Where Free Trials Fall Flat: Making The Most of Your Earliest CAD Experiences

Written by: Gavin Quinlan

Free software trials are attractive, often very useful, and usually a fairly good way to take a quick tour of a new solution before making a full commitment (after all, that’s why we at PTC offer a free trial for our Creo suite). Compared to sorting through competing feature lists, actually being able to sit and use a 3D CAD software risk-free can often give you a far better idea of how well it will actually meet your organization’s design needs.

free trial software can mislead users

Free trial software is a popular, but doesn't always give buyers the full picture.

Free trials, however, don’t always work out.  Done without adequate preparation, they can leave you with a faulty picture: either an inadequate impression of what the software can do for you, or even worse, an illusion that it can live up to higher performance standards than it actually can.  If your free trial doesn’t leave you with a clear picture of the platform’s true value, that early test drive may have done more harm than good.

So how can you get full value from your next 3D CAD software free trial?  Here are some tips.

  • Minimize rogue trials.  Rogue trials are situations where software is being tested on an unauthorized basis, often by individuals and usually outside of an established test methodology.  Allowing these rogue evaluations usually results in a drift from company standards, corrupted data, inaccurate or incomplete evaluation results, and ultimately more work for the CAD manager tasked with planning your official upgrade path.
  • Establish a trial infrastructure.  You can’t simply throw a new, untested platform into production use.  However, your test environment should closely resemble a small scale version of your production workflow, complete with challenges and issues most likely to come up in the transition into production.  Have a qualified team selected and a clear process list to attack.  By controlling and carefully defining your trial infrastructure beforehand, you can dramatically increase your ability to determine the platform’s value objectively and in concrete terms.
  • Make time work for you.  By their nature, free trials are limited in scope and duration.  If your test processes require more time than the established trial allows, attempting to rush the process or to cut vital corners will only compromise your results.  Instead, find ways to scale your tests for shorter timeframes, or work with your vendor to see if a more comprehensive evaluation may be readily available.  
  • Make good use of your vendor.  A reputable, experienced 3D CAD software vendor realizes that their own success rests on good relationships with satisfied customers, and will be happy to work with you in order to help you make the best decisions possible.  The free trial is only one such resource – and not always the best.  Luckily, there are many others.  
  • Ask your vendor if they can provide a structured demo, or offer guidance on developing and deploying an effective software pilot program.  Especially when your company’s time is valuable, drawing on these extensive resources can help avoid uselessly wasted time.

While free trials can be very helpful in your progress toward a 3D CAD purchase decision, they rarely work out well in isolation.  Leveraging all the options at your disposal – and effectively integrating test results into objective, actionable strategy – is a much more reliable route toward a successful CAD selection and implementation.


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Tags: CAD

About the Author

Gavin Quinlan