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?
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.