Where have all the developers gone?

I noticed in Ralph Grabowski’s latest upFront.eZine that Autodesk has announced that 100 developers have 200 add-ons working with its 2009 series of software. I hope I’m not supposed to be impressed by those numbers. I remember when Autodesk boasted about having over 3500 third-party developers. What happened to the other 3400-odd? This is a serious question; if anybody knows where they all went, and why, I’d love to know. Of those two hundred 2009-ready applications, how many of them take advantage of 2009’s Big New Feature, the Ribbon? My guess would be close to zero. Why? Because the AutoCAD 2009 CUI architecture is all wrong. Adding custom stuff to the Ribbon is simply a lot more trouble than it’s worth. Even Autodesk’s own vertical teams have shunned it.

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Autodesk University Session Voting

This year, the Autodesk University people are allowing you to vote on the various sessions (classes). Here’s the link: AU 2008: Help Us Select the Sessions If I can sort out a few practical details, I am hoping to attend this year as a speaker. I have submitted four session proposals. These are: Customization and Programming Be unfashionable in style with LISP and DCL – Introduction Be unfashionable in style with LISP and DCL – Intermediate Be unfashionable in style with LISP and DCL – Advanced Business How to make a great CAD blog for next to nothing If you intend attending AU this year, I encourage you to vote for the sessions you would like to see presented.

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The _XREF_XREF killer

If you’re an AutoCAD 2008 user you probably already know what the title refers to. If not, you probably don’t need to know. If your drawings are afflicted, I suggest you hop over to Between the Lines, grab the scale list cleanup utility and start cleaning up. Although I’ve found that this utility works very well, paranoia is usually wise in computing so make sure you back up everything before you start! The utility is installed into the AutoCAD 2008 or 2009 main installation folder, and you can make a shortcut to the CleanupScales.exe file on your desktop if you wish to make it easier to fire up. To the Autodesk people who put the effort into creating this utility, thank you.

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Do you do any AutoCAD development?

Yes, that includes hacking about (or producing beautifully elegant code) in LISP. If so, you may wish to go here and fill in the appropriate API survey, which is probably the AutoCAD one. This year, Autodesk is opening up this survey, which used to be confined to Autodesk Developer Network members. I approve. ADN represents a tiny (but important) minority of fee-paying developers approved by Autodesk. I expect the results will be rather different if a significant number of “normal” AutoCAD developers notice this survey and fill it in. If you are, say, a LISP or VBA user and are feeling neglected, please go and have your say while you have the chance. The survey closes on 1 May.

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Wiki for AutoLISP

Greg Robinson, who I had the pleasure of meeting at Autodesk some 11 years ago in the run-up to Release 14, has started a Wiki for AutoLISP and other AutoCAD-based source code. I’m a big fan of LISP in AutoCAD, so I’m happy to see this resource available for users. It’s in its infancy right now, but if you pick the All Pages link you’ll see that there already dozens of routines available, one of which may help you with something you need to do. Here’s the link to the main page: http://lispwiki.com/

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AutoCAD Migration – continued

I have added two more polls (see right) about this subject making a total of four. I have an inkling that the people most dissatisfied with Migration are those with many users to support, and I’m interested to know how accurate that impression is. If you voted that you were totally or generally dissatisfied with Migration, please use the top poll, otherwise use the second poll. If you haven’t voted yet in the satisfied/dissatisfied poll, please do! I’ll keep these polls open for a while. Feel free to add your comments here to expand on what you have selected in the polls.

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Which AutoCAD release is the best when compared with its predecessor?

After a month and 204 votes, I have now closed the poll that asks the above question, but it can still be found in the polls archive. There were 20 choices, so you might expect an “average” release to attract 5% of the votes. You might also expect there to be relatively few votes for the older releases, because the newer the release, the more likely it is to be within a voter’s experience. All releases being equal, you might therefore expect the oldest releases to have about 0% and the newest about 10%, with a gradually rising straight line between them. Of course, not all releases were equal. There has been a huge variation in the quality of releases over the years, so it’s remarkable how closely the poll follows that rising-line description. However, there are a couple of major exceptions that insert a major spike in the graph. Those exceptions are Release 14 with 23% of the vote, and its closest rival AutoCAD 2000. That isn’t very close at all (12%), despite introducing the major and easily remembered benefit of the multiple document interface. It’s hard to argue with Release 14 being so highly regarded, being such a huge performance and stability improvement over its infamous predecessor. The list of new features in Release 14 was tiny in comparison with that of Release 13, but they generally worked properly. There was also a concerted effort to improve raw performance, and it paid off. Release 14 did wonders for Autodesk’s share price. Is there a lesson to be learned there? I think so. That said, this is one of the few times I find my own opinion to be significantly different to those of most AutoCAD users. Whose is the sad lonesome vote for Release 2.5? Mine. As I’ve…

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AutoCAD Migration – what do you think?

For a few years now, AutoCAD has allowed you to migrate your settings forward from an old release to a new one. Since AutoCAD 2006, this has included your custom CUI stuff. How well is this mechanism working for you? I will keep my opinions to myself for now, but I’m interested in yours. I have added two polls about this (see right) and have more polls on this subject waiting in the wings. Feel free to add your comments here to expand on what you have selected in the polls.

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AutoCAD 2009 – Video from product managers

I generally dislike blogs that just regurgitate contents from elsewhere, so I’m going against the grain here to repost something from Shaan Hurley’s Between the Lines blog. Shaan has been a bit quiet over the past few weeks, but has recently made up for this with a vengeance. A flurry of new posts has pushed this video way down the page, so you may well have missed it. I’m always happy to see Autodesk communicating with its customers (even if I don’t agree with what’s being said), so I decided to bring it to your attention. Here, Autodesk product managers Eric Stover and Doug Cochran show off some of the new features of AutoCAD 2009. It seems Doug is very keen on the use of the words “quick” and “quickly”. Hopefully, that means we will see some serious attention paid to AutoCAD’s performance soon, because it could certainly do with it. This video may lack professional gloss, but I don’t care. In fact, I much prefer something that looks like it hasn’t been processed through a PR committee before we’re allowed to see it. I hope we see more communication like this soon from the real people behind the Autodesk corporate facade.

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AutoCAD 2009 – Tooltips are bad for my sanity

In the general scheme of things, this is a relatively trivial issue, but it’s sometimes the little things that get under my skin. Winner of this year’s prize for most annoying new feature just has to be the new tooltips. They are really not good for my mental health. If I have tooltips turned on, I find it hard to use AutoCAD 2009 for more than a few minutes without wanting to smash my fist through the screen. I would like to leave tooltips on just a little bit so they will let me get used to AutoCAD’s modified button appearance and location. All I want is a little one-word tooltip if I hover over a button, but I can’t have that. There is some control over tooltips to be had in the Options dialogue box: Oh, sorry, you can’t see the options I’m trying to describe because there is a stupid great big tooltip in the way. What I’m trying to show is that if you turn off all but one of the toggles, you can at least avoid the embarrassing spectacle of AutoCAD covering up most of the screen with information about how to draw a line when you hover over the Line button. But you can’t persuade AutoCAD to just show you what the commands are, you have to have several lines of information, one of which is exactly the same for every single tooltip. That’s not too bad I suppose, but try using a dialogue box. Nasty huge tooltips keep throwing themselves at you in a mad rush to obscure what you’re trying to see. You can move your cursor right out of the way to stop the tooltips from appearing, and then move it back again when you want to actually pick something, but what…

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AutoCAD 2009 – ViewCube problems?

Having been very effusive in my praise of AutoCAD 2009’s ViewCube feature, stating among other things that “the ViewCube looks like a finished, polished tool”, I may need to backpedal. Those views, along with all of my 2009 Prequel posts, were based on my experience with the Release Candidate.  Although ViewCube was very stable for me in pre-release versions of 2009, I’ve seen severe ViewCube stability problems in the shipping software. I’ve seen the following problems in just a few minutes use of the ViewCube, on two different PCs: Picking the WCS button under the ViewCube and then picking a different visual style led to AutoCAD going into an endless loop where it kept flashing up and removing the WCS menu about twice a second. Ctrl-Alt-Del was needed to get out of this. This lock-up could be repeated by using the UCS button and picking in the drawing area to make the UCS menu go away. In my attempts to reproduce this on another PC I couldn’t immediately do so, but by using the Home feature and changing visual styles I could make my cursor disappear so it looks like AutoCAD is locked up. No cursor was visible anywhere within the AutoCAD window (including crosshairs, pickbox and arrows), but the normal Windows cursor was visible outside AutoCAD. I could use the invisible AutoCAD cursor to highlight buttons and could therefore close AutoCAD without losing anything. So, if you are using the shipping version of AutoCAD 2009, I suggest you save all drawings in your session before experimenting with the ViewCube. I would be interested in your experiences with the ViewCube. Is it reliable for you?

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Gaahl’s Tr00 Life Adventures – Week 1

I like many forms of metal music, but I’m afraid the black metal sub-genre does nothing for me musically, particularly as far as the vocals are concerned. The Satanic themes aren’t my scene either. Black metallers in most cases really are Satanists, unlike most metal musicians who are mistakenly thought of as Satanic by some fairly clueless individuals but who are nothing of the sort. Where black metal does score points for me is on the costume front. These guys put a lot of effort into trying to look more evil than each other, and the results are frequently hilarious. Do a Google image search if you dare, but don’t have your mouth full when you do or you may need a new keyboard. Some images may be considered offensive. One of the big names in black metal is Gaahl, formerly of the band Gorgoroth. Like many black metal bands, Gorgoroth is from Norway. The antics of the various band members, particularly Gaahl, make for interesting reading (some language may be considered offensive). A while ago I did a series of comic book covers based on one particular Gaahl publicity shot, and I thought some of you might be amused (or more likely bemused) by them. Here is the photo in question: Unfortunately, I have lost the source so I can’t give copyright credit for this image. If the copyright holder wishes to contact me, I’ll be happy to correct this situation. Edit: The Gaahl photograph is by Peter Beste. Without further ado, here is the first week’s edition of Gaahl’s Tr00 Life Adventures. Click the thumbnail to see the full size image.

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AutoCAD 2009 – Automatic spell checker

I’ve seen quite a few positive comments about the new automated spell checking feature, with some people saying that it alone is enough to make AutoCAD 2009 worth the price of admission. I wouldn’t go quite that far, but it is a nice feature. If you enter or edit text or mtext, a little dashed red line appears under words that are not in the dictionary. Right click on an unknown word and the menu will offer several suggestions, allow you to ignore the word or add it to the dictionary. It does have limitations, though, such as not working with attributes. Don’t expect it to do the things that Word does, such as auto-correct words or check your grammar. There is nothing to inform you that you have used a valid word in the wrong context, so AutoCAD considers this to be a perfectly valid sentence: Eye cant under stand how any one cud sell any off they’re worms rung wen awl 0f there worlds ate testes width a auto mated shell checked. Translation: I can’t understand how anyone could spell any of their words wrong when all of their words are tested with an automated spell checker.

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AutoCAD 2009 – Layer Palette and performance

If you’ve noticed some normal drafting operations are much slower in AutoCAD 2009 than in earlier releases, try turning off the new Layer Palette and see if the problem goes away. For example, editing viewports with the Layer Palette visible can be completely unworkable. Don’t just auto-hide it, close it altogether. Another problem presented by the Layer Palette is that any layer changes you make are applied as you make them. This sounds great in theory, but if each operation takes a while to perform then that’s much less efficient than the old method where all changes are made at once when OK or Apply is picked. I know a non-modal layer interface was a common wish and it sounded like a cool idea, but now Autodesk has actually been kind enough to grant this wish I’m finding I prefer the old method. I generally don’t need access to all that layer functionality all of the time, so it makes sense to only have the interface occupying that big slab of screen real estate when I actually need it. Your requirements may differ, of course. If you’re a layer Luddite like me, you can use the old interface by issuing the Classiclayer command. Alternatively, if you set the undocumented system variable LAYERDLGMODE to 0, the Layer command will invoke the old interface instead of the new one.

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AutoCAD 2009 – Action Recorder needs action

One of the banes of AutoCAD over the past few years is the phenomenon of the half-baked feature. A new feature is added to the product with serious design deficiencies and/or bugs and other shortcomings that make it much less useful than it should have been. I’m sure you have your own favourite examples of this. I may expand on this theme in future, but for now let’s concentrate on one brand new and particularly undercooked feature, the Action Recorder. The ability to record and play back macros is undoubtedly something that many users want, and has featured prominently in some wishlists. Autodesk has now provided the Action Recorder. Wish granted, right? A shining example of Autodesk listening to its customers and providing what they want and need? Not exactly. In fact, this wish has only been granted at the most superficial level. Here is the wish as seen on the 2003 AUGI Top Ten AutoCAD Wish List (it’s number 6): “Provide a VBA Macro recorder.” Here it is as it appeared in the February 2006 AUGI Wishlist (it’s number 1): “The ability to record the process of a certain task and assign a quick key to it – similar to Microsoft’s macro recorder for office products.” People were asking for something similar to what they had in Microsoft products. That is, something that not only allows actions to be recorded and played back, but to also create some kind of editable programming language code. Why would people want that? Because recorded macros can be easily examined, modified, combined, changed from one-off to repeating sequences, used as the basis for slightly different routines without requiring re-recording, incorporated into full-blown routines, and so on. The need for editable code is blindingly obvious, really. So, how does Action Recorder store its macros?…

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