How to break Civil 3D 2013

In Civil 3D 2013 (with or without hotfix 2.1), use the PLOT command and use the Window option. While being prompted for the window corners, use the middle button mouse wheel to zoom to locate the exact point you want. Civil 3D then enters a loop in which it displays: Document “drawing name” has a command in progress. Hit enter to cancel or [Retry]: At this point, the user can do nothing with the program. Hitting Enter, Esc, R, etc. or doing more all do nothing except cause the message to be redisplayed. Picking a point or further wheel zooming does nothing useful. Using the application’s red X, or attempting to use the Taskbar to close it are equally ineffectual. The user has no alternative but to terminate Civil 3D using Task Manager, losing all unsaved work in all drawings. This happens for me in Windows 7 64-bit. It does not occur using AutoCAD 2013 on the same system. Does it happen for you?

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AutoCAD Help suckage to continue – confirmed

In a recent post on Between the Lines, Shaan passed on the following response from the AutoCAD Team: There has been some recent discussions about the built-in help system in AutoCAD 2013, both positive and some criticism.  As our longtime users know, AutoCAD help has been through many evolutions. We are particularly proud of the new AutoCAD 2013 online learning environment we recently released (AutoCAD Online Help Mid-Year Updates.) This update addressed several user requested fixes and changes, and we will continue to take our direction from our user’s feedback. We do recognize that the online learning environment may not be the solution for every user, so while we are focused on creating a rich and personalized online experience, we will continue to maintain our current basic offline experience. (The emphasis is mine). This statement, although couched in marketingspeak, confirms what I’ve had to say on the subject. Here’s my translation into plain English: AutoCAD 2013 Help sucked, the customers said so, the recent update improved matters somewhat for online users, but the awful old system stays in place for offline users. The offline system is in maintenance mode, and the experience will continue to remain basic (i.e. it will suck long-term). There’s no mention of correcting this situation; it’s clearly a matter of policy rather than some unfortunate accident. Today, I was using Autodesk Navisworks Manage 2013. As you might expect from an Autodesk product, it’s powerful but unstable. In addition to the lockups and crashes, it has various bugs and annoyances. In looking for a way of working around one of the annoyances, I delved into the Help system. Strangely enough, this product (much younger than AutoCAD) uses something that looks remarkably like an old-fashioned CHM-based Help system. It worked offline. It was quick. It had contents, search…

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AutoCAD 2013 – Using Help in anger

Trying to be fair, I decided to put aside my initial hostility to the AutoCAD 2013 Help system and use it for real. I used it in a realistic situation, to find out how to work with something new or changed (model documentation) as I was working through it with my own example drawing. Try as I might to give it a fair go, I could only get so far before I got irritated. Using it in anger might not be an entirely appropriate phrase for it, but it’s not that far off. Using it in annoyance, perhaps? Here’s how it went. I hit F1, wait for it to finish loading itself, click in the search box (because that’s not where the focus is to start with), type ‘model documentation’ and pick Search (because Enter doesn’t work). I then wait again, for about 10 seconds, even though I’ve configured it for offline use. Eventually, there is a huge mass of results displayed, almost all of which are totally (totally!) irrelevant to model documentation. Most of them are relevant only to ARX programmers dealing with completely unrelated matters. If I use the “phrase” option rather than “and”, the list is much shorter and has a much higher proportion of results that have some relevance, but there are still completely pointless results. For example, the 4th result is About Performance Considerations (AutoLISP), which does not contain the phrase at all. It does contain the words ModelSpace and Document, but not together. It does not contain any information remotely related to model documentation. Didn’t Autodesk buy a search technology company a while back? If that company’s technology is in use here, then Autodesk bought a dud. At least the top two results directly relate to what I need, so I’ll move on with those. They are Commands…

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AutoCAD 2013 – Help improved in one area

There’s one important area in which AutoCAD 2013’s Help shines when compared with its immediate predecessors. If you’re a Visual LISP user, you’ll be pleased to know that if you select a function name in the editor (e.g. (vla-get-ActiveDocument)) and hit Ctrl+F1, this now takes you to the appropriate page in the ActiveX and VBA Reference, as it should. In AutoCAD 2011 you just got a cryptic message or a 404 error, depending on the context. In AutoCAD 2012, you were just taken to the front page of Help and expected to find it yourself. Props to Autodesk for fixing this problem. As a bonus, the reference you’re taken to is still a CHM so it works nicely. The Search tab doesn’t work in Windows 7, but that applies to all CHM Help and it’s Microsoft’s fault, not Autodesk’s. The structured contents and index are fully functional, which makes the whole thing usable even without the search facility.

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AutoCAD for Mac Update 2

As reported on Without a Net, there is a second update for AutoCAD 2011 for Mac. This will be welcome news to those of you who have discovered that AutoCAD crashes when using Copy/Paste after installing the 10.6.7 OS X update. If you haven’t applied Update 1 yet, you will need to do that first. As always, read the readme before applying the update itself.

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ClassicArray Beta 2 (0.5.0)

I have just posted the second public Beta of ClassicArray™ (version number 0.5.0). There are some documentation updates (still no Help, though), and the main changes are: Bugs fixed with rectangular arrays where single-row and/or column arrays confused AutoCAD. The command now remembers its settings from one invocation to the next, within a single drawing session. Timebomb has been moved on 7 days to 21 April. The ReadMe.txt file in the zip explains how to uninstall the old version. Simply delete the old ClassicArray.bundle folder from the place you put it. Replace it with the new ClassicArray.bundle folder from the later zip file. Then try to break it! Please see the main ClassicArray Beta post for the download, and add any comments there.

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AutoCAD 2012 – ClassicArray Beta

People have already started to notice that AutoCAD 2012 has killed the dialog box interface for the Array command, and not everybody is happy about it. So I guess it’s time to launch ClassicArray™ Beta. ClassicArray is an add-on for AutoCAD 2012 for Windows that allows the creation of arrays using a dialog box interface similar to that provided in AutoCAD from 2000 to 2011, but enhanced to include new AutoCAD 2012 functionality. I will create another post later have created a Help page that describes ClassicArray more fully, but for now here are the commands ClassicArray adds to AutoCAD: ClassicArray (short form CA) ClassicArrayRect (short form CAR) ClassicArrayPolar (short form CAP) ClassicArraypAth (short form CAA) In addition, there are the same names with N appended, which default to creating non-associative arrays. For example, ClassicArraypAthN (short form CAAN) will create a non-associative path array. However, it is easy to create associative or non-associative arrays of any type, whatever command you use to start it. Toolbar and Ribbon buttons are provided. Help is currently non-functional now complete. This pre-release software is time-bombed, meaning it will no longer work after the date shown below. Here it is to download: ClassicArray.1.0.0.zip (Shipping product – 850 KB – will not create arrays after 15 day evaluation period ClassicArray.0.7.0.zip (Release Candidate 2 – 850 KB – will not create arrays after 15 day evaluation period) ClassicArray.0.6.0.zip (Release Candidate – 787 KB – will not work after 28 April 2011) ClassicArray.0.5.0.zip (49 KB – will not work after 21 April 2011) ClassicArray.0.4.2.zip (48 KB – will not work after 14 April 2011) It’s a small zip file; unzip it and read the readme to see what to do with it run the setup routine of your choice, depending on whether you want to install it for just the current user or for all users. Installation…

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AutoCAD 2012 – Array has good and bad points

For many users, the most useful new feature in AutoCAD 2012 is going to be the updated Array command. It adds a great deal of very welcome new functionality that will provide a potential productivity boost for 2D and 3D users. But it’s from an Autodesk wedded to its infernal 12-month product cycle, so of course it’s half-baked. The Good So what’s good about the Array command in AutoCAD 2012? Associativity. By default, arrays are now associative objects. This means that if you want to, say, modify the distance between columns a couple of days after you drew them, you can now do so. If you’re a Ribbon user, it’s easy to change array parameters because when you select an array, you get a Ribbon tab dedicated to just that task. If you’re not, then the Properties palette allows you to do the same thing. Dynamic preview. Once you have set your various options appropriately, you can just move your cursor around and click to choose things like the number of rows and columns. Path option. In addition to rectangular and polar arrays, you can now array along a path such as a polyline, similar to the Measure and Divide commands. But because it’s associative, if you edit the path, the array changes too. 3D functionality. It is now easy to create 2D or 3D arrays with the Array command. You can add levels (Z) to the rows (Y) and columns (X) of arrays, and this applies to all three types of array. You can also provide a elevation increment, which means the items get progressively higher the further they are from the base row. Think of the seating in a stadium as an example, although real seating arrangements are usually more complex than you will see in the Autodesk…

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Is AutoCAD stability getting better or worse?

The term “stability” is sometimes used as a euphemism to refer to how many bugs a program has. I don’t use the word in that way. To me, stability is a measure of a program’s basic ability to keep functioning without crashing or corrupting data. A program can have a thousand tiny irritating bugs and still be very stable. Another program might have only one bug, but if that causes it to crash a dozen times a day, taking down your data with it, then that is very unstable. So, given that definition, how stable is your AutoCAD, or vertical AutoCAD variant? How often does it crash, or mess up your drawings? How does that stability compare with your experience of earlier releases? How does the stability of plain AutoCAD compare with that of its vertical siblings? Please add your comments. If this proves a popular topic, I may run some polls.

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Dealing with blacked-out leader plots in older AutoCAD

Any drawing created in AutoCAD 2008 and later which uses Multileaders will present problems to users of AutoCAD 2007 and earlier. The users of the earlier release will find that rather than having leaders to deal with, they have proxy objects. As a result, it is impossible to edit these leaders in any way other than erasing them. Also, depending on the setting of the PROXYSHOW system variable in the earlier release, the objects may not display at all, or could display only as rectangles. If the user of 2008 or later used the background mask feature when creating Multileaders, they might appear to be fine on the screen. But when plotting, the text part of each leader will come out as a filled black rectangle. That sort of thing has a long history of happening with wipeouts in some cases, depending on the output device and driver. This problem is different because it happens every time, and with all output devices. What can be done if you are the recipient of such drawings? The -ExportToAutoCAD command, which can be used to create a version of the drawing with most proxy objects converted to standard AutoCAD objects, does not work with Multileaders. So I can see three options, in descending order of desirability: Upgrade to a more recent release of AutoCAD. Depending on your circumstances, this may not be a practicable solution. Forbid the use of Multileaders among your users and all parties producing drawings for you. This also may not be a practicable solution. Explode the leaders. This results in them becoming dumb text and lines, with no background masking. However, the masking can be easily re-established using the Textmask command that is part of the Express Tools. It fills me with horror to suggest something as awful as…

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AutoCAD 2011 Update 1.1

As I described earlier, Autodesk recalled AutoCAD 2011 Update 1 because it killed AutoCAD under certain circumstances (e.g. plotting with the layer palette open). Now there’s a fixed version available for AutoCAD and LT. There is no news yet about Updates for vertical AutoCAD variants. If you have installed Update 1 and the hotfix, you don’t need to do anything. If you have not installed Update 1, you should install Update 1.1. If you have installed Update 1 but not the hotfix, you can either install the hotfix or uninstall Update 1 and then install Update 1.1. For the full story, I suggest you read Tom Stoeckel’s Without a Net post. At the risk of sounding like a broken record (remember those?), make sure you read the readme before installing or uninstalling anything.

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Missing language pack fixes compared

Having tried out the cleanup fixes from both Autodesk and Owen Wengerd, they both appear to work fine. Here are some points of comparison: Owen’s utility will work with any AutoCAD variant from 2007 on; Autodesk’s fix is currently restricted to Civil 3D 2009, 2010 and 2011. As this problem is definitely not confined to Civil 3D, and may need to be dealt with by non-Civil 3D users, that could be the dealbreaker right there. Owen’s can be installed by anyone by simply copying a file and loading it when needed or in the Startup Suite; Autodesk’s requires admin rights to either run an installer program or manual replacement of a program component, depending on the release. Owen’s loads and runs as the user requires; Autodesk’s runs automatically when opening and saving a drawing. Owen’s provides some information about what is getting cleaned up; Autodesk’s operates in total silence. Owen’s utility can take a while to scan through everything in a complex drawing; Autodesk’s appears to take no longer to open the drawing than normal. To give you some idea of the times involved, in one test in Civil 3D 2011, opening a blank ( but 2.2 MB!) drawing based on the Civil 3D template took 3.6 s with or without the fix; Owen’s cleanup took 0.7 s. In another test on an oldish PC with AutoCAD 2010, cleaning up a drawing with 2.8 MB of real content took Owen’s utility about 15 seconds. For my purposes, Owen’s utility is what I need, because the users who need to clean up these drawings use AutoCAD, not Civil 3D. I’ve set up a batch process for these users, which opens each selected drawing, runs Owen’s utility and saves the drawing. However, I suggest Civil 3D users install the relevant updates and…

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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 ManuSoft ARX freebies page and look for CleanLanguage.zip. While you’re there, use the Software menu to check out some of the other stuff Owen has done. * Edit: I have now tested it, and it works beautifully in both AutoCAD 2010 and Civil 3D 2011.

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Partial fix for language pack problem

The Civil 3D group within Autodesk has moved impressively quickly in providing a partial solution to the language pack problem I described earlier. What has been provided so far is a set of patches for Civil 3D 2009, 2010 and 2011 that allow Civil 3D users to remove the spurious language pack flag by opening and re-saving the affected drawings. I have not yet tested this, but I am informed that it works. What’s left to do? Obviously, not all recipients of these drawings are going to have Civil 3D. In fact, prior to isolating Civil 3D as one definite source of the problem, I had spent a lot of time helping out AutoCAD users clean up language-pack-infected drawings, using awkward and dangerous copy-and-paste methods. So Autodesk has AutoCAD and all its vertical variants to work through yet as far as a cleanup mechanism goes. Also, the problem needs resolving at the source end. All “infected” templates (in Civil 3D and any other verticals that may have the problem) need fixing and distributing to users as quickly and effectively as possible, in order to reduce the number of drawings being created with the problem. I know individual users can do this for themselves, but large numbers of users won’t do so if left to their own devices, causing problems for everyone else. As the originator of the problem, Autodesk has a duty to do its very best to resolve it. Thanks, Autodesk, for quickly getting started on fixing the problem and providing a partial solution in a timely manner. I hope you can provide the rest of the solution equally efficiently.

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Civil 3D 2011 ANZ comes complete with “virus”

If you install Civil 3D 2011 using the ANZ (Australia/New Zealand) profile, when you start it up for the first time, you will see a large warning indicating that the drawing requires an Asian language pack to be installed. It also warns that this is a symptom of the acad.vlx virus: Now I know that in this case it’s not an actual virus causing the problem, but rather the ANZ template drawing being “infected” with this Language Pack requirement. I have had to deal with quite a few incoming drawings in this state, and that’s painful enough without Autodesk also infecting every Australasian Civil 3D drawing with the problem. Other profiles may be similarly infected, but at the moment I don’t know. Edit: Matt Anderson reports that the problem occurs on US systems too. Autodesk, I suggest that as a matter of great urgency you create a clean ANZ template file, post it as a hotfix and warn all your Civil 3D customers of the SNAFU. Neither “install the language pack” nor “turn off the warning” are adequate workarounds. Your customers do not want to send out or receive any drawings in this state. Beyond the immediate issue of Autodesk shipping software that on first use warns the user that they may have a virus (and encourages the creation of drawings that spread that warning far and wide), I would appreciate some assistance in dealing with “infected” drawings, whether in Civil 3D or plain AutoCAD. First, I need to be able to detect such drawings using LISP so I ensure they are rejected rather than allowed into our drawing management system, and this detection will need to work in releases at least as far back as AutoCAD 2004. Second, I need a mechanism of cleaning up such drawings. The only…

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Filling the holes in Autodesk’s CHM Help stopgap

It was good to see Autodesk react to criticism of AutoCAD 2011’s browser-based Help with an acknowledgement of the problems and an attempt to provide a workaround by making a zip file of CHM files available for download. That’s much better than ignoring people’s concerns, denying the validity of those concerns or shooting the messenger, which has been known to happen in the past. However, there are some holes in the workaround, only some of which can be filled. Under 64-bit Windows 7, the Search pane is blank, as it is in the CHM Help for earlier releases on that platform. This is stated on the download page. Index works well, but Search doesn’t. As Search is one of the worst aspects of the browser-based Help, this is a rather unfortunate. There is no obvious way of making the CHMs provide contextual help. Don’t bother pointing at acad181.chm in the Files tab of Options, it doesn’t work. Edit: See Chris Cowgill’s post on the AUGI forums for a partial workaround. Even without contextual help, no advice is provided for calling the CHMs from within AutoCAD; you are only told that you can set up a shortcut on your desktop and double-click on that when you need it. However, you can set up an alias command in AutoCAD. To do this, edit the acad.pgp file or use the Express Tools Aliasedit command to set up a shell command. The alias name can be whatever you like (e.g. HEL), the command name should simply be the path and filename of the main acad181.chm file. The CHM files are currently available only in English. The set of CHM files is incomplete. See below for more details and what you can do about it. These are the CHM files provided with AutoCAD 2011: acet.chm – Express…

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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 2 (that’s Service Pack 2 in the old language) has just been released for the users of last year’s software. This includes the Update 1 changes. The usual caveats apply, including reading the Readme first. As usual, Autodesk’s oddball numbering system means that after installation, Update 1 shows up as Version 2 and Update 2 shows up as Version 3 in the About screen. This Update applies to straight AutoCAD (and LT), not the vertical variants. I have no news about non-English versions. Patrick Emin informs me these updates are language-independent.

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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?

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