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At 01:56 PM 10/3/01 -0700, Cliff Gerhard wrote:

>My layout people, seasoned professionals who in my opinion are very good,
>said it made them feel like idiots.  They were struggling over simple stuff.

Convey my congratulations to them for having the courage to say that. 
Several years ago, a client demanded work in OrCAD Layout, after I did his 
first emergency design in Tango. For this client, every design was an 
emergency, by the way.

Okay, so here I have the full package and documentation. I never felt so 
stupid in my life. As they layout people said, very simple operations were 
a great struggle. The worst thing was that I would spend a day to learn how 
to do something that I could have done in a few seconds in Tango, 
eventually find out that (1) either I could not do it at all because it was 
not the OrCAD Way, or (2) it could be done by opening this spreadsheet, 
selecting these parts of the spreadsheet, and changing them, a few minutes 
work. And then, next day when I needed to do it again, I did not remember 
how to do it. I was not used to needing a lab notebook when learning a 
package, I did productive design the very first day with Tango.

Now, I'm getting on in years and, in general, learning new tricks is not so 
easy for me; I need more repetition. So I really thought, trying to learn 
OrCAD, that I'm now over the hill, it is downhill from here.

Then I bought Protel. Once again, I was doing productive work the first 
day. Sure, there were plenty of things that took me a while to figure out, 
but, once I knew how to do a thing, it stuck. It stuck because it was not 
nearly as arbitrary and cumbersome as it was with OrCAD.

So I'm not dead yet.

So my standing joke for new Protel users is "Don't beat your head against 
the wall. That's an OrCAD procedure, it does not work with Protel." And 
then I encourage them to *ask* when they run into difficulties. Mr. Robison 
certainly took that advice!

It is also a good idea to have an experienced designer give a critical look 
at your first designs and to talk with him or her about the design process. 
You may find that you have done things the hard way.

>It took months before we could even complete a simple layout.  Now over a
>year later, they still haven't realized any significant improvements in
>layout time and this was the justification for spending the "big bucks" on a
>high end system.

Obviously, the more you pay for a package, the better it is. At least some 
management people think that way. A fool and his money are soon parted. 
What keeps a lot of companies afloat is that they do at least *some* things 
well, enough to compensate for all the mistakes. The problem is that too 
many managers think that if they are making good money, they must be doing 
every thing right. That is a non sequitur, as a lot of entrepreneurs find 
out when, flush with success with their first company, start another and 
take a fast drive into the ground.

>Beware of fancy
>features that "do it all for you" and slick sales presentations (It's like
>the old joke: How can you tell if a salesman is lying? ..... Its when his
>lips are moving.).  Talk to designers who have used the product.  Check out
>the company's bug lists, user support pages, and message boards.  I also
>recommend getting a copy of the software for evaluation and do a simple
>design from start to finish.  This is the only way to know for sure what you
>are in for....

But the reports of designers like Mr. Gerhard are invaluable.

The salesmen are obviously trying to sell the product, can't blame them for 
that, but they usually know how to run the product and, even more 
important, what *not* to try. So they can make it look *so* easy. Indeed, 
once you are an experienced user, you could do the same. The question is 
how long it will take you to get there! And even then, as Mr. Gerhard 
notes, there can be limitations even -- or especially -- to a high-end 
product that would mean you could get a job done more quickly with a 
less-expensive, easier-to-learn program.

Abdulrahman Lomax
Easthampton, Massachusetts USA

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