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Summer 2008
Dear Colleague:

We made it just in time! This "Summer" newsletter is arriving with a few days of summer still left - Fall officially starts September 22nd. We hope you enjoyed a good summer and that your vacations went without any major mishaps, and that your business is doing well - and even prospering. We at Retain Pro are doing well. Sales continue to climb, thanks to you, our users.

Interestingly, the economic survey we have had on our home page gives some upbeat - and some not-so-upbeat - views. Only 78 chose to offer their outlook for the rest of 2008. Here's a tally:

  • 22% Expect more work in the second half of '08
  • 32% About the same as first half.
  • 31% The second half will be slower
  • 15% Worried; expect much less work.

So, on the positive side 54% expect the same or more work in second half of 2008. Well, we'll have to wait and see - and hope for the 15% that are worried.

Annual survey results

We had an impressive 530 responses (as of now) to our email Retain Pro 2007 Annual User Survey. That's over 15% of you; a good sample.

Here's what you told us:
  • Nine or fewer technical employees: 82%. And 51% are one- or two-person offices!
  • Over 100 tech employees: 3%
  • Operating system: Windows XP: 85%; Vista: 12%; Windows 2000: 2%.
  • Asked for tech support: Only 20% (a surprise!).
  • Features used, in order of most-used: Cantilevered walls; restrained walls; seismic design; pier foundation option; gravity walls; DXF option; segmental walls. No feature reported less than 35% usage.
  • Enercalc users too: 40%.
  • A significant number wanted the users manual expanded with more explanations. We're working on that - and some corrections.
  • Retain Pro acceptance by building departments: 95% said "Usually accept designs with minimal questions".
  • OVERALL SATISFACTION with Retain Pro 2007: 80% rated us "Excellent" or "Very good". 18% "Good", and 2% said we were only "Fair".
  • You rated us highest for "Features offered", then a tie for "Accuracy/reliability" and "Ease of use".
Thanks to those who participated! You've helped us!

Installation Procedures

Some of you are having difficulty installing Retain Pro, particularly since there are differing procedures for new users and those upgrading using several different options. To remedy this we have revised and expanded our Installation Procedures, which are now posted on our Support page, plus a new link on the home page (under Announcements). We have organized them into topics:
  1. Installing Retain Pro 2007 Small Office License (SOL) on a new computer
  2. Installing Retain Pro 2007 Network License (NL) on your server
  3. Installing a NL on your server when upgrading from a SOL.
  4. Using AutoUpdate on version 2007
  5. When and how to use Manual Activation
  6. Checking the version you are using
  7. Checking the number of activations you have used
  8. Deactivating from a computer
  9. Installing to a computer without an Internet connection
  10. Upgrading a Small Office License from 4 to 12 activations
  11. When the activation system gives error codes

We urge you to print them out, using this link, and referring to them as needed:

New license option

Our "Small Office License" has allowed only four activations, meaning it can be installed and activated on up to four office/home computers or laptops, and all can be used at the same time. We have had many requests to increase the number of activations for a Small Office License, but without jumping to a server/network version. In response we now have an option for both new and current users to select 12 activations rather than 4. The current upgrade cost for the additional eight activations is $200. (Note that we use the term "activations" rather than "seats" as used by other vendors.). If you need the additional activations you can order online.

Technical Topics

Sigma overlooked -- According to our user survey only 25% of you have used the Equation Menu. It's accessed by clicking the little Σ icon on the tool bar. It's a handy little tool for quick-solving a dozen retaining structure related equations. They're all in Retain Pro but sometimes they can offer quick solutions for complex equations.

Be careful using vertical component! On designs emailed us for comment we often see inappropriate use of the vertical component (on the Options screen). Although it's your choice, we recommend (as do most textbooks) applying it only to assist overturning; not for reducing soil pressure or sliding. Read more in our newsletters of Summer '06 and Winder '07.

Sliding problems? Whenever there is a small heel (hence no superimposed extra weight) you nearly always have a sliding problem. The most effective solution is to increase your heel dimension if possible, then check all your inputs that affect sliding: coefficient of friction, passive pressure, active pressure used, and others. Maybe check them with your geotech consultant to optimize your conditions. If you need a key, try not to have it over about 24 inches deep. If there is a slab-on-grade to resist sliding, check that it is adequate (its weight x coef. of friction).

Why UBC '97? -- It's included as a building code option only for checking walls that were designed per that now defunct code, such as for forensic investigations.

Urgent request: We are preparing a special report on seismic design of retaining walls - a controversial issue that needs clarification. We'd like to hear from any of you that have direct knowledge of a retaining wall damaged by an earthquake. In our user survey, six of you (out of 530 responses) stated you had such knowledge. We don't know who you are and want to hear from you! Please let us know your observations or any comments on this important topic. Send to: What we report may affect upcoming code changes.

Forgot your password?

You need your password for access to our online Users Forum and to change or update your email address on our Support page. If you've forgotten it we've added prompts on the "Change email address" on our Support page, and by the Users Forum on the home page. And no, you can't change it - but if important we can do it for you on our end.

Change email address? Let us know!

We need to repeat this in every newsletter!

Nearly one-quarter of you will not receive this newsletter - and other email announcements -- because you've changed your email address and not let us know. It's easy to update: just go to and click on Change email address. Enter your old email, your password - and there's a prompt if you forgot it - then your new email address. Important bulletins - and these newsletters - often have gone to a long-departed employee, or worse, to the purchasing department. Be sure the email address we have goes to the person responsible for using Retain Pro.

Asking for technical support

To help us help you faster, please always give your registration number (RP-xxxxxxx), company, phone, and your name. We have gotten emails like this:

I can't figure out how to save my design.

We can't help you if we can't reach you and know what version and license you have.

Of interest to Apple users

We get many inquiries about running Retain Pro on an Apple computer. Here is what one such user emailed us:

"We installed Retain Pro 2007 on an Apple computer running VM Ware. This is a 3rd party application that allows you to install Windows XP on an Apple computer. This allows the user to run AutoCAD and any other Windows applications that won't run in the Mac OS. We were able to install Retain Pro but when we go to activate the license we get this error message: "This product will not work in a VMWare environment". Do you know of any settings we can try to get it to work? This computer connects to the internet fine by the way."

Our answer: Yes. On the screen with this message there is a button on the right that says [Request License File]. Press that button and send us the information as instructed on the screen. We will send back a licensing file that will work on that computer only.

Want to join us?

We're looking for a part-time consultant with extensive masonry, concrete, and foundation design experience (and of course thoroughly familiar with Retain Pro!) for an advisory role and help with developing new features and enhancements, testing, and technical support issues. A strong geotechnical background is important. If you, or someone you know, would like to join us please email us at


We always welcome your comments and suggestions! Your input helps us serve you better.

With best wishes for the remainder of 2008,


Hugh Brooks, PE, SE
Retain Pro Software

PS: Many of you would benefit from my book Basics of Retaining Wall Design, 7th Edition. It's full of the information you need for better design, updated for current codes, plus design examples, and priced at only $49, plus shipping. You can order on our web site:

Retain Pro Software div. HBA Publications, Inc. PO Box 826 Corona del Mar CA 92626 949-721-4099
© 2008 HBA Publications, Inc. All Rights Reserved.