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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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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Dilbert and the Cloud

I have an Autodesk-related Dilbert story to share. Back in the late 90s, I was visiting Autodesk’s San Rafael offices (at Autodesk’s expense) and had an appointment to see a product manager. There was some confusion when I arrived at Reception, but after a few phone calls I was shown into a meeting room containing the manager and a lot of other Autodesk people. However, the open mouths told me that they were discussing very confidential stuff. They were clearly shocked and horrified that an outsider had been allowed into that particular room at that particular time, even though I had signed an NDA and was due to spend that day giving some important future software a very thorough going-over. The manager quickly shuffled me off to his own office and let me know he would be back as soon as the meeting concluded. I waited a while, staring into space. I did this for a while, but eventually got very bored and looked around for something to read to keep myself amused. Ignoring what was probably a lot of highly confidential paperwork, I discovered a Dilbert book and proceeded to read it. I became a fan right there and then. I also found myself respecting a manager who could see the funny side of the sort of management stupidity that is so effectively and bitingly satirised by Scott Adams. Somebody who buys a Dilbert book, I thought, is the sort of manager I can happily work with. When he eventually returned, I thanked him for the uninvited use of his book and asked him what he thought of it. It turned out that he hadn’t bought the book himself. It had been presented to him as a gift. From his underlings. Oh dear. Fortunately, he hadn’t yet read it. I…

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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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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 attempt to move AutoCAD’s Help on line has been very poorly received. Yo Autodesk with your Cloud an’ all, I’m really happy for you, I’ma let you finish, but on-line Help has been voted one of the worst features of all time! Of all time! The dislike of the intrusive, useful-to-some but short-lived AutoCAD Today feature remains strong a decade later. Light drawing backgrounds remain unpopular, which should not be a surprise to anyone, except maybe some people at Autodesk who thought it was a good idea to rehash old mistakes in a new and exciting way (“This time it’s magnolia!“). History, doomed to repeat, etc. As for poor old Action Recorder, that has to be the ultimate brochure feature. It’s something for Autodesk to boast about rather than something for customers to actually use; “We responded to customer requests and fulfilled AUGI wishlists for a macro recorder!” Well, you did, kind of, by giving us something that’s about as useful as a chocolate…

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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 (12%) AutoSnap (9%) Something interesting I noticed is the age of these features: AutoLISP / Visual LISP – 1985 (significantly improved 1999) Paper / Model Space / Layouts – 1990 (significantly improved 1999) Xrefs – 1990 Copy / Paste between drawings – 1991 Dynamic Blocks – 2005 Object Snaps – 1984 Layer Visibility per Viewport – 1990 (improved 2008) Undo – 1986 Grips – 1992 AutoSnap – 1992 The youngest feature here is 6 years old, the oldest is 27. The average top-ten AutoCAD feature is over 20 years old. What does that tell you?

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(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 1960s, but faded by the mid-1990s. However, since 2000, the idea has resurfaced in new forms (see application service provider, grid computing, and cloud computing.) (Credit: Wikipedia) Back to LISP, I still use John’s antique language today. It’s still the best language choice for the vast majority of the development I do. Thanks, John.

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Best and worst AutoCAD features ever – polls

Using your suggestions and a few of my own, I have added two polls for you to select what are, in your opinion, the best and worst features ever added to AutoCAD. To help us find The Answer, there are 42 items in each poll, from which you can choose up to three. A few items (e.g. Action Recorder) made it into both lists, while several items in the ‘worst’ list (e.g. 2012 Array, Ribbon, Annotative Scaling) were suggested multiple times. It will be interesting to see how the poll results pan out.

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What are the best and worst features ever added to AutoCAD?

Audience participation time, I think. A comment on one of AutoCAD 2012’s new features recently set me thinking about what were the worst features ever introduced to AutoCAD. That in turn got me thinking about what were the best. I’ll keep my opinions to myself for a while, as I’d like your input and don’t want to influence it. Please add a comment with your list of what you consider the best three features ever added to AutoCAD and the worst three. If you can’t think of three of each, you can submit less, but please don’t submit more. By all means discuss at length the things you love or loathe, but make it clear what you’re submitting by using a clear format like this (meaningless examples only): Best: 1. Content Explorer 2. Online Help 3. Nudge Worst: 1. AutoLISP 2. Transparent zoom and pan 3. Paper/model space What do the words “feature”, “best” and “worst” mean? I’ll leave that for you to decide for yourself. You might consider “worst” to be something that’s a bad idea, poorly implemented, slow, inefficient, poorly documented, bloated, buggy, half-baked in the short or long term, clueless in some other way, or some or all of the above. It’s up to you. When I have enough submissions, I’ll collate the most popular (and unpopular) features into a pair of polls for you all to vote on. Have fun! Edit: I have now added the polls and closed comments on this post.

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Will Autodesk have to explain itself to the SEC?

The observant among you may have noticed that for many years, Autodesk’s free patches, service packs and updates haven’t added any new functionality. Bugs may get fixed, severe performance issues may be addressed, but design errors generally have to wait for the next release (at the earliest), and new features definitely don’t get added. The last time new functionality was added to AutoCAD in a free maintenance release was Release 13’s c4 update which shipped on 12 February 1996. (There was a public beta available some months earlier; I picked up a copy at Autodesk University 1995). That free update contained not only a host of bug fixes, but also more useful new features than some later full-price upgrades (e.g. AutoCAD 2000i). In an outbreak of outstanding customer service, a c4 CD was shipped free to all registered users. Maybe Autodesk was trying to recover from disastrously shipping Release 13 prematurely, but issuing such a comprehensive update free of charge was still highly commendable. Why did Autodesk stop providing new functionality in free updates? While it involves more work for Autodesk and hardly encourages paid upgrades or Subscription, the reason we’ve been given over the years is that there are accounting regulations that prevent Autodesk from providing new functionality in free updates. This does not apply to benefits from paid Subscription, and various new features for Subscription users have indeed appeared (albeit in fits and starts) over the intervening years. I have to admit that I have always thought that this accounting thing was a pretty unlikely-sounding excuse for Autodesk’s inactivity. This attitude was reinforced by a lack of Autodesk response to my requests for further information about the alleged regulations. Until recently, I didn’t care enough about this matter to bother finding out for myself, but something extraordinary just happened…

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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 – Putting things back to “normal”

The most popular post on this blog, in terms of both hits and comments, is AutoCAD 2009 – Putting things back to “normal”. This is followed by AutoCAD 2010 – Putting things back to “normal”, with AutoCAD 2011 – Putting things back to “normal” not too far behind. As it seems many people find these posts useful, here’s an updated version for the latest release. Much of this post is based on older versions, but there are many additions and differences in this year’s “keep off my lawn” post. 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 2012 at least (unlike some Autodesk products), you do still have that choice. At least, you have a choice in most cases. Let’s assume you’ve made the decision to put your environment back to AutoCAD 2008 or earlier; how do you do it? I’ve arranged these items in alphabetical order: Aerial View. The DSVIEWER command appears to be gone, but it’s just hiding. It has been undefined. You can use REDEFINE DSVIEWER to turn it back on, or just enter .DSVIEWER (with a leading period). It may not work perfectly on all systems under all circumstances. Array dialog box. The excellent new associative array features of AutoCAD 2012 have come at the cost of the Array dialog box. While you can use the Ribbon or the Properties palette to modify arrays, if you want to create one you have to go back to the future with a Release 14-style user interface. Using…

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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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Apple – Autodesk history revisited

In a post on WorldCAD Access, Jay Vleeschhouwer makes some reasonable observations. However, the timing of the 1990s Autodesk / Mac history looks all wrong to me. Jay quotes himself from a 2008 note: …until about the mid-1990s Autodesk did have a reasonable presence on the Mac … commitment waned when Apple’s fortunes faded a dozen or so years ago The last of the original Mac AutoCADs was Release 12, a 1992 product. Apple market share continued to increase after that; indeed, 1994 was a bumper year. However, Autodesk’s commitment had already vanished by then, and its 1994 product, Release 13, had no Mac version. Apple’s fortunes did indeed fall away “a dozen or so years” before Jay’s note, largely as a result of the success of Windows 95. But this decline could not have been the cause of Autodesk’s lack of commitment to Apple; by that time the parting of the ways was already well in the past. What did cause Autodesk’s commitment to vanish? According to what Adeskers told me at the time, Apple did. Because of the relatively tiny Mac market share, Autodesk relied on Apple to effectively subsidise the Mac AutoCAD development work by providing significant development resources. Apple, which in the early 90s was in a state of internal turmoil, decided to cut back on those resources and expected Autodesk to go it alone with Mac development. Instead, Autodesk killed it off as an unprofitable distraction. Although at the time I was critical of Autodesk orphaning its recently-acquired Mac customers, it was almost certainly the right thing to do from a business perspective. It would be interesting to know how much Apple is subsidising Autodesk’s current Mac development effort, but I guess we will never know.

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Why we keep upgrading

In a comment in response to a Deelip post yesterday, Brad Holtz pointed to an article he wrote in 1999. It’s interesting to note that while much of the computing world today bears little resemblance to the scene at the end of the last century, this article remains almost completely accurate and relevant. Indeed, it’s so right that you might even be tempted to think, “Duh, isn’t that obvious?” One section that stood out to me had this to say: Many software systems never even get beyond the acceptable stage …. vendors of these systems are continually coming out with new versions, never stopping long enough to fix the problems with the existing systems. It’s fascinating to me that this observation came at the very time that Autodesk was switching from a company that wasn’t exactly like that to one that very much was (and still is today), thanks to the 12-month release cycle.

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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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AutoCAD does a Cheshire Cat

In Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, the Cheshire Cat gradually disappears until nothing is left but its smile. The AutoCAD packaging has done the same thing over the years until now nothing is left but the 0s and 1s. In Release 13, one box was not enough to keep all the materials, but Autodesk gradually slimmed it down until in recent years your slab of upgrade or Subscription cash gets you nothing but a DVD in a case (with or without a pack of cards). However, you can go cap in hand to Autodesk and ask for a real manual of your choice, which will be shipped to you free of charge. A few days ago, Subscription customers in 37 countries were all automatically opted in to a download-only upgrade mechanism for all Autodesk software, not just AutoCAD. Here are Autodesk’s stated reasons: Convenience—It’s more convenient than installing software from a DVD or CD and is available 24 hours a day. Sustainability—Because there’s no printing, packaging, or shipping, it’s a more sustainable choice. Central control—Software Coordinators can provide users with electronic access to upgrades and manage software permissions centrally. So this has nothing to do with increasing Autodesk’s profit margins, it is for your benefit and to help save the planet; that’s nice to know. However, depending on your circumstances and the available bandwidth at both your end and Autodesk’s, downloading a couple of GB or so for each product (double it if you need both 32 and 64 bit versions) may not be convenient. If you want to receive an actual disc containing the software, you will need to change a Subscription setting. You should have seen an email about this containing a convenient link to a page containing that setting. If you haven’t taken care of this yet, I suggest…

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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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