Have you seen Shaan shorn?

I was intrigued to see Autodesk personality and fellow blogger Shaan Hurley posting a photo with his long-standing facial fuzz removed. Shaan may be moving in the opposite direction to myself (I’m getting hairier with age), but personally I don’t think he has gone far enough. I would like to see Shaan sporting a chrome dome. What do you think?

Shaan Shorn

Original image © 2008 Shaan Hurley.

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AutoCAD 2009 – Putting things back to “normal”

Note: there are updated versions of this post for AutoCAD 2010, 2011 and 2012. If you’re running a more recent release of AutoCAD, have a look at the post AutoCAD 2017 – Putting things back to “normal” instead.

One thing that’s regularly asked whenever a new AutoCAD release hits the streets is how to make it work like the last release. I think you should give any new features a fighting chance before turning them off or ignoring them, but that’s entirely your choice. Let’s assume you’ve made the decision to go back to the future; how do you do it?

  • Menus and Ribbon. You can turn menus on with MENUBAR 1, close the Ribbon with RIBBONCLOSE, and so on. However, there’s an easier way; just switch workspaces. In the bottom right corner there is a little button that looks like a gearwheel. This …

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AutoCAD 2009 – The Reaction Part 1

Some people have now received AutoCAD 2009, or at least downloaded it, which you can do (legally!) here, as long as you’re in the United States or Canada.

I’m closing the AutoCAD 2009 speculation poll. Other than a small blip on “Very bad”, the poll follows a typical bell curve nicely, with the peak very clearly on “OK”. I will poll on AutoCAD 2009 later, once you’ve had a chance to play with the new product.

What is the initial user reaction like? So far, not good. For example, have a look at Autodesk’s AutoCAD 2009 discussion group. I fully expected an initial adverse reaction to the new user interface, but it will be interesting to see if it persists once the shock of the new has worn off.

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AutoCAD 2009 – The Prequels Are Over

It would appear that AutoCAD 2009 is now shipping. I intend to hold off on any further comments until I get my hands on the shipping product, which I expect to be fairly soon. In the meantime, maybe have a look over the 24 AutoCAD 2009 Prequel posts and see if there’s anything you missed.

If there’s something in particular about AutoCAD 2009 you want clarified or would like to see covered in future posts, feel free to add a comment here or email me.

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Advertising, ethics and editorial freedom

In a recent blog post, Roopinder Tara included this throw-away comment:

Pure bloggers don’t do advertising, so no worry about advertising pressure — the secret and unstated fear of us all in the trade press.

I respect Roopinder, but this kind of “pure blogger” label irritates me. I have an ad on my blog for geeky T-shirts, so I’m an impure blogger? Somebody please explain the reasoning behind that distinction, because I don’t understand it. Even if I accepted (say) Autodesk advertising, the idea that it would have any influence on what I choose to write is ridiculous. Yet I see even more extreme viewpoints presented by some bloggers as the absolute truth. For example, how about this from Matt Lombard?

Advertising a product means that you are beholden to that company for cash or other rewards – you have in essence sold your right of free expression …

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AutoCAD 2009 – The Prequel Part 24 – Menu Browser Keyboard Access

You may be used to accessing pull-down menus with Alt-key combinations, e.g. Alt+F to get at the File menu. You can still use those keystrokes to get at menus in AutoCAD 2009, whether or not the pull-down menus are in place. If the pull-downs are visible (MENUBAR=1), they are given priority over the Menu Browser. One difference is that if the pull-down menus are visible, you can either press the keys together (e.g. Alt+F), or you can press and release the Alt key, then choose the menu (e.g. Alt, F). With the pull-down menus turned off, you can use only the former method; just pressing and releasing the Alt key is ignored.

Here is a list of the Alt-key combinations that will work with either the pull-down menus or the Menu Browser:



Alt+F File menu Alt+E Edit menu Alt+V View menu Alt+I Insert menu Alt+O Format …

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AutoCAD 2009 – The Prequel Part 23 – Recent Actions

Like Recent Documents, the Menu Browser pane also stores a Recent Actions list.

AutoCAD 2009 Recent Actions list

  • Like Recent Documents, the length of this list defaults to 9 and can be set to up to 50 in Options.
  • Similarly, you can pin actions in place to prevent them slipping off the end.
  • Unlike the command line recall (up-arrow) method of retrieving recently entered commands, this feature only remembers commands you selected using the Menu Browser. Even if you use pull-down menus, those commands will not be placed in this list.
  • Also unlike command line recall, the list is remembered between drawing sessions and even AutoCAD sessions (i.e. you can close AutoCAD without losing the list)

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AutoCAD 2009 – The Prequel Part 22 – Open Documents

One more feature that’s crammed into the Menu Browser pane’s limited space is the Open Documents list. This allows you to switch between the drawings you currently have open. It has a similar interface to the Recent Documents list, including the persistently pale preview:

AutoCAD 2009 Open Documents

Unlike Recent Documents, the filenames are displayed in the correct case, although this is not true in the preview where the name and path are all in upper case. Another glitch in the preview can be seen above, where it says Currently Oper instead of Currently Open By:. This only happens intermittently and doesn’t concern me greatly.

In the same way that Recent Documents doesn’t eliminate the equivalent feature in the File pull-down menu, Open Documents doesn’t eliminate the equivalent feature in the Window pull-down menu. Note that this applies only to the traditional pull-down menus you get …

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AutoCAD 2009 – The Prequel Part 21 – Recent Documents

Another thing you will find lurking under the big red A is the Recent Document list. This is a mixed bag too, but most of it is good. It differs from the traditional list that still lives under the File menu in several ways:

  • Although the default maximum list length is 9 items, you can allow up to 50 items into the list by changing a setting in the Options command’s Open and Save tab.
  • If the list exceeds the space available, a scroll bar appears. This has the same problems as elsewhere in the menu browser: more clicks are required and there is no auto-scroll.
  • If you hover over a document in the list, it displays a preview image along with some other useful document information. Unfortunately, that preview image always has a white background, despite the fact that the first thing most of you are going …

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AutoCAD 2009 – The Prequel Part 20 – Menu Browser Search

So if the Menu Browser isn’t much use for browsing menus, what is it good for? Searching menus, for one thing. Let’s say you’re a very occasional 3D user trying to make a 3D model look pretty. You want to access commands for placing lights, putting the sun in the right place, and changing visual style settings. You don’t really know where to look in the Ribbon or menus. What to do? Click on the red A and just start typing what you think the command is called. With a bit of luck, the appropriate menu item will present itself and you can click on it.

This video shows three successful Menu Browser searches by typing in “light”, “sun” and “vis”.

Searching using the Menu Browser

The whole thing is over in 14 seconds. That’s quite impressive in comparison to a manual click-and-hunt search. It’s not …

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AutoCAD 2009 – The Prequel Part 19 – Menu Browser

You have undoubtedly noticed the large red A in the top right corner of the AutoCAD window. Personally, I don’t like the look of it. The concept is rather Fisher-Price and the execution is poor. No competent graphic designer would align the top of the red A exactly with the top of its surrounding button area like this:

The Big Red A

There are so many examples of poor graphic design in AutoCAD 2009 that the overall visual effect is close to that of a rather amateurish shareware product. That’s not what you might expect of a multi-billion dollar company that can undoubtedly afford to pay talented people to do much better, but it’s a relatively trivial matter. You probably want to know how it works, rather than what it looks like.

What’s living under that big red A? It’s called the Menu Browser, and it’s …

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AutoCAD 2009 – The Prequel Part 18 – Another Interface Option

There’s one screen-based user interface mechanism in AutoCAD 2009 that you probably won’t see bragged about in Autodesk marketing materials. That’s a shame, because it has some strong points:

  • It can be docked on the side of the screen or allowed to float free.
  • While floating, it can be resized to the desired width and height.
  • If you do dock it on the side, any unused height can be used to place either docked or floating toolbars.
  • Out of the box, it provides access to a large number of the most commonly used AutoCAD commands.
  • In default form, it is context-sensitive, providing you with the options relevant to the command you’re using.
  • It can be modified (using CUI, unfortunately) to provide access to any commands or macros you like, using a tree or sequential structure as you see fit.
  • The interface reacts more quickly to user input than the …

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AutoCAD 2009 – The Prequel Part 17 – Ribbon Performance 2

Testing performance under Vista can be an interesting experience. The trouble is, Vista tries to improve its performance by observing what you do and caching it for later use in case you do it again. This leads to something akin to the observer effect in science, where the very act of observing something has an effect on what it is you are observing.

Every time I test Ribbon tab switching performance in Vista, the results improve. In XP, the worst tab switching time I saw on my Core2 PC was 1.6 seconds for the first exposure of the Tools tab. In Vista, the same thing took 1.2 seconds the first time I tried it, but subsequent attempts (after closing and restarting AutoCAD but not rebooting) gave results in the 0.5 to 0.6 second range.

I tried turning off Vista’s pretty Aero interface and saw improvements …

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AutoCAD 2009 – The Prequel Part 16 – Ribbon Performance 1

One of the things I like least about AutoCAD 2009 (at least in Release Candidate form) is that I find it very “sticky”. That is, I find myself having to wait for an instant here, then again there, yet again over there. Most of my testing has been on a middle-aged Pentium 4 (3.0 GHz dual core – not too ancient), and it is particularly noticeable there. On my newer Core2 machine, things are better.

When AutoCAD 2009 starts shipping, I suspect your perception of it will be strongly influenced by your hardware. Top gun users on slow machines are going to feel frustrated; slower users on fast machines will wonder what the problem is.

I made a video that shows Ribbon tab switching performance. This is an important aspect of the new interface. Because the Ribbon hides tools behind different tabs, quick access to those tools relies on near-instant …

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Grammar and AutoCAD

I have a lot of posts about AutoCAD and a few about grammar, but I expect this will be the only post I ever make that combines the subjects.

Autodesk founder John Walker, a very prominent figure in AutoCAD’s history, has written an article about the correct use of the apostrophe. While I enjoyed it, I think it’s too insulting to be useful. People struggling with the correct use of the apostrophe are unlikely to get past the part where they are called morons, to read the useful advice below.

If you just want simple apostrophe advice without being belittled, I suggest you look at the main page of the The Apostrophe Protection Society instead.

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AutoCAD tip – more on the Oops command

In a comment on my Five More Simple Tips for AutoCAD post, Jeremy had some questions about the Oops command. I thought I would explain the command in more detail in another post so more people will see it.

The first thing to understand is that Oops varies from Undo/U in that it only reverses those commands that erase objects. The Erase command is obvious, and the same applies to pre-selecting objects and hitting the Delete key, but the Block and Wblock commands can also erase the objects that go to make up the block. In such cases Oops can be used to restore those objects without undoing the block creation step.

Another difference is that unlike Undo, you can only go back one step with Oops. If you erase one set of objects and later erase another set, issuing two Oops commands will not restore the first set …

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AutoCAD 2009 – The Prequel Part 15 – Background

You may have noticed that the default AutoCAD background is an off-white shade. In a comment, Tim asked if this is the same as the Block Editor background. No, not quite. This image shows the different backgrounds and some linework, with black as a comparison:

AutoCAD 2009 Backgrounds

Paper space is pure white (Red, Green, Blue is 255,255,255), Model space is very pale cream (254,252,240) and the Block Editor is a slightly darker cream (255,252,229). In common with most people in my experience (and most people who need to use drawings with yellow linework), my backgrounds are all going to be 0,0,0 (black). I don’t want to make a big fuss about this, because it’s very easy to change, but I find it kind of funny how this has flip-flopped over the years. There’s a poll about this to the right if you haven’t already seen …

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AutoCAD 2009 – The Prequel Part 14 – What do you think?

I’m interested in people’s perceptions of the forthcoming AutoCAD release. Based on what you’ve seen so far, how good a release do you think it will be? Please speculate using the poll on the right. If you feel the poll doesn’t give you the opportunity to adequately express yourself, feel free to add a comment here.

I intend to follow this up in a few months with a similar poll when people have had a chance to use the shipping product. It’s not scientific, but it will be interesting to see if actually using the product changes people’s opinions.

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