AutoCAD 2017 Feature – Share Design View

An interesting new feature of AutoCAD 2017 is Share Design View, which is invoked using the leftmost button on the A360 Ribbon tab or the ONLINEDESIGNSHARE command. The idea behind this command is to create a web-published snapshot of your drawing that can be accessed by anyone with a browser (they’ll need a fairly recent one). This command works as advertised and provides another option to allow limited access to your design information without providing access to your DWG files. It creates a web page containing a view of your drawing and lets you have the URL (link) so you can access it. You can then share this URL with anyone you want to share the design with. They just follow the URL and can view the design using the Autodesk A360 Viewer (no download required). Heidi Hewett wrote a fuller description of how it works on the AutoCAD blog that would be pointless to reproduce here. One caveat: although Autodesk describes the design’s location as secure and anonymous, it’s important to understand that it’s an open location. Anybody with that URL has access to that page. Although the URL is long, complex and probably unguessable, if you email somebody that URL and they start an email forward/reply chain that ends up with other people, all of those people can also access that page and you might never know about it. Also, the index that Autodesk must maintain for all of these pages would be a prime target for hackers looking to steal design content, at which point “secure and anonymous” will be meaningless. So maybe don’t use this method to share your nuclear plant designs. Also, rescind any sensitive designs as soon as access is no longer needed, in order to limit the exposure time (see About Conferring with Clients and…

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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, or toggle the Caps Lock status, or display an HTML file, or return a list of OLE objects in the drawing, or display a multi-select file dialog, or return a list of Windows printers, or a hundred other handy things. The point is, they don’t have to because all that has been done for them and handed over for nothing. The documentation is straightforward and accurate, and is provided in the form of a good old-fashioned local CHM file. This Help system may be unfashionable, but it remains infinitely superior to the still-awful system that paying AutoCAD customers have had to put up with for the last few years. For those investigating alternatives to AutoCAD for whatever reason, the availability of DOSLib for Bricscad may help make that particular alternative a more attractive proposition. Despite McNeel and Autodesk breaking ties many years ago, McNeel’s Dale Fugier has continued to provide, maintain and improve DOSLib. What’s more, DOSLib has…

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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 updated system a few minutes of my time and I have to say that it’s now way, way better than it was before. In a remarkable turnaround from current standard Autodesk practice, it would appear that customer feedback has not just been listened to, but actually acted on. Honest! Search results make sense. Performance is generally way better than I expected from an online system. There are links to useful things like lists of commands. Things like forward/back mouse buttons work as expected. Various things I expected to suck, simply didn’t. Huh? What’s going on here? It’s not all brilliant. There are occasional unexpected pauses, but not to excess. A Douglas Adams fan (Dieter?) is clearly responsible for The Hitchhiker’s Guide to AutoCAD. It’s fun, but I’m not convinced it’s particularly useful. The layout is confusing and the content has me somewhat baffled. Is DRAWORDER really one of the first things a beginner needs to know about AutoCAD? Or were there 41…

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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 whole thing usable even without the search facility.

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Australian Fencing Championship 2011

I have been away in Sydney for a while, attending the Australian Fencing Championships. I fenced in five events with uneven success (I came 52nd out of 70 in the Open Foil, for example), but a few things made me happy. First, I was able to fence for Western Australia in the Team Foil event as captain of the WA ‘B’ team, which put up a decent performance in going down to a strong ACT ‘A’ team. Next, I came 6th in the Veteran Foil; down from last year’s 2nd, but quite respectable given the strength of the field. The event I was really concentrating on, the one in which I most wanted to do well, was the Veteran Sabre. I fenced pretty well through the pools and direct elimination bouts and got through to the final. There, I faced an opponent who had beaten everybody else that day, and I had trouble maintaining the same level of performance. Who would come through to be crowned national champion for 2011? Watch the video (YouTube, 3:02 long) of the Veteran Men’s Sabre Final to find out: I’m on the left. If a red light goes on, I’ve hit him. If he hits me, it’s a green light. If both lights go on, we’ve both hit each other within 120 milliseconds and the referee awards the hit based on right-of-way rules. Veteran direct elimination bouts are fought until one fencer scores ten hits. Link to results.

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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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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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Fencing at the Commonwealth Championships

This blog has been a bit quiet over the last couple of weeks, as I have had other things to occupy me. I have recently returned from the Commonwealth Fencing Championships 2010 which were held in Melbourne from 30 September to 5 October. There, I was representing my country in the veteran (over-40) events. Which country? Read on. Fencing is one of the few sports to have featured in every modern Olympic Games, but at Commonwealth level it has been held separately from the main Games since 1970. Although not part of the Commonwealth Games currently being held in Delhi, fencing is a Commonwealth-recognised sport and the Commonwealth Fencing Championships is a sanctioned event. It is a fairly large event, with representatives from 15 nations. There were 51 fencers in the England squad alone. You may recall me mentioning my participation in August’s Western Australian International Tournament, where I managed to snag a win in Veteran Men’s Sabre and a third place in Veteran Men’s Foil. At that time, several people raised with me the possibility of national representation. After some thought and with the support of my family, I nominated for Australian selection in Veteran’s Sabre at the Commonwealth Fencing Championships, where there were still a couple of places available. However, I was eventually knocked back and others were chosen for those places. Not entirely content with the way in which this had been handled, and with just a couple of days to go before the deadline for entries, I contacted England Fencing. That organisation was happy to find me a last-minute spot in the team representing the country of my birth, England. This was the place where I had learned to fence and spent most of my fencing life. As a bonus, I could fence in both Foil and Sabre…

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AutoCAD WS contest poll added

Thanks to all entrants in the AutoCAD WS contest. I have now closed the entries and added a poll (see right). Although I did state that there would be no prize for this contest, I have some exciting news! I am happy to announce that thanks to an exclusive* arrangement with Autodesk, the winner of this contest will receive a free** copy of AutoCAD!*** I will keep the poll open until I feel like closing it or the entry I like best is winning, whichever is the most convenient. * Exclusive to people with Internet access. ** Excluding any Internet access expenses the winner may incur. *** AutoCAD WS. If the winner is unable to use AutoCAD WS due to iThing insufficiency, browser-based access to Project Butterfly will be provided instead.

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I got into a fight. Caught on video.

Last weekend, I competed for the first time in a national-level fencing competition, the “Be Active” Western Australian International Fencing Tournament (AFF#3). Most people compete in one or two events within a competition, but I thought I would challenge myself and had a go at all six of the individual events available to me. I set myself what I thought were realistic goals for each event. Here is how I did at chasing those goals: Open Men’s Foil – goal: top 32 – result: 22nd – achieved. Open Men’s Epee – goal: top 32 – result: 42nd – failed. Open Men’s Sabre – goal: top 16 – result: 16th – achieved. Veteran Men’s Foil – goal: top 8 – result: 3rd= – exceeded. Veteran Men’s Epee – goal: top 8 – result: 6th – achieved. Veteran Men’s Sabre – goal: top 4 – result: made the final – exceeded. If you are interested, have 5 minutes to spare, and your access is not blocked at work, you can have a look at me competing in the final of the Veteran Men’s Sabre using this YouTube link. Hopefully, you should find it a pretty entertaining contest, even if you don’t entirely understand what’s going on. If I hit him you will see a red light, if he hits me it’s green, and if both lights go on that means we have both hit each other within 120 milliseconds and the referee decides the point based on right-of-way rules. I have only been fencing sabre for about a year, so I was very happy to reach the final. That I did so is all down to my sabre coach at my club Excalibur, legendary Hungarian master Frank Kocsis. You can see him briefly on the video as he approaches me during the…

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Another language pack cleanup solution

My CADLock, Inc. colleague, Owen Wengerd has posted about a fix utility he has written to help clean up drawings infested with the language pack problem discussed here. I have not yet tested Owen’s utility*, but as this should run in any AutoCAD-based product from 2007 on, it could well be a better partial solution than Autodesk’s Civil 3D-only (so far) patches. Autodesk still needs to sort out its dodgy templates, of course, and should probably provide its own non-Civil 3D fixes, if only to maintain a little corporate self-respect. As Owen has a long and distinguished history of being consistently and demonstrably better at AutoCAD programming than Autodesk’s own programmers, I’d be tempted to try this one first. However, Civil 3D users should probably apply the patches and updates anyway to help resolve other issues. To find Owen’s utility, go to the ManuSoft ARX freebies page and look for CleanLanguage.zip. While you’re there, use the Software menu to check out some of the other stuff Owen has done. * Edit: I have now tested it, and it works beautifully in both AutoCAD 2010 and Civil 3D 2011.

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Partial fix for language pack problem

The Civil 3D group within Autodesk has moved impressively quickly in providing a partial solution to the language pack problem I described earlier. What has been provided so far is a set of patches for Civil 3D 2009, 2010 and 2011 that allow Civil 3D users to remove the spurious language pack flag by opening and re-saving the affected drawings. I have not yet tested this, but I am informed that it works. What’s left to do? Obviously, not all recipients of these drawings are going to have Civil 3D. In fact, prior to isolating Civil 3D as one definite source of the problem, I had spent a lot of time helping out AutoCAD users clean up language-pack-infected drawings, using awkward and dangerous copy-and-paste methods. So Autodesk has AutoCAD and all its vertical variants to work through yet as far as a cleanup mechanism goes. Also, the problem needs resolving at the source end. All “infected” templates (in Civil 3D and any other verticals that may have the problem) need fixing and distributing to users as quickly and effectively as possible, in order to reduce the number of drawings being created with the problem. I know individual users can do this for themselves, but large numbers of users won’t do so if left to their own devices, causing problems for everyone else. As the originator of the problem, Autodesk has a duty to do its very best to resolve it. Thanks, Autodesk, for quickly getting started on fixing the problem and providing a partial solution in a timely manner. I hope you can provide the rest of the solution equally efficiently.

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Automated anti-telemarketer script – brilliant!

Annoyed by telemarketers? Too polite to abuse them or just hang up? Can’t be bothered wasting their time in person? Then you need AstyCrapper. If you’re using the open-source Asterisk PBX, it will crap on for ages on your behalf. It works by detecting responses from the telemarketer and silence gaps and responding with a series of recorded samples. It’s pretty convincing! OK, maybe that doesn’t apply to you, but you can still have a good laugh at the example calls.

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Autodesk shows Dassault how to treat customers

There are areas of Autodesk’s treatment of customers that leaves much to be desired, and I will most likely continue to be critical of that until a) I die; b) Autodesk dies; or c) the bad stuff stops happening. One thing for which Autodesk deserves praise is the distribution of bug fixes to its customers, without imposing the sort of conditions that SolidWorks customers have to put up with. Do Autodesk customers need to be on Subscription to receive bug fixes? No, they do not. Do Autodesk customers need to have purchased the software within the last 90 days to receive bug fixes? No, they do not. Do Autodesk customers need to have reported certain specific bugs to receive bug fixes? No, they do not. Do Autodesk customers even need to be running the current release to receive bug fixes? No, they do not. AutoCAD 2010 Update 2 (that’s Service Pack 2 in the old language) has just been released for the users of last year’s software. This includes the Update 1 changes. The usual caveats apply, including reading the Readme first. As usual, Autodesk’s oddball numbering system means that after installation, Update 1 shows up as Version 2 and Update 2 shows up as Version 3 in the About screen. This Update applies to straight AutoCAD (and LT), not the vertical variants. I have no news about non-English versions. Patrick Emin informs me these updates are language-independent.

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Autodesk Knowledge Base – rapid response converts fail to win

Credit where credit is due. Following my rant about the uselessness of using a 16-minute YouTube video as the AutoCAD 2011 system requirements resource, the relevant people at Autodesk quickly fixed it and let me know. Now we just need the other releases covered and we’ll be all set. Autodesk is still officially supporting AutoCAD releases back to 2008, and those people who parted with a big slab of cash a decade ago are Autodesk customers, too. I’m sure Autodesk would like potential new buyers of its current products to know that they will be at least minimally looked after in future. I commend Autodesk’s Leo Casado for reacting politely and constructively to what was undoubtedly harsh feedback. Some Adeskers (by no means all) have been known to get extremely defensive when faced with criticism, insisting that all feedback should be expressed constructively. That’s nonsense, of course. Frank expressions of viewpoints are essential in order to resolve problems. Negative feedback, including harsh criticism, can be among the most useful forms of communication. Congratulations to Leo for showing how it can be handled positively, to the benefit of all.

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