33 years of AutoCAD upgrades rated – part 1

In this series of posts I will look back on all the AutoCAD upgrades I’ve experienced over the years and rate each of them out of 10.

This is not a rating of the software in absolute terms, it’s a relative rating of the upgrade. That is, the improvement the software made on its predecessor. AutoCAD 2000i is a much better piece of software than AutoCAD Release 2.5, and given the choice I would rather use the former, no contest. But as an upgrade, 2000i sucked and 2.5 rocked. The biggest improving upgrade is the benchmark and gets 10; the others are rated in comparison. If a release is worse overall than its predecessor, it goes into minus territory.

In part 1, I rate AutoCAD Version 1.4 to Release 11. This is not quite a full assessment of all AutoCAD upgrades because my AutoCAD experience started with AutoCAD Version 1.4 … Full post

Script for creating AutoCAD Classic workspace

Edwin Prakaso at the excellent CAD Notes blog has done something that, in hindsight, is blindingly obvious but nevertheless very useful to a multitude of people. He’s written a simple script file that sets up the Classic workspace (or something close to it). It works in any recent AutoCAD or AutoCAD LT. Here’s the blog post:

AutoCAD Script to Create Classic Workspace Automatically

Edwin uses Microsoft OneDrive to store the script file, so if your workplace restricts access to Cloud storage you might need to download it at home.

I’ve added a reference to this script to my post AutoCAD 2017 – Putting things back to “normal”.

Undo, U, Redo, Erase, Oops differences explained

It’s been a while since I posted any beginners’ tips, so here goes.

There are several commands in AutoCAD to do with reversing things you’ve done. They are in some cases subtly different and this can confuse newcomers. Here’s what they do:

  • U – reverses the last command you used.
  • Redo – reverses the last U or Undo operation you performed, if that’s the last thing you did.
  • Undo – displays a set of command options that allow greater control over undoing things. (This is rarely used directly by a user, and is more of a programmer’s tool, so I won’t be going into any detail).
  • Erase – removes from the drawing an object or set of objects as selected by the user.
  • Oops – reverses the last Erase command, even if you have done other things in the meantime. (It also reverses erasures performed by the Wblock command, … Full post

Autodesk’s big Cloud failure

Back in 2011, Autodesk, some other vendors and many industry pundits were utterly convinced of the inevitable and near-imminent victory of Cloud-based CAD over standalone software. I wasn’t. I wanted to get a feel for how isolated my viewpoint was, so I started a poll and let it run for a while. Here’s how that turned out:

As you can see, this blog’s readers were less than convinced about the inevitability of that Cloudy future. Not so Carl Bass, who had this to say in an April 2012 TechCrunch interview:

I’d say two to three years from now, every one of our products will be used online. The only way to use them will be online.

Here’s what … Full post

AutoCAD 2017 for Mac released, still half-baked

AutoCAD 2017 for Mac and AutoCAD LT 2017 for Mac have been released. Here’s a video highlighting exciting and innovative new features such as drawing and layout tabs. Despite such stellar advances, it’s safe to say that AutoCAD for Mac remains half-baked, even after all these years. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

According to Autodesk, these are the features missing from AutoCAD 2017 for Mac:

Tool palettes
New layer notification
Navigation bar
Sheet Set Manager***
Steering wheel
Feature finder for help
Model documentation tools
Dynamic block lookup parameter creation/editing
Table style editing
Multiline style creation
Digitizer integration
Geographic location
Simplified, powerful rendering
Material creation, editing, and mapping
Advanced rendering settings
Camera creation
Point cloud
Full post

BricsCAD V17 – the best AutoCAD upgrade in years?

I’ve been evaluating BricsCAD for a few years now, and have been looking at it pretty seriously as a DWG-based LISP-compatible AutoCAD alternative for a year or so. A couple of weeks ago, I flew to Munich for the Bricsys International Conference (at Bricsys’ expense – see the Legal page for disclosure) where I learned quite a few things I had failed to notice during my own evaluation of V17. As you may have noticed, I can be pretty hard-bitten and cynical about what CAD companies have to say about their products, but I came back impressed.

The conference and the product itself are not free of flaws, but I have to say the progress Bricsys has shown in developing the BricsCAD product is really quite astonishing. The rate at which serious, worthwhile-to-customers improvements have been made to BricsCAD over the last few releases is huge. Some of … Full post

Selfie contest – we have a winner!

Congratulations to Ed Martin, who won the selfie contest with this entry:

1. This is Don Strimbu – a tricky angle on the picture, but his smile gives it away
2. He’s famous for the drawing of a nozzle – a fire hose nozzle to be precise – that he drew in 1984
3. Don used block scaling to simulate a 3D effect on the text, knurling, and fins
4. Autodesk used the drawing in its promotional material starting with an ad in the September 1984 issue of Scientific American
5. Don is now promoting products from Bricsys, notably their BricsCAD product
6. Wow, I really don’t know how long it took him, and it would be cheating to ask him … so I’ll guess. 18 hours?

Some clarifications:

1. Indeed it is Don. It was a privilege to meet him at the recent Bricsys International Conference in Munich, among other notables.

2. Correct, NOZZLE.DWG (we were all upper case 8.3 filenames at the time) which is quite possibly the most famous AutoCAD drawing of all time. It was the first complicated drawing ever done with AutoCAD, and was done in 1983 (not 1984), according to John Walker. See The Autodesk File for more information.


3. Yes, it was block scaling. In addition to the 3D effect, the thing Don came up with that amazed John Walker was using negative scale factors to achieve the equivalent of the MIRROR command. That command didn’t exist at the time, along with object snap and a bunch of other things it would be difficult to imagine life without these days.

4. Yes, it was also on Autodesk’s Task Force Tips’ letterhead for a while…

5. Yes, Don and former Autodesk Senior Vice President Dr. Malcolm Davies (also at Munich) are important figures at Techevate, enthusiastic promoters of BricsCAD in the USA.

6. 18 hours is a bit off. How about 400 40?

I remember using NOZZLE.DWG as a benchmark for comparing AutoCAD hardware back in the 80s. Open the drawing, enter REGEN and see how long it takes to get a command prompt back again. As every single zoom or pan required a regeneration back then, regen time was very important. I remember an HP Vectra taking 17 seconds and an NEC APC III taking 19. An IBM PC without math co-processor took much longer; 2 minutes 39 rings a bell, but I’m not certain. These days, it’s so fast it’s hardly measurable.

Anyway, I look forward to seeing what Ed has to say in this blog’s first ever guest posting. Could be anything!

When is a subscription-only update not a subscription-only update?

Before I get started, I want to clarify the meaning of the word ‘subscription’. For about 15 years, the word Subscription (note the initial capital) meant something specific for Autodesk customers. It meant you had bought a perpetual license and instead of paying for periodical updates, you paid for a year’s Subscription in advance. In allowed access to any new release that appeared during that year plus various other benefits.

That thing that was once called ‘Subscription’ has now been renamed ‘maintenance’ (no initial capital) in Autodeskspeak. So what does ‘subscription’ (no initial capital) mean? Rental. You pay in advance for use of the product for a period and when you stop paying, you stop using the product. This is now the only way to obtain Autodesk software you don’t already own. In addition to access to any new release that appears during the subscription period, it provides other benefits … Full post

Any BricsCAD users out there? v.2016

Back in 2010 I asked the question Any BricsCAD users out there? and there were a few of you who had tried to replace AutoCAD with BricsCAD. Most who responded had made the change successfully, others not so much.

Six years on, the situation is different. The fact that you can’t buy a permanent AutoCAD license any more has prompted some Autodesk customers to look more seriously at alternative vendors who do provide that option. Bricsys is one of those vendors, and their DWG-based AutoCAD alternative BricsCAD has improved way more rapidly than AutoCAD over the same time period. No, that isn’t a guess, I’ve been keeping an active eye on things. BricsCAD today is by no means perfect, but it’s impressive in many ways. LISP compatibility and performance are excellent, for example. BricsCAD v16 superior to the also imperfect AutoCAD 2017 in several … Full post

Autodesk’s mixed rental and perpetual license offer

If you’re on Autodesk’s mailing list you have no doubt been receiving increasingly desperate offers aimed at tempting you into renting your software. None of those have really been worth a mention, but the latest Autodesk FY17 Q3 Global Field Promotion for Asia Pacific contains something noteworthy. It acknowledges the value of perpetual licenses and allows you to retain yours. Don’t get too excited though, it does not apply in other regions and only allows you to retain your old  license. Anything new is still rental-only.

Here’s how the offer works. Let’s say you have an old copy of AutoCAD lying around. This acts as a magic token allowing you access to cheaper rental. Autodesk halves the cost of a 3-year subscription (rental) of pretty much anything (doesn’t have to be AutoCAD, it could be something much bigger) and your old AutoCAD perpetual license remains unaffected. You can … Full post

Restoring the Classic workspace in AutoCAD 2015, 2016 and 2017, etc.

One of the more common queries on my putting things back to “normal” posts is how to restore the AutoCAD Classic workspace in those releases where it is absent. Since Autodesk removed that workspace it has been too involved a process to fully describe how to do it in the context of my post. In the 2017 version of that post I’ve added a useful link, but as that’s a massive post and the link is buried near the end of it, this may have escaped your attention.

Here’s the link to Brazilian AutoCAD expert Luciana Klein’s step-by-step guide. It’s for AutoCAD 2016, but the principles apply to other releases and variants. Thanks to Luciana for going to the effort of putting this together.

AutoCAD 2017 Service Pack 1 is out but you probably don’t want to install it

As reported by Jimmy Bergmark, AutoCAD 2017 SP1 will break add-ins that use Autodesk’s built-in autoloader mechanism. It looks like it’s a problem caused by third party applications, but it’s not. It’s entirely Autodesk’s fault. The only fix at this stage is to uninstall SP1.

It’s astonishing that Autodesk would release a service pack like this, introducing a nasty bug that will break customers’ existing functionality. This reminds me of the comedy of errors that was AutoCAD Release 13 with its multitude of updates, many of which introduced new bugs as well as fixing others. AutoCAD 2017c4a, anyone?

If you needed any more evidence that automated continuous updates from Autodesk are A Bad Idea, here it is. What a crock.

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

  • AutoCAD 2013 – An Autodesk Help writer responds – 164 comments
  • AutoCAD 2012 – Putting things back to “normal” – 158 comments
  • AutoCAD 2011 – Putting things back to “normal” – 135 comments
  • AutoCAD 2009 – Putting things back to “normal” – 121 comments
  • AutoCAD 2010 – Putting things back to “normal” – 106 comments
  • The … Full post

    Last chance to buy Autodesk software – should you take it?

    If, like me, you’ve been receiving increasingly eager Autodesk emails urging you to action, you’ll already be aware that Autodesk will end the sale of its last remaining perpetual license software lines on 31 July 2016. The End Time has already arrived for AutoCAD, so the only way you can now buy any form of AutoCAD perpetual license is as part of a Suite, and you must also commit to a maintenance plan. Of course, any Suite is substantially more expensive than AutoCAD, both in terms of initial cost and ongoing maintenance fees. However, if you only buy software and aren’t interested in renting it, this is your last chance to do so. (Or is it? There’s always the possibility that Autodesk will abandon its all-rental strategy in order to stave off its losses, in which case all bets are off).

    In sales, this is known as the … Full post

    AutoCAD 2017 Feature – Share Design View

    An interesting new feature of AutoCAD 2017 is Share Design View, which is invoked using the leftmost button on the A360 Ribbon tab or the ONLINEDESIGNSHARE command. The idea behind this command is to create a web-published snapshot of your drawing that can be accessed by anyone with a browser (they’ll need a fairly recent one).

    This command works as advertised and provides another option to allow limited access to your design information without providing access to your DWG files. It creates a web page containing a view of your drawing and lets you have the URL (link) so you can access it. You can then share this URL with anyone you want to share the design with. They just follow the URL and can view the design using the Autodesk A360 Viewer (no download required).

    Heidi Hewett wrote a fuller description of how it works on the … Full post

    Suites to be replaced by Autodesk industry collections

    I just got this email. Maybe you did too:

    Dear Christopher [sic],
    I have some important information to share with you.
    As we continue our transition to a fully subscription-based business, we remain committed to providing you greater value, more flexibility, and a simpler way to access the Autodesk software you need.
    On August 1, 2016, we will introduce Autodesk industry collections and end the sale of Autodesk Design & Creation Suites.
    Industry collections will provide you access to a wide selection of the essential Autodesk software for your profession. They will offer immediate access to new technology, cloud services, and several licensing options. In short, industry collections will give you the freedom to access the software products you want, when you want them. Learn more about the industry collections here.
    To make … Full post

    Autodesk desktop app. Worst. Name. Ever. Is the product better than the name?

    Autodesk wants your software to be automatically updated so you’re always running the latest version. Let’s pretend for a moment that this is a good idea and have a look at how Autodesk now attempts to do this. For the previous couple of releases (2015/2016), this has been done using Autodesk Application Manager. For 2017, this has been replaced by Autodesk desktop app. Even if you haven’t installed any 2017 products, you may have already seen this kind of thing pop up. Repeatedly.


    Note how there’s no obvious “stop nagging me and leave me alone” option. Autodesk Application Manager’s settings page does include an Alerts tab which allows you to turn off all desktop alerts, but the above message indicates Application Manager has suffered an … Full post

    Shout out to Robert McNeel & Associates

    Let’s start the rebirth of this blog on a positive note. I’d like to express my gratitude to Robert McNeel & Associates for what must surely be the most outstanding example of long-term customer service in the CAD industry.

    These days, McNeel is best known for the 3D modelling software Rhino. I have heard good things about this product, but have never used it. However, I am a long-term user of another McNeel product, DOSLib. This is an extensive set of functions that adds greatly to the functionality of AutoLISP. It all works very well and has saved me many hours of work that I would have spent reproducing that functionality. Of course, many LISP programmers could write functions to calculate a cube root, or read a text file, or display a date in whatever format you like, or copy files, or generate a GUID, … Full post

    Let’s have your AutoCAD WS 1.6 reviews

    Autodesk has just released the latest iteration of its free online CAD app, AutoCAD WS. It’s available directly via your browser or as iOS, Mac or Android apps. This is the closest Autodesk has yet come to showing us what real CAD in the Cloud can do. Autodesk has now had three years’ work behind it since buying the company responsible for this technology. I’d like you to put aside any Cloud concerns you may have and give it a fair go. Please try it out and report back what you find in a mini-review. How well does it work? The customer stories are all from organisations using it as a viewer or for simple markup edits. Is that all it can do, or does it come close to deserving to have CAD in its name?

    What do I want you to try? It’s up to you, … Full post

    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