Shown above is a screen capture from an earlier version of Agilent/Keysight BenchVue software. Now? I have no idea. Because something went wrong with the update and while waiting for it to download again I discovered that Keysight started charging for software that used to be free.
Here’s some backstory:
A few years ago, I bought an Agilent 34461A benchtop digital multimeter. Back then, it came with a free Windows utility that allowed for easy data logging on a PC via USB.
And then Benchvue came out. It wasn’t perfect, but it was quite handy. Coming from my experience with Agilent’s digital multimeter utility, I was very optimistic about BenchVue, and how it would make it easier for me to visualize, record, and share data, such as voltage, current, and other related multimeter measurements.
I bought a second Agilent/Keysight multimeter, upgraded to an Agilent/Keysight programmable power supply, and splurged on an Agilent/Keysight oscilloscope.
Benchvue was imperfect. It had a habit of crashing and disconnecting my multimeters when I was taking crucial data, and discussions with Keysight’s tech team didn’t really help. I haven’t seen the connection failures in a while, because I’ve given up on using the software for certain types of measurements with certain test accessories.
There were other weird crashes that the BenchVue team tracked down to a certain way of launching the program in Windows.
Years later, I am mostly convinced the specific dropped-connections and missed data issues might have been with the multimeter hardware in some way. Maybe something between the multimeters and my computer? It’s never been sorted out, and mentioned I’ve been less reliant on the BenchVue software.
That’s what happens when something fails and disappoints you.
But Benchvue was free, and it was useful.
I upgraded Benchvue at some point, and probably once or twice more since then. After one of the early updates, it installed a bunch of other software on my computer, including a very annoying license manager that scans any USB drive or device that’s connected to my computer. It’s always been intrusive.
There were new software licenses and a Pro version. But there were less featured of the different device “apps” that were free. Free “lite” versions. Okay!
I was annoyed. BenchVue offered the same digital multimeter functionality as the previous DMM utility, but at a price instead of being free. But that free option was still all I needed.
Now, I went to upgrade BenchVue again, because why not. I was upgrading some other software on my computer.
It removed the previous version, and installed… nothing. All I have now is a bunch of bloaty license managing stuff, and a BenchVue troubleshooting utility that tells me everything is okay. Huh?
So I go online to download the full version.
What do I learn? BenchVue 2017 has no more free function-limited apps, EVERYTHING requires pricy license fees.
So it went from free, to free with paid function upgrades, to paid software.
I spent a couple thousand dollars on Keysight equipment, and now they want money for software functions that used to be free.
I read that users who bought Pro licenses now have to work with Keysight on getting the newest version to work, since it’s a completely incompatible licensing structure.
A search online shows that the previous version is still available, but for how long? I can’t find any of the free utilities that predated BenchVue.
This is a great example of what NOT to do. Milwaukee has said their One-Key app will always be free. I believe the same is true with Dewalt and their Tool Connect app. Fluke’s Fluke Connect app is mainly free, at least all of the functionality most individual users might need.
Keysight’s BenchVue software was great when free, but it’s too buggy for me to ever pay for. The fact that I would now have to pay for software that was free makes me extremely hesitant to buy Keysight test and measurement equipment again.
I have a BK Precision and Rigol equipment, and they come with so-so software. My BK Precision electronic load software has some particularly amateurish aspects, but it was free and continues to be free.
In my experience, BenchVue has the stability and bugs of free software, but I couldn’t complain much, because it was free and it was useful. What I’m especially steamed about right now is that BenchVue played a hand in my purchasing decisions, decisions I’m starting to regret quite a bit.
Getting the new paid version of the 3 BenchVue “apps” I’ve used would cost me close to $1,000! Getting perpetual licenses for a bundle of their most popular apps, apps I might use someday, is over $2,000.
I’m going to try to reinstall an older version. Because I’m NOT going to pay $900 to regain functionality that used to be free, once-free functionality that had at the time convinced me to deepen my investment in Keysight test & measurement equipment.
I love – or rather I loved – my Keysight equipment, but this possibly irreparably hurt my impressions about the company. Maybe one day I’ll pay for BenchVue app licenses out of necessity, but only if they very drastically improve it.
Update: The older version of BenchVue seems to be working just fine, but this hasn’t done much to assuage my strong disappointment and frustration at Keysight. A lot of sites have Keysight product listings that still mention BenchVue as a free software option.