Let’s critique AutoCAD’s parametric constraints

One of the big-ticket features of AutoCAD 2010 was parametric constraints. This was old hat for many applications, even some based on AutoCAD like Mechanical Desktop. Parametrics and constraints already existed in vanilla AutoCAD in the guise of dynamic blocks, but this was the first time ordinary AutoCAD allowed ordinary AutoCAD objects to be constrained and linked to parametric dimensions.

Contraints mean that you can draw some objects and tell them that they are only allowed to behave in certain ways. For example, two lines have to remain parallel to each other. Parametrics mean that objects can be tied to special dimensions such that the dimensions drive the objects, not the other way round.

How good a job has Autodesk done with creating and improving this feature in AutoCAD? Has Autodesk done its usual trick of releasing a half-baked feature and then ignoring it to death? In one vital respect, the answer is … Full post

AutoCAD 2013 – Autodesk pulls off a miracle with Help

In AutoCAD 2011, Autodesk introduced on-line Help. It was badly done and poorly received. It was slow and generally awful to use, and so obviously inferior to the generally well-crafted old CHM-based system in so many ways, that there were squeals of joy when somebody discovered that one of the AutoCAD-based vertical products hadn’t been updated to the new regime and still provided a CHM file. That file became hot property, being posted by users on Autodesk’s own discussion groups and other places. Eventually, the outcry was loud enough that Autodesk was forced to make the CHM version of Help available for download. Those of us who actually use the documentation from time to time (or support people who do) breathed a sigh of relief and got on with our work, grateful that Autodesk had seen the error of its ways. But had it, really?

No. In AutoCAD 2012, Help … Full post

AutoCAD 2012 – Autodesk adds an uninstallation analgesic

One of the more painful aspects of dealing with installations of recent releases of AutoCAD and related products is that although you might run a single setup routine to install what you think is a single application, the end result is a mass of different components being installed. Each of these components is considered a separate program by Windows, and needs uninstalling separately. Frankly, this is manifestly antisocial behaviour.

I have complained to Autodesk about this ever since it started happening, but the number of sub-installations has been getting greater rather than smaller. Now Autodesk has provided an uninstallation tool, which you can find here. If you download and run psebuninstalltool.exe, you will be provided with a list of applications to uninstall.

This is a move in the right direction, but it’s still far from ideal. You still have to choose which applications to install and which … Full post

Another language pack cleanup solution

My CADLock, Inc. colleague, Owen Wengerd has posted about a fix utility he has written to help clean up drawings infested with the language pack problem discussed here. I have not yet tested Owen’s utility*, but as this should run in any AutoCAD-based product from 2007 on, it could well be a better partial solution than Autodesk’s Civil 3D-only (so far) patches. Autodesk still needs to sort out its dodgy templates, of course, and should probably provide its own non-Civil 3D fixes, if only to maintain a little corporate self-respect.

As Owen has a long and distinguished history of being consistently and demonstrably better at AutoCAD programming than Autodesk’s own programmers, I’d be tempted to try this one first. However, Civil 3D users should probably apply the patches and updates anyway to help resolve other issues.

To find Owen’s utility, go to the ManuSoftFull post

Ribbon poll roundup

Further to my last post, Here is a brief summary of this blog’s various poll results that relate in some way to Ribbon and CIP use. The most recent polls are at the top of the list. I have placed in bold those percentages that relate directly to the proportion of AutoCAD Ribbon use among the voters on this blog.

  • AutoCAD 2010 users’  Ribbon use: 44% (AutoCAD 2010 users’ CIP on: 36%)
  • Ribbon love: 28%
  • AutoCAD 2010 menu bar non-users: 23%
  • Inventor Ribbon use: 44% (Inventor 2010 users’ Ribbon use: 59%)
  • Revit Ribbon use: 42% (Revit 2010 users’ Ribbon use: 58%)
  • AutoCAD Ribbon use: 32% (AutoCAD 2009/2010 users’ Ribbon use: 38%)
  • CIP on: 27%
  • AutoCAD 2009 menu bar non-users: 21%
  • AutoCAD 2009 Ribbon one of 3 best new features: 11%
  • AutoCAD 2009 Ribbon turned on in some way: 29% (fully visible 13%)

The polls were run at … Full post

Autodesk shows Dassault how to treat customers

There are areas of Autodesk’s treatment of customers that leaves much to be desired, and I will most likely continue to be critical of that until a) I die; b) Autodesk dies; or c) the bad stuff stops happening. One thing for which Autodesk deserves praise is the distribution of bug fixes to its customers, without imposing the sort of conditions that SolidWorks customers have to put up with.

  • Do Autodesk customers need to be on Subscription to receive bug fixes? No, they do not.
  • Do Autodesk customers need to have purchased the software within the last 90 days to receive bug fixes? No, they do not.
  • Do Autodesk customers need to have reported certain specific bugs to receive bug fixes? No, they do not.
  • Do Autodesk customers even need to be running the current release to receive bug fixes? No, they do not.

AutoCAD 2010 Update … Full post

Polls, especially CIP and Ribbon settings

I encourage all my readers to participate in the variety of polls I have made available, over towards the right of this site. In particular, if you’re a user of base AutoCAD 2010, please have a go at the AutoCAD 2010 users, what are your Ribbon and CIP settings? poll. The results so far are very interesting, but the numbers are currently too small to be significant. My two longest-running polls are now approaching a thousand votes each, and it would be great to see several hundred responses to the Ribbon/CIP poll.

While I’m on the subject of polls, I’ll repeat some comments I made a while ago. Back then, I noticed that more than one person had been voting multiple times. While this is technically possible for people who have access to the Internet via multiple IP addresses, it’s obviously not desirable. The idea is that you have one … Full post

AutoCAD 2009 & 2010 users – out of memory errors?

Some of the users I support have repeated out-of-memory errors while editing fairly simple drawings. I have some 2010 users who suffer from this problem while others using the same drawings on the same hardware get by without ever seeing it. When swapping users to differerent PCs, the problem seems to follow the user. Despite various experiments, I have no idea what is going on here.

Is this happening to you or anybody you work with? Have you managed to work out if there is something that triggers it? Is there a user interface setting or method of drawing that you suspect of being the culprit?

These messages are brought to you by AutoCAD

Over the past few releases, and particularly in AutoCAD 2009 and 2010, I have noticed an increase in the number of information notices (bubbles, warnings, task dialogs, Communication Center notices, etc.) being displayed. Shaan Hurley has pointed out that 2010 Update 1 introduces a balloon notification that periodically makes you aware of how much time remains before your subscription expires. Is this a good thing?

There’s a poll on the right that asks a specific question about the default state of AutoCAD 2009 and 2010, but I’d also like to see some comments on this. What do you think of these messages? Are they useful? Do they get in the way? Do you take any notice of them? Are there too many? Do we need any others? Do you turn them off? Is it easy enough to control them?

AutoCAD 2010 Update 1

Update 1, the first of Autodesk’s Updates (formerly Service Packs) for AutoCAD 2010 is now out for AutoCAD and AutoCAD LT. Equivalent updates for various verticals will follow soon. The Readme contains information about what was fixed, so I won’t reproduce that here.

As always, read the readme first and exercise the usual paranoia. However, my experience of the pre-release versions of this Update has been positive.

Hotfix available for Raster Design licensing issue

Thanks to Brian and Rick for pointing out the availability of a hotfix for Raster Design 2010’s standalone/network license incompatibility. As a bonus, it also fixes some Raster Design / Civil 3D stability issues.

The hotfix is available here, and as always with patches, fixes, service packs and updates, read the readme first.

Note that although this fixes the most common scenario where a network Raster Design needs to work on a standalone AutoCAD, it does not fix the opposite scenario. So if you have a bunch of network licensed AutoCAD variants available to you and you have a standalone license of Raster Design because you’re the only person in the office who needs it, you’re still out of luck. If you’re in such a position, I think you have a very strong case for a no-cost change from standalone to network licensing for Raster … Full post

AutoCAD 2010 – Putting things back to “normal”

Edit: If you’re running a more recent release of AutoCAD, have a look at the post AutoCAD 2017 – Putting things back to “normal” instead.

Easily the most popular post on this blog, in terms of both hits and comments, is AutoCAD 2009 – Putting things back to “normal”. Lots of people seemed to find it useful, so I guess it’s worth doing an updated sequel for the current release. Much of this post is the same as the original, but there are differences.

Note: there are updated versions of this post for AutoCAD 2011 and 2012.

One thing that’s regularly asked whenever a new AutoCAD release hits the streets is how to make it work like earlier releases. As I stated in my original post, I think you should give any new features a fighting chance before turning them off or ignoring them. The … Full post

Network/standalone clash is confined to Raster Design

Autodesk has been in touch to confirm that the failure to allow a mixed network/standalone environment is confined to Raster Design. I haven’t yet tested this myself, but I’ve been told unequivocally that you can mix standalone and network license models for the major products.

Here is the official Autodesk response to the issue:

We are very aware of the issue currently relating to the co-existence of an AutoCAD SLM (stand-alone license) and AutoCAD Raster Design NLM (network license) configuration. This was not an intentional “change of licensing policy” as expressed in some blog posts this week, but an unfortunate side effect of updating our licensing technology for SLM (stand-alone) seats to be in sync with our NLM seats for all AutoCAD-based products. We can only apologize for this new behavior experienced by customers upgrade to 2010 version products.

We are currently pursuing a couple of options to rectify this … Full post

AutoCAD’s magic vanishing attachments

There are now quite a few file types that you can attach to an AutoCAD drawing as a reference, in the same way that you can attach other drawings as xrefs. We’ve been able to attach other drawings since Release 11 (1990) and images since Release 14 (1997), but every release since 2007 has introduced a new kind of attachment. In AutoCAD 2010, you can now also attach PDFs, MicroStation DGNs (v7 and v8), DWF and DWFx files.

But should you? Maybe not. It depends who is going to use those drawings after you. If you know for certain that every user of that drawing is going to be using 2010 and later, that’s no problem. But if there is the possibility of earlier releases being used, your fine-looking attachments could vanish silently in the night. Attach a PDF to your drawing in 2010, give it to a user of … Full post

Autodesk plans to fix Raster Design licensing SNAFU

I have been in touch with various people at Autodesk about Raster Design 2010’s failure to work in a mixed standalone/network environment. These people have all been suitably apologetic, they assure me it wasn’t a deliberate move on Autodesk’s part, and that moves are afoot to provide a solution fairly soon. For example:

Our intention was never to cause such inconvenience for our Raster customers with the licensing change. We are currently working on a solution and hope to have more information in the coming weeks.


…we are very aware of the issue currently relating to the co-existence of an AutoCAD SLM and Raster Design NLM. This was not an intentional “change of licensing policy”, but an unfortunate side effect of updating our licensing technology for SLM (stand-alone) seats to be in sync with our NLM seats for all AutoCAD-based products. I can only apologize for this new … Full post

Autodesk messes up Raster Design 2010 licensing

I was horrified to learn (in this Autodesk Discussion Group thread) that Autodesk has changed the rules as far as the way Raster Design licenses are handled. It’s quite possible that Autodesk has also done this with other products that I’m not yet aware of. If so, please comment and let me know.

If you’re not familiar with Raster Design, it’s an Autodesk add-on that adds raster handling capabilities to AutoCAD and AutoCAD-based products. The change that has been introduced is that the licensing method of AutoCAD and Raster Design now has to match. That is, if your AutoCAD is standalone, the network version of Raster Design won’t run on it, and vice versa.

Why does this matter? Let’s say you’re a CAD Manager in this scenario:

You have a hundred AutoCAD users, half of which are full-time users with standalone licenses and the other half who are mainly part-time … Full post

Guillermo Melantoni’s 3D blog

What a Mesh is another new Autodesk blog, this time from Autodesk 3D guru Guillermo Melantoni. You may remember Guillermo mentioning his forthcoming blog in my A gaggle of geeks video, and now it has arrived. You can also see Guillermo in action in several videos about AutoCAD 2010’s new 3D mesh capabilities on AutoCAD Exchange.

Guillermo is very, very smart, he expertly uses the products he develops (the building on the AutoCAD 2010 packaging was done by him), and it’s great to see him interacting with users in this way.

AutoCAD 2010 – Turning off InfoCenter

I generally avoid the still-awful Autodesk discussion groups these days, but I do hop in from time to time in the vain hope of seeing some improvement. In doing so, I occasionally pick up a gem, and that happened today. I think this one deserves a wider audience, so here it is.

In AutoCAD 2010, you can disable the InfoCenter toolbar by opening the
registry, and going to the following key:


In that key there’s a value with the name “InfoCenterOn”.

Changing that value from 1 to 0 will disable the InfoCenter toolbar.

Source: Tony Tanzillo in this thread. Note that the “ACAD-8001” part will be different if you use a vertical variant of AutoCAD.

Why would you want to do this? To improve startup times and reduce annoyance. Autodesk should have provided a better mechanism for doing this. The absence of convenient, designed-in off switches … Full post

Some thoughts on AutoCAD Exchange

I’ve added a link to Autodesk’s new AutoCAD community site, AutoCAD Exchange. As with most things Autodesk, there are pros and cons. Here are my first impressions.

I think it looks good in a Vista-black kind of way. I know some of you don’t like the black look in software, but I do. The layout looks a bit cluttered and confused at first, but I’m sure visitors will quickly get used to where to find things. The site appears to be designed around 1024-wide resolution. If you have more than this, as most CAD users do, then there are wide areas of wasted space either side of the good stuff.

The front page is basically a teaser. To get to the useful content or do pretty much anything, you need to register or sign in. I don’t particularly like this, and it gives the impression (false or not) that … Full post

A gaggle of geeks

Time to lighten things up a bit, I think. While attending the AutoCAD 2010 product launch in San Francisco on 5 February 2009, I conducted a series of micro-interviews with a collection of AutoCAD bloggers and Autodesk employees. One geek asks 14 other geeks if they are geeks; nothing too serious here. I hope Shaan enjoys my tabloid journalist editing job right at the end.

YouTube link.

Thanks to all the interviewees:

Heidi Hewett, Autodesk blogger
Lynn Allen, Autodesk blogger
Melanie Perry, blogger
Robin Capper, blogger
Brian Benton, blogger
Todd Shackelford, blogger
Jon Page, Autodesk person
Matt Stein, Autodesk person and personal blogger
Shaan Hurley, Autodesk blogger
Donnie Gladfelter, blogger
Ellen Finklestein, blogger
David Cohn, blogger
Mark Douglas, blogger
Guillermo Melantoni, Autodesk … Full post