33 years of AutoCAD upgrades rated – part 2

In this series of posts, I am looking back on all the AutoCAD upgrades I’ve experienced over the years and rate each of them out of 10. See post 1 for information about what the ratings mean.

In part 2, I rate AutoCAD Release 12 to AutoCAD 2002.

  • AutoCAD Release 12 (June 1992): 9 – Big, big changes. A mass of UI and other improvements. Lots of new dialog boxes. The first release that retained its predecessor’s DWG format, which was very handy. DCL gave LISP and C programmers the ability to create dialog box commands. The first usable Windows version (the R11 extension version was a shocker). Came with a Bonus CD full of extra stuff; a big deal in those days of limited connectivity. Autodesk’s upgrade amnesty (upgrade from any earlier release for $500 in the USA) made this extremely strong value for money, too.

    • AutoCAD Release 13 (November 1994): 6 – Many of you will remember this most infamous of all AutoCAD releases. Too ambitious, long overdue yet released too early, full of bugs, terribly unreliable, markedly slower than its predecessor. Why have I still given it 6? Because of all the many highly useful UI improvements and drafting features it introduced; there were such a huge mass of them I won’t even attempt a summary. Because when running on NT and decent hardware it wasn’t actually that unreliable; running on 16-bit Windows was to blame for a lot of crashes. Because by the time of the final version (R13c4a – the twelfth!), it was not that bad at all, and because Autodesk provided excellent customer service by sending R13c4 out on CD to every registered customer. Because it introduced ARX, allowing C++ developers to do things with AutoCAD that had been impossible before. Because it came with a huge slab of printed documentation (sorry, rainforests). With lots to like as well as dislike, Release 13 was the ultimate curate’s egg release.
    • AutoCAD Release 14 (February 1997): 9 – A big performance effort, masses of bug fixes and many other practical improvements (e.g. hatching, draw order, fully functional object properties toolbar) mark this out as the sort of release that people remember for all the right reasons. The new stuff in this release was added because it would be useful to customers, not because it looked good in an advertisement. Bonus (later Express) Tools gave us a lot of handy stuff, even if it wasn’t officially supported. R14 was an upgrade done right.
    • AutoCAD 2000 (March 1999): 8 – A CAD application being able to open more than one drawing at a time might seem an obvious requirement, but it took until this release for us to get it, and very glad of it we were too. The property palette, layer dialog and lots of right-click options represented worthwhile UI improvements. The integration of Visual LISP (acquired during the R14 cycle as Vital LISP) and access to ActiveX functionality represented a revolution for LISP programmers. Very good upgrade.
    • AutoCAD 2000i (July 2000): -2 – What a difference a year makes! Yes, a that’s minus two for this initial attempt at an annual release (Autodesk didn’t make the timing work for another couple of releases). An emphasis on largely irrelevant-to-users Internet features intended to make Autodesk look all hip and now (anyone tried to access the Point A site lately?), a tie-in to Internet Explorer, annoyingly intrusive UI changes and the removal of the Express Tools, together with a dearth of genuinely useful new features (double-click editing being a noble exception) made this an upgrade only in name. The new Autodesk logo failed to wow customers, who stayed away in droves (at the time we still had that option, and exercised it when we failed to see value for money in an upgrade). A joke at the time was that the ‘i’ stood for ‘ignore’. Worst. Upgrade. Ever.
    • AutoCAD 2002 (June 2001): 3 – The bad things in 2000i were still there in 2002, so that’s a net 0. At least it retained the AutoCAD 2000/2000i DWG format in what was to become a regular 3-year DWG/API cycle, useful for customers and developers. The handful of useful additions (e.g. more associative dimension stuff) didn’t add up to much of an upgrade. At least it was an upgrade, in contrast to the downgrade its immediate predecessor represented.

    Part 1 – AutoCAD Version 1.4 to Release 11.
    Part 2 – AutoCAD Release 12 to AutoCAD 2002.
    Part 3 – AutoCAD 2004 to AutoCAD 2010.
    Part 4 – AutoCAD 2011 to AutoCAD 2017.
    Part 5 – Summary.

    Do you agree or disagree with these assessments? Feel free to share your memories and experiences.


    1. Yeah, I think R13 gets a bad rap. Yes, I think it was update c2 that introduced the “xref=fatal error” bug, but as you say, by the time c4a was released, it was pretty stable and a good product. At my employer at the time, we stayed on R13c4a (DOS version) long after R14 was released.

      Agree with your assessment of 2000i. This was one of the first releases to be full of fluff and no real substance.

      Have we got to the “Today” window yet? Some people loved this (for timesheet tracking), while most of us in support roles hated it because of all of the sideshow bugs associated with it.

      • Yes, AutoCAD Today is filed under “annoyingly intrusive UI changes” in 2000i, along with Active Hindrance, er, Assistance – Autodesk’s Clippy.

        Both anti-features were bafflingly carried on into 2002, in one of the first of several instances where Autodesk UI people who thought they knew best raised the digit to feedback-providing customers.

    2. Hmm, look at the Start Tab > Recent Documents in AutoCAD 2017, AutoCAD Today Lives!

    3. Robin – I avoid that screen also. But curiously, does *this* recent list suffer from the ages old bug that the Application Menu recent file list does, the inevitable floating to the top of old DST file references?

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