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 a mixed bag. There’s some useful new stuff under there, which I’ll cover later. In this post I’ll just describe using it to browse menus. Frankly, it’s not very good at that. The video below shows you why, and here are some notes to go with it.

  • On a fast machine, the reaction times are slightly sticky. Users of slower machines will experience some frustration; I have waited over three seconds for a reaction. Just like the Ribbon, it’s the initial click that hurts the most, with subsequent clicks on the red A being rather quicker.
  • Because the menu structure is one level deeper than traditional pull-down menus, you need a minimum of one extra click to do anything.
  • Because the Menu Browser is artificially limited to a small section of the screen (no, you can’t resize it), the menus don’t all fit. That means you not only need to perform extra actions to select certain commands, you need to perform extra actions to even see them. That is, if you’re browsing the menus, this new interface is markedly inferior to the old one.
  • With pull-down menus, you need a click to start with, then you can hover (or optionally click) to burrow down until you get to the command you’re after. In the Menu Browser, you need a click, then a hover (or optional click), then it’s all clicks from then on. That is, it’s close to the exact opposite of what you might expect, it’s not even self-consistent, and there is more clicking required than before.

Menu Browser - not so good for browsing menus

If you regularly use pull-down menus, you may as well type MENUBAR 1 as soon as you install your new AutoCAD. You will lose a strip of screen real estate, but you will have your old menus back.

If it’s an unhappy experience using the Menu Browser to browse menus, what else can you use it for? Among other things, you can use it to search menus. More on that later.

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