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AutoCAD 2013 Help shock – it no longer sucks

Some months ago, I gave Autodesk several [1] damn [2] good [3] (and thoroughly well-deserved) thrashings over its hopelessly inadequate AutoCAD 2013 Help system. When Autodesk’s Dieter Schlaepfer responded and asked for feedback [4], he sure got it. There are 142 comments on that one post to date, most of them leaving nobody under any illusions about how short of the mark the new system was.

There is now an updated version of the AutoCAD 2013 Help system [5]. It has been an interminably long time coming, a fact made far worse by Autodesk’s stubborn refusal to provide a CHM stopgap [6] (which could have easily been done on the ship date with minimal resources if the will had been there), but at least an update is here now. Is it any good, though?

I’ve seen fit to give the online version of the updated system a few minutes of my time and I have to say that it’s now way, way better than it was before. In a remarkable turnaround from current standard Autodesk practice, it would appear that customer feedback has not just been listened to, but actually acted on. Honest! Search results make sense. Performance is generally way better than I expected from an online system. There are links to useful things like lists of commands. Things like forward/back mouse buttons work as expected. Various things I expected to suck, simply didn’t. Huh? What’s going on here?

It’s not all brilliant. There are occasional unexpected pauses, but not to excess. A Douglas Adams fan (Dieter?) is clearly responsible for The Hitchhiker’s Guide to AutoCAD [7]. It’s fun, but I’m not convinced it’s particularly useful. The layout is confusing and the content has me somewhat baffled. Is DRAWORDER really one of the first things a beginner needs to know about AutoCAD? Or were there 41 things in someone’s list and that one was thrown in there to make the number up to 42?

That aside, this thing is looking good. Unlike the last effort, I don’t think it deserves Total Existence Failure. But does it just look good in comparison with what went before? Have I been so shocked by apparent adequacy that I have missed some glaring problem? You tell me. Please, give it a fair go [5] and report back on what you think.

If you want to try the offline version, here it is [8]. It’s not immediately obvious, but you’ll need to uninstall the old one first before the new one will install, don’t bother. It’s still the horrible old thing. See I was wrong about AutoCAD 2013 Help, it still sucks [9] for what I think about that.