On September 30th, I was invited to participate in ESRI’s ArcGIS 9.4 beta program. I’ve never been involved with a beta program before, so I was (and still am) quite excited to be participating in testing the next version of the one program I use more often than any other. Since I am a total noob to the beta scene, I had no idea what to expect. When I posted a few notes on Twitter after I got the invite, and then when the beta download was available, a few of my followers expressed some interest in hearing about my experiences with the new software. I’m eager to share those experiences with you all, as well. However, this being beta software that has not been officially released to the public yet, there are some restrictions on what I can say. Essentially, those restrictions are -> say nothing.
Specifically, in the invitation email it says:
If you choose to participate, you will be expected to:
- Actively participate in discussion forums
- Report bugs if you discover them
- Respond to surveys
- Be willing to add others in your organization to the ArcGIS 9.4 beta program if they are interested
- Not discuss the ArcGIS 9.4 beta software outside of the beta program
And, just to make sure, I asked a question about this in the beta program forum. The official answer from ESRI was:
As things change between beta to final, we’d prefer you keep discussions about beta limited to people in the beta program. However, if something comes up you feel is a venue you should talk about 9.4 in, please drop me an email and we can talk about it.
So, it appears I will have to disappoint a few people, and keep any insights I have about the next version of ArcGIS to myself. However, I did not find any restrictions about posting my thoughts about the overall beta program experience (as long as I don’t reveal anything about the software being tested). Most of the beta program site has only been active since October 22, but there is already a lot of interesting discussion going on. I really like the videos posted in the beta resource center, showing all the new functionality being built into 9.4.
One response to my forum question stated the obvious:
“If people want to know about 9.4 they should join the beta program. That’s the best way to learn about and use 9.4 for themselves.”
If you would like to become a beta tester, you can find out more on the ESRI Beta Program Eligibility web page. My email invitation mentioned the following “perks” (along with the requirements mentioned earlier):
- Access to ArcGIS 9.4 beta software at least six months prior to the final release
- Entrance into private beta communities to discuss the beta with other testers and ESRI staff
- The ability to contact technical support via phone or e-mail regarding beta software
- Tools to report bugs and track their status
- The opportunity to win prizes given to the top contributors
My own plans are, to wait for delivery of my recently ordered Dell m2400 64bit Win7 laptop before installing the beta in a virtual machine for testing purposes. That means I won’t be playing around with all the new bells and whistles for at least another week. For those of you who are anxious to find out more, you can get an idea of what’s to come by checking out the ArcWatch magazine article Nine Innovations in ArcGIS 9.4. And the following Question & Answer pages from the 2009 ESRI International User Conference Questionnaire:
- When will ArcGIS 9.4 be released?
- What are the major themes for ArcGIS 9.4?
- What improvements are planned for the ArcMap user interface in ArcGIS 9.4?
- What are the planned improvements for geoprocessing?
- What improvements are coming in ArcGIS Spatial Analyst at 9.4?
- What is coming in ArcGIS 3D Analyst at 9.4?
- What improvements can we expect with respect to 3D?
- Does ESRI plan to add more capability to support image data visualization and analysis?
- What new functionality in ArcGIS 9.4 supports the work of scientists?
One final note about ArcGIS 9.4 (that I hope doesn’t violate the beta program agreement):
What I’ve seen so far… is awesome!