How do I know most Autodesk customers don’t want rental?

In a recent comment, I was asked how I know Autodesk’s move to all-rental is the opposite of what customers want. Have I conducted research? This is an excellent question and deserves a proper answer. So how do  I know this? Why am I so convinced? There are several independent sources of evidence, one bit of critical thinking and one undeniable proof. They all point in the same direction. First, a bit of evidence. There are many public places on the Internet where this issue has been discussed, including Autodesk’s own discussion groups. The viewpoints expressed everywhere are overwhelmingly against Autodesk’s all-rental plans. There are private places Autodesk customers hang out where I have access, and I receive private emails. Again, the overwhelmingly majority of the viewpoints I see expressed are very strongly against Autodesk’s strategy. There’s a poll right here. How’s it going? None of that is very scientific, but Autodesk has  conducted proper research. Among other things, it gathered customer focus groups at AU to determine the mood regarding going all-rental. I know somebody who went to one of those. The customers present at that particular gathering were 100% against. OK, so you don’t want to accept any of that? Can’t trust the sources? It’s all a bit anecdotal? Fine. How about a bit of critical thinking? Most customers of major Autodesk products are long-term users who would undeniably pay more via rental than perpetual and then have nothing to show for it when they stop paying. What are the chances of most of them wanting  that outcome? Still not convinced? OK. The most concrete way in which it could be determined whether customers prefer rental would be an experiment in which both options were made available and the market were allowed to decide. An expensive experiment, sure, but…

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Battle of the Bullshit part 2 – Autodesk’s sophistry

In my last post, I gave Bentley a well-deserved slap for, er, saying things that perhaps weren’t entirely factual. Now it’s Autodesk’s turn. What’s this about? Carl White, Senior Director of Business Models at Autodesk, wrote a blog post Not so fast Bentley: Separating fact from fiction responding to statements made by Bentley in its press release Bentley Announces Autodesk License Upgrade Program. Some of Carl’s observations on Bentley’s claims were perfectly valid, but unfortunately he went beyond that and wrote a few more things – “facts” – where he’s on shakier ground. Let’s examine Carl’s interpretation of reality, shall we? Fact #1 – No Autodesk customer ever  loses the right to use the perpetual software license you’ve purchased, it is “evergreen”. This is generally true. There are exceptions (read the EULA), but let’s not split hairs. In the vast majority of cases, we don’t lose the right  to use the software. We can, however, lose the ability  to use the software. That loss is practically inevitable long-term because of the progress of technology. I have several old AutoCAD releases I can’t run for environmental reasons, not licensing ones. This means that if we want to use our licenses long-term, we rely on Autodesk’s ongoing cooperation. That’s where customers have legitimate concerns, because there are no guarantees that Autodesk will continue to provide that cooperation. If it does, there are no guarantees that cooperation will remain free or even affordable. And if you’re on a software maintenance plan, you can continue to receive all of the benefits of software updates and technical support for as long as you’d like. This has been officially promised, and let’s give Autodesk the benefit of the doubt and assume that this promise will be fulfilled to the letter. There’s still an elephant in the room.…

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Battle of the Bullshit part 1 – Bentley’s terminological inexactitudes

I note with interest the blog post Not so fast Bentley: Separating fact from fiction by Carl White, Senior Director of Business Models at Autodesk. In this, he responds to statements made by Bentley in its press release Bentley Announces Autodesk License Upgrade Program, stating: Earlier this week, Bentley announced an “upgrade program” for Autodesk customers. We found the offer to be disingenuous and mischaracterizes what Autodesk offers our customers. OK, let’s have a look at what Carl is complaining about. Here’s one Bentley statement that could be considered questionable: For consideration by owners of Autodesk perpetual licenses facing Autodesk’s imminent deadline for the write-off of the future value of their investment, Bentley Systems is offering recovery of the value otherwise subject to forfeit. Carl has a point here. The “imminent deadline for the write-off of the future value” line is presented as fact, but at this stage it’s not true. While perpetual license owners may legitimately fear for the long-term value of their investments, there is nothing subject to an imminent deadline other than the end of the ability to purchase further perpetual licenses. Likewise, the “subject to forfeit” thing is a scaremongering phrase that deserves Carl’s “disingenuous” label. Autodesk isn’t subjecting anything to forfeit right now. Anything else dubious in Bentley’s statement? Bentley Systems considers purchases of perpetual licenses to be long-term investments by our users, so we continually innovate to increase their value. We are glad to now extend this ‘future-proofing’ to Autodesk license owners who otherwise will lose value in their applications. That’s all pretty reasonable but the “…will lose value in their applications” part is questionable. We might suspect that will happen, but we don’t know  it yet. Perhaps “…may  lose value in their applications” would be more reasonable. Bentley also quotes a customer as saying: Autodesk continually sets…

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Hotfix for AutoCAD 2017 SP1 Autoloader bug

As reported earlier, AutoCAD 2017 SP1 breaks third-party add-ins that use the officially approved Autoloader mechanism. Autodesk is to be commended for acting quickly to produce a hotfix for this. In order to make this hotfix available quickly, Autodesk has taken the very unusual step of allowing a third party to distribute it. See this post from Jimmy Bergmark, who pointed out the bug in the first place. Kudos to whoever at Autodesk made the call to think outside the box to do this. It’s a very un-Autodesk Corporate thing to do, and particularly commendable for that very reason. It’s important to note that because of the way Service Packs are now handled in AutoCAD and the vertical products based on it, this SP1 bug affects all of those products, not just base AutoCAD. Here is the list of affected products*: AutoCAD 2017 AutoCAD Map 3D 2017 AutoCAD Civil 3D 2017 AutoCAD Mechanical 2017 AutoCAD Electrical 2017 AutoCAD Architecture 2017 AutoCAD MEP 2017 AutoCAD P&ID 2017 AutoCAD Plant 3D 2017 AutoCAD Utility Design 2017 *See links in comments below for further information about this. Having heaped praise upon Autodesk for acting so quickly, it still needs to be said that Autodesk has done the wrong thing very quickly. Customers who go along with Autodesk’s continuous update push will see third party applications failing. The third party developers will be getting support requests from those customers and will have to persuade them a) that it’s Autodesk’s fault, and b) to go and deal with a manual hotfix that requires admin rights and requires copying/renaming things in Program Files. For customers without sufficient confidence to do that, or for whom just getting permission from IT to perform admin-rights operations is onerous, that’s pretty inconvenient. It is wrong for Autodesk to offload the consequences…

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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.

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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 impending event closing technique. You can see it in action at car yards around the world. The idea is to encourage you to buy something while you still have the opportunity to do so, preferably without thinking too hard about whether it’s a good idea. In this case, is it a good idea? Let’s examine the pros and cons. Pros Last chance to buy a perpetual license. Maybe. Cheaper long-term than renting. Maybe. Cons Very expensive unless you are likely to make use of multiple large components of the Suite. Mandatory commitment to a maintenance plan, at least initially. Unknown price vector for that maintenance plan. However, it’s safe to assume it’s not going to get cheaper over time. Immediate obsolescence of Suites has already been announced. The long-term value of any Autodesk permanent license is a big unknown. Only you can make the call about whether a last-minute Suite purchase makes sense for…

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Microsoft demonstrates why automatic updates are a terrible idea. Listening, Autodesk?

I like Windows 10. After some investigation and with some trepidation, I have upgraded two Windows 7 computers and one Windows 8 (ugh) computer to Windows 10. In use, I’m generally very happy with it. It boots fast, works well and most of the more ridiculous aspects of the Windows 8 “let’s assume your computer is a phone” interface are gone. The fact that I can scroll windows using my mouse wheel without first clicking on those windows to obtain focus is a real productivity plus. I would be happy to recommend Windows 10 to all Windows 8 users and most Windows 7 users, dependant on individual needs. I would, but I’m not. Microsoft is entirely responsible for that reluctance; read on. The one thing I really, really dislike about Windows is the way it pushes updates. With Windows 7 I was always selective about what updates I allowed through and when they were applied. Windows 10 doesn’t give you that choice. It downloads and applies its updates as it sees fit, regardless of the importance of those updates, my bandwidth and the level of inconvenience applying those updates might cause. Windows 10 Professional only allows you to defer updates until the next restart, and will nag you to restart until you give in. This is bad enough, but the Home version just takes over your computer and updates and restarts whenever it feels like it. Yes, even if you are in the middle of doing something and have unsaved work, and the update process leaves your computer unusable for two hours. I wouldn’t have believed it if it hadn’t happened to a very computer-smart member of my own family. Quite astonishing levels of malicious arrogance from the utter wankers at Microsoft. I know there can be some very important…

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Disaster in progress – Autodesk’s all-rental plans are failing

This post originally contained assertions about Autodesk’s financials that were based on flawed understanding, and has been removed. It’s not really possible to delete things from the Internet, so if you ever want to relive the joy of seeing me get things spectacularly wrong, feel free to use the Internet Archive to do so.

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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 “end of life” experience so there’s not much point having it on your system. Before I get onto the new product and how it works, I want to discuss its name. It’s woeful. I have never been less whelmed by any product name than Autodesk desktop app. It’s not even Autodesk Desktop App, it’s Autodesk desktop app (sans initial capitals). It’s dull, generic, uninspired,  and it means nothing. AutoCAD is an Autodesk desktop app. Inventor is an Autodesk desktop app. Graphic Impact used to be an Autodesk desktop app. This is the equivalent of Ford naming their next new car “Ford road vehicle”. It says to me, “We couldn’t come up with a name so we just gave up.” Having got that off my chest, what about the product itself? What does it do? According to Autodesk, this: Autodesk desktop app is a content delivery solution. The desktop component installs with Microsoft Windows®-based Autodesk 2017 products and suites. It replaces the previous in-product update components and the Autodesk Application Manager.   Autodesk desktop app keeps…

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Autodesk Answer Day – 18 May 2016

Autodesk is encouraging you to use the Autodesk Community (formerly know as forums, discussion groups, newsgroups, etc.) to get answers to your questions by setting up a special day where Autodesk people will attend and be responsive. I don’t know if this includes responding to people’s concerns over Autodesk ending the sale of perpetual licenses, but it’s worth a try anyway. The forum for discussing that particular issue is somewhat hidden. It doesn’t appear among the list of forums, so you would only know it existed if you happened to pick on the Installation and Licensing link and had a look at the header to see the Perpetual License Changes link. But now you know it’s there, you can go and ask your questions. Meaningful answers are not guaranteed. Here is the announcement. When is this event, exactly? Join us at our first “Big Bang” Answer Day online event on Wednesday, May 18th from 6:00am to 6:00pm Pacific Time. Pacific Time is currently UTC (GMT) -7 hours, so for people outside North America, that means UTC 1 PM Wednesday 18 May to 1 AM Thursday 19 May. To calculate the times in your own location, I suggest using the very handy timeanddate.com site or thetimenow.com.

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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, or toggle the Caps Lock status, or display an HTML file, or return a list of OLE objects in the drawing, or display a multi-select file dialog, or return a list of Windows printers, or a hundred other handy things. The point is, they don’t have to because all that has been done for them and handed over for nothing. The documentation is straightforward and accurate, and is provided in the form of a good old-fashioned local CHM file. This Help system may be unfashionable, but it remains infinitely superior to the still-awful system that paying AutoCAD customers have had to put up with for the last few years. For those investigating alternatives to AutoCAD for whatever reason, the availability of DOSLib for Bricscad may help make that particular alternative a more attractive proposition. Despite McNeel and Autodesk breaking ties many years ago, McNeel’s Dale Fugier has continued to provide, maintain and improve DOSLib. What’s more, DOSLib has…

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Don’t be a technology lemming

In response to Shaan’s variant on the old “if you question the value of any change you must be a Luddite” argument, I was going to write a lemming-based parody. I didn’t, mainly because I didn’t want to perpetuate the lemming mass-suicide misconception. Instead, I’ll answer the point more directly. Autodesk will acheive better success in convincing customers about Cloud computing and other concepts by actively and interactively engaging with them. Addressing their specific and legitimate concerns has a chance of success if the concepts have merit. Insultingly likening customers to allegedly stupid animals isn’t going to convince anyone. Besides, the point has little validity. Armadillos have 20 species, are currently dramatically increasing their territory in North America, and have been around rather longer than humans. Maybe we should wait until we’ve been around a few tens of millions of years longer before we get too cocky about how terrible those stupid armadillos are at surviving. Edit: Shaan has responded to this post on his own blog, deleted my reply and closed comments. He seems rather upset about something. Edit: …and has now restored my comment and opened comments again.

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MDT users and other Autodesk orphans, let’s have your good news stories!

I was going to ignore this subject, but I’ve changed my mind because it allows me to post something positive about Autodesk. After all, I do try to post positive things; it’s hardly my fault that Autodesk has a habit of making it difficult. In upFront eZine #756, Autodesk’s Andrew Anagnost (or was it Clay Helm?) had the following to say, and must say I agree totally with the first sentence: The best evidence is how we have behaved historically. When we included Mechanical Desktop with Inventor, the media complained that we were killing Mechanical Desktop; you were probably one of them. But we didn’t; we came out with six, seven more releases of it, completely free. So, MDT users, you’re the poster child for how Autodesk looks after its customers. You’re also evidence for how wrong those nasty media naysayers can be. So here’s your opportunity to offer your gratitude to Autodesk for looking after you so well and giving you all that completely free software. Or perhaps you’re the user of another Autodesk product that fell out of fashion or was deemed a technological dead end (like desktop software, apparently). Let’s hear your good news stories about how well Autodesk treated you and your investment. If you don’t want to add a comment, there’s a poll over on the right. I look forward to seeing the “Brilliantly” option show a near-100% rating!

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Who is telling the truth in Autodesk’s Cloud PR trainwreck?

Does Autodesk intend to move all its applications exclusively to the Cloud? That is, online only and no longer available on the desktop? Autodesk people who say yes: Carl Bass, CEO Phil Bernstein, Vice President, Building Industry Strategy and Relations Scott Sheppard, Autodesk Labs Software Development Manager (with private Cloud caveat) Autodesk people who say no: Kenneth Pimentel, Director, Visual Communications Solutions Andrew Anagnost, Senior Vice President of Industry Strategy and Marketing Clay Helm, Public Relations Manager for Manufacturing, Cross-Platform, Sustainability, and Consumers Various other underlings who make reassuring but non-specific noises about expanded choice, or who admit to inconvenient impracticalities There’s huge irony in the way Clay (or Andrew) attempts to paint the shafting of MDT customers as a we’ll-look-after-you example, but I think that’s a deliberate distraction tactic; other than this comment I’m going to ignore it. I’m ignoring, too, the spin about informal interviews, misinterpretation and the like. There’s a black-and-white contradiction here. Autodesk either intends to move all its applications online and away from the desktop, or it doesn’t. Two men say they’re Jesus One of ’em must be wrong Dire Straits – Industrial Disease So who do we believe? Last time I looked at an org chart, the CEO trumped the lot. The buck stops with Carl. So why is he letting his underlings go around undermining his Cloudy Vision? I see the following possibilities: Autodesk is going Cloud-only but it’s supposed to be a secret. Carl let it slip out and the underlings have been sent to try to cover the tracks by confusing and obfuscating. Autodesk is going Cloud-only, Carl had it right, but the underlings haven’t all been told yet and are incorrect in their “corrections”. Autodesk isn’t going Cloud only and Carl was just making stuff up on the fly. Why?…

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Autodesk confirms outrageous upgrade price increase

As I indicated in May, Autodesk will be increasing the cost of upgrades to 70% of the full retail cost of a new license. This renders it totally pointless upgrading Autodesk software at all, which is obviously Autodesk’s intention. This change probably won’t affect many people, as those who have chosen to stick with Autodesk despite everything have already been effectively forced onto Subscription. Anyway, here’s the confirmation from Autodesk: In early 2013 Autodesk will simplify the current upgrade pricing model, which may affect pricing and/or eligibility for upgrades.  Autodesk is providing advance notice to help ease the transition and ensure that customers have enough time to plan and budget for any impact to your organization.  As part of this change, Autodesk will be simplifying upgrades into a single offering available for licenses that are 1-6 versions old at a discount of 30% off new license SRP*.  Under the new upgrade program, product versions 2007-2012 are eligible for upgrade pricing and product versions older than 2007 will no longer be eligible for upgrade pricing on our standard pricelists. Our records show you may have one or more licenses that may be impacted by these changes. Autodesk is making this policy change to better align with the needs and buying behaviors of our customers.  Many Autodesk customers choose to use Autodesk Subscription as their preferred method of maintaining their Autodesk Software. That last paragraph is just embarrassing. It steps over the line that separates spin from total bullshit. The person who wrote it must have been either cringing (if they have any kind of ethical values) or laughing (if they don’t). The time of Autodesk being straight with its customers is now so far in the past that few customers will be able to remember those days. Those of us who do…

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How good is Autodesk’s customer focus?

Autodesk has grown and prospered by always, as much as possible, placing the customer’s needs foremost. John Walker, 1990, The Autodesk File That was the dominant philosophy back in Autodesk’s ancient history, to the benefit of all. However, is that still the case today? I’m not going to offer an view one way or the other in this post. Instead, I will leave it open to the floor. Good or bad, please comment below using specific examples if you can. If you’re short of time, you can still use the poll on the right to express your opinion.

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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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I was wrong about AutoCAD 2013 Help, it still sucks

In my effusive welcome of AutoCAD 2013’s updated Help system, I wondered if I had been shocked into missing some glaring problem. Unfortunately, that’s exactly what happened. In my enthusiasm, I managed to totally miss the fact that the new system has not been introduced for offline users. If you use the new system, there’s a link on the front page to the offline files. I got as far as downloading and installing what I thought was the offline version of the new system and discovered that it didn’t want to install because the old one was already installed. What I should have then done, and didn’t, was to uninstall the old and install the new, before running it in offline mode. I intended to get around to that to check the performance and responsiveness of the respective versions, but didn’t have the time right then. If I had done so, I would have noticed that my download, uninstall and reinstall would have been in vain, because the offline version pointed to by the new system is still the old version. My apologies to anybody who wasted their time because of what I originally wrote. There are many legitimate reasons why Autodesk customers want or need to use their software, including the documentation, entirely in offline mode. For example, the users I manage can’t access the online Help system from AutoCAD because Autodesk writes its software in such a way as to fail in a secure proxy server environment (yes, this has been reported as a bug, repeatedly). So for my users and many others, it’s true to say that despite the best efforts of Dieter and his team, AutoCAD 2013’s Help still sucks. Look at this from the point of view of such offline AutoCAD 2013 Help users. We…

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AutoCAD 2013 Help shock – it no longer sucks

Some months ago, I gave Autodesk several damn good (and thoroughly well-deserved) thrashings over its hopelessly inadequate AutoCAD 2013 Help system. When Autodesk’s Dieter Schlaepfer responded and asked for feedback, he sure got it. There are 142 comments on that one post to date, most of them leaving nobody under any illusions about how short of the mark the new system was. There is now an updated version of the AutoCAD 2013 Help system. It has been an interminably long time coming, a fact made far worse by Autodesk’s stubborn refusal to provide a CHM stopgap (which could have easily been done on the ship date with minimal resources if the will had been there), but at least an update is here now. Is it any good, though? I’ve seen fit to give the online version of the updated system a few minutes of my time and I have to say that it’s now way, way better than it was before. In a remarkable turnaround from current standard Autodesk practice, it would appear that customer feedback has not just been listened to, but actually acted on. Honest! Search results make sense. Performance is generally way better than I expected from an online system. There are links to useful things like lists of commands. Things like forward/back mouse buttons work as expected. Various things I expected to suck, simply didn’t. Huh? What’s going on here? It’s not all brilliant. There are occasional unexpected pauses, but not to excess. A Douglas Adams fan (Dieter?) is clearly responsible for The Hitchhiker’s Guide to AutoCAD. It’s fun, but I’m not convinced it’s particularly useful. The layout is confusing and the content has me somewhat baffled. Is DRAWORDER really one of the first things a beginner needs to know about AutoCAD? Or were there 41…

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Should Autodesk provide a CHM version of its AutoCAD 2013 Help?

I’ve added a poll asking this question over on the right. I would like to see this done as soon as possible as a courtesy for those customers who find the current AutoCAD 2013 Help system inadequate. If you agree, vote Yes. If you disagree (for example, you think Autodesk should instead concentrate on improving the current system), vote No. If you wish to make a comment on this specific issue, feel free.

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