Moving from Land Desktop to Carlson

By Karen Cummings • October 22nd, 2015

Finally time to replace your Land Desktop software?

Are you among the civil engineering or surveying firms, designers, or CAD managers still clinging to your Land Desktop (LDT) 2009 or even 2007 or 2004 software?

In fact, you’d continue using it but advancing technology is about to bump you off – it won’t work with current project data, and it’s not built to run on the new, faster computers that you’re about to get. And since 2012, no more activation codes or license files have been issued by Autodesk® for LDT. That means, if you get a new computer or your license server crashes, you will no longer be able to run the software.

The solution, offered by Autodesk, is to move from LDT to Civil 3D®, but comments in forums and chat rooms, such as, “Civil 3D is a different bNew Call-to-actionall of wax…” and “They say here forget everything about LDD when working with Civil3D…” have made some people look to other solutions.

Here at Carlson Software, we regularly get inquiries such as the following:

“I am ready to consider upgrading from Land Development Desktop. I would like to investigate the comparable Carlson Product.”

 “We have 2 users that currently use Land Desktop 3, including Survey and Civil. Can Carlson replace this old software?”

“I am a small surveying firm. I currently use Land Desktop and would like to switch to Carlson.”

One answer comes from Ladd Nelson, Carlson Software Midwest Regional Sales Director: “Carlson Civil Suite can be used as a cost-effective alternative to firms who have not moved on from legacy versions of Land Desktop or Civil 3D. In addition to providing commands and processes for the direct conversion of LDT and C3D Point, Surface and Centerline data, Carlson Software also provides PDF- and BIM-data interoperability technology through our CADnet product and continues to offer industry-leading free technical support.”

Utilizing the 3D viewer in Carlson Civil

Produced with Design Pond tools in Carlson Civil

Carlson’s Civil Suite is its premium survey and civil design software package and includes Carlson Civil, Survey, Hydrology, and GIS and comes with IntelliCAD 8.1 built-in as well as working on top of AutoCAD, AutoCAD MAP, and Civil3D, all 2010 to 2016 versions.

For a little background, Land Desktop software was first developed in the mid-1980s by DCA and later renamed Softdesk around 1992. Then Autodesk bought Softdesk in 1996 and after one release renamed it Land Desktop. It was a popular software as it “functioned in a logical, consistent manner” according to Jennifer DiBona of That CAD Girl, who had worked with all the different versions. In 2004, however, Autodesk decided to introduce Civil 3D and the rest is history.

While neither the Carlson Civil Suite nor AutoCAD Civil 3D offer a completely seamless transition from Land Desktop, each has its own benefits and it is up to those switching to do their homework and explore both to see what might work best for them.

Here are just a few of the design benefits on the Carlson side:

  • Carlson has a similarity to Land Desktop workflow and in the use of external files to store design data. Carlson Civil offers some additions, like the ability to name and place these files in a user-defined folder structure.
  • Carlson gives the user dynamic design capabilities using only AutoCAD entities such as lines, text, and blocks with attributes, which means the files can be shared with others without warnings of the presence of “proxy entities” that many get even if working between different versions of Civil 3D.
  • Carlson inserts symbols and line work with one function known as Field to Finish (F2F), and performs this task using the point descriptions for the coordinate file, not the raw observations file. This means linework can be generated from any set of points, even if no field coding has taken place.
  • Carlson Civil does grading through the use of a Pad Template, which is essentially the equivalent of an LDT Grading Object, with Pad Templates providing improvements, such as the ability to have a separate surface for the area inside the “pad” and the ability to use a template for the side slopes, enabling complex grading designs.

Other benefits include that Carlson is easy to learn and use, it has many features designed specifically to save picks and clicks, and the software comes with a perpetual license, with yearly maintenance the user’s choice at just 10 percent of initial cost.

And here is a recent question via the Carlson website:

“Will their existing library of Autodesk Land Desktop projects be usable in the current iterations of CCS [Carlson Civil Software]?”

Dave Carlson, V.P. of Development for Carlson Software, answers, “For LDD project data, much of this is covered by the dwg and Carlson running on AutoCAD and IntelliCAD. Besides the CAD graphics, Carlson can read the points, centerlines and surfaces directly from dwg. For other types of project data, LDD can output LandXML, which Carlson imports.”

“The workflow is similar enough to Land Desktop or Eagle Point that folks who have worked with those programs tend to pick it up quickly,” wrote DiBona in “Software Review: My Evolution from Land Desktop to Carlson Software,” in Professional Surveyor (now xyHt), May 2013. “Carlson also offers totally free technical support via phone and email whether it’s during your trial period or after purchase and whether you’re using a current or old copy of the software,” she added.

LEARN MORE Download our LDT to Carlson Migration Guide

So now let the research begin and may you get the best program to meet your needs as you move into the future. To ask specific questions about the migration from Land Desktop to the Carlson Civil Suite or about any other Carlson Software products, feel free to contact your local Carlson representative.

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