I am writing this blog post on a new computer. Having finally made the switch from a PC to a Mac, I was reminded in rather brutal fashion that the purchase of the computer is only half the monetary story. Actually, as is the case for most designers, the cost of the computer is more like <25% of the story.
My last software purchases of significance were Rhino v4.0 and Adobe Creative Suite (CS) 2. These were both purchased in the early weeks of my graduate education, and at a considerable discount through the wonders of student pricing. Most people that continue in education can still receive this discount, but those of us outside of academia pay through the nose. While perusing the digital shelves of Adobe’s online store, I was shocked at the price tag for CS6. A standalone license for the full version (not an upgrade from a previous version) of Creative Suite 6 Design & Web Premium will set you back a staggering $1899.00. Out of curiosity, I checked Autodesk. AutoCAD Architecture costs $5245.00 for a full version, not counting the Windows operating system that would be needed for it to run on a Mac. (As a side note, they do have a AutoCAD version for Mac, but I don’t know anyone who has actually tried it.) Admittedly, had my partner and I purchased another PC, I would have been able to load my aging software onto the machine. However, Adobe no longer supports CS2, updates aren’t available, and my office has recently given up this aged ghost of creativity as well. It seems that my decision to upgrade is no longer really my decision.
For those of you still in school, I am sure you can appreciate the deliciously confusing nature of student pricing. As far as I can tell from the website, Rhino comes without restrictions on what the student version of the software can be used for. On the other hand, the Adobe products (and all Autodesk products as well) come with some pretty severe restrictions. At their most basic level, these restrictions prevent the student from producing any work with the aid of the software tools that will net the student a profit. Functionally, I find no difference between the student version and the full licensed version of Adobe products. They rely on the honor system when asking that work for profit not be generated from student licenses of software. Autodesk goes considerably further in their efforts to separate legitimate copies from student licenses. Those of us that actually paid for a student license of AutoCAD (most of the “student” copies out there are ripped off of some Torrent or file share site somewhere) are aware of the “student watermark” that populates any print product that is produced with these versions. While a simple white rectangle in Illustrator or other similar clipping mask can render these notices invisible, the digital signature remains embedded in the code of the drawing.
Students, beware. ANY file that these student software versions touch will embed this watermark, and, from a technical standpoint, it is extremely difficult to remove. If you are working for an office, I can’t stress enough how important it is to completely separate your professional production from your academic production. Either ask to use an office machine, or ask to be provided with a legitimate copy of all programs that you will require to complete your work.
In closing, I would like to pose a few questions. For those of you that are still in school, where do you get your software? (If you get it illegally, you can use the “anonymous” option in the commentary section. You can still participate in the conversation without outing yourself.) For those of you who have recently graduated, what is your plan for transitioning from your student software versions to fully licensed ones? Is there any need or reason for you to upgrade? If you work for an office, what is your offices policy for providing software and licenses for the production of work outside of the 8-5 office environment?