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

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

So what’s actually new in BricsCAD V17?

A big problem I have in communicating the improvements to BricsCAD in V17 is that there are such a huge number of them. This isn’t an AutoCAD 201x-style touch-up masquerading as serious progress, this is a real  upgrade. You know, an AutoCAD V12-style upgrade that veteran AutoCAD users will remember from the good old days before Autodesk got bored and distracted. Dozens upon dozens of new features, improvements to existing features, performance improvements and bug fixes. Lots of stuff that’s genuinely useful.

I could write three posts a week on the changes and not be finished by this time next year. So I’m going to be lazy. I’ll pick out a few features for future posts but for the big picture I’ll point you to the official list. This isn’t a marketing document, it’s a technical list of terse descriptions of changes (to the Windows version only – … Full post

Any BricsCAD users out there? v.2016

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

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

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

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

The best feature ever added to AutoCAD is…

LISP. I have now closed the What are the best features ever added to AutoCAD? poll, and the winner is AutoLISP/Visual LISP, by a long, long way. I don’t always agree with the majority view expressed in the polls here, but in this case I wholeheartedly agree. Adding LISP was the biggest and best thing that ever happened to AutoCAD. Autodesk owes an enormous debt of gratitude to John Walker for incorporating the work of David Betz, who was of course standing on the shoulders of John McCarthy. It’s a crying shame that Autodesk has been so terribly neglectful of Visual LISP for over a decade.

Here are your top ten “best ever” AutoCAD features:

  • AutoLISP / Visual LISP (32%)
  • Paper / Model Space / Layouts (21%)
  • Xrefs (20%)
  • Copy / Paste between drawings (19%)
  • Dynamic Blocks (16%)
  • Object Snaps (15%)
  • Layer Visibility per Viewport (12%)
  • Undo (12%)
  • Grips … 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

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

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 … Full post

CAD International interview on drcauto and other subjects

This morning I spoke with CAD International‘s Nigel Varley. Here is a paraphrased summary of the interview.

SJ: When did CAD International buy the drcauto intellectual property rights?
NV: About two weeks ago.

SJ: You are currently helping drcauto customers with authorisation codes, is that correct?
NV: Yes, masses of them. It’s taking up a lot of our peoples’ time.

SJ: Are you charging for this service?
NV: Not at present.

SJ: Do you intend to charge for this service in the future?
NV: Maybe. We may need to, both to pay for our time and to recoup our investment. I don’t particularly like the idea of annual renewals for software, so we may do something different in future.

SJ: If somebody wanted to buy drcauto products such as LT Toolkit now, could they do so?
NV: No, we’re still processing the materials we … Full post

More on drcauto, LT Toolkit and CAD International

Things have moved on since my first post on this subject in which I passed on the information that Leonard Liang (a former drcauto employee) could help with codes for LT Toolkit orphans. In recent developments

  • In a comment in a WorldCAD Access post, Nigel Varley from Australian company CAD International stated that they had bought the intellectual property rights to the drcauto software, and that drcauto codes and software obtained from former employees are illegal.
  • Another comment on the same post from former drcauto employee Kevin J Secomb lamented the demise of Gary D’Arcy’s dream and criticised CAD International for indicating in an email to users that they would charge for authorisation codes.
  • CAD International created a web page describing the situation with regard to drcauto products, including a statement that it would “offer immediate assistance to those needing new authorisation codes”.
  • Deelip … Full post

Hope for drcauto LT Toolkit orphans

LT Toolkit from the now-defunct drcauto was an add-on for AutoCAD LT that provided LISP and other capabilities that Autodesk disabled. Autodesk hated this, of course, but the late Gary D’Arcy made sure everything was done legally so it couldn’t be stopped even by Autodesk’s hyperactive legal team.

If you are a user of LT Toolkit and you want to keep using the software now the company has closed down, you may find this information from Evan Yares useful:

I’ve gotten in contact with Leonard Liang, the former key developer at DRCauto. He’s asked me to send any Toolkit Max users to him, and he will help them. His website is His email, at that domain, is “leonardl”.

Source: a comment in this this WorldCAD Access post. If you don’t read comments, you may well have missed this, so I thought it was worth repeating.

Full post

AutoCAD virus protection update

As I mentioned in my last post, I had some reservations about the code provided by Autodesk to deal with suspect acad.vlx and logo.gif files. Based on a suggestion from Jimmy Bergmark, I have written my own, safer version which you can download here: clean_virus_safe.lsp.

The comments at the top of the clean_virus_safe.lsp file explain what to do with it, but I will reproduce some of the relevant points here.

  • Purpose: Checks for existence of acad.vlx and logo.gif files, which are associated with virus AL/Logo-A, also known as ACAD/Unexplode, ACAD/Agent.A or ACM_UNEXPLODE.B. Written as a safer alternative to Autodesk’s code which deletes suspect files without prior warning. This code renames the files instead.
  • Legal: Provided as-is with no warranty whatsoever, use at own risk. May be distributed freely.
  • Usage: Append the contents of this file into a startup LISP file (e.g. acaddoc.lsp in your search path – … Full post

Another AutoCAD malware warning

Shaan Hurley has posted some useful information about another AutoCAD-based virus that is doing the rounds, and I strongly suggest you read it. However, I have some reservations about the solution that is posted there and in the Autodesk knowledgebase.

The LISP code suggested will delete any files called acad.vlx or logo.gif that are located in the current user’s current AutoCAD search path. There are a couple of problems with that.

  • The search path will change depending on the user, the profile, the startup folder and the drawing folder. That means you can’t just use the code once and expect the problem to go away; the code will need to remain in place permanently to ensure it does not recur. That may not be a huge problem, although it will have a performance penalty (particularly where the search path is long and/or includes network paths) … Full post

Why AutoCAD for Mac is a bad idea

There has been a fair bit of open discussion from Autodesk lately on the subject of a possible future OS X AutoCAD version. The more I think about this, the more I am inclined to believe that this would be a bad idea. A very bad idea.

It pains me to write this, because I’m very much a user advocate and I’m arguing here against something that some users have been requesting for a long time. If you’re one of those users, I’m sorry, but I think this is one of those cases when giving you what you want would be bad for everybody, and bad for you in particular.

Now, this sort of platform discussion often degenerates into a quasi-religious debate, so let’s see if I can head it off at the pass. If you’re a Mac fan who wants to tell me the benefits of your chosen … Full post

50 years of LISP

It is difficult to find an exact date for LISP’s birthday. It wasn’t so much born in an instant as it was gradually dragged out of the primordial slime during the heady days of late 50s computer research. What is known is that John McCarthy, LISP’s “father”, published a report in October 1958 about his new programming language aimed at providing artificial intelligence capabilities on the IBM 704 mainframe computer. That report, one of a series, was the first one to use the name LISP.

OOPSLA, a major annual conference on object-oriented programming, has decided to celebrate LISP’s 50th birthday on 20 October 2008. Practically everyone at that event is likely to be smarter, geekier and possibly even more pedantic than me. So for now I’m going to go with that date and raise a glass to LISP and John McCarthy in one week’s time.

John … Full post

Autodesk discussion group alternatives

As I’m typing this, the Autodesk discussion groups are down for maintenance again. Let’s hope that when they come back up, some of the problems are fixed.

In the meantime, if you’re an AutoCAD user and have something to ask or say, where can you go? Here are a few suggestions.

  • I like the AUGI forums. It’s an even more modern, more graphical and less space-efficient web interface than the new Autodesk one, but there’s a good community there and, hey, the search feature works. Mike Perry and colleagues run a tight ship, so please read the rules and be good.
  • If you have something to tell Autodesk and want practically no restrictions in the way you say it, submit a new message on dear Autodesk, or vote for the existing messages you like. It’s looking a bit bare and empty at the moment, so go fill … Full post