****Warning long post**** :-)

> *However*, if Mr. Hutchinson will watch this list, he may note that those

I have been watching the list since the end of 1999 and have not heard of
even one new feature or, bug fix in Protel99/SE that would improve Maximum's
productivity over P98. This is why I have not had us upgrade, the cost is
not an obstacle for us. I would gladly have Maximum buy the upgrade if it
would improve productivity for our work. When I first saw the ads for the 3D
viewer I thought that would save Mechanical Engineering a lot of work if we
could pass them an accurate 3D model of the PCB assembly. Thank goodness I
read this list and didn't spend the money for that toy feature.

But this is very specific to Maximum, many if not most other companies would
probably find features in P99SE that improve productivity over P98. Of the
dozens of software tools we use, Protel PCB is used the least often,
Schematic falls in the middle, it is used just a bit more often than
MathCAD. Over 70% of our PCB's are double sided 25mil tracks on 50mil
spacing. In fact P98 is overkill for many of our designs.

Someday, could be tomorrow, could be a couple years from now, we'll have a
design that needs features not available in P98. When that happens I'll
evaluate the CAD market and we'll buy whatever is the best for our
situation. It might be Protel but, it might be from someone else.

That is how we got started with Protel for Windows advanced PCB v1.1 in
1992, it was the most cost effective package that properly handled metric
pin spacing. The local VAR who sold it to us also promised, and provided,
excellent support as opposed to OrCad who at the time provided us with good,
but not excellent, support.

We upgraded to P98 at the end of 1998 because I knew we would have more
designs with thermal relief's on internal power planes in the near future
and v1.1 did not create proper thermal relief apertures (we had to manually
edit the aperture file).

When we finally got time to try out P98 at the beginning of 1999 we hit
problems right away in the first few steps of the tutorial (the click speed
sensitivity thing, bug to me). Protel did not even answer our request for
help, although their marketing department contacted us the next day to have
us fill out a survey.

Other things caused us to stop learning P98 for a few months and we did our
work with our old OrCad SDT + Protel1.1 combo. In May 1999 when we got back
to trying out P98 we hit a few more problems.

After the first experience with their support I decided to send the support
request to the person in marketing who had at least communicated with us.
That person responded with apologies for the first missed support and told
me they had forwarded the support request to the support people. I never
heard back from them and in the end we developed work arounds for the

In August 1999 we got an offer to upgrade from v1.1 to P99 for $500 less
than we had paid to upgrade to P98 11 months before. We also got an offer to
upgrade P98 to P99 for $1000.00. I decided to take the opportunity to
complain to the person in marketing about the non-existent support, see if
they would cut me a deal on the upgrade and to ask the technical questions
again. The person from marketing apologized to us again and forwarded it on
to support. This time we got a response from support essentially stating I
was a jerk for asking and totally ignoring all the technical questions. At
this point I gave up on Protel support and started searching the web for
Protel information, finding this fantastic group of users who know more
about Protel than anyone at Protel/Altium.

Reading the messages on this group I learned about the cost cutting move of
closing support in ??(can't remember where) and moving it to Utah I think.
And then closing Utah and moving it to ?? (have no idea where it is now). I
guess my first two support requests got lost in the shuffle.

Maybe Protel will get our money when it's time to upgrade but with our past
experience of zero support and crazy price changes they've got an uphill
battle. I just took a look at OrCad's latest prices and offerings, they
appear to have reduced prices quite a lot, $4600.00 for everything we need.
I had good experiences with OrCad's products and support in the past so,
maybe they'll get us back. Right now, if we needed to update, I would be
more inclined to spend $5K (or $10K with extra goodies) and move to OrCad
than to spend $2K on Protel.

In the meantime I am thankful for this great forum of users.


Paul Hutchinson
Chief Engineer
Maximum Inc., 30 Samuel Barnet Blvd.
New Bedford, MA 02745

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