Keyser and COO Mark Van Den Bergh. In this post, I ask about Bricsys’ profitability and growth.

Steve: Do you publish your numbers?

Erik: No we don’t. We are a private company.

Steve: Can you give us an indication of what’s happening with your sales at the moment?

Erik: Last year we grew in revenue 25%. First quarter this year was up 27% over the same quarter last year. If you compare the sales in total of 2016 compared with 2015, it was 25% in growth. It means that the growth is going faster and faster and faster. That’s what we expect normally as well.

This is without any sales to Intergraph. We expect that the Intergraph deal will have an impact on our growth for sure. Mark as COO is responsible for …

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The big Bricsys interview 1 – why invite the press?

This is the first in a series of posts covering an extensive interview with Bricsys CEO Erik De Keyser and COO Mark Van Den Bergh.

On April 26 and 27, I attended Bricsys Insights, a press event in Ghent, Belgium. Other attendees included Cyrena Respini-Irwin (Cadalyst editor in chief), R.K. McSwain (CAD Panacea), Ralph Grabowski (upFront.eZine), Randall Newton (GraphicSpeak), Roopinder Tara (Engineering.com), Martyn Day (DEVELOP3D), Jeff Rowe (AEC Café), Anthony Frausto-Robledo (Architosh) and Paul Wilkinson (pwcom).

Although Bricsys has invited some of these people (including myself) to previous events, this was the first gathering of such a significant number of illustrious industry press, bloggers and observers. So when myself, Cyrena Respini-Irwin and R.K. McSwain …

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BricsCAD documentation – a tale of three systems – part 3

In this third post in what was supposed to be a two-part series, I have more to say about the BricsCAD documentation system. See here for part 1 and here for part 2.

Developer Help – Addendum

In this comment from Bricsys API person Torsten Moses, he informed me about the availability of the Lisp Developer Support Package (LDSP) in the Bricsys Application Catalog. As always, when presented with new evidence I am prepared to re-examine my position on anything. Therefore, I will now further discuss the BricsCAD developer documentation.

The first thing to mention is that the existence of the LDSP package is not obvious. To somebody who uses BricsCAD as-provided and as goes burrowing down through the Help system looking for information, that system is still broken. The …

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BricsCAD documentation – a tale of three systems – part 2

In this pair of posts, I describe the BricsCAD documentation system. Click here for part 1, where I describe the general Help system and the descriptions in the Settings command.

In this part, I discuss developer documentation and draw my conclusions.

Developer Help

If we count the Settings descriptions as a system, there’s a third documentation system for BricsCAD. The Developer Reference isn’t offline and included in an install like the main Help. Instead, it’s online, just like Autodesk’s default. Unlike Autodesk’s system, it works pretty well.

Being online means the performance suffers, of course, but it’s generally not too bad. It appears quicker than Autodesk’s. A link within the main Help system takes you to the Bricsys Developer Reference which is just accessed using your default browser. Of course, that means your mouse buttons work correctly and you have all other the advantages of whatever …

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BricsCAD documentation – a tale of three systems – part 1

Because of the great similarity between BricsCAD and AutoCAD in terms of commands, variables and most aspects of usage, you would expect the BricsCAD documentation to be about the same too. But it isn’t. Much of the content covers the same areas and due to BricsCAD’s command-line compatibility, there must be a lot in common. But the Help system is very different from Autodesk’s. How so?

In this pair of posts, I describe the BricsCAD documentation system. I assume you’re familiar with the AutoCAD one. In this first part, I describe the general Help system and the descriptions in the Settings command. In part 2, I will discuss developer documentation and draw my conclusions.

General Help

The general Help system in BricsCAD looks a lot like the excellent CHM-based system that AutoCAD had in 2010 and earlier (thanks, Dieter). BricsCAD’s Help is offline by default, included with the …

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Bloatware – a tale of two installations

In a previous post, I showed that AutoCAD is bloatware by comparing the size of its downloads to that of BricsCAD. Obviously, an application that’s ten times the size it should be is going to cost you a lot of unnecessary bandwidth, download time and drive space. But maybe you don’t care about that. What practical difference does it make?

Well, for one thing, the blimping-out of Autodesk’s former flagship product has a big effect on installation time. Vast and ever-increasing amounts of time are wasted by users of Autodesk products, just waiting for the things to finish installing. But isn’t this just the inevitable price to pay for the functionality provided?

No. Again, BricsCAD proves it.

The installation comparison is shown below. These installations were performed on a mid-range Windows 10 i7 PC with 8 GB RAM. The downloaded files were executed from a local hard drive …

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Bloatware – a tale of two CAD applications

You may have seen me mention in passing that AutoCAD is bloatware. That’s not just the general grumpy-old-user moan you see from long-term users like me, who can remember when AutoCAD used to fit on one floppy disk.

Yes, programs get bigger over time as new functionality is added and old functionality needs to be retained. Hardware gets bigger, better, faster over time to compensate for that. I get that. Understood.

The AutoCAD bloatware problem is much more than that. AutoCAD is literally ten times the size it needs to be, to provide the functionality it does.

How do I know? BricsCAD proves it. Here’s what I mean.

BricsCAD V17.2 64-bit Windows Download

Downloaded File Size (KB) BricsCAD-V17.2.03-1-en_US(x64).msi 248,812 Total (1 file) 248,812 (100%)

Equivalent AutoCAD 2018 Downloads

Downloaded File Size (KB) AutoCAD_2018_English_Win_64bit_dlm_001_002.sfx.exe 2,065,829 AutoCAD_2018_English_Win_64bit_dlm_002_002.sfx.exe 328,277 AutoCAD_2018.0.1_64bit_r2.exe 120,663 AutoCAD_2018_Product_Help_English_Win_32_64bit_dlm.sfx.exe 180,013 Total (4 files) 2,694,782 (1083%)

Which dog is which? They’re both …

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Bricsys shows Autodesk how to do mid-term updates

BricsCAD V17.2 is out. Although there’s nowhere near as much new and useful in this mid-term update as in the full upgrade from V16 to V17, there’s more here than in Autodesk’s last mid-term update, AutoCAD 17.1. There’s even arguably more than in the uninspired AutoCAD 2018 upgrade, including those 17.1 features.

But that’s not the main reason I say Bricsys is schooling Autodesk in how to do mid-term updates. While Autodesk is restricting such updates (including the bug fixes and security updates included in those updates) to subscription and maintenance customers, Bricsys is doing no such thing.

BricsCAD V17 customers who have a perpetual license, even without maintenance (called All-In by Bricsys), will be receiving V17.2 free of charge. Bricsys still considers such users as customers who have paid good money and still need to be looked after, rather than a non-paying irritant, …

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BricsCAD’s LISP kicks sand in the face of AutoCAD’s

If you’re a power user or CAD Manager transitioning from AutoCAD to BricsCAD, one of the things you’ll like is that almost all of your LISP routines will just work. That’s not an statement that can be made about various Autodesk products that bear the AutoCAD name, such as AutoCAD 360, AutoCAD LT and AutoCAD for Mac.

It’s not just simple old AutoLISP code that runs in BricsCAD, but complex dialog routines that use DCL, and Visual LISP stuff that uses ActiveX. Yes, even on the Mac and Linux platforms. Some DOSLib functions are built in and the rest can be loaded, as with AutoCAD. Even OpenDCL is supported. It’s a quite astonishingly high level of compatibility.

But it’s not 100%. There are minor incompatibilities, system variable and command-line differences that cause problems in a handful of cases. It’s often possible to work around these and still retain …

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