AutoCAD 2013 – An Autodesk Help writer responds

Following some email discussions, I am happy to present a response from a relevant Autodesk person to the posts and comments here about AutoCAD 2013’s Help.

Thanks for the opportunity to respond to your readers, Steve.

First, I want to assure you that we’re listening to your comments about AutoCAD 2013 Help. We are adding it to the valuable feedback we’ve already received from users who participated in our Beta program. I responded promptly to every comment from each Beta user and will now address a wider audience.

Here are some of the trends we’ve seen so far in the suggestions users are making about AutoCAD Help:

  • Additional navigation to supplement our Search function
  • Alphabetical listings of AutoCAD commands and system variables
  • Improved precision from the Search function
  • Access to information about new features

We are working right now on our update plans. We invite your additional comments about any other problems you’ve had so that we can have a broad view of your needs as we define the scope of our update.

I’m glad to say that Help updates will no longer have to wait until the next product release. I’d also like to emphasize that the software industry, Autodesk included, is trending toward online delivery of both software and documentation, and that these technology changes pose significant challenges to all of us.

We always appreciate your feedback and we take it seriously.

Thanks and best regards,

Dieter Schlaepfer
Principal Content Developer
Autodesk, Inc.

As Dieter suggests, please comment here with your problems and suggestions. Please be as brutally honest as you wish about Autodesk, its offerings and its future plans. However, I ask that you remain civil. I have ‘known’ Dieter on-line for about 20 years and can attest to his integrity, intelligence and intense desire to do the best job possible. He did indeed respond very fully and honestly to the comments made by myself and others during the Beta program and in our emails. He may very well be the best listener I’ve ever come across, in any context.

In short, Dieter’s one of the good guys and he’s doing a brave thing here. Let him know what you really think, but please don’t beat him up.

163 comments to AutoCAD 2013 – An Autodesk Help writer responds

  • Ok, let’s start… So many things to change but my priorities are:
    1/ add a Table Of Content
    2/ make the help window not stay in front (or give the option)
    3/ make the choice between “all keywords” and “at least one keyword” search modes more obvious
    4/ clarify what “Everywhere” means (why some blogs are searches and not others)
    5/ add a way to add our own sites or RSS feed help sources (for CAD managers), most valuable tech support resides on specialized forums, not on corporates blogs.

    I don’t think this has a chance to go through it’s more of a dream, but add an export to CHM command… (sorry, I did not want to be rude…)

  • Autodesk purports to be a leader and yet they are following the software industry trend? That does not sound like leadership to me. Is there something wrong with tried and true? If you do want to lead your users into a new model then get the model working first. At the least listen to your beta participants (I’m guessing they may have expressed their possibly negative concerns).

  • Hi Steve & Dieter,

    The F1 Help System has been a great method to acquaint oneself with Autodesk products. Unfortunately, the transition to the web based system has dropped features that worked and felt great. I suggest the best solution is to provide a choice of downloadable help file one can carry around and use without the need to connect to the Internet, and a live one online which is updated and spruced up weekly if not daily.

    One of the things I miss is the ability to write my own comments and favorite topics. Trying to do this via browsers isn’t the same, yet. Warm regards from Los Angeles,

    Emmanuel

    • Dieter Schlaepfer

      Hi Emmanuel,

      Thank you. I’ve also added your observations and suggestions as I’ve done with Patrick’s. Several Beta customers gave us similar feedback, but we appreciate hearing it from you as well.

      You might be interested in a trick that I’ve been using with F1 and the command line.

      1. Open the Help window, make it smaller, and move it higher up on your screen.
      2. On the command line, type dim but instead of pressing Enter, press the down arrow repeatedly.
      3. Press F1 on any of the commands or system variables that look interesting. Keep pressing the down arrow followed by F1.
      4. Press Enter when you want to start the highlighted command or system variable.

      Also, try using the * wildcard. For example, type *mode on the command line to display any command or system variable that ends in mode.

      Best regards from sunny San Rafael,
      Dieter

  • Dieter Schlaepfer

    Hi Patrick,

    Thanks for the feedback. I’ve added your requests to those from the Beta forum participants. A lot of people have been asking for a table of contents. What would really help me is to understand how you would use it. Do you want to

    a. Open up a list of commands or system variables that begin with a specific letter of the alphabet
    b. Navigate by expanding nested topics, drilling down to the one that looks the most promising
    c. Use a search, index (yes, I know), or F1 to locate a topic in a feature and then use the table of contents to see a tree structure of closely related topics
    d. A combination of the above or all of them
    e. Something that I haven’t thought of

    The others you listed are all good points.

    Regarding software industry trends and technologies, I’d say that there’s a balance between the extremes of the bleeding edge and lagging behind. Any change is disruptive and will reduce short-term productivity, but in my opinion, the crucial issues involve evaluating the “bang for the buck” and the risk, managing the rate of change, determining the timing, and then integrating the new workflow. To make it work, this process requires experience and costs time on the part of customers, and also requires increased communication and agility on the part of software companies.

    I was going to end by making a lame joke about promising not to start creating Facebook pages for AutoCAD features such as the Sheet Set Manager, except that when I checked, I found that someone’s already created one.

    Dieter

  • Dieter,

    BTW my comments were not directed at you. It is commendable that you participate in the conversation. I recognize that often times the voice of reason put forth by the folks in the trenches dont get through to the deciders for whatever reason. I also realize that much of what is done is based on the driving force of Microsoft and others.

    But there are times that an organization that is as powerful as Autodesk should forge its own path in the interest of serving its customers as best it can and reject those trends that don’t facilitate that objective.

    Truthfully I really don’t have a voice in the matter because I currently work with a much older release.

    • Dieter Schlaepfer

      No offense taken, Patrick. Actually I posted a response to you earlier without realizing that new posts are moderated (which are delayed as a result) while replies are not. As you will soon see, I appreciated your input.

      To your observation about companies forging the best path for its customers, I’d say that not only is this pretty tricky, but it also requires companies to figure out how best to *adapt* new technologies. I’ve seen enough engineering to suggest that such development is always accomplished by “successive approximations” to put it nicely, or by “successive failures of decreasing magnitude” to put it pessimistically. ;-)

      Dieter

      • Dieter, welcome. There are certain rules about what’s moderated and what’s not (certain words and any links will trigger it), but sometimes seemingly random comments get held for moderation and I’m not sure why. Moderated comments may take days to be approved for much of this month.

  • JGGerth

    Steve,

    You’ve noted that users are taking it upon themselves to try and produce a working CHM help, based on the existing Autodesk supplied help files. Given the realities of copyright law, derivative work like that can not be distributed without stepping afoul of Autodesk’s copyright. That severely limits the usefulness of those derived products, and legally requires everyone who want one to create their own. That is a huge amount of redundant work, hardly in line with Autodesk’s claims for sustainability.

    Deiter – May I politely suggest that the existing HTML help files either be placed in the public domain, or released under a Creative Commons or GNU Documentation license, so that those individuals working to improve help outside of the Autodesk umbrella are not subject to potential lawsuits? We really do not need an Jamie Thomas vs RIAA incident with 1.5Million in statutory damages, especially since the individuals involved are tying to better the Autodesk experience.

  • Dieter Schlaepfer

    JG,

    Help me understand something. How is it possible legally to modify a CHM Help file knowing that this format “compiles” the files using LZX, a proprietary Microsoft version of LZW file compression, IIRC? It seems to me that “reverse-engineering a MS file format and compression technique is legally risky. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Microsoft_Compressed_HTML_Help .

    As an alternative, wouldn’t it be better if someone designed and distributed an offline HTML viewer that takes advantage of the metadata included in each HTML file?

    Just asking.

    Dieter

    • Reverse engineering is perfectly legal when done for reasons of interoperability. I don’t see the problem here.

    • > wouldn’t it be better if someone designed and distributed an offline HTML viewer that takes advantage of the metadata included in each HTML file?

      Unlikely, I would have thought. Would it work faster than CHM? Have a restored hierarchical struture that’s better than the one in the old CHM? Have improved index and contents mechanisms? Have vastly more efficient usability? A search facility that works really well? If not, then that’s not really “better”, is it?

      Your 20th Century CHM system is the benchmark. By all means develop a replacement, and when it really is “better”, then that is the time to consider providing it to paying customers. Given what I’ve seen in the last three releases, I’d say the CHM replacement has been inflicted on us at least 5 years too early.

      Don’t spend the next year futzing about in public with the junk we’ve been given and hope that it will turn out good enough in the end. It almost certainly won’t, and even if it does eventually approach acceptability it will come way too late.

      Short term solution? CHM, please, and quickly. Last month wouldn’t be too soon. Scrap the current system as a public offering and put it back where it belongs, into private development and Alpha testing, only to be exposed to public scrutiny when it’s up to the job. It shouldn’t go out until your Beta testers agree that it’s good enough.

      • Dieter Schlaepfer

        I understand what you’re saying, Steve, and I want to assure you that what you’re describing has been communicated effectively.

        Dieter

    • I see the EU courts have now confirmed the legality of reverse engineering, and not just in cases where it is done for reasons of interoperability. There would be legal problems if somebody else distributed a modified version of Autodesk’s content without permission, but other than that, it’s a non-issue.

  • B Broussard

    On two of the machines we have installed AutoCad 2013 on we have a problem. When you pick a point as the origin for copy, move, etc. the program doesn’t accept the point, i.e. it is as if we never picked the point. You must pick the point again. It is not every time this happens, but enough to be annoying and multiplied by the many times a day that this happens and it is a time waster. We will not be loading 2013 on any other machines until a service pack or patch addresses this problem.

    • Chris Wade

      I just tested and it is working fine here. I would check to see if you might have some sort of LISP routine that is causing a conflict.

    • Dieter Schlaepfer

      Hi B Broussard,

      Coincidentally, I ran into this problem myself last week. If you dock your Command window, or if the cursor moves even slightly after you enter a command, the problem doesn’t happen. This has now been reported.

      Dieter

  • Chris Wade

    Dieter,

    Please note that none of my comments are directed to you (unless you are the decision maker that decided to go forward with the current help system). That being said, currently help is 100% useless.

    You asked how you can legally edit a CHM file, well, there are programs that you pay for that allow you to do so. As far as I am aware, these programs pay a royalty to Microsoft, which then gives them the license to sell these programs.

    Would your alternative be better? Well, yes, if it actually worked. The problem here is when you search for anything, it will take 3-4 times longer than it would with the old (CHM) help system.

    I believe you know where I stand with what needs to be done with help, but that being said, while I understand that you are listening, I am doubtful that we will see anyone higher up listen to us and perhaps not even to you.

    You are probably asking yourself what evidence do I have of this?

    Well, the cloud TOS problems have been mentioned in numerous forums, I am specifically referring to section 2.2 of http://usa.autodesk.com/adsk/servlet/item?siteID=123112&id=17784802

    which states:

    “You hereby grant Autodesk (or warrant that the licensor of such rights has expressly granted) a perpetual, irrevocable, non-exclusive, royalty-free, paid-up, worldwide, sublicensable (through multiple tiers) license to store, display, reproduce, modify, use and transmit Your Content, and further waive “moral” rights or other rights with respect to attribution of authorship or integrity of Your Content that You may have under any applicable law and under any legal theory.”

    Now, the TOS was not update prior to the release of AutoCAD and until it is, most companies will be unable to use the cloud features. Since this is the primary feature of AutoCAD 2013, I would have thought that AutoDesk would have corrected this prior to shipping, so that there will be people out there that will take advantage of this new feature, otherwise they may very well choose not to upgrade.

    • Dieter Schlaepfer

      Hi Chris,

      Again, I’m not taking your comments personally. I am and have been collecting everyone’s requests and have a pretty good idea of the issues, which I’ve been communicating internally. Autodesk management is certainly aware of the issues, and plans are in process, but at this point please understand that I can’t go into any detail or make specific promises concerning Help. We definitely plan to make improvements. With online Help, we have the ability to make them incrementally.

      Dieter

  • Bill Fane

    The one thing I miss most is the alphabetical listings of command and system variable names. In particular, I find the current searching to be too literal. For example, ask for help on LINE and you get about 40 hits, covering everything from how to use Modemacro to customize the command line through a blog announcing “AutoCAD 2013 is approaching the finish line”. Basic help on the LINE command is about 10 items down the list.

    • Dieter Schlaepfer

      Bill,

      We’re continuing to tune Help searches (and commands other than LINE work better with search).

      Regarding the command listings, have you tried the tips that I suggested to Emmanuel above? I think the wildcards on the command line work great, and it’s easy to choose whether to view the Help or start the command or system variable. Let me know what you think of this workflow.

      Dieter

      • Chris Wade

        That is a pain in the neck. Especially when the smallest you can set the help screen to is 991×731. This is 91% of the width of many user screens and 95% of the height. Compare this with the size that most people keep their CHM file at (around 520×520) and you can see a major issue here, especially on systems that only have one monitor.

        We don’t need the wildcard method on the command line, we need a real table of contents, index, etc.

        These files appear to exist in the offline help, they just aren’t being made available in the interface.

        • Dieter Schlaepfer

          Thanks, Chris. I’ve added your request to relax the minimum size of the Help window.

          Your other points have already been noted. I just thought the wildcard method on the command line was cool–type in DIM*, arrow down and press F1, arrow down some more and press F1 again, and so on. Press Enter when you want to execute the command or sysvar. Have you tried doing it a few times?

          Yes, I hear you on the table of contents method.

          Dieter

  • Steven LaKose

    One issue is that I have several clients with secure access to the Internet each time we access the Internet. Autodesk products (like the help, Authorization, DesignReview, etc) see to attempt to access the Internet directly, which “hangs” the system. Even if I have a browser open with access to the Internet, AutoCAD attempts to create its own connection. Inadvertently hitting the F1 key can cause a long and frustrating delay for users.

    I would suggest the ability to have a “local” CHM based help file, with the option to access the online version. Then add a button to “update” the local version as the help file is re-issued with changes.

    Use of bandwidth to access help, “just because you can” doesn’t make business sense to me.

    Steven LaKose
    Consultant
    Wallingford, CT 06492
    slakose@superdata.com

    • Dieter Schlaepfer

      Thanks for your feedback, Steven.  We are aware of the proxy/firewall issue and are looking into it.  Our efforts have been focused on improving the features, content and search of the online Help, instead of the offline version.  For now, we will continue to provide an offline version, but will probably not be making additional improvements to it.

      It would be a great help to see if typical scenarios that your clients are encountering when looking for information could be handled by the online Help.  So if any are available, it would be great if you could describe any real-world problem scenarios, where they’re looking for specific information (not the LINE command) that is not readily accessible through Search, F1, or the related topic links at the bottom of each topic.

      Dieter

    • Dieter Schlaepfer

      Yes, I’m aware that I’ll need to test some scenarios myself for those situations where online Help is not accessible. ;-)

      Dieter

  • Chris Cowgill

    “For now, we will continue to provide an offline version, but will probably not be making additional improvements to it.”

    Sounds to me like the offline help is being scrapped, or prepped for scrap. This is not a good idea. Adobe has been online help for quite some time. I’ve given up on using their help and just fight my way through it. its not a big deal, because I dont use adobe to make a living, I just use it for messing around. I use AutoCAD to make a living, and I expect help to be available when I need it, right away. Help has been available online now for 4 releases. It is continuing to get worse. speed has not been improved. When Online resources are being used, its a little ridiculous for AutoCAD to take an extra 15 seconds to startup. That is a lot of wasted time throughout ones day, or even week. I dont think I would have a problem moving things to be online, if they increased efficiency. Online help does not. No matter what features are there (or more likely not there), it doesnt make up for the fact that it is painfully slow. And what about those errors you get when site is down for maintenance. Worldwide company, needs to have help up 24/7. If I need help, I need it now, not in a couple of hours. Why does it seem that noone at Autodesk seems to get this? testing the help for speed on your internal system doesnt do anygood. Autodesk charges us enough, they should have plenty of cash to fly someone over to Russia or South Africa and try out the help in the real world.

  • “Our efforts have been focused on improving the features, content and search of the online Help, instead of the offline version.”

    Dieter, this is where I was going when I asked “Is there something wrong with tried and true?”

    Yes, CHM is old and outdated and not where MS and other “leaders” are going but it works. (well it does anyway if MS hadn’t screwed with some security settings that may need tweaking)

    It boils down to one thing though: What are the users telling Autodesk?

    • Dieter Schlaepfer

      Hi Chris and Patrick,

      From my perspective, we’re going through a tidal wave of technology change that every software company is trying to surf. In general, we’re moving in the direction of online interaction, connectivity, and services. Then there’s the support for a variety of mobile platforms and a wealth of scanning, visualizing, and prototyping technologies. As you know, many companies are going more international, which places additional burdens and opportunities on us all, especially in regard to lagging infrastructure, how fast to move forward, at what cost, and how to integrate new, disruptive technologies into existing workflows and business processes.

      There’s nothing wrong with the tried-and-true. It works, the short-term risk is low, and everyone is familiar with it. The only problem is that it’s not moving forward.

      So, as I indicated in my original post, online Help will certainly, definitely continue to develop. When you provide me with specific parameters, scenarios, priorities, and problems that you encounter, you will be helping us to steer forward. Finally, as I’ve said before, I am collecting and communicating your feedback. Please continue to do so–it’s very much appreciated.

      Dieter

      • > There’s nothing wrong with the tried-and-true. It works, the short-term risk is low, and everyone is familiar with it. The only problem is that it’s not moving forward.

        I completely reject the unspoken assumption that online = forward, offline = backward. I reject it in practical terms; moving forward should mean making things better, not worse. I also reject it in terms of computing philosophy; I’m old enough to remember the bad old days of reliance on non-local computing power, and no amount of self-interested hype is going to make me think of a return to those days as a walk forward into a wonderful new future.

        • Dieter Schlaepfer

          Yeah, I remember the days of the time-sharing systems on super-minicomputers. I remember being yelled at by a sysop for something I did (I was “younger” then). On the other hand, I also remember when we first got PCs and except for email, we were pretty much on our own (I still have some stacks of 5-1/4″ floppies, why I don’t know).

          Would it be wrong to say that in companies with IT departments, “moving forward” can be better described as a hybrid of the past plus some features?

          Dieter

          • In companies with or without IT departments, “moving forward” can mean a very wide variety of different things, from maintaining compatibility of existing applications when new environments become unavoidable, through complete replacement of applications using other vendors, to complete replacement of the whole environment. The common thread is that each is intended to make things better than they otherwise would be. Making things worse than they otherwise would be is moving backward, not forward.

  • Matt Stachoni

    So, as I understand it, the CHM method of delivering Help is outdated, due to the constantly changing nature of a Wiki-based user-contributed content model. But remember that CHM is ultimately simply a compiled, indexed series of HTML files. As long as you have the HTML files and the directions for how it is to be packaged, you can compile the CHM.

    Thus, the solution to the online help disaster is SIMPLE. So simple, in fact, it’s kind of maddening that Autodesk didn’t come up
    with it first instead of crafting the always-online-always-slow-and-by-the-way-noone-asked-for-it situation we have now.

    It’s a fact that we AutoCAD users are always connected to the Internet now, and that the program is communicating at least a little with Autodesk via the InfoCenter, as it will tell you when updates are available, or when you check for updates for the hardware database XML database.

    So, use that model: Provide the raw HTML help files as part of the first-ship installation, along with the compiled CHM. Make the online HTML help updates available as a package that can be optionally downloaded and installed to the Help folder. The Help system is updated regularly by users, right? Well, not EVERY page is updated all the time; just track what pages change, and every so often just wrap the changed pages and the master index into a small, on-demand download (which should be almost imperceptible to the user) that unpacks itself and compiles the whole thing to .CHM automatically. Keep the option to use online help or local help, and under that include an option to be notified of Help updates or have AutoCAD do it automatically, like a Windows Update.

    Not that hard of a problem to solve, really.

    Just because something is not online doesn’t make it obsolete. Local Help is and has always been valuable; Internet-based Help would be better ONLY if it provided a better, ALL-AROUND end-user experience. New content is nice but if it’s a pain to use, it’s ultimately useless. Having user-provided content and videos is great (which, BTW, don’t work on my iPad, but thanks anyway), but there’s no reason we have to suffer with this current situation when the solution is so easy to craft.

    Matt

    • Dieter Schlaepfer

      Hi Matt,

      Thanks for chiming in. The hybrid approach that you’re describing also came up during our Beta program Help discussions, and it’s already been added to our Help wishlist. Another version of this approach might be a “download and cache only what you need” system. What we implement really depends on your priorities based on the way you typically obtain information. This is where real-life scenarios come in. What kind of information do you typically look for? Where are the “potholes in the road” in your personal experience?

      Dieter

      • Matt Stachoni

        Dieter,

        Stop wasting time trying to determine a user’s priorities or what kind of information people want. The user decides this on an as-needed basis as determined by skill level and application. Instead, I suggest you SOLVE THE PROBLEM: Provide a comprehensive Help system so that a normal user can find information easily. Your listing of resources is INCOMPLETE. Your search functionality SUCKS.

        Fix that, THEN worry about the gingerbread of fine tuning things. Right now you’re trying to add fizzy dice to the rear view mirror of a wrecked car.

        For example, the Customization Guide – which almost everyone starts hitting after they learn the basics of AutoCAD – is GONE as far as I can tell. This is an invaluable resource for users of all kinds. It’s unobtainable through normal links. I typed in Customization Guide in the search box and the first page was a listing of “Related Developer References (AutoLISP)” which DO NOT CONTAIN ANY LINKS TO THOSE DOCUMENTS.

        There’s no navigation – everything is by a Search box. Which is stupid: Beginners don’t use search boxes when learning a program, because they don’t know what questions to ask or what to search for in the first place. No, instead they try to read through documentation one step at a time, like reading a book. But there’s no book to be had, no breadcrumbs to figure out where you are in the documentation. At least Revit has a navigation pane where you can step through things and actually learn something (although it has its own set of problems).

        BTW, the second hit was “About Linetypes” and the third was about the MENUCMD AutoLISP function. Clearly, you guys need to get your search programming skills up to par. if you are going to keep Search as a primary way of finding stuff, I suggest you rely less on 2nd-semester college interns to code this and consult Google, as I hear they are pretty adept at this kind of stuff.

        Anyway, I gave up on the Help system and went to the \Help subfolder and started clicking on CHM files, and didn’t find anything (as I could do in previous releases). But, bizarrely, you do include the CHM help files for AutoCAD Architecture, AutoCAD MEP, AutoCAD Structural Detailing, and a lot of .NET stuff on that as well. Why? The download and installation of AutoCAD 2013 isn’t large enough? You had to include over 70MB in useless AutoCAD MEP videos?

        I’m at a complete loss. I think Steve was OVERLY KIND in his original post about how screwed up this whole system is.

        Finally: I do think it’s great that you have a Download and Install Offline Help feature, but seriously: do we all need to agree to a EULA just to install it? It’s the same Help data that’s available online that anyone can read without consulting a lawyer.

        • Dieter Schlaepfer

          Matt,

          To your comments, one of the other requests that we received during Beta was to add some additional search filters.

          But what about brand new users? Do you think that most new users go to a product’s Help system to teach themselves how to use the program? Studies have shown that new users don’t do this.

          I hope you won’t mind me getting on my own soapbox for a bit, especially since this is not an Autodesk press release and I’m just expressing my personal opinion.

          I spent about half my career in technical training and I strongly advocate high-quality (!) training for anyone starting to learn any software. The training, whether it’s in videos, a book, or by an instructor, needs to be well-organized, hands on, and short. Instead, most people are expected to learn by trial-an-error, which can be very frustrating. In my opinion, a Help system should focus on being a good reference tool and leave the training to other sources as I’ve mentioned.

          Finally, one of the things I’m not is a lawyer, so I’m not qualified to talk about EULAs. When I scan through them in various products, they all pretty much look the same to me.

          Dieter

          • Matt Stachoni

            Dieter,

            I don’t want it to sound like I don’t appreciate the time you are taking to talk with us in this environment. And I have a correction to my previous post: I just read Steve’s finding of the Customization Guide via accessing the Help in the VLIDE, so that’s a hugely Good Thing. As I don’t personally use the VLIDE, I would have completely missed this. (I’m old school, in that I prefer a robust text editor instead).

            Even the best technical training is too short, and no new user has any hope of working through every command in AutoCAD and its options, so yes, the Help system needs to be a good reference tool. I learned AutoCAD in a college-level course that lasted a whole semester, and we STILL didn’t cover the entire program – and that was Release 2.5. Today’s AutoCAD is exponentially more complex, and I still use it (or, rather, would like to) when exploring new commands, changes to existing ones, or just refreshing my memory.

            I completely agree on the need for high quality training. I had better – I currently work for a Value Added Reseller as an AEC Applications Technical Specialist, and constantly train users in AutoCAD (Windows and Mac), AutoCAD Architecture, AutoCAD MEP, all flavors of Revit, Navisworks, 3ds Max Design, SketchBook, Showcase, Ecotect, and probably some other stuff I’m forgetting. Prior to this I spent over 20 years working as a designer for AEC firms, where one of my primary responsibilities as CAD Manager was to teach all users how to best use AutoCAD.

            And as someone who has personally needed to come up to speed on all of the newer BIM-related applications rather quickly, I can tell you that YES, new users will often consult the Help as a book to read through, looking for comprehensive, detailed explanations of commands as well as related commands and processes (e.g., perusing the complete 3D surface modeling toolset), regardless of any prior training that have had. But they’ll use it only if it is a valuable reference, and it is organized in a fashion that can be open and read, not just searched.

            While it is frustrating, trial and error does rule the day for everyone, regardless of training, and it’s a pipe dream to assume everyone is going to get professionally trained. Probably 95% of my coworkers and current students have never had an official AutoCAD training course, and had AutoCAD thrown at them in college or on the job without formal training (which explains why most of them rather stunk at it).

            But even if you are a pro and know AutoCAD front to back, a search-only entry point to the Help system is a Bad Idea, as you have hopefully gathered from your current feedback. I still often use the VLISP Programming Guide in my work, and I’ve been programming in AutoLISP since the early ’90s. I would never get anything done if I had to explicitly search for everything in researching functions or syntax, even if Google’s best programmers created the Help system, because the act of searching sucks when trying to extract knowledge from a related series of topics. There is no context to work in; that’s why breadcrumb navigation in large help systems is so effective – you can figure out where you are and get back to a larger topic easily.

            Imagine if a doctor had to use a search-only online database, trying to look for cholesterol-inhibiting drugs, and having to type out something like “Hydroxymethylglutaryl-Coenzyme.” He wouldn’t – it is much better to navigate to a section on the larger topic of the subject at hand, and find it through context. That context is what the current search-only AutoCAD Help system lacks.

            Regardless, the search-only structure of the current Help system is only the gash in the hull of this Titanic disaster. The search functionality itself is so horribly broken as to be downright embarrassing. Type in LINE in the search box. The first hit is about Linetypes and Linetype Definitions (What is it with you guys and linetypes? It comes up in every search I do!). In fact you don’t get to the actual LINE command until you hit entry number 49.

            In other words, the actual documentation page for THE MOST COMMONLY USED COMMAND in all of AutoCAD is 49th in the search results! Whereas “Assigning a Linetype to an Object via .NET Programming” – a topic useful to 0.009% of the entire AutoCAD user base – is 25th! And it gets even better: Searching for “Line Command” NEVER displays the correct entry to the Line command reference!

            I mean, if Autodesk was a mom and pop operation with 2 programmers and an office cat for staff, yeah, we could have a few laughs here. But you’re a multi-billion dollar company, and this is your flagship application. The downward direction that our once VERY GOOD Help system has gone is simply bewildering.

            So, as a long time user, teacher, and customer, let me summarize: (1) The search-only structure is almost useless and a serious impediment to accessing information. (2) The search capability itself is a complete bag of disaster. Taken together, it’s an utter failure and must be scrapped and replaced immediately.

            Thanks again for your time.
            Matt

          • R. Paul Waddington

            Dieter, I like others appreciate you poking your head out here. However one of the biggest mistakes an “experienced’ person can make is assumptions about what other do based on “research”. The research you are relying on may well be very flawed as what we have done indicates something quite different and that is to be expected given the product and the enormous variation in it application and those who use it.

            In looking for information nothing substitutes for a well defined logical index and smart documenters know their application of their knowledge of a subject or place is not necessarily the basis for determining how others learn and find.

            About AutoCAD’s help I will simply say this, again as someone who has taught this product at all levels since 1984, and continues to do so in various institutions. Showing users how to use AutoCAD help ALWAYS featured as a major component of my teaching new users and to those adding to their knowledge; but that has changed.

            It is now a complete waste of time, and I mean it is time wasted. In the past having students track/check against my notes and their own work in conjunction with how and what was said in the help files was very productive; but no longer – it is just time wasted. Too difficult, time consuming with so much irrelevant data on offer as to be confusing in preference to educational.

            What MAT has said I agree with: time to reconsider applying the KISS principal thinking from a true educators’ perspective; index the data, what can be simpler and or more productive to use?

            “Finally, one of the things I’m not is a lawyer, so I’m not qualified to talk about EULAs. When I scan through them in various products, they all pretty much look the same to me.”

            It would be easy to be rude here: suffice to say, if you’re using software, scanning EULA is NOT an option. If you and “people” took the time to read (Autodesk’s) EULA properly Autodesk would not be producing products in the manner the presently do. You don’t need to be a lawyer to read EULA properly and a person should not have to spend more than a split second to access an index to sensibly constructed (help) documents.

  • Dieter Schlaepfer

    Hi Matt and Paul,

    Just to reiterate, I do appreciate your feedback and our being able to engage in a frank discussion. I’m not easily offended and I’m most definitely collecting everything people are telling us what we need to provide moving forward. Changes to the online Help system are currently in planning and upgrades will be on an ongoing basis. I don’t want to get into any specifics yet.

    Frankly, I hadn’t considered Help as a component to a training program. For now, have your students enter “line command” in the online search (with the quotes). Note that online search and offline search use different search engines. However, thinking about what you’re saying about Help and training gives me some interesting ideas that I will definitely pursue.

    Speaking of training, in a survey that I conducted 10 years ago, people who classified themselves as beginner, novice, and occasional users were the most happy with getting information from 3rd party books (91%) and colleagues (84%), but only about half were satisfied with the Help system at the time for their needs. Less than a quarter of them used the Contents tab, preferring to use the Index or Search instead. This was something that I remember frustrating me at the time.

    For modern training, I’m very interested in short (2-4 minute) demo videos as way of getting people up to speed in AutoCAD. Arguably, a person can be functional in 2D AutoCAD knowing only about 42 commands. After the basics, I could see adding feature modules providing more detailed information on topics such as tables and spreadsheets, parametric drawing, 3D solid modeling, and so on. The only person so far that doesn’t like this approach was my 19-year old son, who prefers a printed booklet over videos. This was a total surprise to me considering how online he is with everything else in his life. Hmmm.

    Finally, in regard to my EULA comment, I really didn’t mean to sound so flip about it. I *really* don’t want to get into this topic, but let me just say that several months ago, I looked into it in some detail, including attending a presentation on the subject by some of our legal staff, and reviewing the Terms and Conditions of several other major software and services companies. Here are my personal conclusions:

    * ALL of them are similar, and all of them sound like documents from a horror movie.
    * In our litigious society, lawsuits are commonplace, and companies want to protect themselves.
    * The terminology used is legalese with specific courtroom applications both in the U.S. and internationally.
    * Any company that takes abusive advantage of the terms is committing suicide.

    I’d encourage you to visit the websites of major cloud providers, blogs, discussion groups, and consultants, and read what they say about liability in the cloud, including their Terms and Conditions. I was amazed!

    And finally, do feel free to give me additional suggestions, scenarios, and requests for the Help system. I’ll be here.

    Dieter

    • Chris Wade

      Really, you never thought of help as a training program? Honestly, the help file has been the best training program out there. Most of the people that work here that did not know AutoCAD at all before starting relied 20% on me to get them up and going and the other 80% was on the old CHM help system. No one here has used an outside book and honestly, wouldn’t even consider it, as we don’t have time to waste on that.

      Entering “line command” is definitely not intuitive and should not be necessary.

      For a lot of people, written out steps are much better than a video tutorial, which is why I have gone to making both a video tutorial and a PDF tutorial with a program called Stepshot for our in house training. With this program you can also export to other formats besides PDFs, but I find it works the best for us. This gives the user a choice and it doesn’t take that much longer to prepare, as both can be recorded at the same time.

      Not all EULAs sound like documents from a horror movie, Google’s is easy to understand and straight forward. I know many people complain that it is controversial, but at least you know what you are getting into. As far as the EULA, the other cloud providers do not state in their TOS that they can INTENTIONALLY sell what you post to your competitors and that you cannot sue them for it. This is what AutoDesk’s TOS does say. Honestly, if you want to model a TOS after anyone, model it after Google. At bare minimum, change the line to read something like:

      You hereby grant Autodesk a perpetual, irrevocable, non-exclusive, royalty-free, paid-up, worldwide, sublicensable (through multiple tiers) license to store, display, reproduce, modify, use and transmit Your Content, and further waive “moral” rights or other rights with respect to attribution of authorship or integrity of Your Content that You may have under any applicable law and under any legal theory when such use is to allow for the improvement of the service and will not be disclosed to anyone outside AutoDesk and those providing it’s cloud services without your prior written consent.

      As you said, we live in a litigious society and in all reality, the way the TOS stands now, no one could sign up for cloud services, as they don’t have the legal rights to agree to your TOS. In all reality, rather AutoDesk takes advantage of this clause or not, the fact that it is there remains and is problematic at best. As a result, I have had to not include the cloud features in 2013 and since it is now so tightly integrated into the InfoCenter, I have had to disable it as well.

      The other line that must be resolved is that AutoDesk can change the TOS at anytime, without telling anyone. It should be that they can change it with at least 60 days notice.

      I understand that you don’t want this to turn into a discussion on the TOS; however, my point remains that this has been brought up before and is still not corrected, which makes me wonder if anyone at AutoDesk, aside from you, will listen.

      There are other issues that AutoDesk has not taken care, as “you weren’t given the resources” to do so, some of which were simple fixes, which is why I brought this up. I know that you will listen, but will anyone with decision making power at AutoDesk listen?

    • Dieter, I suspect you’ve been snowed. Legal people are very good at arguing that their position is correct; it’s their job. However, they’re not all correct. Indeed, courts prove 50% of them wrong every day. I’m sure they gave a very convincing presentation that made it sound like the Autodesk EULAs and T&Cs were perfectly OK and that Autodesk wouldn’t possibly ever abuse them. They’re not, and Autodesk does. They’re unconscionably anti-customer and Autodesk has taken abusive advantage of them for many years; the first instance I remember dates back to the R12 cycle.

      • Dieter Schlaepfer

        Hi Steve,

        Many years ago, I provided some basic technical training to our legal team, so I got to hear a lot of their war stories (a mix of the absolutely hilarious and the completely appalling). I even helped with an FBI investigation once.

        As you know, there are some really bad people out there. Autodesk usually finds out about them because if they are willing to steal software, they are also usually happy to cheat their employees, who then let us know. There are also people who patent existing (and anticipated) technologies, hoping to cash in without doing any work.

        Also many years ago, we contacted another software company who had a very friendly, very reasonable-sounding EULA, which appealed to many of us at Autodesk as a Good Thing. However, they warned us that they got slaughtered in court. Sigh.

        So, while I strongly dislike ferocious-sounding EULAs from any software company, considering in the world we’re in, I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that companies will try to give themselves every legal advantage.

        Yes, I think I remember what you’re referring to back in R12, however the current concern centers on liability for cloud services and operations. Do you think that the leading cloud services providers will fully reimburse their customers for the “true cost” of down-time, data loss, or a compromised server?

        On my own, I dug through the EULAs and Terms of several of the major providers and I also looked up postings regarding this issue on several websites, including those from consultants. In my opinion, the legal system has not yet caught up on cloud liability, so most companies are being very cautious.

        Dieter

        • R. Paul Waddington

          Dieter,
          Whether you think so or not you are a representing Autodesk: your views and comments cannot be dismissed as personal whilst dealing with matters, pertaining to your employment, in public.

          “Do you think that the leading cloud services providers will fully reimburse their customers for the “true cost” of down-time, data loss, or a compromised server?”

          Silly question Dieter: only “providers” can speak for themselves.

          The question of liability and recompense could well be the stumbling block for “CAD in the Cloud” providers. ALL customers, rightfully, can and should expect a supplier to make good their failings. You have demonstrated this to be true, personally and on Autodesk’s behalf, in your participation on this blog.

          I would disagree the “law needs to catch up”: what exists needs only to be applied equally to all parties and that is what Autodesk’s EULA works towards circumventing; that is a large part of that which Steve refers to as unconscionable.

          Dieter, is it reasonable for you, and or a software supplier, to expect me to accept and shoulder the financial losses incurred when delivered, pre-paid for faulty product? A Yes or No will suffice.

          • Dieter Schlaepfer

            Paul,

            With respect, I’d like to encourage you to do what I did about four months ago. Quiet honestly, I didn’t know very much about “the cloud” and I wanted to get familiar with the current environment of the major providers, customers, and consultants, so I did a lot of browsing on my own. I had my own questions about security, liability, terms and conditions, best practices, and so on. Also, I wanted to get some context where Autodesk’s cloud-oriented products and services would fit in, plus get familiar with the buzz in the market.

            While I still don’t consider myself an expert on the subject by any means, I was surprised at some of what I learned. This is how I arrived at my opinions on the subject.

            Dieter

            • Dieter, I think your questions are extremely common among people wanting to get a grip on this Cloud thing. While the questions are extremely common, corresponding answers are incredibly rare or completely absent. Proper answers, I mean; ones that actually address the concerns that people have.

            • R. Paul Waddington

              Dieter,
              Like they say, “out of the mouth of babes”. Truly, I would never have thought of that myself ;-) thank you Dieter!

              “about four months ago”!

              Not an expert I am sure and neither am I, along with many others, but you have an opinion that is of direct importance and relevance, and I am sure you can answer my previous question with a single word. If not…..

              Dieter, what your experience MUST have taught you by now is; those of us running businesses need to make LONG term business decisions about the tools we use in our companies. Long term Dieter means we must have tool suppliers who employ people who understand their decisions and MISTAKES are our burdens and costs for longer than they are theirs (yours). Avoiding answering specific questions, about “CAD in the Cloud”, adds to those costs and our uncertainty Autodesk and it staff are “business partners of worth/value”.

              Additionally, for many of us the MISTAKES we are receiving are in the form of PRE-PAID for product Dieter. We are NOT getting to choose this rubbish; it arrives, un-announced, “armed and ready to explode on opening”!

              Products touted as improving productivity DON’T: can’t you see that as being a fact Dieter? For many Autodesk customers, it would be better for them to sit on the Autodesk products they have; cancel and or allow their subscriptions to lapse. That course of action will have an immediate positive improvement on their productivity and profitability. If you don’t understand this to be true Dieter you are missing a vital point in understanding why asking for feedback is NOT a worthwhile “investment”.

              If you want us to “invest” in you and Autodesk Dieter? Answer my question in relation to who should shoulder the cost of financial loss due to faulty software/service (with a Yes or No) then we ALL will be able to see more clearly what our “investment” in “assisting” you/Autodesk may be worth!

              • Paul, Dieter’s not in a position to be able to answer that sort of question. It would be an excellent question to put to an official Autodesk Cloud proponent (Carl Bass, say) in a formal interview, but there’s no way a Help content person going to say either “Sure, Autodesk will take on all the Cloud risk, send in the bill when things go wrong” or “Cloud means that when we stuff up, that’s just bad luck for our customers”. Customers know that the former is how it should be and the latter is how it really is, but you’re not going to get confirmation of that from Dieter.

              • Dieter Schlaepfer

                Thanks, Steve. Spot on.

                As a technical writer, I do accept the responsibility to educate myself enough to point customers in the right direction by setting their expectations, suggesting reasonable uses, and noting limitations. For example, I tried to do this with my contributions to the Sheet Set Manager white papers a few years back.

                “Out of the mouth of babes.” Yes, I freely admit that I’m still a babe in the woods regarding the cloud, but I intend to keep learning.

                What I found particularly amazing was when major players and consultants in the cloud industry (I’m not talking about Autodesk right now) post messages about “shared” liability. Major consultants indicate that the courts’ interpretations concerning liability could have a profound effect on the cloud. At least one well-known vendor warns their customers not to upload any proprietary information (what are customers supposed to upload? Sales literature?).

                Process and human security issues are still the biggest risk factors. Did you read in the news in the last few days about military technology leaks from U.S. universities? I liked this quote:

                “‘I completely forgot the course’s access was restricted,’ Media Quality Control Supervisor Edward Bailey told university investigators, according to documents obtained from Georgia Tech through a public-records request.”

                Oh great.

                Should the risks stop anyone from using the cloud? Of course not. Now is the perfect opportunity to investigate how the cloud technologies and services can best fit in with, augment, and in some cases replace existing processes on a small scale and in a controlled environment. As the technologies and services mature, I think it’s important to have identified the risks and economies associated with the cloud or any new technology.

                Anything that I can do as a technical writer to accelerate the learning and experience process will have a significant effect on everyone. What does this have to do with Help? As everyone has abundantly pointed out to me, you have to be able to quickly find the topics that you’re looking for. However, I’d add that once you’re there, the content of the topics must have solid value and be completely dependable.

                Dieter

  • Dieter Schlaepfer

    Paul,

    I forgot to mention that I agree with you completely regarding getting reliable research and statistics. It’s notoriously difficult. For example, an online survey measures only those people who are online and who have the time and motivation to complete online surveys. As a result, one ultimately must validate the statistics by direct observation.

    You know what statistic drives me crazy? The most popular search in the Help system is for the LINE command. Why? There are several theories.

    1. The LINE command is *really* hard to use. (not likely)
    2. A lot of people accidentally hit F1 instead of Esc within the popular LINE command.
    3. A lot of people purposely press F1 for help without canceling the command in progress, usually the LINE command.
    4. People commonly test the search in Help with the LINE command.
    5. All of the above.
    6. ???

    Dieter

    • Chris Wade

      Number 6 is my reason:
      I test the line command, because I figure if you can’t get search to return proper results for something as simple as the line command, then it cannot return proper results for more complex searches or more complex commands.

      So until the line command returns something useful, it will continue to be my main search topic.

      • Dieter Schlaepfer

        Hi Chris,

        Ok, try entering LINE in the online Help search now. Still for most realistic searches, entering 2-3 words will give better results. If you run into other types of online search failures in Help, please let me know.

        Dieter

        • I opened HELP on AutoCAD 2013 (online version) just now, and typed in LINE COMMAND, and then clicked the magnifying glass.
          There are 6 results visible in the left pane. 5 of those are related to the “Command line”, and the 6th is the “New Features Overview”. The TOP result displays solid BLACK in the right pane with a message saying I need “Adobe Flash Player or an HTML5 supported browser”. In other words, even if the correct topic was accessible, I still couldn’t READ about it.

          Next, I enclosed “LINE COMMAND” in quotes and searched again. This time the TOP result is “Command Line Commands” for VAULT! Yes, it’s an article from the VAULT WikiHelp! That is beyond excuse.

          The second result is LWEIGHT
          The third is LINE.

          Shall we continue?

          • Dieter Schlaepfer

            R.K.,

            Could you please email me a screenshot? My email is dieters@. We recently upgraded some settings in online Search and the LINE command should now be at the top of the results when you enter the word line.

            Thanks,
            Dieter

    • Dieter, you don’t know the most popular search in the Help system. You can only possibly know the most popular search in the Help system among CIP-enabled users and online users, and extending that to all users is highly suspect. But taking a leap of faith and assuming that your statistic is correct, I suspect the answer is:

      4a. People commonly test the search with the LINE command, and when it doesn’t work well they don’t bother using it again.

      Each person doing this has a 100% record of using search only on the LINE command, and from 2011 onwards (particularly in 2013) I suspect that’s a very common scenario.

  • So, in my mind ACAD 2013 has been delivered without usable documentation of any kind.
    Is this a result of the feared dilution of the product due to 87 ACAD for Mac users?

    There are no PDF manuals.
    There is no New Features Workshop.
    There are no actual functional help files, other than the included and/or downloaded guessing game versions.

    Buddy of mine is a Smoke Driver. $200K USD for the hardware/software system.
    They got the same helpless system on the last update.
    The MAC Smoke software is only $15K, and like ACAD it only offers a limited subset of the full program’s commands/tools. A Demo if you will.

    How about Autodesk rapidly delivering the same level of help/documentation as was shipped with ACAD 2010?
    Then they can putter about with the hobby stuff until ACAD 2014 delivers. Then it’ll start all over again.

    This isn’t about training, or ease of delivery, or the new deal, or Microsoft’s shortcomings.
    It’s about the lack of usable documentation.

    It’s also about trusting a new release when the company can’t even get the help files right.

  • Dieter Schlaepfer

    Hi William,

    As I’ve mentioned previously, I’m serious about collecting feedback here, the more specific the better. So, I’d appreciate more information about the issues you brought up.

    o PDF manuals – how would you use these exactly?

    o New Features Workshop – have you looked at the AutoCAD 2013 new features videos on the Autodesk website? What are your impressions?

    o Functional Help – What changes to Help would make them functional in your day-to-day use? A couple of examples would really help.

    Let me reiterate. My purpose here is not to try to defend the current online Help, but to determine the highest priority changes, some of which are already in the planning stages. It’s also very helpful when you can give me specific cases where you’re trying to find something and can’t. These failures will often point to general weaknesses that we can address.

    Again, I appreciate your feedback, and I don’t take any of this personally.

    Thanks,
    Dieter

    • R. Paul Waddington

      Dieter, I repeat that which I raised with you directly – time is money!

      “I’m serious about collecting feedback here, the more specific the better. So, I’d appreciate more information about the issues you brought up.” you continue, “It’s also very helpful when you can give me specific cases where you’re trying to find something and can’t.”

      Dieter, if you’re really serious about getting feedback it is about time you and Autodesk considered paying for the privilege. As I have previously said, Autodesk’s developers and managements’ mistakes are costing users time and money. Tell me, and the others, why you believe it is appropriate to ask for professional advice and help, to develop your products, and fix problems and short comings “YOU” create. Said another way “your” problems are our costs. It’s about time a thirty (30) year old company – Autodesk – started acting professionally and treating its (particularly – long term) customers the same way!

      Your asking professionals to provide FREE professional information, help and advice on which to build personal careers, personal income and Autodesk’s profit – think about it!

      “but to determine the highest priority changes, some of which are already in the planning stages.”

      Here’s an idea Dieter: How about Autodesk publish, in detail, what your planning and working on and maybe we would comment on what you are wasting your time doing before we see it on our systems. Costing us money to find, money to work-around, and still more money documenting for Autodesk “specific cases” of Autodesk’s developers failures.

      • Dieter Schlaepfer

        Hi Paul,

        In my opinion, a lot of people provide feedback as an investment–as a way of adding their voice to the direction of the products they use. I contend that this is a Good Thing.

        Autodesk does involve a limited number of people very early in the development process, but it’s usually under NDA. An exception is Autodesk Labs. Have you looked at some of the technology previews there, including It’s Alive in the Lab?

        I agree that not everyone can afford the time, but sometimes it can be profoundly stimulating!

        You remind me of something. Several years ago, I invited a couple of friends of mine to come to Autodesk to see a demo of low-cost 3D printing, which was brand new at the time. One owns a contract electronics manufacturing company, the other is a part owner of a plastics fabrication company. They were completely and utterly blown away by what they saw! On the way out, they were talking with each other enthusiastically about how they could use this technology for their customers. Their time was extremely valuable to them. I did not pay them for their time, but the investment they made in coming out to see it was well worth it to them judging by their profuse thanks.

        A time investment in a technology preview is not the same as a time investment in providing feedback, but I think the principal is the same. That’s why I don’t see a problem with my requesting feedback.

        Dieter

        • R. Paul Waddington

          Dieter,
          Martin’s comments are exactly in-line with that which I have stated and are put far more politely than I…..

          We are NOT, Dieter, talking about “investing” when discussing the shortcoming of the current Help system. We are discussing the deliberate breaking of an existing system on which many of Autodesk’s customers relied on and used. If you and Autodesk believe differently PUBLISH your research, methods used and results so we who see differently, and speak out, can see just how different we are and why. Don’t vacillate, changes which incur cost penalties on customers MUST be justified; and, Autodesk and its employees are obligated to supply that justification. Customers are not required to do so, tho comments like Martins must be taken as the truth and, seriously. For no better reason than once Martin’s cost:value ratio reaches a certain point, he will make a business decisions which would instinctively mean reducing revenue to Autodesk ie: reduced or no more upgrades and or no more new product.

          I don’t know what you were doing or how old you were in 1983 > 1990, but I can assure you there were a number of us, who, at considerable personal expense, invested our time and money in helping Autodesk and, in that very early period, there existed an argument that it was worth out while; but that changed.

          Your reasoning, in this day and age, supported by an irrelevant example(s) and comparison, borders on naivety; all the more so because we are, not in this blog thread, talking about a new developing product; we are talking about a BROKEN mature product in need of immediate repair and repatriation.

          You, Autodesk management and development staff may need to consider the following and, I quote verbatim from (two) letters, received recently with software upgrades, by me (and others) from Autodesk within which the Help functions being discussed are a part;

          “Our goods come with guarantees that cannot be excluded under the Australian Consumer Law. You are entitled to a replacement or refund for a major failure and for compensation for any other reasonably foreseeable loss or damage. You are entitled to have the goods repaired or replaced if the goods fail to be of acceptable quality and the failure does not amount to a major failure.”

          Dieter AutoCAD’s and other Autodesk Help functions are MAJOR FAILURES. Autodesk’s statement clearly indicates we are ENTITLED to have it fixed, repaired, replaced and or a REFUND. Which option do you think we deserve or should take Dieter?

          Time for a reality check on just how serious Autodesk is about fixing HELP and I strongly suggest you no longer continue to consider or expect customers to incur additional costs (for which it is indicated they would be entitled to claim) even if you think, personally or otherwise, it is an “investment” of value we, as customers, should be prepared to accept!

        • ralphg

          It would be useful for us to submit feedback on documentation during the beta process, except for two problems:

          1) The beta forums for paying ADN customers were dead; we asked questions, Autodesk didn’t answer us.

          2) Documentation is usually being developed during beta as features get tweaked, and so I recognize that’s a tough job.

          Sure would like to get back that red star from many releases ago that alerted users to new features.

          I really like the idea of Autodesk paying for the advice it’s getting here.

          Alternative to Autodesk’s documentation: my line of ebooks, which include stuff not documented by Autodesk, because I take the time to dig into the program.

          • R. Paul Waddington

            Maybe, Ralph, Autodesk should divest itself of creating any form of Help documentation. Pass on the savings to users and, those saving plus what which we would save in time/lost revenue because of Autodesk could/may/would be spent on the likes of you; who appear to me far more efishant at the task ;-)

        • I agree with Dieter that his seeking feedback is A Good Thing. If you don’t think it’s worthwhile to do so, then don’t.

          I’d love to expand on the feedback that is provided during Beta and how much notice appears to be taken of it in terms of what ends up in the product, but that kind of discussion is not allowed in public.

          • R. Paul Waddington

            I accept your point Steve. I provide “free” advice and assistance to many and so do you I’ll bet. But there are commercial considerations in all of this discussion. Autodesk are “bludging” in disguise.
            In this day and age why should beta discussions not be a more open affair?
            We are all changing, working more dangerously transparently and in the open, at the behest of software companies, but they are still working in the “dark ages” using outdated methods and hiding their work; for what reason?

            • I would be perfectly happy for Autodesk to conduct its Beta in public. It works well for other companies, such as Microsoft. However, Autodesk chooses to keep these things under wraps, so Beta participants aren’t allowed to publicly discuss any problems and shortcomings it may have. I agree that it would be better for everyone if Autodesk were less secretive, but’s that’s the culture it has and we’re stuck with it.

    • Dieter,

      Thanks for throwing yourself to the wolves…

      > PDF manuals — how would you use these exactly?
      =======================

      At first I assumed your were joking.

      Back in the dark ages we received lovely hardbound, colorfully illustrated documentation.
      That downgraded (at R12) to a foot of assorted nicely printed paperbacks, which later became the purchasable “Documentation pack”, which finally became the included PDF versions of the printed materials — except for the developer’s AutoLISP and another PDF which were proudly boasted to as being available on the subscription website — except for the fact that they never appeared. A kindly Desker undertook the backroom search for me and returned with a sorry.

      Now we get no documentation. Nada. Not a clue. This for a complex program with a huge pile of commands and variables.
      $5 shareware does better. Without the need for apologies.

      How would I use the documentation? Same as I had since 1986. I like to read and learn. At my leisure. Offline.

      > New Features Workshop — have you looked at the AutoCAD 2013 new features videos on the Autodesk website?
      > What are your impressions?
      =======================

      No, I haven’t. No, I won’t. No, I shouldn’t need to. Any related materials should have been installed with the software.

      Mine, as well as many other workstations in a professional environment don’t have an internet connection for a variety of reasons.

      There is no online help, no cloud crap, no “tell us more”, no “we just updated your system and deleted last weeks customization, and all of your backups”.

      But, on the “New Features” subject:

      Zero new, and eighty-six old features were found searching for “New Features” in the downloaded 2013 “help” system.

      Three new features out of fifty were found in the 2013 online version.

      One of those found was the “New Commands and System Variables Reference” page which isn’t linked to any of the respective new items. Not really helpful.

      > Functional Help — What changes to Help would make them functional in your day-to-day use?
      > A couple of examples would really help.
      =======================

      How do I show examples of what’s not there?

      I previously mentioned that the help/documentation shipped with ACAD 2010 (and verticals) was the last known complete system found in the wild. Why don’t you have the team compare what was deemed normal to what’s missing now. That would be the simplest and fastest way to see the massive failure of the 2013 documentation package.

      > Let me reiterate. My purpose here is not to try to defend the current online Help, but to determine the highest priority changes, some of which are already in the planning stages. It’s also very helpful when you can give me specific cases where you’re trying to find something and can’t…These failures will often point to general weaknesses that we can address.

      This isn’t a matter of fixing weaknesses. This is a start over and do it right adventure. Somebody made a big mistake, and somebody else signed off on it. Got names? -Bill

      • Dieter Schlaepfer

        Hi Bill,

        Yeah, the reason that I’m “throwing myself to the wolves” is that I’m truly concerned about the changes to Help–that we’re trying to surf a tidal wave of change toward online connectivity. We know that we want to make significant improvements to Help, that online interactivity will only increase, and that we’re all challenged by the changes.

        For a historical perspective on my collecting feedback on printed materials, do a Google search using

        autocad “jackie paper”

        and click on the link to Documentation feedback request – Autodesk Discussion Groups.

        I appreciate your feedback and I noted your observations regarding offline access to new features videos, deficits regarding new feature descriptions, and lists of commands and system variables.

        Dieter

        • > …make significant improvements to Help, that online interactivity will only increase, and that we’re all challenged by the changes.

          And this 2013 debacle is an improvement? Personally, “online interactivity” will remain at whatever level I decide to adopt. Forcing users to adapt to someones questionable vision of online desires will cause significant changes. Loss of customers, loss of income, competitors sudden windfall of new seat sales. Is this part of the Autodesk vision?

          > Google search using autocad “jackie paper”

          Returned Zero pages. So did Bing. Aside from one poorly partially answered post, I no longer bother with the discussion groups since the questionable abandonment of NNTP feeds in the name of improvement. Too slow, too constricted, too disjointed. Useless, like the new help. I had no problem walking away from volunteering on CIS:ACAD followed by news:discussion.autodesk.com after twenty years. Bill don’t twit.

          The vision so far:

          Mechanical Desktop R.I.P. after 13 years (plus three years of Designer and AutoSurf). I dropped Inventor after ten years (from June 1999) of waiting for it to become productive. Creating complex vanilla ACAD solids were consistently five times faster.

          ACAD 2009 showed up with the dreaded ribbon that took three times the click count to do most jobs. The ribbon turned off (and killed my MS Office upgrade path). The new and improved GUI (FUI) that couldn’t be turned off. The nasty continuation of the slow CUI and it’s resulting bloated XML files. Thankfully MNU files were still supported and I continue to use ‘em.

          2010 added parametric’s that don’t work in 3D, can’t be placed on a user defined layer, and don’t print. I don’t remember anything else.

          2011 never got loaded here.

          2012 got loaded only ’cause I couldn’t find my 2008 CD after a laptop hard disk died. Owen Wengerd’s QuikPic made it partially acceptable. Viewbase and it’s related functions made Inventor’s output redundant.

          2013 has no documentation. I can’t trust the program to be viable. It will be skipped.

          2014 will be examined. If it’s stuck at the same level as 2013, I’ll be reloading ACAD or ACADM 2008, Catia V6, and look into Solidworks. Shaan Hurley mentioned ACAD KeyGens a while ago. I’ll go find one for 2008 and never need to go online at all.

          My vision requires productivity.

          • Dieter Schlaepfer

            Bill,

            Hmmm. I wonder why your search didn’t come up with anything. Here’s the link that turned up in my (identical) search:
            http://forums.autodesk.com/t5/AutoCAD-2000-2000i-2002-Archive/Documentation-feedback-request/td-p/233967

            Incidentally, a personal friend of mine is the CTO at a startup company that’s developing a significantly more efficient internal combustion engine. (An independent design analysis was recently completed at a university and based on their favorable report, the company is now building the first prototype.)

            Because he was complaining to me about the expensive CAD system that was using, I suggested that he evaluate several alternatives from different vendors, one of which was Autodesk Inventor Pro. I respect him and want to keep his as my friend, so I put absolutely no pressure on him, and I told him to pick the product that would meet his needs best. Well, after his evaluation, he did end up picking the latest Inventor Pro, and he tells me that he really likes the product.

            If you’re doing mechanical design work that involves assemblies, kinematics, and analysis, you might want to reconsider–it’s working for my friend and he’s a very smart guy!

            Dieter

            • Google found Dieter’s thread for me (2nd item, after this blog post). The feedback there seems pretty feeble compared with what I see here!

              • Dieter Schlaepfer

                Exactly, Steve.

                At that time, I was looking for feedback regarding the printed manuals and guides that we were providing. I was surprised at how few responses that I received in the AutoCAD discussion group, so I followed up with a large, random email survey in which I received about 1,300 responses. In that survey, about 60% said that they used the printed documentation rarely or never, and that Help was significantly more popular.

                Dieter

            • > I wonder why your search didn’t come up with anything…

              Well, it was in a twelve year old archived area. It also doesn’t address the current zero documentation vision (in my quick scan).

              Incidentally, a personal friend of mine is the CTO at a startup company

              Might that be Doc Mueller?

              > If you’re doing mechanical design work that involves assemblies, kinematics, and analysis…

              Constantly. Inventor’s assemblies and AVI output were great. To save many days of work I’d build my assemblies in a single ACAD or the late lamented MDT file and import it into Inventor. Even with file renaming, setting materials & textures, and making a new assembly file with the ton of freshly converted/derived IPT files – huge amounts of time were saved vs. slugging along building individual IPT parts with their silly repetitious requirements. I miss SDRC’s analysis tools. -Bill

              I’ve met a CEO who likes to dress like a schoolgirl, and pays a large woman to spank him. If you’re seeking product endorsements perhaps he could contact you directly…

  • Martin Shoemaker

    Dieter,

    I think the problem for me in spending much time on suggestions for Autodesk is the appearance is that Autodesk doesn’t take the suggestions seriously. How many have asked that priority be given to fixing existing bugs? It doesn’t seem to happen. How many have complained about the amount of time it takes to migrate each year because Autodesk has changed the way existing commands in ways that break the customer’s customizations? When a person’s suggestions appear to be ignored, or worse yet are met with comments from Autodek employees that something would be too much work to make it worth doing, it is hard to get motivated to provide more suggestions.

    My priority has to be my company’s bottom line. To the extent possible my tools are the ones that work well and the vendors I buy from are the ones that are available and responsive. AutoCad no longer works all that well, and Autodesk is not all that responsive — the common answer seems to be, “maybe in next year’s release…”. The direction Autodesk is pushing (primarily 3D, BIM, and cloud) are not a direction that is appropriate for my end of the industry (electrical design for tenant improvements and for new buildings up to about 30,000 s.f.). I’m enthusiastic about tools that either bring high value to me or that make my job easier. At one time I considered the cost:value ratio for AutoCad to be excellent. Not so much now.

  • Dieter Schlaepfer

    Hi Martin,

    It’s always great to converse with another long-time AutoCAD user and contributor to numerous discussions!

    First, I do want to reiterate that I’m providing only my personal opinions, and these are not official Autodesk statements or press releases. Also, I’m not Carl Bass masquerading as “Dieter Schlaepfer” (wouldn’t that be disturbing!), so my influence is limited, but I am collecting and forwarding problem areas and wishlist requests for Help. Having said that, let me give you my view on the issues that you’re pointing out.

    The people responsible for design and product decisions for AutoCAD are inundated with requests for priority defect fixes, enhancements to existing features, new features, new technologies, and company initiatives. These all have to be weighted and prioritized. From outside the company, the outcome can *easily* be perceived as unresponsiveness. Frankly, I’m guilty of the same when I imagine Microsoft, HP, or Dell as giant, humming monoliths with an impersonal, malevolent mass consciousness. Okay, maybe I have an active imagination . . .

    Migration involves more than changes to customization. If new or changed features impact existing processes and workflows, even in the best of scenarios, the result is initially disruptive. Managing change is very challenging, especially since projects in progress cannot magically stop.

    Indeed, some of the new technologies and directions might not provide measurable benefit to you, especially in the short run. Other technologies might not.

    For example, in the early 1980s, I provided CAD training to the Trane corporation. I worked for GE Calma at the time. A significant benefit to Trane involved precut cabling for HVAC installation. Before CAD, they always cut the cables longer than necessary. Using CAD, they were able to determine the cable routing, including bend radiuses, in 3D through a building before installation, and were able to cut their cables to exact length. The engineers there told me that they saved an amazing number of barrels of scrap per year, not to mention the cost. However, existing buildings are not always built to plan , or maybe there were modifications that were not well documented. Here’s where the new point cloud/reality capture comes in, especially in plant applications where things really get complex (another customer at the time was Alfa Laval in Sweden where I got to tour a large plant with huge milk separators and a maze of piping and valves to crawl over or under).

    You’re probably already familiar with all this, or maybe your business is not involved with installation, but my point is that we’re all constantly looking for ways that might improve our productivity. Some technologies are irrelevant or don’t provide enough “bang for *our* buck” while others can be integrated in. In any case, we continue investing time and energy that could otherwise be invested elsewhere.

    Currently, I’m looking for specific ways to improve the 2013 Help system, which Autodesk recognizes is in its initial phase. I’ve already documented and communicated a lot of requests, both from here and many more from our Beta program. Several of these enhancements are in progress now.

    Thanks again for chiming in,

    Dieter

    • Here are two examples that used to be part of the HELP system in some form

      1. On a command page for example, at the bottom, there should be a HYPERLINKED list of related commands, system variables, etc. I stress “Hyperlinked” because there are many, many, many places throughout the current HELP where there are no hyperlinks. For example, go to the help page titled “About Correcting Mistakes” and there are multiple references to the UNDO, REDO, and OOPS but they are not linked. (Yes, I know there is a link at the bottom of the page for “Commands for Removing Objects and Correcting Mistakes”, but why do I have to go to another page?)

      2. In many dialogs (take the DRAWING UNITS dialog for example), you used to be able to click a “?” button and then click a control (such as a toggle, radio button, etc) and it would give you direct information about that control without opening a window, etc. One of more useful parts of this was a reference to the system variable (if applicable) that was directly tied to the control you were querying. I realize there are tooltips today which are OK, but not all of them include the sysvar references like they used to.

      • Dieter Schlaepfer

        Hi R.K.,

        Thanks for the examples. To answer your questions directly . . .

        1. We’ve gotten away from embedded hyperlinks to displaying all relevant links at the bottom of the page. This creates a more compact page, fewer broken links, faster reading, and the ability to link to and search on *groups* of related commands and system variables. While you probably don’t agree with the rationale, those are the primary reasons that we made the changes. If you imagine rotating the prior Help system 90 degrees counter-clockwise. The three tabs now are three sets of links to the familiar Concepts, Procedures (now called Tasks), and Reference.

        2. What you’re describing was called “What’s this?” Help, which was introduced and later discontinued by Microsoft. In face-to-face usability testing (which I observed on many occasions), most users did not know what the ? was for. The roll-over tooltips are much more simple and direct (and yes, they do sometimes get in the way when they’re too long).

        Dieter

        • (1) The first letter in HTML is for Hyperlink. There really is no excuse, especially if you control the source documents “in the cloud” to not include hyperlinks. Excluding them may make the files a few bytes smaller, but how is it faster reading? Broken links shouldn’t be an issue unless you have an army of humans managing this. Lastly, the links to the commands and sysvars are not at the bottom of the page, you have to click to an intermediate page first.

          (B) I understand about it being discontinued by MS, but the main point was that the tooltips are incomplete in a lot of cases. I don’t even mind the “extra” info being on the extended tooltips either. The display of those can be managed on a per-user basis already.

          • R.K. McMisinformed

            ‘hyperlink’ is not part of HTML.
            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/HTML

            This Dieter person seems to be engaging the rest of you honestly and openly. It’s sad that most of you folks are only interested in sniping and bashing his company.

            • Pardon my typographical error. HyperTEXT is the “H” in HTML.
              …and the definition of HyperTEXT = “Hypertext is text displayed on a computer or other electronic device with references (hyperlinks) to other text that the reader can immediately access”

              So, it’s the SAME POINT. MR (or MS) Anonymous.

              I don’t think anyone here is BASHING Autodesk. We all want a working HELP system, and most of the opinions here are in line with each other. Are you saying we are ALL wrong?

  • Martin Shoemaker

    Dieter,

    Thanks for the reply.

    A real world example on help: I was working on a lisp routine today that works with OSMODE and that has a number of boolean operations. Since OSMODE is bit coded it would be far easier to work with hexadecimal numbers than with decimal numbers. I could not remember whether lisp in Autocad supported hexadecimal numbers. The computer I was using has 2012 loaded, not 2013, but I still had no luck in finding anything meaningful. [FWIW, Google was no help, either.]

    I’m going by memory here, but help back around 2004 was really “helpful” for me. The feature that I recall was ‘related commands’. If I looked up ‘atoi’ there were links to ‘atof’, ‘itoa’, and ‘rtos’. If I knew something similar to what I was looking for I could generally find what I needed. All the extra links seem to have disappeared, so now if I don’t know the exact search term I’ll either find nothing or I’ll waste a lot of time trying to find the magic phrase to search on. My experience tells me that the search terms an expert selects are very different from what a typical user would select.

    In my opinion the help that comes with a program should be so complete and so easy to use that it is the first place I go to try to answer questions. At this point my first attempts tend to be at theswamp, or cadtutor, or afralisp because I find better information and I find it faster. The Autodesk forums come next, but they are far from user friendly, they have formatting problems, and they’re slow. Internal help is almost a last resort, and online help comes somewhere after that. Even if the online help was complete and easy to use it is too slow to be practical, and its worthless if the internet is down. Time I spend waiting for pages to load is wasted/lost time. If I was an hourly employee at a multi-national company I might not care, but I’m a PE in private practice and if I don’t get work out the door I don’t get paid.

    As for the videos that are available: they’re not bad, but I’m only going to watch them once if I watch them at all. They are not an appropriate tool if I’m looking for syntax.

    • Dieter Schlaepfer

      Hi Martin,

      Thanks for the real-world example. As you’re correctly pointing out, the links are the key. In your example, I noticed that the atoi topic only had a link to the itoa topic. We should have included a link to the Conversion Functions Reference for its descriptions and links to the other conversion functions that you mentioned.

      Unfortunately, this is not the only case where the related links need to be revised. I’m working on fixing a lot of these right now, a process that requires a strong familiarity with the ins and outs of AutoCAD. The ultimate result will be an intelligent web of highly relevant related links. I have been having too many “what the heck?” moments lately. Grrr.

      Your points about getting information fast is exactly where we want to (and absolutely have to) be. Help cannot rely on “guessing magic phrases” but rather should deliver relevant information “just like magic.” That’s also our goal and we’re looking at ways to make it happen.

      Also, we want to see the topics in Help move toward being more concise, clear, and accurate. Just like the videos you mentioned, you don’t have time to read long introductory descriptions when you’re searching for one bit of information.

      With online Help, our ability to upgrade the search engine, tune the results, and update corrected content between releases is very attractive, but we’re also aware of the situation where online access is slow or not available.

      Yes, I agree that people will view the video demos only once or twice, and only to get the basic idea of how something should work.

      These are all good comments and I appreciate your taking the time to post them. Feel free to post any other comments and suggestions as they occur to you.

      Dieter

  • Simon Jessel

    Hi Dieter,

    Not quite brave enough to get 2013 Architecture out of the box yet. The comments above certainly discourage me. I started on R13 in 1995 and am almost entirely self-taught, and largely through the accompanying books: R13 shipped with 4 substantial books, including a complete command reference, with about a page to each entry as I remember, including illustrations and “see also’s”. You could leave the book open at the page on the desk while you struggled to follow its advice on the screen. Seems obvious really. No, I don’t bother with the PDF’s but if they came printed and bound with the software then you’d be talking.

    The F1 help worked similarly to the books and was pretty good. The online help idea is certainly flawed, and illustrates one of my main grumbles, which is that new “improvements” should be added rather than exchanged. They can be added as defaults (like the copy multiple command) to encourage us to try them, but why scrap what some may rely on? Look at the screen menu which Autocad has tried to bury for years, when actually it was (and still can be) all that the ribbon is but miles quicker. If I had the time and the customising experience I would transfer all the new commands I like from the ribbon to my updated screen menu, when really Autodesk should do this… Does Autodesk have a Legacy department who fight to keep old stuff alive, and working properly. They need at least as many resources as the new icon drawers and more clout!

    Anyway, back to HELP. The pages I hate in the recent versions have tables which say ‘If you want to…’ and then a series of wants and methods. No illustrations to explain what any of these ‘wants’ mean, or how to do them. Look at Overriding Curtain Wall Unit Frames and Mullions, or Changing the Properties of Slabs or Roof Slabs for example. And how easy was it for you to find those pages anyway? Here in the UK we quiet often see direction signs saying Town Centre: probably if you know which town it’s talking about you already know the way to the centre: a good help file shows you why you might want to do this task, and then how to do it.

    AND AND AND, unlike any other windows application it (Autodesk Exchange in 2012) doesn’t minimise when you click back into the drawing. WHY? Was the lack of a Next button a clue that the new version would be less book like? Yes, we like training (honestly James, if you’re reading this!) but small independent practitioners can’t afford much of it AND the software: we also have unexpected downtimes when we can teach ourselves, and sudden needs to know in out-of-hours busy patches when we have to rely on our own resources.

    You asked.

    And thanks for that!

    Simon

    • Dieter Schlaepfer

      Hi Simon,

      My first release was AutoCAD R9 and I still have an R12 User’s Guide on my desk. As I mentioned in my April 16th reply here, my 19-year old son would agree with you completely regarding having a printed “guide on the side.” It’s also well known that people read about 25% faster from printed material than displayed material. Incidentally, I once calculated that if the AutoCAD documentation was printed, it would take up about three feet of shelf space, which is about 2/3 of a pulp tree. So by not printing on paper, we save at least 50 acres of forest each year, not to mention landfill and other wasted resources.

      For the reasons that you gave, many people use 3rd party books on AutoCAD to guide them through their learning experience. Others are happier with video training, which is available from several vendors. I’ve seen some excellent AutoCAD training videos, which can be a very efficient way to learn. However a great learning tool is not a good reference tool. As I’ve also mentioned before, the Help content is being focused on doing a better job at being an efficient reference. We also want to add a lot more easy-to-understand illustrations.

      Please don’t remind me of the City of London signage. I once got completely lost there for several hours. Oh, the streets have names of course, but I didn’t want to stop my “hired” car to polish the small brass plaques embedded in some of the ancient corner buildings. Then my car broke down in an intersection during the height of rush hour, an experience in which I learned many colorful new English expressions! Yes, I understand what you’re saying about Help.

      I did ask. And I appreciate your feedback.

      Thanks,
      Dieter

  • terry priest

    dieter

    ask me a question what i think about “help” and i will return you a list of topics one of which may answer your question.

    • Dieter Schlaepfer

      Terry,

      Haha, very clever!

      Ok, I’ll take you up on it. When you need information from Help, what information are you typically trying to find? Yes, I expect a list with several puzzling and irrelevant entries. ;-)

      Dieter

      • Martin Shoemaker

        My response would be, “What I’m looking for, not a bunch of junk.” An example with Google from this morning: I needed to include a NEMA L5-20R receptacle in a detail. Rather than taking a couple of minutes to find a dimensioned detail in a catalog and drawing my own I decided to try to find a drawing online. The search string was >> “L5-20R dwg <> -pdf << did not eliminate links to pdf files, even in "verbatim" mode. Google has taken a tremendously useful tool an made it close to worthless because they now return what they think will be useful to you (or more likely what they think will maximize their ad revenue) rather than what the user asked for.

        Personally, I'll take a printed manual any day. I can take it anywhere and can read it any time. After I've used the reference a few times I can generally find what I'm looking for in a few seconds by thumbing through the book. That doesn't happen with an ebook or with online help.

        • Martin, I find that kind of thing happening increasingly. Developers stuff things up by having their code trying to second-guess what people want. I call it “trying to be clever and failing”. It can be massively frustrating and extremely unproductive.

  • terry priest

    dieter

    i was just feeling mischievous, not particularly helpful. like others, i appreciate a narrative. i have rel 12 lisp manual still in bookshelf. i used to search the installation directory for PDFs and pull those out where i could see them easily. i liked the chm reference. i havent loaded 2013 yet. the table of contents and index format, the alphabetical list, all these are readily and easily accessed. from rel 9 to 12 i read the hardcover manual front to back. i answer questions for people who dont know how to use help. but in the last few years, its been simpler and quicker to use google to search for autocad help. i am not trying to make your point, i think autocad help used to be easier to use.

    • Dieter Schlaepfer

      Hi Terry,

      Mischievous is also okay with me.

      There are a significant number of people like you who prefer narratives. I already mentioned my youngest son. Also, my neighbor is an architect. When I first joined Autodesk 24 years ago, he had just bought AutoCAD and astounded me by reading the entire documentation set, cover to cover. He did come over a bunch of times to ask me questions. Lucky guy. ;-) Then he proceeded to customize AutoCAD beyond all recognition. I was really impressed with what he did.

      I get your point, Terry.

      Thanks,
      Dieter

      • terry priest

        actually on further thought, i use google to solve vexing autocad problems, looking for someobdy somewhere who has had the same problem. like when content center did not install properly from a deployment (“not intended to install on local desktop from a deployment”) or when getting error 9350, or a jittery mouse cursor, but when i want to start using a new feature, like importing bills from excel into autocad tables, i read everything i can find from help, and if i can print it out and read it on the john, or wherever, so much the better. but the documentation that comes with the product should be able to get me started and give me a thorough overview and understanding of the full capability of tables, data links, etc.

        so i would say google search is more problem solving and help is what i used to run while on the phone and the person on the other end could have answered their own question, but they were the 60% who never used help or printed documents.

  • terry priest

    autocad is still to this day basically a collection of alphabetic commands, line, copy, and variables, plinetype, filedia. to not have an alphabetic list, an encyclopedic reference, in addition to any search front end, if that is what you are doing, is bound to limit the ability of users to teach themselves how this program works.

  • S Lafleur

    I don’t know about v.2013, but in v.2012, for grins I typed erase in the Help search.
    #1 on the list:
    “Planning the Overall Reactor Process
    You need to define several new functions in this lesson. Rather than present you with details on all aspects of the new code, this lesson presents an overview and points out the concepts behind the code. At the end of the lesson, you will have all the source code necessary to create a garden path application identical to the sample program you ran in Lesson 1….”
    #2:
    “Adding Activity to the Object Reactor Callback Functions
    In Lesson 6, you registered two callback functions with object reactor events. The gp:outline-erased function was associated with the:vlr-erased reactor event, and gp:outline-changed was associated with the :vlr-modified event. You need to make these functions do what they are intended to do….”

    What either of the above have to do with anything I’m remotely interested in if I type “erase” I can’t imagine.

    #3 was actually the erase command.

    In Google, I typed Autocad erase (no quotation marks) and guess what? The first thing that came up was about the erase command. Everything else on the whole first page was either dealing with the erase command or otherwise related to removing objects from a drawing. One would think that by searching WITHIN AUTOCAD the result would be at least as good as searching Google. Then, to be sure I was comparing apples to apples, in the AutoCAD help I typed autocad erase. (again, with no quotation marks – apples to apples). The Erase command dropped out of sight entirely, or so far down that I gave up scrolling.
    Seriously?
    The old-fashioned AutoCAD help was much more helpful. Sometimes newer does not equal better.

    • Dieter Schlaepfer

      When I enter erase in AutoCAD 2013 online Help, it now returns the ERASE command as the first result. For offline Help, ERASE is now #4, so if you’re working offline, I’d instead recommend rolling over a command button or entering the command in the command line and then pressing F1. In general, for both online and offline search you get better results when you enter several words.

      We appreciate your feedback and we’re are now working on a bunch of improvements.

      Dieter

      • > you get better results when you enter several words

        Thing is, you didn’t need to do this with the CHM search. You often didn’t need to enter a whole word at all. If that’s what this search engine expects, it’s the wrong search engine for the job. It’s unproductive to have to do that extra typing when a better engine wouldn’t require it. Besides, I find the results are still very poor even when entering multiple words. People aren’t likely to be patient enough to try out the various possible combinations of words that might result in a reasonable outcome; they will give it one or two tries with a word or two, be presented with a huge mass of irrelevant results and give up on the whole thing as a bad joke.

  • Here’s another search failure. I’m looking for the list of modified commands in 2013. If I enter “modified commands” in the search box I get a big list with the appropriate item a couple of pages down in 56th place. Using “and” bumps it up to 29th spot. Using “phrase” returns a shorter list that doesn’t contain the link at all.

    If I search on “updated commands” instead it comes in at 2nd, 1st and 1st respectively, but this is a case of a user having to know the magic words to get what they are after. This is likely to happen from time to time even with a brilliant search mechanism, and I don’t think anyone would be tempted to describe the 2013 Help search in that way. That’s one of several reasons that relying on Search as the sole Help navigation method was a desperately bad idea from the start.

  • Another issue I have with the documentation set as shipped is the difficulty a user has in finding and reading a useful Readme. The Readme should be really easy to get to. There should be a raw file easily located on the CD, a link from the install routine, the Welcome screen (ugh), links in both Help pull-downs, and from the top page of the Help mechanism itself. Only the last one exists.

    A user without the Home page visible in Help might be tempted to enter “readme” in the search box, then pick the link to the Help page, then pick the link within that page. Unfortunately, even in the offline Help, that link is hardwired to attempt to get to an external page using Autodesk’s proxy-ignorant mechanism, and it fails completely in my work environment.

    Fortunately, the link from the home page is not similarly afflicted. It fires up a browser that takes me here:

    http://docs.autodesk.com/ACD/2013/ENU/Readme/readme.html

    Unfortunately, that page is a complete joke as far as a readme is concerned. It contains nothing useful about the product itself, and only three short paragraphs about Help and video content. Or am I missing something?

  • Dieter Schlaepfer

    Thanks, Steve. Yes, we’re looking at accessibility of key topics including the issues you’re pointing out.

    Regarding the Readme, how do you feel about accessing the most *current* list of issues with the advanced search in the Knowledge Base?

    Dieter

    • How do I feel about it? Unenthusiastic. I don’t want to go searching around the place for the Readme, particularly if I have to rely on a search from Autodesk. A product should be shipped in a state of reasonable completion, and that includes providing a proper Readme that is readily accessible without needing an Internet connection.

  • Dieter Schlaepfer

    Steve,

    Wow, I get to post the 100th comment! I’ll use it to thank you again for giving me the opportunity to share my perspectives. As I’ve emphasized previously, I really appreciate all the feedback, issues, priorities, and requests that I received from everyone here! I’ve made careful note of what’s been said, and this will result in changes to Help. We’ve already made some improvements to online searching, and other changes are in the works, some of which we will be able to slipstream into online Help. I’ve also noted your points regarding the Readme.

    It’s been great communicating with you again, Steve. I’ll be hanging around.

    All the best,

    Dieter

  • Simon Jessel

    Hi Dieter,
    I’m using 2013 now and notice that the mouse wheel zoom works differently from the way it did in 2012. Previously the zoom change was a percentage difference, so if you went out by one wheel click set at 25% and then in by one click you ended up further out than you started. The equivalent of doing zoom 75x, then 125x which would equate to 93.75x. This was a useful way of slightly changing the zoom factor of your view. Now if you wheel out then in, you are in the same place as you started. Of course SOME may prefer this and see it an improvement. I see no mention of it in the New Features. The Help descriptions seem to be identical in both versions so they don’t help me find a way of changing it back to the way it was. If one can.
    One more thing if you don’t mind: the help screen shows the results of your search on the left with a scroll bar between it and the right hand window. Normally if you click in the white area beneath a scroll bar slider the window moves down by one “page” and the slider moves down accordingly. Like this page does in fact. However in the help programme when you click here it goes to the last entry of all. This isn’t right surely.
    Best, Simon

    • Dieter Schlaepfer

      Hi Simon,

      Yes, zooming with the wheel mouse now does not change the display magnification when you zoom in or out a certain number of clicks and then zoom the other direction the same number of clicks. I’m pretty sure that the previous behavior was fixed as a defect based on customer feedback.

      The scroll bar in the in the left pane of the Help search results scrolls to *where* you click within the scroll bar rather than one page up or down. Thus, you can scroll to the bottom of the list by clicking the scroll bar near the bottom. You can also click and drag to scroll. Try it with a long list of results. Is this a problem?

      Dieter

      • Nice to see you haven’t given up on us, Dieter!

        I’m used to using the quick in-out wheel movement to perform slight zoom changes, and although I found it odd when it was introduced many years ago, I’m going to miss it now. I can’t remember seeing any requests to have it changed, or any requests for feedback about whether it should be changed. As with all changes of this nature, it needs an off switch, and somebody forgot to provide it.

        LOL @ “Is this a problem?” Yes, it’s a problem when somebody creates a UI element that looks like millions of others, but which acts different to all of those other millions. File under “Trying to be clever and failing”, or maybe “Standards? What standards?” In any case, it doesn’t act as you say for me. It moves one line at a time. I’m astonished that anybody could possibly think this was a good idea, or that when they did, that the offending person’s colleagues didn’t slap them about the face with wet noodles and give them a well-deserved wedgie.

        How’s the CHM coming along?

        • Dieter Schlaepfer

          Thanks, and ditto on the zoom changes. I also got used to using it as a “sub-click” zoom out, but I’m pretty sure that a lot of customers complained. I can see why someone would want it to return to the previous zoom scale.

          Really? You want another system variable? How’s this?

          ————–

          ZOOMOUTFACTOR
          Type: Real
          Saved in: Registry
          Initial value: 1.000

          Controls how much zooming out with the mouse wheel deviates from the ZOOMFACTOR system variable.

          Values between 0 and 1 result in zooming out by a factor less than ZOOMFACTOR. Values greater than 1 result in zooming out by a factor more than ZOOMFACTOR. Entering 0 results in preventing the mouse wheel from zooming out, which is useful for pranking someone.

          NOTE: Values close to 0 or close to 65536 are likely to produce unsatisfactory results.

          ————-

          I’m also in favor of standard Windows behaviors, and I don’t know how the list scrolling behavior originated, or whether it’s browser dependent or something. Frankly, I really don’t like scroll bars preferring instead to scroll with my mouse wheel. Of course, this produces some interesting results when I try to use it in Windows folder navigation . . . :P

          Regarding an offline CHM re-implementation, I’ll tell you quite honestly that all of our resources are currently engaged in a project to improve online Help behavior and content quality. I have added the idea to our customer feedback list for Help, but it’s not likely to happen.

          Just being honest.

          Dieter

          • R. Paul Waddington

            And that reply, Dear friends (customers), “honest” Dieter may trying to be but now you know just how tightly Autodesk is wanting to keep you tied to it digitally for its own ends!

            Furthermore as part of that control: Two days ago we started AutoCAD 2013 as a trial to answer a few questions for a customer. When the software started – as a first step – we checked CIP to ensure it was OFF. What we found was CIP was already active, with the Privacy box ticked as being read, and NO, NO, NO way to turn CIP OFF.

            We killed AutoCAD immediately and then checked for data collection and guess what:
            That’s it folks, on start-up Autodesk had already collected data on a customer’s business machine before we even got the chance to prevent it; NO WARNING ABOUT WHAT AUTODESK WAS ABOUT TO USE AUTOCAD/CIP TO DO – THAT IS TO RIP DATA OFF A CUSTOMER’S BUSINESS MACHINE WITHOUT OUR KNOWLEDGE AND WITH NO OPTION TO STOP IT.

            Does this the behaviour define an honest company?

            Watching the crap and excuses about AutoCAD’s Help and the use of CIP at start up, and generally demostrates, just how dictitorial and dishonest Autodesk has become.

            You have been warned Guys! Keep sitting (collectively)on your hands and your businesses future, if using Autodesk software, is Autodesk’s to use and abuse.

            • Dieter Schlaepfer

              Paul,

              I checked into this to confirm whether there was a change from AutoCAD 2012. There isn’t. The only time that CIP cannot be turned off is for beta and trial versions. However, when a product is registered you can control whether you want to participate in CIP.

              Also, if you have another Autodesk product installed that you’ve opted into CIP, it automatically opts you in for the others, although I’m not familiar with the nuances.

              Dieter

          • I thought for a second that ZOOMOUTFACTOR was a real variable that I had somehow missed in the 2013 documentation (can’t imagine how that would happen), but alas it’s but a figment. It would do, but then again so would ZOOMFACTORLEGACY=1.

            As for the CHM excuse, thanks for the honesty, but I’m afraid that doesn’t cut it. It could have already been done without even using Autodesk’s resources, as I’ve explained elsewhere. You had a queue of volunteers ready to help fix up Autodesk’s mistakes. The people making the documentation decisions obviously don’t give a damn about customer productivity, satisfaction, or service.

            Looks more like somebody being afraid to acknowledge that they screwed up big-time with the 2013 Help and the online “vision”. Yeah, carry on with the ostrich act, dude, it’s working well. It’s not as if anybody noticed that 2013 Help sucks.

            • Dieter Schlaepfer

              Steve,

              Ok, so you didn’t like my (apparently pathetic) attempt at humor with the documentation for a hypothetical ZOOMOUTFACTOR system variable.

              Someone’s already made a request for us to relax the legal restrictions on Help content, which is what you’ve also requested. Yes, I’m keeping an eye on the CHM poll.

              Online Help is part of an industry-wide tide change to online software, support, and services. As I said earlier, Autodesk management is aware of the issues. We’re definitely making improvements to Help. Right now, the number one priority given to our team is improving online Help. I’m not making an excuse. This is really and truly what we’re doing. I’m also really and truly saving and submitting the comments here to our decision makers.

              Dieter

              • I don’t doubt your honesty, Dieter. I’m saying that the “priority” thing is a pathetically feeble reason/excuse/whatever. The CHM stopgap could easily have been done well before now (indeed, before release) with no significant delay to the long-term task of improvement of the online system to something approaching acceptability. Nobody will care whether the next minor incremental improvement to online Help happens in July or August. Many people will care that Autodesk couldn’t be bothered to provide something usable in the meantime, when it’s patently the right thing to do.

              • R. Paul Waddington

                “Online Help is part of an industry-wide tide change to online software, support, and services.”

                Meaning Dieter, whether it’s profitable or beneficial for us or not, as customers, that is where Autodesk intends to take us?

                Autodesk playing “follow the leader”, again, in preference to leading or being a leader in the industry.

                What a disappointing indictment on the management and staff of a company who should be looked up too in preference being scorned. But I guess that’s what happens to those who become conditioned to believe only their interests are important.

                SUPPORT & SERVICE? Laughing very loudly Dieter. Having watched the advertisement of Autodesk’s development staffs capability in the un-folding Help debacle. Who, in their right mind, would see Autodesk as being a cost effective on-line supplier? It’s like watching a advertisement for a new car and, as one wheel falls off, we hear a salesperson spruiking how reliable the car is. Is this appalling episode an example Dieter of software development we can look forward too after 25+ years of custom?

                My business (probably the only dealer who), and customers, never lost a penny on what was seen by many as AutoCAD’s dark hour (R13) because we were smart enough to recognized the problem(s) and refused to inflict the pain on our customers – as did ALL other dealers – until the problem(s) were “fixed”.

                What you’re outlining and demonstrating Dieter is – Autodesk’s INTENTION to ensure ALL its customers’ suffer from its poor management and the mistakes of development staff who appear to have simple lost the plot – by removing the profitability, flexibility and choice being able to work “entirely off-line” provides. I have no doubt now (reading your comments) you see the retrograde step of on-line help (software) as progress because you “think it can be fixed”.

              • Dieter Schlaepfer

                Steve and Paul,

                Please bear in mind that my intent here is to collect and communicate feedback on Help. I’m also giving you an informal perspective from within Autodesk. There was never a question of whether Help needs to be improved. We know this, and I’ve appreciated your input into the process.

                As we try to bring value to our customers, budgets and priorities are inescapable and are forever in dynamic tension. Even on a feature level, we argue about what’s more important and how long something will take.

                So 16 years ago, when I started the design for the 3-tab CHM-based Help system, I had to convince my colleagues and management of the utility of my design. Later my colleagues joined me in refining and promoting it within the company. The project nearly got canceled on several occasions. My original 6 tabs (Concept, Procedure, Reference, Example, Tutorial, and Support) were reduced to 5 and then 3. Passions and arguments ran high. The workload on the three principle contributors that included Tracy Pelon, Linda Saldana and me was crushing, but we made it through the roller coaster ride and delivered. Then, not everyone was happy with it. Some customers didn’t see the tabs, and others hated the idea of having to upgrade IE. Customer reaction was mixed at first and I spent time on the forums answering questions and defending my design. The fact that my CHM-based design lasted this long (it was introduced in AutoCAD LT 98) is gratifying to me personally, and I appreciate your enthusiasm for it.

                But now it’s high time that we move forward to keep pace with technology, and the process is once again going to be hard. (Ever wonder why telegraph companies did not introduce the telephone or why slide rule companies did not introduce calculators?) Would I have made different decisions if I were in charge? Of course. Would I have made some serious mistakes? Without a doubt.

                So, my philosophy is to not resist the future but to steer it. And this is where you have joined my efforts, and I thank you!

                Dieter

                • Dieter, there’s a lot you have to say that I could argue with, and I don’t think anybody is fooled for a second by the “today’s junk is better because it’s more recent/trendy/forward than yesterday’s stuff that worked properly” thing, but I don’t see much point in continuing the debate. If Autodesk is convinced that its “vision” takes priority over the quality of its products and the needs of its customers, then it’s time for those customers to say their goodbyes and find a company that remembers where its income comes from. Thanks for hanging in this long and doing what you could.

      • IMO – this change should have been documented. No matter how subtle the change, SOMEONE will notice and ask questions. A short blurb could have been (and since the source is online, still could be) added that says something like “This system variable in AutoCAD 2013 corrects earlier behavior where the zoomfactor varied between zooming in and zooming out”

        • Dieter Schlaepfer

          R.K.,

          That would have been me, but I seem to remember it as a bug fix at the time. Rightly or wrongly, I’ve resisted documenting bug fixes or behaviors that are obvious.

          Dieter

          • Wrongly. This is the sort of thing that needs documenting, whatever label you want to put on it. Otherwise, people are going to be searching pointlessly through a horrible documentation system in the vain hope of finding the off switch that someone forgot to write.

          • Dieter Schlaepfer

            Ok, fair enough, Steve.

            Here’s what I just added to the documentation a few minutes ago for the ZOOMFACTOR system variable. You will see this note in the next online Help update.

            NOTE In contrast to versions prior to AutoCAD 2013-based products, the result of zooming in and
            out by the same number of mouse wheel notches results in no net change to the magnification.

            Would you like me to submit your request for a ZOOMFACTORLEGACY system variable?

            Dieter

            • Thanks, Dieter. For those users who can’t (or won’t) use online Help, will there be periodical updates to the offline Help too?

              • Dieter Schlaepfer

                Good question, Steve. Let me get back to you on that.

                Also, how important to you is retaining access to legacy ZOOMFACTOR behavior? Do you want me to submit a request?

                Thanks,
                Dieter

            • Thanks Dieter. The reason I brought this up is because this very issue came up in the AUGI forums ( http://forums.augi.com/showthread.php?139464-Mouse-Wheel-Zoom-Factor-AutoCAD-2013 )….

              • Dieter Schlaepfer

                I’ve submitted the request to product design.

                Yes, I’ve used this “feature” in the past myself. I found it slow but very direct (I’d sometimes have to do it several times before getting it right). I wonder whether it wouldn’t be better to have a button somewhere that simply performs a ZOOM 0.9375x. That way you can bump the magnification down several times for faster adjustments.

                Of course, every change has a price, and you’d be losing the directness of the mouse wheel.

                Dieter

              • Dieter Schlaepfer

                Hi R.K.,

                I just heard back from someone in Product Design with what sounds to me like a great idea.

                IF we can do it, what would you think of using a “clutch” key with the zoom wheel to cut the zoom factor to 1/4 of the default speed for fine control. For example, if you pressed the Ctrl key while zooming, the magnification would increase or decrease much more slowly.

                Hey, maybe we could name it ZOOMRK (for Zoom Realtime Keen). ;-)

                Any comments?

                Dieter

            • Lastly, Dieter and Steve… this turned out to be a great conversation (122 comments so far), but the format isn’t exactly the best (blog comments) and only 0.00x% of users know this is here….

              How about a place to discuss issues such as this and get real feedback from Autodesk employees who have the authority to make decisions and make stuff happen (like Dieter making that addition to the Help file!)

              [Autodesk forums…..hint, hint]

              • While Dieter didn’t get much response last time he asked for feedback on the Autodesk forums, and while those forums have gone downhill since then, I agree that it’s probably worth another try.

              • Dieter Schlaepfer

                Interesting idea. Maybe there should be a section dedicated to feature comments and suggestions only (to separate it from the questions and support requests).

                Another avenue is to send us your suggestions and issues directly using the Send Feedback option in the Help drop-down list. We get some great feedback this way and it’s widely distributed. I read these as well.

                Dieter

                • (A) I understand and appreciate the problems this would create though. I know there would be trolls dropping by to gripe about something, but not willing to sit down and work on a solution. The Beta forums might be a better place, since the crowd there is a tad more civil….

                  (B) The problem with this is “Joe” submits something, you guys at Autodesk operate on it in a vacuum with no feedback to “Joe”. Meanwhile “Sally” has the same feedback, but she has a better idea for a fix, etc., etc., etc.

                  i.e.: We need user/developer collaboration as much as possible. See last sentence of (A) above.

                • Dieter Schlaepfer

                  Yes, exactly, R.K.

                  We hold design validation sessions with groups of users as well as getting feedback from other sources specifically to try to avoid problem B. But design by successive approximation is usually inevitable IMHO.

                  I like the idea of public discussion, but with lots of public. It would be best for the discussion to be primarily between experienced users whose livelihood depends on the product, leaving Autodesk people to act as observers and occasional commenters. It’s also important not to exclude new users, especially regarding learnability.

                  Dieter

                  • The design validation groups aren’t doing a very important job that Autodesk desperately needs, and that’s eliminating bad ideas before they get too much momentum behind them. We’re seeing design by successive pulling of ideas out of somebody’s hat (polite version), and the ideas making it into the product are often so dumb it’s hard to comprehend how they could possibly get past any kind of exposure to real world users. The current Help system is a prime example. They’re making it into the product because Autodesk doesn’t have a functional Bad Idea Filter.

                    Get together a panel of experienced users, CAD Managers, etc. and expose proposed features to them with as much detail as possible, preferably before a single line of code is written. Give them the power to say “No, this is a dumb idea, throw it away.” Autodesk could have saved many millions and have a much better product now if this advice had been followed when it was first proposed a few years ago.

                    • ^^ Good points Steve. I agree.

                    • R. Paul Waddington

                      “Design Validation”

                      I agree with what you say Steve but: design is so diverse it needs to be understood, by software developers, they should not be trying to solve our design problems or looking for solutions to our designs but should simply be making the (their) tools as flexible as possible. In doing so the “real” designers, using the software will find the solutions they want and need.

                      We used to say to draught, (with or without software), all you need is to be able to draw lines, arcs and text. From these “tools” comes everything else. CAD (2D), as we know it, has extended/stretched these basics in some incredibly useful ways but has been sadly/badly let down by tinkering with interfaces. Laugh we may at Autodesk’s “old” screen menu but if some genuine thought is applied, its simplicity, clarity, ease of modification etc. may well be an indication of the direction, TOOLS like AutoCAD and functions like Help, should be heading. Serious consideration to simplification of the interface(s) should be where companies like Autodesk should be directing their attention.

                      Eg; Help tried to be too smart/clever trying to second guess what and where a user might be heading, trying to provide solutions instead of directions. An index, in a book, is a simple tool providing “direction” for a user to follow. You still have to look for what you want within the chapter or page onto to which you were directed. Trying to improve on a system this simple/useful only complicates the process: it does not automatically follow it will improve the process of finding what you want.

                      For my part, whether 3D or 2D, CAD software should undergo an value analysis examination of the processes/interfaces used: and for many reasons this process should be done by a “team/person” whose task it would be to determine what are the useful parts of a function and what is “gloss” with the eye to “eliminating” the gloss.

                      Again, as an example, the Help function/documents in AutoCAD needs to be no more than well written pages of information with a simple alphabetic index. That should be the core for all to use and anything else should only be added if it does not add complexity which does not improve the process.

                      Getting more and more people involved in trying to improve something like AutoCAD without the core functionality being “set in concrete” is a recipe for disaster and that is what we see in AutoCAD. A person or group of people decide how I should do a particular task and if that “process” is not what I would “normally” do then I am forced to change and that costs.

                      The saga played out by AutoCAD’s Help demonstrates, beyond doubt, changes to a working system are NOT ALWAYS necessary.

                      Look at the “new” Array command. Losing the dialogue box and going back to command line. Much has been said (and done) about this and there does appear to be a “loss” incurred. But I sat with my students the other night and we looked extensively at the “old” in AutoCAD 2011 and the “new” in 2013 and it was interesting to hear, when explained in some detail, and having seen just how much more Array in 2012/13 can do it was decided, by a number of the students, the loss of the dialogue was not as big a deal as originally thought. “Gloss” often appears to be important but in our software tools it should take a very distant “back seat”.

                      Dieter’s, the Help team’s, efforts to improve Help were about improving gloss with total misunderstanding of the basic requirements and a disregard to core functionality. As a result Help failed us! The way forward is to simplify: and, quite frankly if users are to be more widely included in the development of products, like AutoCAD, the first thing needing to be done is to define what are the basic requirements and make sure they are well defined and documented ensuring all involved have a benchmark against which to measure “improvement”.

            • Dieter, if you’re still around…
              As of today, the online help (http://docs.autodesk.com/ACD/2013/ENU/index.html) for ZOOMFACTOR does not list the change for 2013.
              Thanks.

  • S Lafleur

    RPW:
    Agree, agree, agree. Essentially, don’t fix stuff that ain’t broken! Lord knows there are enough valid requests on users wish lists to keep programmers busy. Pretty sure a messed up online help wasn’t ever among them. Neither was changing icons (why not change it all to Greek while you’re at it) or the basic look/colors of the interface. (It’s not a BIG deal, but, seriously, did someone run out of things to do?) Was it really necessary to ditch the Array dialogue box in order to add functionality to the command?
    All along there have been some variable defaults that certainly seem to have been programmed by, well, programmers rather than drafters. Can’t offhand think of any specifically, because I changed them and moved on, but there have been many times that I’ve thought, “who thought THAT should be the default? Were they smoking crack?” It seems to have gotten much worse.
    While we’re at it, why did OUR tool NEED to emulate Microsoft Office? (IMHO, their ribbon interface sucks, too)
    Autodesk has lost touch with the real users.
    Anyway, thanks for letting me vent…

  • James Strak

    Hi!

    I tried installing Showcase 2013 but it won’t run the program. It tries to start and then closes. Already tried the KB for reinstalling Showcase and copying the python directory to a diff. location but to no avail.

  • I was worried that nothing would come of this mis-adventure. It’s so nice to see that Autodesk responded rapidly and in such a positive, proactive manner to make sure the existing and future user base would have all the necessary tools at their finger/mouse tips at all times – online or off.

    My new Solidworks 2012 has installed over 180 CHM based help files plus another couple of hundred other various documents. The program still sucks, and looks to have no future, but it cost less than my beloved murdered Mechanical Desktop.

    Wonder if ACAD 2014 will be worth the wait?

  • Robert Williams

    I do not want to spend any more of my time about audesk products. We spend huge amounts of money on computers, then software and then this shady (join subscription or pay even more). Now all I can say is FIX AUTOCAD ARCHITECTURE 2013. My god man you introduced more bugs then features. I am tired of beating around the bush and trying to be polite. If you where an automobile company you would either have to do full recall or face huge law suit. If it was not for this stupid subscription program, your programmers would not have to rush every year for new features and and maybe come out with something solid. Look at adobe and how the have real features when they introduce new versions and it’s not every year.

  • Simon Jessel

    Hi Dieter,
    A few posts back you say … ” send us your suggestions and issues directly using the Send Feedback option in the Help drop-down list.” That’s not one of the options in my Help drop down menu (I caught a glimpse of it in your video “A new approach to help”). The drop-down options I do get are Help/Download Offline Help/Welcome Screen…/User Interface Overview/Ribbon Command Locator/Where Is My Command/Download Language Packs/Skill Builders/AutoCAD Architecture Developer Help/Autodesk User Group International/Customer Involvement Program/About…
    I normally have the InfoCenter disabled actually – so it would be better still to access this some other way.
    Thanks, Simon

  • Chris Baker

    I spent ages looking around for the in out variable zoom, it was sooo useful, any real news on fixing it?
    Chris

  • Toms

    Hi! I have a problem with autocad. I’m trying to move or extend one object, bet other objects are also moving without selecting them. Can anyone tell me what I need to turn off? Can’t work this way.

    • The object has been set up with constraints. You can remove them with _DELCONSTRAINT. I would suggest you look up parametrics and constraints in the Help, but I wouldn’t want to inflict that on you. Have a look at this video for a start: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QvSQydFsdtw

      • Toms

        This thing was new to me. Thanks a lot for your help.

        • Dieter Schlaepfer

          Tom,

          I wouldn’t suggest removing constraints before finding out why someone put them there in the first place. Constraints can convey design intent by enforcing geometric and dimensional relationships between objects. The information captured by constraints (the feature is called Parametric Drawing), can be extremely valuable.

          Dieter

          • R. Paul Waddington

            That may be a good suggestion Dieter but your comment – “The information captured by constraints (the feature is called Parametric Drawing), can be extremely valuable.” – need be taken with a grain of salt.

            Parametrics can be quite useful if FULLY understood and applied in a very SENSIBLE manner. However the implementation of parametrics in AutoCAD 2010 was not one of Autodesk’s best ideas.

            Not because parametrics are not useful; simply because Autodesk implemented a function many of us would equate with 20+ year old technology. Those of us old enough have seen all this before: users left it alone in droves then and probably now as well.

            The functionality as implemented Dieter falls into a similar category to the changes made to Help. Yet another example how Autodesk’s staff have failed miserably to do an adequate value analysis on both the requirement, the quality of the implementation and its ability to be applied, by users, in useful and cost effective manner.

            It short, in its current form, it will waste more users time and money than it will earn: some will see it a function implemented too late and others will see it as an appalling implementation dragged out of the archives with no thought being applied as to why!
            Other will see the fact Autodesk took away the similar capability we had in an earlier time only to see it return (at our cost) in a form worse than before?

            Don’t try and defend this stuff Dieter it’s a hole you just don’t want to dig.

            • Not to mention that the unfinished demo of vanilla parametrics is so lacking. Can’t print them, or make them visible on dark screens, and any 3D operation eats ‘em forever. I don’t bother them, and they reciprocate.

            • Dieter Schlaepfer

              Paul,

              Yes, on several points. Parametric design technology has been around for a long time, it’s certainly not for everyone, applies to a limited set of 2D design scenarios, you have to know what you’re constraining, and you have to be methodical about it.

              I know this is getting off topic, so I just emailed Steve a fully constrained sample drawing of a deck design that I created. There are some fun things you can do with it to make rapid design changes, but I’ll leave it up to him if he thinks it’s worth sharing or not–either way is fine with me.

              Dieter

    • R. Paul Waddington

      Apolgies Toms I missed getting it from dropbox but it looks like Steve has hit on your problem.

  • 2014 offline help is here. 2014 offline help is crap. Again. It has command and variable references, but both are online only. Type in ‘options’ (to see if the idiot FUI is fixed) and it pops up about twenty slots down the first page of twenty-four. For a laugh I typed in ‘what’s new’ to search… Worthless, useless, embarrassing. Again. Looks like another release to skip.

    I figured out the new and shiny Autodesk symbol. It isn’t an origami ‘A’, it’s Autodesk’s re-imagining of a mobius strip. Unfinished – as usual.

    • Bill, I fear you are being too kind.

      • Yeah. I’m getting on in years and I can find plenty of productive places to waste time rather than another pointless year-long attempt at trying to get what the customers deserve and paid for.

        Maybe AutoCAD will be usable again with the 2015 release. Maybe I’ll start a vegetable garden. Or breed homing hummingbirds. Or learn to weave custom hats. Maybe it’s time to open that hand-made bikini and dancewear shop. Maybe it’s just time for a nap… -Bill

  • The only good thing I’ve heard is that BestBuy is right across the street so that you can get a replacement after your Mac is destroyed. Can I be of any more help?

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What is your relationship to Autodesk?

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