AutoCAD 2018 – at last, something to praise

This isn’t supposed to be an Autodesk-bashing blog. Really, it’s not. Sure, Autodesk (and anyone else) gets criticism where deserved. There’s been a lot of that lately, but only because Autodesk has thoroughly deserved it. I don’t make up things so I can have a go; Autodesk provides the material all by itself.

Among other things, I’m a customer advocate. I don’t care who you are, act in an anti-customer manner and I’m going to slam you. Hard but fair. Dish up bullshit to your customers and I will gleefully point that out and heap derision on you. Deal with it.

On the other hand, act in a pro-customer manner and I’m going to praise you. I do praise Autodesk (and anyone else) where deserved. There are dozens of examples of that on this blog. Lately, the pickings have been slim. Time to redress the balance a little.

I’ve Full post

BricsCAD’s LISP kicks sand in the face of AutoCAD’s

If you’re a power user or CAD Manager transitioning from AutoCAD to BricsCAD, one of the things you’ll like is that almost all of your LISP routines will just work. That’s not an statement that can be made about various Autodesk products that bear the AutoCAD name, such as AutoCAD 360, AutoCAD LT and AutoCAD for Mac.

It’s not just simple old AutoLISP code that runs in BricsCAD, but complex dialog routines that use DCL, and Visual LISP stuff that uses ActiveX. Yes, even on the Mac and Linux platforms. Some DOSLib functions are built in and the rest can be loaded, as with AutoCAD. Even OpenDCL is supported. It’s a quite astonishingly high level of compatibility.

But it’s not 100%. There are minor incompatibilities, system variable and command-line differences that cause problems in a handful of cases. It’s often possible to work around these and still retain … 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:

LAYDEL, LAYMRG, LAYWALK and LAYVPI
Tool palettes
New layer notification
Navigation bar
ShowMotion
Ribbon*
DesignCenter**
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 startup LISP bug fixed

In my previous post I have a real problem with BricsCAD, I related my then-latest interaction with the Bricsys support system:

Steve Johnson
05-12-2016 05:30 UTC

I don’t know if this is a BricsCAD problem or a DOSLib one, so I am reporting it to both Bricsys and Dale at McNeel. I’m also not sure if this was happening in earlier versions.

If I load DOSLib during an S::STARTUP call and then use the (dos_msgbox) function later in that call, this fails the first time round because BricsCAD things the function is not defined. Opening a second drawing results in the call working as expected. I’ve chopped down our startup routine so you have an example.

; error : no function definition ; expected FUNCTION at [eval]

Awesome Bricsys Person
05-12-2016 12:32 UTC

Hi Steve,

There was a regression introduced in V17.1.10 that caused … Full post

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 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.

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

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 … Full post

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 … Full post

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. … Full post

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 … Full post

Autodesk’s Kean about moving to the Cloud

Autodesk’s API guru Kean Walmsley is the second Autodesk person I’ve seen who has been brave enough to stick his head above the parapet by discussing the Cloud, in writing, and in a medium that allows for public comment. Kean has always seemed like a straight shooter to me. Please note that his blog represents his personal opinions rather than an official Autodesk position. He’s after your comments, so please go and let him know what you think on his post. Add your comments here if you’re more comfortable with that, and I’ll make sure Kean sees them.

The worst feature ever added to AutoCAD is…

…the Ribbon, according to your selections in the What are the worst features ever added to AutoCAD? poll. As in the best ever poll, the winner (loser?) in this race had no serious competition. I’ve listed eleven top (bottom?) features here rather than ten, partly because the popular (unpopular?) choice Memory Overuse isn’t exactly a feature. But it’s mainly because I’d hate to see Action Recorder unfairly miss out on a well-deserved mention.

  • Ribbon (30%)
  • CUI (20%)
  • Help (on line / 2012) (18%)
  • Memory Overuse (17%)
  • AutoCAD Today (2000i/2002) (16%)
  • White / Cream Drawing Background (16%)
  • Unreconciled Layers (16%)
  • Nudge (10%)
  • Blipmode (9%)
  • Proxy Object Compatibility (9%)
  • Action Recorder (8%)

Given the reception the Ribbon received when it was introduced, maybe it’s unsurprising to see it top the lists here. Cloud observers may find it interesting to note that that Autodesk’s … Full post

(so (long (and (thanks (for (all (the (parentheses))))))))

A few days ago, John McCarthy died at the age of 84. He didn’t make a fortune selling gadgets, he just profoundly affected the world of computing. He will be remembered mainly as the father of LISP, without which it is quite possible that AutoCAD and Autodesk would not have survived beyond the 80s. However, his original thinking went well beyond the development of a language. For example, 50 years ago he came up with an idea that is very relevant to what we are actively discussing today:

In 1961, he was the first to publicly suggest (in a speech given to celebrate MIT’s centennial) that computer time-sharing technology might lead to a future in which computing power and even specific applications could be sold through the utility business model (like water or electricity). This idea of a computer or information utility was very popular in the late … Full post

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, … Full post

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 … Full post

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 … Full post

ClassicArray Release Candidate 2

I have now posted the second Release Candidate of ClassicArray™ (version number 0.7.0). The main changes from the first Release Candidate (0.6.0) are:

  • Help documentation, which you can also view here, now describes how to resolve an AutoCAD CUIx loading problem. (The problem is not specific to ClassicArray and can affect any CUIx file that is removed or relocated. More on that in a future blog post).
  • Timebomb mechanism now works 15 days after first use rather than a specific date. Also now allows the interface to still be used (but no arrays to be created) once the evaluation period has expired.
  • About dialog enhanced to show registration information and to provide access to a new registration dialog.

Barring disasters, I intend to release ClassicArray in this exact form (except for updating the version number to 1.0.0) in about a week.

Please see either www.classicarray.com or … Full post

ClassicArray Release Candidate – massive download bloat

I have just posted the Release Candidate of ClassicArray™ (version number 0.6.0). The main changes from Beta 2 (0.5.0) are:

  • Setup executables have been provided to provide easier installation and uninstallation.
  • Pretty comprehensive Help documentation is now in place, which you can also view here if you want to learn about the product without installing it.
  • Bug fixed with Path preview not displaying accurately when no path is selected.
  • Minor cosmetic dialog box fixes.
  • Timebomb has been moved on 7 days to 28 April.

Regrettably, the download file size has blown out to 787 KB because of the inclusion of the Help files and setup executables. There are two setup choices; one for all users (requires admin rights) and one for the current user only (admin rights not required). When installing the Release Candidate, it is not necessary to uninstall the Beta first. I would appreciate any … Full post

ClassicArray pricing proposal

I am considering the following pricing model for ClassicArray™ when it’s released:

Individual licenses: $12
Up to 20-user license: $100
Up to 50-user license: $200
Up to 100-user license: $300
Unlimited site license: $500

Prices in US$, payment by PayPal, delivery by download only. Australian purchasers would have to pay 10% GST on top of that.

Comments? Suggestions?