33 years of AutoCAD upgrades rated – part 5 – summary

In this final post of the series, I’ll examine the patterns that have emerged from the upgrade history I rated in parts 1 to 4. Bear in mind I’m only assessing the DOS (up to R13) and Windows (from R12 on) versions of the full version of AutoCAD. Of course, this only represents my opinion of those releases and is bound to be biased by the uses I and my users have for the software. Your experiences and opinions will almost certainly vary.

What can I say? My assessment is based on a third of a century of experience, and I’ve tried to be as objective as I can. I’m not unique in perceiving the decline of the AutoCAD upgrade; you’ll see the same said by long-standing customers and experienced independents all over the place. Ralph Grabowski, for example:

The new feature list for AutoCAD’s annual “big-R” release … Full post

33 years of AutoCAD upgrades rated – part 4

In this series of posts, I am looking back on all the AutoCAD upgrades I’ve experienced over the years and rate each of them out of 10. See post 1 for information about what the ratings mean.

In part 4, I rate AutoCAD 2011 to AutoCAD 2017.

  • AutoCAD 2011 (March 2010): 5 – Object transparency was a very important enhancement for some. The X-Ray and other visual styles made 3D editing more efficient. Object visibility (independent of layers) was handy but has confused some DWG recipients ever since. Selection Cycling, Add selected and Select Similar (which had been in AutoCAD-based verticals for a while) were true productivity enhancers. Geometric constraints were improved but still confined to 2D, as they are to this day. Finally, Autodesk’s first of several failed attempts at an online Help system meant this wasn’t such a good release as it could have been.
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33 years of AutoCAD upgrades rated – part 3

In this series of posts, I am looking back on all the AutoCAD upgrades I’ve experienced over the years and rate each of them out of 10. See post 1 for information about what the ratings mean.

In part 3, I rate AutoCAD 2004 to AutoCAD 2010.

  • AutoCAD 2004 (March 2003): 5 -The return of Express tools was a good start. Better still, Autodesk’s abortive attempt to sell Express Tools as an extra meant some effort had been put into improving them and they were much bigger and better in 2004 than they were in 2000. The death of the annoying UI stuff didn’t come a moment too soon. This upgrade had a few other useful additions and the new DWG format was more efficient, but overall nothing to get too excited about.
  • AutoCAD 2005 (March 2004): 4 – Autodesk introduced the Sheet Set Manager with this … Full post

33 years of AutoCAD upgrades rated – part 2

In this series of posts, I am looking back on all the AutoCAD upgrades I’ve experienced over the years and rate each of them out of 10. See post 1 for information about what the ratings mean.

In part 2, I rate AutoCAD Release 12 to AutoCAD 2002.

  • AutoCAD Release 12 (June 1992): 9 – Big, big changes. A mass of UI and other improvements. Lots of new dialog boxes. The first release that retained its predecessor’s DWG format, which was very handy. DCL gave LISP and C programmers the ability to create dialog box commands. The first usable Windows version (the R11 extension version was a shocker). Came with a Bonus CD full of extra stuff; a big deal in those days of limited connectivity. Autodesk’s upgrade amnesty (upgrade from any earlier release for $500 in the USA) made this extremely strong value for money, too.
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  • 33 years of AutoCAD upgrades rated – part 1

    In this series of posts I will look back on all the AutoCAD upgrades I’ve experienced over the years and rate each of them out of 10.

    This is not a rating of the software in absolute terms, it’s a relative rating of the upgrade. That is, the improvement the software made on its predecessor. AutoCAD 2000i is a much better piece of software than AutoCAD Release 2.5, and given the choice I would rather use the former, no contest. But as an upgrade, 2000i sucked and 2.5 rocked. The biggest improving upgrade is the benchmark and gets 10; the others are rated in comparison. If a release is worse overall than its predecessor, it goes into minus territory.

    In part 1, I rate AutoCAD Version 1.4 to Release 11. This is not quite a full assessment of all AutoCAD upgrades because my AutoCAD experience started with AutoCAD Version 1.4 … 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

    The best thing about AutoCAD 2017.1 is…

    …the fact that one of the Express Tools finally got an update. Not just a minor maintenance tickle or mere absorption into the core code, either. A real update, resulting in not only bug fixes but genuinely useful improvements in functionality.

    A little background on Express Tools might help put this into context. The history goes back to 1992 and AutoCAD Release 12. In addition to an impressively full set of paper manuals, people with Release 12 (great value at US$500 to upgrade from any earlier release) obtained a Bonus CD containing 2605 files of free add-on goodness. Fonts, LISP, DOS and Unix utilities, sample drawings, demos, all sorts of stuff. Remember that just popping on the web to grab that sort of thing wasn’t really an option at the time, so this CD was quite a big deal.

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    Selfie contest – we have a winner!

    Congratulations to Ed Martin, who won the selfie contest with this entry:

    1. This is Don Strimbu – a tricky angle on the picture, but his smile gives it away
    2. He’s famous for the drawing of a nozzle – a fire hose nozzle to be precise – that he drew in 1984
    3. Don used block scaling to simulate a 3D effect on the text, knurling, and fins
    4. Autodesk used the drawing in its promotional material starting with an ad in the September 1984 issue of Scientific American
    5. Don is now promoting products from Bricsys, notably their BricsCAD product
    6. Wow, I really don’t know how long it took him, and it would be cheating to ask him … so I’ll guess. 18 hours?

    Some clarifications:

    1. Indeed it is Don. It was a privilege to meet him at the recent Bricsys International Conference in Munich, among other notables.

    2. Correct, NOZZLE.DWG (we were all upper case 8.3 filenames at the time) which is quite possibly the most famous AutoCAD drawing of all time. It was the first complicated drawing ever done with AutoCAD, and was done in 1983 (not 1984), according to John Walker. See The Autodesk File for more information.

    nozzle

    3. Yes, it was block scaling. In addition to the 3D effect, the thing Don came up with that amazed John Walker was using negative scale factors to achieve the equivalent of the MIRROR command. That command didn’t exist at the time, along with object snap and a bunch of other things it would be difficult to imagine life without these days.

    4. Yes, it was also on Autodesk’s Task Force Tips’ letterhead for a while…

    5. Yes, Don and former Autodesk Senior Vice President Dr. Malcolm Davies (also at Munich) are important figures at Techevate, enthusiastic promoters of BricsCAD in the USA.

    6. 18 hours is a bit off. How about 400 40?

    I remember using NOZZLE.DWG as a benchmark for comparing AutoCAD hardware back in the 80s. Open the drawing, enter REGEN and see how long it takes to get a command prompt back again. As every single zoom or pan required a regeneration back then, regen time was very important. I remember an HP Vectra taking 17 seconds and an NEC APC III taking 19. An IBM PC without math co-processor took much longer; 2 minutes 39 rings a bell, but I’m not certain. These days, it’s so fast it’s hardly measurable.

    Anyway, I look forward to seeing what Ed has to say in this blog’s first ever guest posting. Could be anything!

    Selfie of the day – who is this man?

    I have just returned from a very interesting trip half way around the world. In addition to learning some fascinating stuff about certain things (to be discussed later), I met some interesting people. One of these people can be seen in this photo, which I took with my phone at a party at a trendy location, just like all the cool kids do these days.
    20161020_203442The person who answers all (or most) of these questions correctly (or close to correctly) in the next 72 hours (ish) gets a fun but worthless prize.

    1. Who is this man? (Not the one in the corner, that’s me).
    2. Name the drawing he’s most famous for.
    3. Name the technique he developed to help create this drawing. (It still works today, but now has a much simpler equivalent).
    4. Name the CAD company which used that drawing in its promotional material.
    5. Name the CAD company whose products this man is now promoting.
    6. (Tiebreaker question) Estimate the number of hours he says it took to produce that famous drawing.

    I reserve the right to make up new rules as I go along without telling anyone. Hopefully nobody will care too much. I’ll be putting all comments on this blog into the moderation queue until the end of the contest so nobody can see anybody else’s answers, so don’t panic if your comment doesn’t appear.

    The prize? The right to create a guest posting on this blog with a subject of your choice. As long as it’s probably legal and not too indecent, you can write what you like. Even if it’s “Steve is a poo poo head!”

    I hope I don’t regret this. Good luck!

    Edit: contest is now closed, see here for the winner.

    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.

    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 … Full post

    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. … Full post

    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 … Full post

    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.

    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

    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

    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.

    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 panFull post