AutoCAD 2018 – 2/10, would not rent

It must be March, because another AutoCAD has just been launched. Despite this one being codenamed Omega, I’ve been assured it’s not the final AutoCAD release. The good news is that AutoCAD 2018 is twice the upgrade that 2017 was. But hold your excitement, because the bad news is that 2017 was only a 1/10 upgrade.

Autodesk has continued the well-established tradition of acting like a low-quality sausage machine, reliably popping out consistently unexciting products at regular intervals.

Here’s what’s in this year’s underwhelming sausage:

  • Xrefs now default to relative path attachment and there are a few associated tweaks including find/replace path
  • You can select objects off-screen (handier than it sounds)
  • File dialogs remember settings
  • A couple more dialogs can be resized
  • There are a couple more tiny user interface tweaks
  • The stuff from 2017.1 is included, of course, some seeing minor improvements since then
  • iDrop support is gone (will anybody miss this?)

Thrilled? Me neither. The xref stuff is worthwhile, and Autodesk does deserve credit for not adding any seriously undercooked “headline” features or pointless eye candy. That, along with the 2017.1 stuff, quietly fixing some old bugs, sorting out a few old feature issues and some unsung but worthy API documentation improvements, is just about enough to make this a 3/10 upgrade.

But wait! Autodesk earned itself a minus point to take it from 3 to 2 by inconveniencing customers with yet another API change (so your 3rd party stuff will need updating), and most unfortunate of all, a DWG format change. We had grown used to enjoying a lack of compatibility issues (with plain AutoCAD, anyway – don’t get me started on the verticals), thanks to the 2013 format surviving five releases rather than the traditional three. Now that’s over.

Why does AutoCAD 2018 need a new DWG format? It probably doesn’t. The 2013 DWG format is capable of holding pretty much anything you want, as Bricsys has shown with BricsCAD V17’s ability to compatibly store 3D parametrics and (optional) BIM and sheet metal features within that format. The changes to AutoCAD 2018 don’t come anywhere near that level of complexity. Although Autodesk cites performance reasons with certain drawings, I strongly suspect the new DWG format was introduced purely to make life difficult for competitors, and to encourage wavering customers to stay with Autodesk for fear of losing compatibility. In other words, it seems likely this is an anti-competitive change rather than a technical one.

Oh, and the desktop icon is the same as 2017, so if you run both releases side by side while you’re waiting for your add-ons to be updated, you’ll find it difficult to see at a glance which shortcut is which and what’s already running. Minor irritant, but an unnecessary cheapskate move.

There are alleged to be performance improvements; probably true in places. I did notice a slight improvement in 3D Orbit performance, with AutoCAD 2018 now about up to BricsCAD standards. However, this aspect of AutoCAD 2017 performance wasn’t a problem with the sub-20 MB drawings anyway, so you may not notice a difference.

In my experience with the Beta, AutoCAD 2018 was frequently appallingly slow, particularly start-up time, which was atrocious. Those 14 million lines of code have added up over the years, and AutoCAD 2018 is bloatware; literally ten times the size of the more fully-featured BricsCAD V17 Platinum, which starts up in the blink of an eye. However, I will reserve final judgement on AutoCAD 2018 performance until I have had chance to properly test the production version. I have not factored performance in to my overall mark.

There’s nothing in this release that comes close to justifying the annual maintenance fees, let alone throwing away your perpetual license and signing up for subscription. If Autodesk wants customers to think it will be worthwhile signing up for a lifetime of rental fees in the hope that substantial improvements will result, this weak release represents a singularly unconvincing argument.

Overall, 2/10. This is a sub-mediocre release that shows once again that AutoCAD is in maintenance mode. Autodesk appears completely disinterested in AutoCAD other than as a cash cow, and severely lacking in imagination about ways of seriously improving it. Omega might not be the final AutoCAD release, but given the glacial level of improvement being shown, it might as well be.

26 Comments:

  1. Installed 2018 this morning, it conforted me in our decision for next june : stop maintenance of our 7 licences, keep them perpetual, and switch to Bricscad if we ever need more seats someday. I’m sure autodesk put the autocad team on revit, like apple put the mac team on ios (which explains why mac desktop hardware stalled for years). Autocad is dead. Let’s not spend money on a corpse.

  2. Poor show from Autodesk. So essentially the same programme we already have. Won’t hold my breath for any significant improvements to Advance Steel.

    Feeling more comfortable in my decision to drop the 40% increased maintenance fee at the end of April.

  3. AutoCAD is dead. Perfect lyrics for an old techno song by Raver FX called apocalypse now, look it up. All those people that worried how to sell bricscad to their users are loving Autodesk’s latest moves. Its like we can’t lose.

  4. Autodesk is not messing around with using the file format stick to get people to switch to rental or pay more for less in their maintenance. Way back in the distant past 3ds Max didn’t have the ability to save to previous versions. We finally got that in Max 2011. I wonder how long saving to previous versions is going to last now that “everybody” will be on the same release.
    Showcase was discontinued on 21 March, in an article dated 14 March, and is being removed from 2018 suites. Anybody get a discount on their 2018 maintenance renewal for a suite that had Showcase?

  5. Off screen object selection is a fix not a new feature. This is how it used to work in older versions of AutoCAD. I guess if you remove something for long enough people will forget, then you get to add it back in as if it’s new.

  6. You forgot best new feature! You can now find and convert text in PDF-converted-to-CAD files from dumb lines into real text! Should have been in 2017, of course, but hey.

    For perspective I sometimes like to re-read a post I made back in 200-frickin’-7 on what was busted about AutoCAD. It’s nice that some stuff was added – notably polyline editing improvements and constraints – but it’s more amazing that lots of those irritants and deficiencies are still with us today.

    Check it out here:
    http://www.worldcadaccess.com/blog/2007/09/what-needs-to-b.html

  7. Dieter Schlaepfer

    Steve,

    Just to clarify a little, everything added after AutoCAD 2017 gets rolled up into AutoCAD 2018. Yes, I agree that calling it AutoCAD 2017 Update 1 makes it sound like it’s a part of AutoCAD 2017 or claiming it twice.

    Personally, I’d have called the 2017 Update release something like the AutoCAD 2018 Summer Preview. But then, what do I know about marketing?

    Dieter

  8. I just want to see how it works in 4k, i have a dell inspiron 7548 and it’s a fucking torture working in autocad 2017… and the hatchs, no need to talk how many time it tooks for drawing it. I miss those ol ‘days when autocad used to be fast to open, to execute commands … with a pentium 4 and just 1 gb ram. They fucked up, autodesk is going down.

  9. So AutoCAD 2018 gets released. Our subscription users get instant access but nothing shows up for for the perpetual licences (under maintenance plan). Apparently we have to wait ‘weeks’ for the perpetual versions to be rolled out (LT included). Is this just another pathetic attempt at pushing customers toward the pricey subscription model?

  10. Daniel Hieronymus

    Nothing worth the high price I am already paying for the maintenance plan. The only thing I will utilize is the selection improvement. Based on your post can I assume you consider BricsCAD the best AutoCAD alternative? Definitely considering dumping AutoCAD.

    • Depends on your needs. If you don’t need a high degree of LISP etc. compatibility then others might do the job for you. For my needs, yes, it’s the best available. Including AutoCAD.

  11. ACAD 2018 is the first version that has made me want to kick my state-of-the-art, RAM-filled desktop computer. A file that opened in about 15 seconds on 2014 now takes 5:30 seconds to open. YES, FIVE MINUTES AND 30 SECONDS.

    And the same goes for other files. The program itself takes, like, 7 minutes to open. It’s disgusting.

    It’s totally ****ing ridiculous.

    I hate it.

  12. Dieter Schlaepfer

    Hi 10 year ACAD user,

    Sorry to hear that. I’m a complete novice at resource management and performance, but I’ve done some research on the subject. Something on your PC or in your environment is making AutoCAD start and perhaps run much slower than it should.

    AutoCAD 2016-2018 in my environment starts in about 10 seconds the first time, 6 seconds thereafter, a small demand loading event (< 1 sec) occurs when I start a 3D command that uses ASM. Here at home, my AutoCAD starts in about 9 seconds due to an embarrassingly slow DSL internet connection.

    Is there a way for your Process Monitor to identify where AutoCAD is spending a lot of time? Have you tried running FileMon to see whether AutoCAD is looking for and loading a lot of files (such as font files) in a variety of folder paths?

    Slow startup factors can be due to a lot of different things including the following:

    Not enough available RAM, video card or video card driver issues, anti-virus conflicts or scanning large files (ACDgnLsTrans.dbx?), spyware or anti-spyware, network slowdowns or timeouts, missing shortcuts or files, a corrupted workspace (fixedprofile.aws), searching through an unusual number of printer/plotter drivers, polling through many drives or missing drives, components on a shared network drive (fonts?), DirectX configuration, or multiple issues.

    My friend and colleague Lee Ambrosius sent me the following additional information:

    "Broken or even valid shortcuts (LNK files) that reference folders can cause strange problems; these can be located on the desktop, in support paths, or in the current drawing folder.

    Years ago, as a customer, I had problems with PC3 files as well. The specific problem was the UNC path to the plot device. We updated the UNC path in our existing PC3 files to the new server spool, but something in the file didn’t correctly update. We had to recreate all PC3 files with the correct UNC path from the start in order for the problem to clear up. I am not sure what happens if PCM files that are referenced by PC3 file are missing either.

    The best thing to do is, start with a clean install and no customized files and see what happens to isolate the problem."

    Also, I had a conversation with one of our senior programmers. He provided the following information:

    • Users will not see fast AutoCAD startup with a minimum (4GB) amount of RAM.
    • Windows anticipates which DLLs you will use and pre-loads them. This is why the initial startup is slower.
    • There are some circumstances in which license checking causes a slowdown.
    • You can use PMTOGGLE to create a performance log during an AutoCAD session that we can analyze. If will catch things that the Windows Performance Monitor misses. See

    AutoCAD 2018 Help: About Providing Performance Feedback
    http://help.autodesk.com/view/ACD/2018/ENU/index.html?guid=GUID-6A9707BE-D628-4E74-A6BA-EDB2535C30C3

    You might want to try out the performance monitoring feature in areas that result in a slowdown.

    Here’s a forum thread on the subject:
    http://forums.autodesk.com/t5/autocad-2013-2014-2015-2016-2017/autocad-2017-slow/td-p/6238985

    Here are some AKN solutions on the subject:

    AKN Solution – Slow Startup of AutoCAD 2016 Products 5 – 10 minutes
    https://knowledge.autodesk.com/support/autocad/troubleshooting/caas/sfdcarticles/sfdcarticles/Slow-startup-of-AutoCAD-2016-Products-5-10-minutes.html

    AKN Solution – AutoCAD appears to hang or freeze during startup
    https://knowledge.autodesk.com/support/autocad/troubleshooting/caas/sfdcarticles/sfdcarticles/Program-appears-to-freeze-or-hang-during-startup.html

    AKN Solution – Program starts slowly and consumes up to 1 GB of memory in the Windows Task Manager
    https://knowledge.autodesk.com/support/autocad/troubleshooting/caas/sfdcarticles/sfdcarticles/Program-starts-slowly-and-consumes-up-to-1-GB-of-memory-in-the-Windows-Task-Manager.html

    AKN Solution – AutoCAD performance is slow
    https://knowledge.autodesk.com/support/autocad/troubleshooting/caas/sfdcarticles/sfdcarticles/AutoCAD-performance-is-slow.html

    AKN Solution – Optimizing AutoCAD performance in a Windows environment
    https://knowledge.autodesk.com/support/autocad/troubleshooting/caas/sfdcarticles/sfdcarticles/Optimize-Performance-within-Windows-7-Environments.html

    If you can isolate the problem, we can usually help. If you use the product support that comes with the product, you can avail yourself of the experience we’ve collected from a large number of customers—but to save time and avoid generic advice, be as technically specific as possible to begin with.

    Hope this helps.

    Kind regards,
    Dieter

  13. Mike Whitfield

    Thanks, Dieter, but I think you’re somewhat missing the point. Here’s a thousand dollar “update” that fixes pretty much nothing, adds pretty much nothing, and makes it more difficult to exchange files with other CAD users. On top of that, we get a plethora of resources to spend our time trying to make it run only a little slower than 2017, on which we spent our time trying to make it run only a little slower than 2016, on which we spent our time trying to make it run only a little slower than 2015 . . . With any other software, that’s a franchise killer. Autodesk has been king so long that you guys don’t really believe it can happen to you. The good folks at Lotus or Wordperfect might have some wisdom to share.

    Autodesk is pretty much like being in business with the Mafia. But since you’ve passed the stage of pretending to add any real value, at least stop breaking stuff. If you must change the file format, put all those programmers to work figuring out how to make it run at least nearly as fast out of the box – for everyone –
    as the near-identical version it replaces. Our time is our product, and you guys consume far too much of it.

  14. Dieter Schlaepfer

    Hi Mike,

    Sorry, I thought you were looking for a solution, so I provided you with some good suggestions given that you’re not in proximity. In my own setup, I have a decent computer and haven’t noticed any significant difference in speed from previous versions except when I do 3D solid modeling, where I experience a small boost in speed when I use 3D Orbit.

    Please understand, that it’s now after 11:30 PM here in Northern California and my wife and I just finished watching Magnus, a great movie that should encourage everyone to strive for achievement and to never give up. I’m not at work now. I’m not an apologist for Autodesk. These are my own convictions and I’m burning my own time out of a sense that both technology and society are changing rapidly, and that everyone needs to keep up!

    As is obvious, I’m convinced that for business, leasing is the way to go, however it all depends on (1) value and (2) execution. Value, in part, depends on your efficiency, your profitability, and software’s capabilities and its quality. These are debatable and differ from person to person and project to project.

    My points are

    When the cost of developing software is spread evenly between everyone using it, the burden is not disproportionately carried by new customers. This is not fair to them.

    When the cost of leasing software (or anything else) can be assigned to each project, these costs can and rightfully should be passed along to your customers. Why should your customers expect you to eat these costs?

    When everyone is using the same, up-to-date software, the result is Better file sharing, Better cyber security (extremely important nowadays), and Better software due to the more immediate threat of people simply not renewing their subscriptions (which is your point).

    The power of a free market is why I feel that competition is absolutely vital for the business health of all vendors. To your examples, if Lotus or WordPerfect (both of which you can still buy) or any other company can’t or won’t adapt to new market realities or cease to respond to the majority of their customers, they deserve to die. So, my attitude is that I welcome competition. If someone can kick my butt in the way they write and illustrate Help documentation, I say more power to them, and I’ll sit at their feet, learn, and improve.

    Finally, as they used to say when I worked at GE, you need to consider the big picture. If that results in your going with a competitor’s product, it will be a great incentive to work smarter and do better in all respects to provide better value and better execution.

    Again, these are my own perspectives. It’s getting way late for me so, I’ll leave you with my best wishes for your productivity and success!

    Kind regards,
    Dieter

    • “if … any … company … cease to respond to the majority of their customers, they deserve to die.”

      Thank you, we got there in the end. The big question is, can Autodesk change before it’s too late, or is it too late already?

  15. Dieter Schlaepfer

    Yes, Steve. That’s the big question for all software vendors–whether they can respond quickly enough to the massive changes in technology and the deadly cyber warfare landscape.

    Several software companies already have or are in process of responding. As I emphasized before, it’s about delivering value and its execution.

    A critical factor has to do with the types of customers being served. For example, there are increasing numbers of software products that are free to students and educational institutions, and another software product that I’m familiar with is free to companies or individuals with less than $100K US in revenue.

    I personally love that idea. What do you think of it?

    Dieter

    • If Autodesk can shake itself out of its many-years-too-long hibernation and starts to respond quickly to customer needs, I’ll be pleasantly surprised. If Autodesk starts delivering competitive value and executing things to a level of competence approaching the competition I’ll be knocked off my feet.

      However, I won’t be holding my breath for any of those things. Frankly, I expect more of the same (i.e. not much) from Autodesk. I’ll be looking to other companies to deliver what Autodesk appears incapable of even attempting.

      Yes, I approve of the idea of software being free to students and educational institutions. I’ve praised Autodesk for that in the past, but have been remiss in failing to do the same for Bricsys. Thanks for the reminder!

      Not so sure about the sub-$100K thing. Pros and cons.

  16. Dieter Schlaepfer

    One of the most spectacular new developments is the Maker movement. Most makers innovate with emerging technology (or repurposing older technology). However, most makers aren’t making a lot of money, if any.

    Since you advocate responsiveness to customers, why wouldn’t it make sense for software vendors to encourage innovators?

    If some of them hit big time down the road, they can then afford to pay for the software that helped them become successful.

    Dieter

    • I know Carl’s a maker and that certainly seems to have had an effect on where he spent our money. Not in a good way, from my point of view. Lots of development resources wasted on never-profitable and now-discarded products while the products that were the source of that income were neglected to the point of stagnation. No, not an enthusiast, sorry.

      As I said, pros & cons. Cons include giving your software away to some people and not others based on an arbitrary distinction, giving some people a competitive advantage over others. That distinction has no basis in how innovative they are or how likely they are to become future paying customers. The advantaged people will be happy, the disadvantaged ones not so much.

      I can definitely see a case to be made for giving software away to non-profits, though.

  17. I remember some years back at a lecture with Lynn Allen and when asked why ACAD 20xx was so much slower than the prior version she said… with a straight face… that a newer version is supposed to be slower than the older version. Every single person in the room was aghast. Yup… straight from the spokespersons mouth. They figure if they sell it that way we won’t mind each version getting slower. Of course we do though. 14 million lines of code? It was 13 million 10 years ago when they were rolling out 2012. Has to be more than that by now because they can’t seem to figure out how to reuse the same code snipets in the app. Ever notice how for instance Design Center, Insert, Block Edit, etc. all sort differently? That’s because none of the sorting functions use the same routines to sort lists.

  18. “Yes, Steve. That’s the big question for all software vendors–whether they can respond quickly enough to the massive changes in technology and the deadly cyber warfare landscape.”

    I just love the claims that abound for getting with and keeping up with current trends (not proven technology that is) because people are making money selling sizzle.

    Fusion360 is the premier maker program and is given away free quite often. Fusion360 also requires you to work online because any saves or edits are done on the remote cloud server. So please tell me precisely how Autodesk is protecting it’s customers from cyber warfare when they are forcing people into the battle zone.

    The PC was invented and sold wildly to the people who wanted freedom from mainframes and all the onerous things that happened to customers when the mainframe owners could dictate terms to them. History repeats and evidently the new people who are not students of history have to learn all over why autonomy is king.

  19. Relies on upon your requirements. In the event that you needn’t bother with a high level of LISP and so on similarity then others may carry out the employment for you. For my requirements, yes, it’s the best accessible. Counting AutoCAD.

  20. A standout amongst the most astounding new advancements is the Maker development. Most creators improve with developing innovation (or repurposing more seasoned innovation). Be that as it may, most producers aren’t profiting, assuming any.

    Since you advocate responsiveness to clients, is there any good reason why it wouldn’t bode well for programming merchants to energize pioneers?

    In the event that some of them hit big time not far off, they can then bear to pay for the product that helped them end up plainly fruitful.

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