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 Ribbon or Menu Browser.
  • Rather than cryptic graphics, it uses plain text labels that are easily understood. This is particularly useful if you have a block library where part numbers are used to identify parts that are visibly similar to each other.
  • It provides an interface that users of old AutoCAD releases will be instantly at home with, and I mean old.

Have you guessed yet?

AutoCAD 2009 Screen Menu

I seem to remember first hearing about the imminent demise of Screen Menus around the Release 12 timeframe. I wonder how long they can survive into the 21st century?

Autodesk deserves credit for keeping stuff like this going after all this time, a long time after it has gone seriously out of fashion. I’m sure the amount of resources it consumes is minuscule compared with the more modern interface elements. I know there are still some people who have a use for screen menus, and the same applies to image menus. All the tablet stuff is still there too, although I haven’t tested it.

Seriously, I’m more impressed by Autodesk’s retention of the Screen Menu than I am by the introduction of, say, the Steering Wheel. Autodesk is unlikely to brag about it, but maybe it should.


  1. An Autodesker told me it’s been hard work to keep the screen menu intact, but there are still tablet users who make use of AutoCAD’s original “GUI.”

  2. Hard work as in “difficult to maintain”, or as in “having to fight internal political battles to keep it alive”?

  3. The screen menu! Now there’s a blast from the past. I spent many a pleasant hour customizing it.

    Actually, its operation was remarkably similar to the now-defunct (already!) dashboard, or to a side-docked toolbar, or to a tool palette, or to a side-docked ribbon.

    I still mourn the passing of one of the best CAD input devices. The earliest mainframe systems all used a joystick, so when AutoCAD came along it did too. Unfortunately they developed a “gaming” connotation so support was dropped.

    Advantages over a mouse:

    – take up less desktop real estate
    – no problem with slipping on older ball-type mice, or trying to operate an optical mouse on a clear, black, or glossy surface.
    – absolute, not relative input.

    Bill Fane

  4. How do I change the white screen in AutoCAD 2009 back to the traditional black screen?

  5. See “Background” in the post “AutoCAD 2009 – Putting things back to “normal””, which is the most recent post in this blog right now.

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