AutoCAD 2013 for Mac – the holes live on

A couple of years ago, I reported on the missing features in AutoCAD 2011 for Mac. While some generous souls were prepared to accept something half-baked as a first attempt, even that excuse doesn’t wash when it comes to a third iteration. So how well is Autodesk doing at filling those holes? Decide for yourself. Here’s an updated list of missing features in AutoCAD 2013 for Mac: Quick Properties Palette Layer State Manager New Layer Notification Various layer commands including LAYCUR, LAYDEL, LAYMRG, LAYWALK, and LAYVPI Autocomplete doesn’t work entirely properly, including offering commands that don’t exist Filter Quick Select DesignCenter Tool Palettes Navigation Bar ShowMotion Sheet Set Manager (but there is Project Manager) Model Documentation Tools (but at least now there are object enablers) Geographic Location Table Style Editing Hatch Creation Preview Multiline Style Creation Digitizer Integration Change Space Express Tools Material Creation, Editing, and Mapping Advanced Rendering Settings Camera Creation Walkthroughs, Flybys, and Animations Point Cloud Support DWF Underlays DGN Underlays Autodesk 360 Connectivity Data Links Data Extraction Hyperlinks Markup Set Manager dbConnect Manager eTransmit WMF Import and Export FBX Import and Export Additional Model Import Ribbon Customization Right-click Menus, Keyboard Shortcuts, and Double-Click Customization VisualLISP .NET VBA DCL Dialogs Action Recorder and Action Macros Reference Manager (Standalone Application) Dynamic Block Authoring Custom Dictionaries Password-protected Drawings Digital Signatures Workspaces User Profiles Migration Tools CAD Standards Tools CUI Import and Export Many of these are big-ticket, dealbreaking items. No DCL? Still? Seriously? To these we can add a whole application, Inventor Fusion, which comes as part of the AutoCAD 2013 for Windows install set. (Edit: Inventor Fusion for Mac is available to download as a Technology Preview application from Autodesk Labs and from the Apple App Store). I don’t expect many Mac users will be heartbroken about the lack…

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LISP programmers, have your say again

Autodesk wants your input again in its annual API survey. This used to be a closed survey for Autodesk Developer Network (ADN) members, but has been open to all for the last few years. If you do any AutoCAD-based development at all, I encourage you to take part. That includes those of us who do most of our development in LISP. Here’s the direct link to the survey. As you can see if you click the link, there’s a lot of stuff in there that assumes you’re keen to get developing for AutoCAD WS. If you’re not quite so filled with Cloudy enthusiasm and would prefer Autodesk to expend its resources elsewhere (on fixing and improving Visual LISP, for example), please fill in the short survey and say so. It closes on 22 June, so you only have a week. Why bother, when it’s obvious that Autodesk is determined to ignore to death its most popular API regardless of whatever anyone says or does? I’m not sure, really. Maybe I’m an eternal optimist. (Ha!) Maybe I just want them to at least feel slightly guilty about sticking their fingers in their ears and going “LALALALALA! NOT LISTENING! WE HAVE A VISION, NOT LISTENING! LALALALALA!”

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Taking control of your command line history

Thanks to Kean Walmsley’s post on his Through the Interface blog, I have learned something that would have been handy to know for the last decade or so, but which somehow escaped my knowledge. I learned how to increase the size of AutoCAD’s command line history cache. It defaults to 400 lines, which isn’t enough for me. I think this information deserves a wider audience than the ubergeek developers who frequent Kean’s blog, so here goes. Although it’s not directly mentioned on Kean’s post, you can find the current command line history cache length setting like this: (getenv “CmdHistLines”) This will return a value showing the number of command lines AutoCAD remembers, e.g. “400”. Although this is used as an integer value, it is passed to and from the Registry as a string. You can set a new value as shown below. Again, use a string, and note that values outside the range 25 to 2048 will be ignored: (setenv “CmdHistLines” “2048”) Also, if you don’t like AutoCAD repeatedly stopping during a long listing (e.g. SETVAR ? *), you can turn off that feature by setting the QAFLAGS system variable to 2. Don’t set it to 8191 as suggested in Kean’s post, because that will change a lot of other settings, few of which are documented publicly.

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Old news – shipping version of ClassicArray released

I have been somewhat neglectful of this blog lately, including a failure to mention that my ClassicArray™ plug-in for AutoCAD 2012 has been shipping since 1 May 2011. Thank you to those people from various places around the world who have been prepared to go to the effort of registering and paying for the product. Here are some details of the product taken from the ClassicArray page: ClassicArray is a simple-to use but powerful tool for creating arrays in AutoCAD. Provides a dialog box interface to AutoCAD 2012’s Array command. The familiar interface method provides continuity with earlier releases. Supports the creation of both associative and traditional non-associative arrays. Provides an in-dialog preview panel to give you a quick idea of what your array will look like before any objects are created. Allows creation of a preview array which can be accepted, rejected or modified before the desired array is finally chosen. Base objects can be incorporated into the array or left intact as desired using a simple toggle. Allows simple creation of 3D arrays. Comprehensive Help is available from within the dialog box. Provides Ribbon tabs and toolbars, separated into associative and non-associative sections. Setup routines are provided that support either all users (requires admin rights) or the current user (no admin rights required). Uninstallation is via the standard Windows Control Panel methods (Uninstall a Program, Add/Remove Programs). Uses AutoCAD 2012’s new Plug-in feature to provide application behavior consistent with other add-ins. Acts as a workaround for various AutoCAD 2012 Array bugs and limitations. Supports AutoCAD 2012 for Windows and vertical products derived from it. Sorry, due to Autodesk API restrictions ClassicArray can support neither AutoCAD LT nor AutoCAD for Mac. See the ClassicArray Help page if you want to see a full description of the product, including screenshots. One…

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How to make Ctrl+C perform a Cancel

In a recent comment, I was asked how to make Ctrl+C perform a Cancel. Before I get onto that, here’s a bit of history. Back in the Dark Ages of DOS, the way to cancel a command was by holding down Ctrl and pressing C. The last release to work like this by default was Release 13 for DOS, released in 1994. I remember the bother it caused my users who were faced with the Windows version in which Esc was used to cancel things and Ctrl+C copied objects to the clipboard. It took me at least a year before I had totally removed Ctrl+C = Cancel from my muscle memory. Until AutoCAD 2005, Autodesk provided an easy option to keep things the way they were by turning off the toggle Options > User Preferences > Windows standard accelerator keys. In recent AutoCAD releases, you have still been able to do it, but it’s a little more involved and uses the CUI command. Here’s how: Enter the CUI command. In the top left pane, burrow down to Keyboard Shortcuts > Shortcut Keys. In the bottom left pane, scroll down to find the Cancel item. Click and drag it onto Shortcut Keys in the top left pane. Because of a long-standing auto-scroll annoyance in the CUI interface, you will find this easier if you drag off to the right, then up, then left onto Shortcut Keys. That adds Ctrl+C = Cancel to the set of shortcut keys AutoCAD understands, but it won’t work yet because it will clash with the Ctrl+C = CopyClip shortcut key that’s already in there. We need to get rid of that before we’re finished in CUI, or more usefully, assign it to a different key: Find Copy Clip in the Shortcut Keys list in the top…

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AutoCAD 2012 – Autoloader mechanism for plug-ins

One of the less obvious features introduced by AutoCAD 2012 is the Autoloader mechanism that has been provided to make installation of plug-ins (current standard Autodeskspeak for add-ons, apps, utilities, routines, etc.) easier for both developers and users. It may not be immediately obvious, but it’s a useful and important addition. This mechanism has nothing to do with the AppLoad command, the Startup Suite, acad*.lsp, the (autoload) function or anything else that existed in earlier releases. This is completely new, it has not replaced or broken any of the existing loading mechanisms, and is, in short, A Good Thing. Developers don’t have to use it, but those who do, and their customers, will have certain advantages. I have used it for the ClassicArray loading mechanism, and I expect to see it used by more and more plug-ins over time. It works fine with all of the usual AutoCAD add-on APIs, including LISP. User perspective As a user, what this means is that for AutoCAD and related applications from 2012 on, there is a standard loading mechanism for plug-ins. The installation should be straightforward, with no multi-step processes to go through for different AutoCAD variants and releases. The result of the installation should automatically present itself in a standard way, with a short-lived welcome bubble, an extra panel in the new Plug-ins Ribbon tab, plus any other interface additions the developer wants to provide. If you subsequently install another AutoCAD variant or release, the plug-in will automatically appear in that variant with no further user action required, as long as that AutoCAD variant is supported by the plug-in. Developer perspective What this means for me as a developer is that I have much less to worry about in terms of installation. All that needs to be done to make the loading…

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AutoCAD 2012 – Missing a few things?

The Array dialog box isn’t the only thing you might notice by its absence in AutoCAD 2012. I’ll do a proper “Putting things back to normal” post later, but here’s a quick one for those of you wondering what happened to a few things that appear to be AWOL in 2012. Are you missing your aerial viewer, blips and/or screen menu? They’re still there, but the commands are undefined. To get them back, just redefine the commands: REDEFINE DSVIEWER DSVIEWER REDEFINE BLIPMODE BLIPMODE 1 REDEFINE SCREENMENU SCREENMENU 1 These features are deprecated. That means unless enough of you kick up a fuss about needing them, they are likely to vanish without trace in a release or two. Edit: Jimmy Bergmark pointed out that the same applies to the TRACE command. If you need it, redefine it.

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CAD Managers, please do this survey

Autodesk has issued another survey, this time asking questions about AutoCAD customisation, migration and deployment. Anybody who has to manage AutoCAD or its variants knows that these areas contain some major pain points and have needed serious attention for some years. It looks like Autodesk is finally considering paying some attention, so it’s important to make sure the right kind of attention is being paid. It’s a fairly large survey (allow yourself half an hour to do it justice) and some of the questions are imperfect in traditional Autodesk survey fashion (especially the “Other” boxes, which don’t provide enough space). But if you are at all interested in improving your experience and that of your users when introducing future new releases of AutoCAD (and its variants; changes to AutoCAD should flow on), I urge you to spend the time and fill in the survey.

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Autodesk for Mac – the hole story

You may remember my pre-release speculation about what was likely to be missing from the Mac version of AutoCAD 2011. It turns out that my list was pretty accurate as far as it went, but very incomplete. In a move that I can only applaud, Autodesk has now published its own list of missing Mac features. It includes this statement: Although AutoCAD 2011 for Mac is based on AutoCAD 2011, it was written to be a native Mac application. As such, it is a new and separate product and not simply a port from the Windows version. In the first release of this new product, there are some features and functionality that exist in AutoCAD 2011 that are not yet available in AutoCAD 2011 for Mac, including (but not limited to): This is followed by a list of over 80 holes in the product. Many of them are minor, but the number of absent but important features is quite an eye-opener. I really can’t imagine anyone who is used to the Windows-based product being content with AutoCAD for Mac 2011 if forced to switch by a Apple-centric boss. Hardware, great. OS, fine. App, not so much. I expect future releases will gradually fill many of those holes, but Autodesk isn’t promising that. For now, I can state that at least one of my dire predictions was spot-on. AutoCAD for Mac is indeed half-baked. Autodesk has stated that the Mac version is the same price as the Windows version, despite being incomplete, because Mac users (particularly architects) won’t notice the missing stuff. That may be true (if somewhat insulting to architects and fanboys) or not, but it definitely doesn’t apply to the rest of us. Existing AutoCAD users, have a look at the list. What in there would be a dealbreaker…

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AutoCAD for Mac – what’s missing?

According to Autodesk, the forthcoming OS X version of AutoCAD has “many of the powerful AutoCAD features and functionality.” So what doesn’t it have? What are the holes? Autodesk hasn’t bothered to let me know a single thing about this software, so I guess I’ll just indulge in some irresponsible and uninformed speculation, based on what I can glean from marketing materials and various better-informed sources. I could have just asked, but who knows if I would have ever got any real answers? Besides, this way is more fun. First, here’s a quick list of some things that don’t appear to be missing, but which might have been lost in translation: Command line (in fact, the Mac one appears to be better than the Windows one). Xrefs. 3D, including visual styles and rendering. Some kind of Quick View Layouts and/or Drawings feature. Navcube. Constraints. Dynamic Input. Selection highlighting. LISP (at least some form of it). Now for speculation on things that are possibly missing or not fully functional (based largely on screenshots, which is not a reliable indicator): I don’t see a Communications Center, but I do see an Online Contact pull-down. Maybe that gives access to the same functionality, maybe it doesn’t. Navbar. Coordinate display in status bar. Layout tabs (there’s a control instead) The layer palette, in its docked form as shown in screenshots, looks very cut-down and would be tricky to use productively in complex drawings. It’s not clear if the old layer dialogue box is supported, but it needs to be. Action Recorder? As this is a “brochure feature”, it’s no great loss if it’s absent. Visual LISP? It’s not mentioned, so maybe it’s missing, or lacking the ActiveX bits. That would be a big problem for many organisations. Edit: I have since seen it confirmed that the Visual LISP…

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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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Do you think Migration sucks?

I do. If you’ve added a couple of toolbars and changed a few settings, it’s probably fine for you. But I think it’s been effectively broken for significantly customised setups ever since Autodesk “improved” it by introducing the CUI mechanism in AutoCAD 2006. It’s undocumented and whenever I’ve tried it, unreliable. I ran some polls on it a couple of years ago which had few responses. What do you think now? If you’re unhappy with migration, don’t just vent here. Autodesk now wants to hear from you. Here’s the announcement: Dear AutoCAD User! AutoCAD Product Design & Usability Team is looking for participants for the study. Topic: focus on Migration process, Migration tool and results of migration. Our Goal To gain the most complete understanding about problems and requests AutoCAD users may have while migrating their settings and customization from a previous release of AutoCAD. Who Should Participate? We are looking for individual contributors or CAD managers with small number of seats (less than 5- either standalone or multi-seat standalone) with unsatisfying experience using Migration tool to migrate settings from a previous version of AutoCAD. How the Study will be Conducted? We will schedule ~1 h interview session with you (remotely) and discuss your experience with migration, results you expected, outcome you’ve got. When? We are planning research between May 27 and June 2, 2010. How To Sign Up? Please submit qualification data and indicate your availability here: http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/MigrationSignUp I’m a bit concerned about the restriction of this study to individual users and CAD managers with a handful of users, as I would have thought CAD managers with significant numbers of users would be the least satisfied group, and the group with the greatest need for a working Migration system. However, as with other such Autodesk research, I encourage your…

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Programmers, have your say

Autodesk wants your input in its annual API survey. What used to be a closed survey for Autodesk Developer Network (ADN) members has been open to all for the last couple of years, and if you do any Autodesk-based development at all I encourage you to take part. Yes, that includes those of us who do most of our development in LISP. In fact, I am especially keen to see LISP developers adequately represented in this survey. This is a one-page survey and it doesn’t take long. The full list of API surveys is on Kean Walmsley’s Through the Interface blog. Most of you would be interested in the AutoCAD survey, so here’s a direct link to that. Kean assures us that our feedback will not fall on deaf ears, although I have yet to see any evidence of that in terms of any change to Autodesk’s decade-long policy of total LISP neglect. I guess many of us gave up hope of any improvement years ago and can’t be bothered providing feedback any more. Please don’t give up. Fill in the survey and let Autodesk know you still exist.

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Restoring Hatch double-click in AutoCAD 2011

In AutoCAD 2011, the default action when double-clicking on a hatch object is to invoke the Properties palette for that object. In previous releases, it would invoke the Hatch Edit dialog box. In my AutoCAD 2011 – Putting things back to “normal” post, I briefly described how to restore the old double-click action. I have since seen some incorrect advice being given out about how to do this, so this post describes the correct process in full detail. What to do Invoke the CUI command. In the top left pane, find the [+] next to Double Click Actions and left-click on it. Scroll down that top left pane a little until you can see Hatch. In the bottom left pane (Command list), click on any command and type H. This should take you down to the Hatch Edit command. If not, just scroll down a little more until you can see it. Left-click on the Hatch Edit command in the bottom left pane, hold down the mouse button and drag the command up onto the top right pane until it hovers over the Hatch item you exposed in step 3. When the little blue triangle is pointing to Hatch, let go of the mouse button, thereby dropping the Hatch Edit command onto Hatch. Hint: you may find that the top left pane scrolls crazily while you attempt this step. Unfortunately, this is a “feature” of the CUI interface. If this happens, keep your mouse button held down and move your cursor up and down in the left pane until the scrolling comes under control and you are hovering over the right spot. You can avoid this if instead of dragging the command directly upwards, you move in a curcuitous route to the left or right, moving on to the top left pane from…

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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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AutoCAD 2011 – Putting things back to “normal”

Easily the most popular post on this blog, in terms of both hits and comments, is AutoCAD 2009 – Putting things back to “normal”. Not too far behind it is AutoCAD 2010 – Putting things back to “normal”. Apparently, lots of people find these posts useful, so here’s an updated version for the latest release. Some of this post is based on the originals, but there are significant additions and differences in this year’s Luddite post. Note: there is an updated version of this post for AutoCAD 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. But it’s entirely your choice. We should be grateful that in AutoCAD 2011 at least (unlike some Autodesk products), you do still have that choice. Let’s assume you’ve made the decision to put your environment back to AutoCAD 2008 or earlier; how do you do it? Workspace. In vanilla AutoCAD, you can restore much of the user interface by just switching workspaces. The main Workspace control is now located near the top right corner. If you have turned this off (right-click, Remove from Quick Access Toolbar) or if you just prefer working with interface elements in the same place year by year, there is another Workspace control in the bottom right corner. This is a little button that looks like a gearwheel. Every odd-numbered release seems to have the current workspace name missing from this button, so this year we miss out. If you want the name, this year you need to look in the QAT. In either case, click on the Workspace control and pick the…

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Trusting Autodesk? Contemplating a new product

Last week, in my capacity as a de facto CAD manager for a large public utility company, I was having a chat with an Autodesk Australia person (he’s a nice guy and very honest, by the way). The topic of conversation moved to the new AutoCAD-based vertical, Plant 3D 2010. At that stage, I had not even installed the 30-day trial, but I still raised some of the issues that potentially stood in the way of the company adopting this apparently highly suitable product. In a word, it comes down to trust. Each drawing used or issued by this utility is a legal document with a potentially very long life ahead of it. I showed the Autodesk person a drawing issued in 1901. The assets documented by that drawing are still in use today; indeed, many thousands of people daily depend heavily on them. Before we invest our money, time and training in Plant 3D, we need to know that the electronic drawings produced with it are going to be fully functional in the long term. In terms of a new product like Plant 3D, can we trust Autodesk to do the following? Still be around and providing CAD software for many years? Go on supporting this new product for many years? In the event that the product is discontinued, provide an alternative, together with a migration path that retains full drawing intelligence? In the event that the product is discontinued, continue to provide ongoing support at least to the level of allowing the product to run and be transferred from one computer to another? Provide a product that works as well in real life as it does in demos? Provide a product that, from first release, works without crippling restrictions or bugs that render the product unusable? Include adequate…

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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: HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Autodesk\AutoCAD\R18.0\ACAD-8001:409\InfoCenter 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 for new features is something I’ve complained about on many occasions over the years. Autodesk’s response has been patchy. Edit: I just noticed Owen Wengerd has posted about this, including a LISP routine to simplify the process of turning it on and off.

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AutoCAD 2010 – Will you miss the Menu Browser?

I’ve closed the poll that asked AutoCAD 2009 users about their MENUBAR setting. It’s very clear that pull-down menus are still very much in use in the Ribboned world of post-2008 AutoCAD. In AutoCAD 2009, an attempt was made to provide access to pull-down menus without sacrificing that strip of screen real estate. That attempt was called the Menu Browser, it was one of the thing you could find under the Big Red A, and it really didn’t work very well. In AutoCAD 2010, the Menu Browser has gone away. The A hasn’t gone away, just the ability to access pull-down menus through it. There are some who have expressed a deep dislike of the Big Red A, although it never offended me greatly. I just wished the features hidden under it worked better than they did in 2009. Personally, I generally prefer what’s under the A in 2010 than what’s there in 2009, but you may not. I know that when the 2009 user interface was being attacked, its most prominent defenders were those keyboard-heavy users who turned both the Ribbon and the menu bar off, giving themselves more screen space. On the infrequent occasions when a pull-down menu was required, those people were content to provide an extra click. When I found out about the Menu Browser’s death a few months ago, I expected there would be a severe adverse reaction from such people. Maybe there will be one when people hold get the shipping product and notice it’s gone. But after my poll showed only 7% of respondents used it instead of the menu bar, I’m now expecting that adverse reaction to be smaller than I originally thought. If you want to use AutoCAD 2010, want to work without a menu bar but still have access to…

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