AutoCAD 2017 – Putting things back to “normal”

The most frequently accessed posts on this blog are the AutoCAD 201x – Putting things back to “normal” series. They also attract a lot of comments:

Most Commented Posts

  1. AutoCAD 2013 – An Autodesk Help writer responds – 164 comments
  2. AutoCAD 2012 – Putting things back to “normal” – 158 comments
  3. AutoCAD 2011 – Putting things back to “normal” – 135 comments
  4. AutoCAD 2009 – Putting things back to “normal” – 121 comments
  5. AutoCAD 2010 – Putting things back to “normal” – 106 comments

The last one of these I did was for AutoCAD 2012, so I guess it’s well beyond time to bring things up to date for all those people who don’t like things being brought up to date. If there is something in particular I haven’t included in this post that you think people will find useful, please add a comment below and I’ll see what I can do.

I’m not suggesting it’s a good idea to turn all of these things off, it’s just a resource for people who want to know how to turn some of them off. These items are in alphabetic order. If you can’t find what you’re after, try your browser’s find/search option to look for a word on this page rather than this site’s search option which will search the whole site. If you still can’t find it, please comment and let me know what I’ve missed.

  • Aerial View. If you’re a relatively recent user of AutoCAD, you may have never seen the Aerial View window, but you might still find it useful. The DSVIEWER command (which turns this window on) has been undefined. You can use REDEFINE DSVIEWER to turn it back on, or just enter .DSVIEWER (with a leading period). It may not work perfectly on all systems under all circumstances, but give it a try and see what you think.
  • Array Dialog Box. The associative array features added by AutoCAD 2012 did not come with an Array dialog box. After protests from the crowd, AutoCAD 2012 SP1 reintroduced the old dialog box. This has been retained ever since and is accessed using the command ARRAYCLASSIC. Why isn’t it called CLASSICARRAY? Because by the time Autodesk wanted to restore this feature, I had already published ClassicArray™ and owned the trademark. Did ARRAYCLASSIC make ClassicArray defunct? Not entirely. The old Autodesk dialog interface is much less capable than ClassicArray and only allows the creation of simple non-associative arrays. If you want a dialog box interface and the modern array features (including Path arrays), you will still need my ClassicArray (which has the fortunate side-effect of acting as a workaround for several of the Array command’s various bugs, limitations and design issues). If you just want to control whether ARRAY creates associative or non-associative arrays, use the ARRAYASSOCIATIVITY system variable (1 for associative, 0 for non-associative).
  • Autocomplete. You may well find the automated filling in of your typed commands useful, but I find it’s too slow and gets confused, resulting in the wrong command being used. If it’s getting in your way, turning it off is as simple as AUTOCOMPLETE OFF. There are a variety of settings you can selectively turn off individually if you prefer, see Command Line below.
  • Blips. The BLIPMODE command has been undefined, but you can use REDEFINE BLIPMODE to turn it back on, or just enter .BLIPMODE (with a leading period).
  • Button Backgrounds. If you have your own or third-party Ribbon, toolbar or menu items, you may notice that AutoCAD 2017 messed up their transparent backgrounds. Believe it or not, this was a deliberate act by Autodesk. I intend to write a more detailed post on this in future, but the short version is that the BMP background of 192,192,192 is no longer supported so you need to use another format (e.g. PNG files) if you want your buttons to support transparency.
  • Classic Commands. If you prefer not to leave the various new palettes on screen all the time, old versions of various commands are still available: ClassicGroup, ClassicLayer, ClassicXref and ClassicImage. (Autodesk deprecated these commands in 2011, which I think is a really bad idea, but at least they’re still there in 2017). There is also a system variable LAYERDLGMODE, which when set to 0 will make the Layer command work in the old (and faster) modal way. If you use this setting, you can still access the new modeless layer palette with the LayerPalette command. Going back further, there are command-line methods of using these commands: -Layer, -Plot, -Xref, XAttach, -Image and ImageAttach.
  • Color Scheme (interface). Goth AutoCAD doesn’t appeal to you? If you don’t want to draw with a product that looks like a 10-year-old version of PaintShop Pro, you can lighten things up a bit using Options (right-click on the drawing area and pick Options… or just enter OP), then pick the Display tab, set Color Scheme to Light. See Graphic Background below for more options.
  • Coordinates. Bafflingly, Autodesk decided that most CAD users are uninterested in where things are placed in a drawing, so coordinate display is turned off by default. You’ll obviously need to turn them on to do any meaningful work (well, duh), so pick the 3-line Customization button at the lower right and turn on the Coordinates item at the top of that menu. Pick and choose among the various other options to get the buttons you want.
  • Command Line. There are many enhancements to the command line that theoretically make your keyboard-based interactions with AutoCAD more productive. I find that all of these features are great if I’m not in a hurry. If I just want to enter a short command and hit Enter, I find the command I get is wrong most of the time. To control which of these command line features you want on, use the INPUTSEARCHOPTIONS command.
  • Content Explorer. The Content Explorer was pretty horrible in many ways and Autodesk killed it. It’s gone and is unlikely to return, so you can stop looking for it. DesignCenter is still there and still does most of Content Explorer’s job, only better. Unfortunately, this means those people who did use Content Explorer’s unique functionality (e.g. searching for text among multiple drawings) are now out of luck until Autodesk does something about that.
  • Crosshairs. Want 100% crosshairs? Many people do. As before, use the Options command’s Display tab and look towards the bottom right, or set the CURSORSIZE system variable to 100.
  • Cursor Badges. About a dozen commands in AutoCAD now display a little glyph on the cursor to give you a visual clue about what you’re doing. If you find these pointless or annoying, turn them off by setting CURSORBADGE to 1. No, I have no idea why you use 1 to turn them off and 2 to turn them on, rather than 0 and 1 like pretty much everything else.
  • Customer Involvement Program. Those in the know always turn off whatever Autodesk phone-home activity they can find, not just because we’re a bunch of tin-hat-wearing paranoiacs, but because uses your resources and harms your performance. I’ve observed this happening, despite having been assured by Autodesk people that such a thing couldn’t possibly be occurring. The CUSTOMERINVOLVEMENTPROGRAM command has given access to one such setting for a few releases, but now there’s DESKTOPANALYTICS too. It’s not doing you any good, so kill it.
  • Dynamic Input. If Dynamic Input slows you down, you can turn it off with the status bar toggle or F12. If you like the general idea but don’t like some parts of it, there are lots of options available in the Dynamic Input tab of the DSettings command to enable you to control it to a fine degree. You can also get at this by right-clicking the Dynamic Input status bar button and picking Settings… As an example of the sort of thing you might do in there, the default of using relative coordinates is difficult for long-termers to get used to. To turn it off, pick the Settings… button in the Pointer Input panel, pick Absolute coordinates, then OK twice. There are a whole range of DYNxxx system variables for controlling this stuff.
  • File Tabs. Want vertical screen space more than you want to see what drawings you have open? Turn off File Tabs with the FILETABCLOSE command. You can still switch between drawings with Ctrl+Tab.
  • Graphic Background. After various experiments with black, white, black, cream, etc., for the last few releases Autodesk has stuck a nearly black background in model space only. Many of you will want a real black background to provide better contrast. To do this, invoke the Options command and pick the Display tab. Don’t be tempted to choose Color Scheme because that just changes the appearance of various user interface elements. Instead, pick the Colors… button. This will put you in the Drawing Window Colors dialog box. On the left, choose a context you want to change (e.g. 2D model space), choose the appropriate background element (e.g. Uniform background) and choose the particular shade that takes your fancy. There is a Restore Classic Colors button, but that only takes you back to AutoCAD 2008 with its black model and white paper space. If you want a black paper space background too, you’ll have to pick the Sheet / layout context and specify that individually. You may wish to put the Command line > Command line history background setting to white, too. When you’re done, pick Apply & Close, then OK.
  • Grid. If you use isometric snap and grid, you will be glad to find that AutoCAD 2017’s line-based isometric grid works properly, unlike some earlier releases. If you still prefer dots, right-click on the Grid status button and pick Grid Settings…, which will take you into the Drafting Settings dialog box, which you can also get at with the DSettings command, or DS for short. In the Snap and Grid tab, the grid is controlled by the options on the right. If you want your dots back, turn on the toggles in the Grid style section. This can also be done using the GRIDSTYLE system variable. This is now stored in the registry rather than on a drawing-by-drawing basis.
  • Hatch Dialog Box. If you want the Ribbon on but prefer the old Hatch dialog box, set HPDLGMODE to 1.
  • Hatch Double Click. If you’re not using the new Ribbon-based hatch editing feature, you will probably want to invoke the HatchEdit command when you double-click on a hatch object. Doing this involves braving the CUI interface, but I have gone into step-by-step detail of that process here. In short, you need to drag and drop the Hatch Edit command from the bottom left CUI panel onto the double-click action for Hatch in the top left panel, replacing the default action (Properties).
  • Help. If you want your Help to work with adequate speed and reliability, or to work at all in some proxy server environments, you will want to turn off AutoCAD’s online help. The installer for the AutoCAD 2017 English offline Help can be found here. For other languages, see here. However, downloading and installing it isn’t enough. Go into Options > System, then look in the bottom right pane to turn off the Use online help toggle. The Help structure remains destroyed and the interface is still a long way short of the excellent CHM-based Help we had prior to AutoCAD 2011, but at least it’s not as slow and externally dependant as the online Help system. Note that the search mechanism in the offline version is notably weaker than in the online version.
  • InfoCenter. This is the set of tools on the right top of the AutoCAD window. It takes up space, reduces AutoCAD reliability and performance and forces the use of Internet Explorer to support Autodesk LiveUpdate technology. You probably want it gone. Here’s how:
    (strcat "HKEY_CURRENT_USER\\" (vlax-user-product-key) "\\InfoCenter")
    "InfoCenterOn" 0)

    Paste the above lines into AutoCAD’s command line area and hit Enter. Close and start AutoCAD and InfoCenter will be gone. If you ever want it back, use the above code with a 1 in place of the 0, then close and restart AutoCAD.
  • Layout Tabs. You don’t get to choose where the layout tabs go, but you can turn them on and off using the LAYOUTTAB system variable.
  • Navigation Bar. If you like the NavBar feature as much as I do, you’ll want to turn it off. You can close it easily using the little X in its top left corner. Alternatively, control it with the NAVBARDISPLAY system variable (0 for off, 1 for on) or click the [-] button in the top left corner of the drawing area and turn off the Navigation Bar toggle there.
  • Pull-down Menus. Enter MENUBAR 1 to turn pull-down menus on. To turn them off again, enter MENUBAR 0.
  • Ribbon. You can close the Ribbon with the RibbonClose command. If you ever want to turn it back on, enter Ribbon.
  • Ribbon Galleries. AutoCAD 2015 introduced Ribbon Galleries: drop-down preview images of blocks, styles, etc. This cool-sounding feature might annoy you with its (lack of) performance, and as happens way too often, Autodesk forgot to include an off switch. AutoCAD 2016 introduced the GALLERYVIEW system variable; set this to 0 to get back up to speed. (Thanks, RK).
  • Screen menu. The SCREENMENU command has been undefined, but you can use REDEFINE SCREENMENU to turn it back on, or just enter .SCREENMENU (with a leading period). However, you can’t access the screen menu section in CUI any more, so if you want to maintain your screen menu you will need to do it in an ancient release or with a text editor operating on a .MNU file.
  • Security. There are various obstacles to productive use that can be placed in the way by the various security settings that have been progressively introduced since AutoCAD 2014. However, I’m not going to provide advice on removing those obstacles because of the risk such action can entail; I don’t want to be a party to making your system more vunerable. If you wish to look into this area, look up the SECURITYOPTIONS command and the SECURELOAD system variable. One security setting I’d suggest you definitely leave at the default value of 0 is LEGACYCODESEARCH, because that setting will protect you from the most common AutoCAD-specific malware without any practical downside. Feel free to look it up and take your own informed action, but you almost certainly don’t need to set this variable to 1.
  • Selecting Dashed Lines. AutoCAD now allows you to select objects with linetypes by picking the gaps. If you don’t want this, set LTGAPSELECTION to 0. Although 0 is supposed to be the default, I’ve seen AutoCAD working as if it were set to 1 even when it says it is 0. If so, set it to 1 and back to 0.
  • Selecting One Object at a Time. Does AutoCAD insist on only allowing you to select one object at a time? You probably have PICKADD set to 0. Set it back to the default of 2 or look for the Use Shift to add to selection toggle in the left pane of the Selection tab of OPTIONS. AutoCAD has been known to mangle this setting by itself. Yes, even when there is no possibility of a LISP routine messing with it.
  • Selection Cycling. Depending on your preference and/or system graphic performance, you may wish to turn off selection cycling (set SELECTIONCYCLING to 0), or at least the list that appears when selecting objects that lie on top of each other (set SELECTIONCYCLING to 1).
  • Selection Effect. If you want AutoCAD to show selected objects with old-style dashed lines rather than a glowing halo, set SELECTIONEFFECT to 0.
  • Selection Lasso. You can now select objects within irregular areas using the Lasso tool by clicking, holding and dragging. If this gets in your way, turn off the 4 bit of PICKAUTO (e.g. change PICKAUTO from 5 to 1). You may prefer to use the toggle for this in the left pane of the Selection tab of OPTIONS.
  • Selection Preview. This feature annoys some users, adding as it does an unfortunate degree of stickiness and working inaccurately when Snap is in use. This is controlled in the Selection tab of the Options command. Turn off the toggles in the Selection preview panel on the left (these control the SELECTIONPREVIEW system variable). If you dislike the coloured boxes you get while doing a Window or Crossing, pick the Visual Effect Settings… button and turn off the Indicate selection area toggle. This controls the SELECTIONAREA system variable.
  • Snap. By default, AutoCAD’s snap no longer works while there is no command active. Set SNAPGRIDLEGACY to 1 to turn this feature off.
  • Start Tab/New Tab/Welcome Screen. If you want AutoCAD to start in a blank drawing rather than using the Start Tab (New Tab or Welcome Screen in earlier releases), set the STARTUP system variable to 0. Note that if you turn off the Start Tab feature during installation or deployment creation, it’s not possible to later turn it back on using AutoCAD commands. If you’re unsure about whether or not you want to use the Start Tab, defer that decision until after installation.
  • Startup performance. You may have noticed that AutoCAD’s Ribbon switching performance is much faster than earlier releases. You may also have noticed that when you start AutoCAD, the cursor is sticky for a while after the Command prompt is available. These two items are not unrelated; AutoCAD is loading Ribbon components in the background. If you would prefer this not to happen, set the RIBBONBGLOAD system variable to 0.
  • Steering Wheel. Do you have a funny silver thing following your cursor around? Despise it? If it will stay still long enough you can hit the little X in the top right. Alternatively, use the NAVSWHEEL command to toggle it or click the [-] button in the top left corner of the drawing area and turn off the Steering Wheel toggle there.
  • Status Bar Text. You can’t have text-based status line toggles any more, so you can call off the search. Yes, I know. This is the poster child for Autodesk deliberately ignoring the clearly expressed wishes of its customers.
  • Toolbars. In AutoCAD 2009, you could turn individual toolbars on and off by accessing a menu obtained by right-clicking on the QAT. Autodesk somewhat vindictively removed that option in 2010, and it’s still gone in 2017, so I guess we can conclude that Autodesk really doesn’t want you using toolbars. A toolbar-toggling menu is still available if you right-click in an unused docked toolbar area, but if you have no toolbars visible there will be no such area available. What to do? Turn on one docked toolbar at the Command prompt, then you will be able to access the menu by right-clicking on the blank area to the right of it. The following command sequence will do it:
    _.-TOOLBAR ACAD.Standard _Top 0,0
    Paste this into AutoCAD’s command line area and the Standard toolbar will be turned on above your drawing area. This will leave a grey area to the right that you can right-click into. The other toolbars will be in sub-menus under that, with the main set of default ones in the AutoCAD section. Note that this will only work if you have the acad.cuix file loaded (or partially loaded). This is the case in vanilla AutoCAD and some verticals, but it may not be the case in other verticals.
  • Tooltips. Excessively intrusive and oversized tooltips were a “feature” of AutoCAD 2009’s revamped UI design, and we’ve been plagued with them ever since. I’m glad to see that many of them have had their verbosity somewhat curtailed (thanks to Dieter), but they still annoy the heck out of me, particularly by obscuring what I’m trying to see in dialog boxes. To kill them with fire, see Options > Display and start turning off toggles about half way down the left side.
  • Trace. The TRACE command has been undefined, but you can use REDEFINE TRACE to turn it back on, or just enter .TRACE (with a leading period).
  • UCS Icon. Don’t like the new simplified UCS icon? Sorry! While you can use the UCSIcon command’s Properties option to change the appearance of the icon in various ways, there’s nothing to restore the UCS Icon’s appearance from previous releases with its little arrows pointing the way.
  • ViewCube. I like the ViewCube concept, and I think it’s a great piece of interface design. But not everybody agrees. It has caused performance issues and it’s not very useful for 2D users. If you want it gone, that’s a surprisingly difficult thing to find out about. The simplest way to remove it is by clicking the [-] button in the top left corner of the drawing area and turning off the ViewCube toggle there. If you want more control, it’s handled using the Options command, in the 3D Modeling tab, in the bottom left corner. Turn off those toggles that don’t make sense for you. There is a related set of system variables called NAVVCUBExxx.
  • Workspace. The Workspace (gearwheel) control is now located near the bottom right corner. The item called AutoCAD Classic is long gone, unfortunately, so you’ll need to make your own classic workspace by manually setting up your interface the way you like it, then saving it as a Workspace using the Save Current As… option under the Workspace control. See this step-by-step description by Luciana Klein, (for AutoCAD 2016) along with clues from the various items above, for information on how to do this. There’s a bug in the Workspace control that means it no longer reverts to a saved workspace directly. If you want to revert to the correct version of a workspace, you need to switch to a different workspace first and then back again.
  • Xref Fading. Don’t like your xrefs looking different? Use the Options command’s Display tab and look at the Xref display slider on the bottom right, or use the XDWGFADECTL system variable.
  • Zoom Animation. If you prefer your zooms to be instant rather than progressing from one view to another in an animated series of steps, you can turn off that feature using the VTOPTIONS command or the VTENABLE system variable.

If you have allowed AutoCAD to migrate your settings, some of the above will already be done for you, but by no means all of it. If past experience is anything to go by, the job done by Migration will be sub-optimal, but it received a major overhaul for 2017 so maybe it’s all good now. Call me paranoid/lazy/whatever, but I didn’t bother finding out. I’ve done without it for over a decade and will continue to do so; file under Problems left unfixed for so long that nobody cares when the fix finally comes.

Once you’re happy with your new environment, I suggest you save your workspace under a name of your choosing (Save Current As… under the Workspace gearwheel control), then export your profile in the Options command’s Profiles tab. Keep a safe copy of both your exported profile and your main CUIX file (acad.cuix by default), because that is where new workspaces are stored.

All of this advice is offered on an as-is, try-it-yourself-and see-what-happens basis. If in doubt, before you start messing make a safe profile, export it, then make an experimental profile and make it current. Back up any files you may have modified (e.g. acad.cuix).

I’ve probably missed a few things, so feel free to point them out or ask questions. I’ll edit this post to add relevant information.



    Your top shelf really a great reference a lot of work, well done you are making me look good

  2. Thanks for telling me about SNAPGRIDLEGACY. I hadn’t known about it!

  3. The lack of [Status Bar Text] just blows my mind. Clearly, many of their customers had no desire for this to be removed. Then when it was, it was also clearly conveyed to them that this was undesired, but alas…. no undo on this….

    To be fair, Autodesk has responded to customers positively in the past in similar situations.

    * The “Today” feature was killed off back in what…? 2002… (although strangely, as bad as “Today” was, a lot of people missed the ‘timesheet’ feature in there that tracked what you worked on, every day).

    * In 2016, they added a way to turn OFF ribbon galleries, after they were forced on us in 2015.

    * In 2015, they forced cursor badges on us, then went back and offered a way out via a service pack.

    • Yes, AutoCAD Today came to us in 2000i, lived on through 2002 and went away in 2004. Along with its insistently “helpful” friend Active Hindrance, er, Active Assistance. Autodesk’s Clippy.

      This was a lesson that no matter how great Autodesk thinks a feature is, it is likely to get in some people’s way and almost certainly needs an off switch. Autodesk promptly forgot this lesson and a hundred others like it. Sigh.

      Thanks for the reminder about ribbon galleries, I’ve now included them in this post.

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