What would you ask Autodesk about Subscription and upgrades?

My post on Autodesk’s new upgrade pricing regime attracted a fair amount of comment, much of it critical of Autodesk.

So, let’s follow this up. Let’s say, just hypothetically, that you had an Autodesk high-up in front of you who was willing to answer questions about Subscription and upgrade policy. What would you ask? Please add a comment here with your question. If you want to do so privately, use the Contact link at the top of the page. I would ask that you keep your question civil, relevant and reasonably concise. Other than that, anything goes, so let’s have ‘em.

I’ve done this before and did get some answers. Although not all of you liked the answers, they were better than no answers at all. I can’t promise that all your questions will be answered this time, but I’ll see what I can do.

AutoCAD for Mac under construction

Despite it being A Bad Idea, it look like Autodesk is going ahead with making some kind of OS X variant of AutoCAD, as has been hinted at for a while now. Owen Wengerd has pointed out a few dead giveaways in the AutoCAD API.

Another giveaway is the move to the browser-based Help system. OK, it may perform hopelessly and have terrible functionality, but hey, it’s platform-independent! If you still doubt my assertion that the development of AutoCAD for Mac would be a bad thing for AutoCAD, just go and search for a few things in the new AutoCAD 2011 Help system. Then go back to an earlier release (one that uses Windows-specific Help) for a comparison. Once you’ve seen how platform-independence has “improved” Help, just imagine that level of “improvement” applied to the rest of AutoCAD.

We have a winner

Congratulations to Brian Benton from CAD-a-Blog. His alternative name for AutoCAD 2011, R.E.A.L. (Real Expensive AutoCAD License) was clearly the most popular among those who voted in the pin the name on the product competition. Brian is now the proud (or otherwise) owner of a virtual album, uniVers by Voyager:

Voyager uniVers Download Card

I’m not sure what Brian will make of the opening moments of the album, where accordion music leads into part-grunty vocals. Maybe it would be best to start with track 8, Falling, instead.

Incoming link: “Important Revit information”

One of the things my blog’s WordPress dashboard shows me is a list of incoming links, i.e. who is pointing to this blog. One line intrigued me:

unknown linked here saying, “318 random votes.. http://www.blog.cadnauseam.com/ …”

Clicking on the link took me to the Autodesk Discussion Groups, but only as far as this message:

Error: you do not have permission to view the requested forum or category.

A Google search showed up the link as follows:

Important Revit information
Saturday, 3 April 2010 9:23 AM
318 random votes.. http://www.blog.cadnauseam.com/2009/09/09/ribbon-acceptance-in-autocad-and-revit/

Call me self-obsessed if you like, but I find this curious. If anybody has any more information about it, please let me know.

Siemens 0, Autodesk (April) 1

Personally, I find most April fool jokes to be pretty lame. I considered doing one myself, and had what I thought was a pretty convincing idea, but finally decided against it. Maybe next year.

This year, there was one definite exception to the lameness rule. It was well set up, clever and funny. Siemens killed it. Or, to be more accurate, they foolishly attempted to kill it. Fortunately, the Twitter CADville app is still alive and even now being tended by somebody with a fine sense of humour, as you can see from tweets like this:

Sometimes you will see duplicate messages. That can happen after downtime. You want better, write your own CADville #cadville.

Sometimes, the cloud is a big server farm. Othertimes, is a crappy laptop that needs to go to the programmer’s girlfriends house. Back in 1h

Once Siemens pulled Mark Burhop’s corporate blog post, in an attempt to protect Mark, Deelip removed his own related post (edit: now restored). But the very idea that you can hide stuff like this once it has been blogged about is plainly ludicrous. Returning wine to a shattered bottle would be much easier.

Ralph describes the CADville story here, you can also see it on Twitpic here, and the original FAQ has been reposted here. Now I’m posting about it on a blog that gets about 90,000 page reads a month. I expect there will be a fair bit of comment buzzing around the CAD community for a while, none of which will reflect well on Siemens.

If this gag had been left to run, I would have either not heard about it at all, or would have noticed it as a funny little episode that showed how cool it was that Siemens doesn’t fit the ‘humourless German’ stereotype. The failure of this futile censorship attempt is a classic case of the Streisand Effect. Apparently, there are people with corporate clout at Siemens who either haven’t heard of it, or delude themselves into thinking that social media are somehow controllable from on high. Nope, sorry, think again.

Deelip said this on Ralph’s blog, and it sums it up nicely:

Yes, this whole thing could and should have ended differently. What I find odd is that CAD vendors talk about social networking and social media and how they are embracing it in different forms. What Mark tried to do was exactly that. He got some of us to blog, others to tweet, irrespective of our affiliations, so that this prank (which is exactly what it is) would look as real as possible. I did my part.

Too bad Siemens does not get what social networking and social media is actually all about.

Congratulations, corporate klutzes, you have succeeded in making your company look completely clueless. Out of touch much? Duh!

Compare this with Autodesk. OK, Scott Sheppard’s Autodesk Love Maker 2011 joke didn’t have me ROFLMAOing or even LOLing, and it was pretty obviously an April fool, but it was still pretty well done. The fact that Autodesk corporate doesn’t throw a hissy fit over stuff like this indicates that it’s at least partly human. The fact that Scott can put a funny picture of his CEO (Pointy Haired Bass) on his blog and still remain employed tells me only good things about Autodesk corporate.

The contrast with Siemens is as stark as it could be.

Edit: Mark (not Matt – apologies) has now restored his post and provided an explanation (of sorts) about the post being pulled. I have asked for a clarification.

Competition poll now open

In a shock move, Autodesk’s general design product for this year was named AutoCAD 2011. I thought AutoCAD Banana or Generic CADD 7 stood a chance, but it was not to be. Maybe next year?

Over on the right is a poll to allow you to choose who of the 14 entrants wins the prize in the pin the name on the product competition to come up with an alternative name. I’ll leave the poll open for about a week. Entrants can vote for themselves, but only once. Please vote for the entry you like the best!

AutoCAD 2011’s new Help system – what do you think?

With all this talk of clouds in the air, it is interesting to note that Autodesk has moved AutoCAD’s Help system to a browser-based format, with online access as the default. So, how has Autodesk done with this first dipping of its toes into the cloudy waters with its primary mainstream product? I’ve already had a couple of unsolicited comments on the subject, and I’d like to hear from you. How do you rate the following, compared with previous releases?

  • Performance (online)
  • Performance (offline)
  • Search results
  • Content completeness and accuracy
  • Ease of manual browsing
  • Efficiency of user interface
  • Concept of online Help
  • Anything else you want to mention

Please comment to express your views and use the poll on the right to provide an overall rating of the new system.

Some meaningless AutoCAD 2011 numbers

According to David Cohn, at yesterday’s blogger event in San Fransisco prior to the 2011 launch, Autodesk provided the following figures:

  • 76,000 man hours spent on Q/A of the new release
  • 6,000 total code reviews of new release
  • 2,000 commands tested
  • 4,600 Beta customers involved in AutoCAD 2011
  • 1.4M lines of old code were removed

Well, that’s all very nice, but those numbers are completely meaningless without context. Autodesk may as well have just published the equivalent numbers for Release 13; I’m sure they would have looked impressive in isolation.

Did anybody in the blogger audience ask the obvious question?

How do these numbers compare with previous releases?

If so, I’d be interested to see the answer.

If not, why not? I’d like to think that I would have asked such a question rather than sitting there unquestionably accepting whatever was being presented.

I’d like to think that, but I can’t. I’m in no position to throw stones. I had a similar opportunity at the equivalent event last year and failed to take advantage of it. I was operating at a very sub-optimal level for a variety of reasons (some of which were entirely of my own making, so no excuses there). It was a small, fairly informal event at which Autodesk actively and repeatedly encouraged two-way communication. But sitting there absorbing what I was told was pretty much all I did. I even caught myself on video doing this (i.e. very little), so I have absolutely no right to expect anything better from anyone else this year.

Still, it would have been nice to have had that question asked. It would be even nicer to have it answered. Otherwise, the numbers will remain meaningless.

Summary of AutoCAD 2011 features

No, I haven’t written a post containing a summary of AutoCAD 2011 features. I won’t be doing so, either. Instead, I’ll just point you at R.K. McSwain’s excellent AutoCAD 2011 in 3 minutes post on his CAD Panacea blog.

I won’t be ignoring the new release; I will be covering selected AutoCAD 2011 features in more detail in future posts. I just don’t see much point in doing a “me too” post when somebody else has already done such a fine job of it.

Downloading AutoCAD 2011

Apparently, AutoCAD 2011 has been available for download for the best part of a day.

Here’s my experience so far. As a Subscription customer, I can see a bright new Get Your Upgrade button, and if I click on that I get an AutoCAD 2011 English link to click on. So far so good. If I click on that link, I get only this:

Error Message
You are currently not authorized to download from this Account.

I have contacted my reseller to try to work out what is going on. In the meantime, I’d be interested to know if any of you are having the same problem.

What has your download experience been like? Did it work? If so, how long did it take? Any issues with Autodesk download manager or your own? Did you do a Subscription download or the trial version? Did you choose to receive a DVD? Are you located outside North America? Any feedback is welcome.

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 item called AutoCAD Classic. This will perform some of the steps described below, but not all of them, so I suggest you read on. If you’re using a vertical variant of AutoCAD 2011, this workspace may not be available, so you’ll need to make your own by manually setting up your interface the way you like it, then saving it as a Workspace using the Save Current As… option under one of the Workspace controls.
  • Ribbon. You can close the Ribbon with the RibbonClose command. If you ever want to turn it back on, enter Ribbon.
  • Dashboard. The AutoCAD 2007/8 Dashboard is gone, but you can have a vertical Ribbon instead. If the Ribbon is not visible (it won’t be if you just selected the AutoCAD Classic workspace), enter Riboon to bring it back. In the tab title row (the bar with the word Home in it), right-click and pick Undock. Now you can place and size your Dashboard-like thing as you see fit. As before, you can right-click on things to change the various settings. However, getting the contents exactly the way you want it usually involves using CUI, and that’s well outside the scope of this post.
  • NavBar. If you like the new NavBar feature as much as I do, you’ll want to turn it off. You can close it easily using the little X in its top left corner. Alternatively, control it with the NAVBARDISPLAY system variable (0 for off, 1 for on)
  • ViewCube. I like the ViewCube concept, and I think it’s a great piece of interface design. But not everybody agrees. It has caused performance issues and it’s not very useful for 2D users. If you want it gone, that’s a surprisingly difficult thing to find out about. It’s controlled using the Options command, in the 3D Modeling tab, in the bottom left corner. Turn off those toggles that don’t make sense for you. There is a related set of system variables called NAVVCUBExxx.
  • UCS Icon. Don’t like the new simplified UCS icon? Sorry! While you can use the UCSIcon command’s Properties option to change the appearance of the icon in various ways, there’s nothing to restore the UCS Icon’s appearance from previous releases with its little arrows pointing the way. This information isn’t totally useless, because at least it will save you the time and effort involved in finding this out for yourself.
  • Help. Unless you want your Help to work with the speed of a long-dead slug that has been nailed to a hefty piece of wood, you will want to turn off AutoCAD 2011’s online help. Go into Options again, this time in the System tab, then look in the bottom right pane to turn off the Use online help toggle. Even with online help turned off, you’re stuck with the unfortunate new browser-based Help interface. While you’re looking there, you may also wish to turn off AutoCAD’s insistence on firing up Internet Explorer, that is if you dislike IE or have security concerns.
  • Pull-down Menus. Enter MENUBAR 1 to turn pull-down menus on. To turn them off again, enter MENUBAR 0.
  • Toolbars. In AutoCAD 2009, you could turn individual toolbars on and off by accessing a menu obtained by right-clicking on the QAT. Autodesk rather nastily removed that option in 2010, and it’s still gone in 2011. That menu is still available if you right-click in an unused docked toolbar area, but if you have no toolbars visible there will be no such area available. What to do? Turn on one toolbar at the Command prompt, then you will be able to access the menu by right-clicking on the blank area to the right of it. The following command sequence will do it:
    _.-TOOLBAR ACAD.Standard _Top 0,0
    Paste this into AutoCAD’s command line area and the Standard toolbar will be turned on above your drawing area. This will leave a grey area to the right that you can right-click into. The other toolbars will be in sub-menus under that, with the main set of default ones in the AutoCAD section. Note that this will only work if you have the acad.cuix file loaded (or partially loaded). This is the case in vanilla AutoCAD and some verticals, but it may not be the case in other verticals. As I don’t have access to such verticals, I’m afraid I can’t offer much advice here.
  • Graphic Background. Autodesk has half-listened to users’ pleas for a black background by giving you a nearly black one (RGB 33,40,48 rather than 0,0,0), in model space only. Many of you will want a real black background to provide better contrast. To do this, invoke the Options command (right-click on the drawing area and pick Options… or just enter OP), then pick the Display tab. Don’t be tempted to choose Color Scheme and set it to Dark, because that just changes the appearance of various user interface elements. Instead, pick the Colors… button. This will put you in the Drawing Window Colors dialogue box. On the left, choose a context you want to change (e.g. 2D model space), choose the appropriate background element (e.g. Uniform background) and choose the particular shade that takes your fancy. There is a Restore Classic Colors button, but that only takes you back to AutoCAD 2008 with its black model and white paper space. If you want a black paper space background too, you’ll have to pick the Sheet / layout context and specify that individually. When you’re done, pick Apply & Close, then OK.
  • Crosshairs. Want 100% crosshairs? Many people do. As before, use the Options command’s Display tab and look towards the bottom right, or use the CURSORSIZE system variable.
  • Status bar. Right-click on a status bar button, turn off Use Icons and your old text-based status bar buttons will return. If you have no use for some of the new status bar toggles, right-click on one, pick Display, then turn off what you don’t need.
  • Grid. I much prefer the new line-based grid. If you don’t, right-click on the Grid status button and pick Settings…, which will take you into the Drafting Settings dialogue box, which you can also get at with the DSettings command, or DS for short. In the Snap and Grid tab, the grid is controlled by the options on the right. If you want your dots back, turn on the toggles in the Grid style section. This can also be done using the GRIDSTYLE system variable. If you don’t like the fact that the grid is now on by default in new drawings, this is set on a drawing-by-drawing basis and is therefore controlled by your template drawings. If you use AutoCAD’s supplied templates, you will need to open them individually and turn off the grid in each one.
  • Dynamic Input. If Dynamic Input slows you down, you can turn it off with the status bar toggle or F12. If you like the general idea but don’t like some parts of it, there are lots of options available in the Dynamic Input tab of the DSettings command to enable you to control it to a fine degree. You can also get at this by right-clicking the Dynamic Input status bar button and picking Settings… As an example of the sort of thing you might do in there, the default of using relative coordinates is difficult for long-termers to get used to. To turn it off, pick the Settings… button in the Pointer Input panel, pick Absolute coordinates, then OK twice. There are a whole range of DYNxxx system variables for controlling this stuff.
  • Xref fading. Don’t like your xrefs looking different? Use the Options command’s Display tab and look at the Xref display slider on the bottom right, or use the XDWGFADECTL system variable.
  • Selection. Selection Preview annoys some users, adding as it does an unfortunate degree of stickiness and working inaccurately when Snap is in use. This is controlled in the Selection tab of the Options command. Turn off the toggles in the Selection preview panel on the left (these control the SELECTIONPREVIEW system variable). If you dislike the coloured boxes you get while doing a Window or Crossing, pick the Visual Effect Settings… button and turn off the Indicate selection area toggle. This controls the SELECTIONAREA system variable.
  • Hatch dialog box. If you want the Ribbon on but prefer the old Hatch dialog box, set HPDLGMODE to 1.
  • Hatch double-click. If you’re not using the new Ribbon-based hatch editing feature, you will probably want to invoke the HatchEdit command when you double-click on a hatch object. Doing this involves braving the CUI interface, but I have gone into step-by-step detail of that process here. In short, you need to drag and drop the Hatch Edit command from the bottom left CUI panel onto the double-click action for Hatch in the top left panel, replacing the default action (Properties).
  • Classic commands. If you prefer not to leave the various new palettes on screen all the time, old versions of various commands are still available: ClassicLayer, ClassicXref and ClassicImage. (Autodesk has deprecated these commands in 2011, which I think is a really bad idea). There is also a system variable LAYERDLGMODE, which when set to 0 will make the Layer command work in the old (and faster) modal way. If you use this setting, you can still access the new modeless layer palette with the LayerPalette command. Going back further, there are command-line methods of using these commands: -Layer, -Xref, XAttach, -Image and ImageAttach.

If you have allowed AutoCAD to migrate your settings (I never do), some of the above will already be done for you, but by no means all of it. If past experience is anything to go by, the job done by Migration will probably be imperfect.

Once you’re happy with your new environment, I suggest you save your workspace under a name of your choosing (Save Current As… under a Workspace control), then export your profile in the Options command’s Profiles tab. Keep a safe copy of both your exported profile and your main CUIX file (acad.cuix by default), because that is where new workspaces are stored.

Let me just end by saying that Autodesk generally does an excellent job of keeping long-term AutoCAD users happy by allowing them to keep working in the way that they prefer. There are exceptions, but conservative users are much better off with new releases of AutoCAD than they are with, say, Microsoft Word.

Interesting times

The past few days haven’t been so great for me. Here’s what has happened lately:

  • A family member had an expensive musical instrument case burned when it was placed too close to a stage light.
  • As I was driving home on Monday to escape a major oncoming storm, my car was hit out of the blue by a single golf-ball size hailstone. This caused damage on a styling crease, which will be difficult to repair. As a single dent, it’s probably not worth getting fixed, and will therefore remain to irritate me every time I see it, until the car is sold.
  • Our lovely big Protea tree was blown over and uprooted, and the top half of our lovely flame tree was sheared off and dumped some distance away.
  • The trees took our overhead power cable with them as they died, leaving a live cable end on the wet ground. This was isolated but not fixed the next day, just before parents started dropping off their kids in our street (we live near a primary school). We were left without power for most of two days, during which we had no idea when the power would be restored, and which made meal planning a little tricky. This outage resulted in the spoilage of a fridge-freezer full of food, and left me unable to work from home or prepare some planned future blog posts.
  • My wife bashed her nose and eye this morning when a heavy washing machine lid fell on it. In addition to her own pain and suffering, this will probably come up in a lovely bruise and leave people wondering if I’m a spouse abuser, a form of life for which I have nothing but contempt.

All in all, not the best time of it. But I’m OK. I’m feeling pretty positive about things. There are lots of people in my area with destroyed homes, well-hammered or flooded cars and still no power supply. I still have a source of income, my health and that of my family. There are large numbers of people in the world without adequate shelter, food and clean water, let alone a convenient power supply that fails for a couple of days only once every few years. Many of them live a miserable and fragile life under oppressive regimes or other sources of potential or actual violence or injustice.

No, I reckon I still have things pretty good.

Polls, especially CIP and Ribbon settings

I encourage all my readers to participate in the variety of polls I have made available, over towards the right of this site. In particular, if you’re a user of base AutoCAD 2010, please have a go at the AutoCAD 2010 users, what are your Ribbon and CIP settings? poll. The results so far are very interesting, but the numbers are currently too small to be significant. My two longest-running polls are now approaching a thousand votes each, and it would be great to see several hundred responses to the Ribbon/CIP poll.

While I’m on the subject of polls, I’ll repeat some comments I made a while ago. Back then, I noticed that more than one person had been voting multiple times. While this is technically possible for people who have access to the Internet via multiple IP addresses, it’s obviously not desirable. The idea is that you have one vote each. While you might be able to work around that restriction to give yourself a little extra influence on the result, doing so is less than honest.

I accept that people who have access via home and work might accidentally vote twice on occasions, but if I perceive a continued pattern of deliberate abuse I will remove the offenders’ access rights to this site. As I respect everybody’s privacy I will not reveal any identities, drop any hints or make any announcements about this, I will just do it.

Just to make the privacy issue completely clear, I will not, under any circumstances in public or private, reveal who has voted for what. To anybody. Similarly, I will not reveal to any party any identifying information behind any of the users of this site, with the exception of spammers.

Fortunately, the influence of dodgy votes on poll results has so far been small and in most cases statistically insignificant. That is, it does not invalidate any conclusions that might be drawn from the overall poll results. The more valid votes there are, the less influence the multi-voters will have, so go to it and have your say. Once, please!

Pin the name on the product and win a prize!

This post is announcing a real competition with a real prize (well, nearly real). The prize will be the album uniVers by my favourite Australian band, Voyager. This will be provided to the winner in the form of a virtual download card which will be emailed to the winner, providing legal access to 320 kbps mp3 files of all the album tracks.

In my previous post, I stated that Autodesk’s 25 March product launch is for AutoCAD 2011 (and other products that I’m not that interested in). I just want to make it clear that that’s a guess and not based on inside information. It’s actually speculation on two levels; first, that the “general design” mentioned in the link means AutoCAD, and second, that the next AutoCAD is going to be called AutoCAD 2011. OK, maybe that looks like a pretty safe bet. After all, the last few Autodesk general design flagship products have been called AutoCAD 2004, AutoCAD 2005, AutoCAD 2006, AutoCAD 2007 (anybody notice a pattern yet?), AutoCAD 2008, AutoCAD 2009 and AutoCAD 2010.

But maybe not! Maybe Autodesk is going to surprise everybody and call the next general design product something else altogether? I was certainly surprised when Version 2.6 was replaced by Release 9, and when Release 14 was replaced by AutoCAD 2000, so history has proven that the unpredictable can definitely happen as far as Autodesk general design product names go.

That’s the basis for this competition. I want you to come up with a name for the next Autodesk general design product. I will determine the winner by choosing the name I like best. If I can’t decide, I will run a poll. Points will be added for being amusing and deducted for accuracy, so entering “AutoCAD 2011” is unlikely to be a winning move. Anyone can enter regardless of location, employment or affiliation. Enter by posting a comment in response to this post, making it clear which is the product name by enclosing it in quotes. One entry will be accepted per person. If you enter more than one name, your last product name will be deemed to be your entry. Entries will be accepted until 25 March or whenever I feel like it, whichever is sooner. The winner will be announced whenever I get round to it. I will obviously need a real email address for the winner, but all the rest of you can make up any old rubbish. I reserve the right to add, remove, modify and/or bend whatever rules I like, at any time and for whatever reason, however ridiculous or petty.

All clear? Have at it, people!

AutoCAD 2011 launch on 25 March

Just announced by Shaan Hurley via Twitter and Facebook:

Busy on the final details for a special Autodesk event next week in San Francisco with some bloggers. http://www.autodesk.com/webcast

Follow the link and you will find this:

Autodesk Webcast

Date: 3/25/10
Start Time: 9:00 SF/12:00 New York/16:00 UK/17:00 CET

Register today to join Autodesk CEO Carl Bass and Senior Vice President Amar Hanspal for an exclusive live webcast to learn about updates to Autodesk’s portfolio of design software for the AEC, manufacturing and general design industries.

In Autodeskspeak, “general design” means AutoCAD (AEC = Revit, manufacturing = Inventor), so you can expect this to be the same kind of thing as the AutoCAD 2010 launch I attended last year. (Note: ‘launch’ does not mean ‘release’). At this event, selected bloggers will probably get to see the big production effort that goes into the launch webcast (no, it’s not done on Shaan’s laptop webcam). They can expect to be transported, housed, fed and watered by Autodesk, which I trust we’ll see disclosed by everybody this year.

More importantly, they will most likely be given access to various significant Autodesk people, such as my video interview on the Autodesk Listening theme. These events are both worthwhile and great fun, and my best wishes go out to those bloggers who will be attending this time round.

For the previous three years, you will have seen bloggers reporting on the contents of the new release in early February, but this has not happened not this time. Why is the information being held back so long this time, with the launch 48 days later this year than last? I genuinely have absolutely no idea. Feel free to speculate.

AutoCAD tip – which drawings use an xref?

Here’s a tip I just rediscovered while cleaning out my old emails. It applies to all recent AutoCAD releases.

Let’s say you have a drawing that you think has been used as an xref by at least one other drawing, and maybe more. How can you find out which drawings use it as an xref?

First, turn on DesignCenter. You can do this with Tools > Palettes > DesignCenter, the ADCENTER command, or Ctrl+2. Pick on the Search button at the top (the magnifying glass thingy). In the Search dialogue box, change the “Look for” item to Xrefs (but have a look at what else you can search for, you may find that useful too). You can pick Browse to tell it where to look, and you can make it look down into all the subfolders if you like. Type the xref name into the “Search for the name” field and pick Search Now.

DesignCenter has lots of handy features, such as the ability to drag a block from one drawing to your current drawing without opening the drawing containing the block. Some of the features are hard to find (like the xref search above), but they are very useful once you know about them.

Another handy tool for obtaining all sorts of information about xrefs is the Reference Manager, which was introduced in AutoCAD 2004. This is a standalone program, for which you can find a shortcut in the same Start > Programs > Autodesk > AutoCAD 200x menu as AutoCAD itself. There’s too much good stuff in there to cover in a post like this, but many people are unaware that it exists and I just want to raise awareness. For details, please check out the Help from within Reference Manager itself.

I sent most of the above tip to the users I support in June 2006. I was asked about how to do this by one of my users and found out about it somehow or other, but I now can’t remember how I found out. I may have read about it somewhere on the Internet, but I just don’t know. I have searched and found a similar tip in various places (including Cadalyst and Ellen Finkelstein’s blog) but have not yet seen one that is dated before I wrote about it myself. If you think you know of someone who deserves credit for earlier publication of this tip, please let me know.

Edit: It now appears quite likely that credit belongs to Mai Ezzat, via Ellen Finkelstein, possibly via R.K. McSwain.

Repost – how to get your picture next to your comment

This is a revisit of a post I made about a year ago.

You may have noticed that some people’s comments have an avatar picture next to them (no, not the film with the Roger Dean visuals), while others have a randomly assigned pattern. On this blog, the avatar picture is a gravatar (globally recognised avatar), and you can have one too. Once you set it up, you will find that it works in all sorts of places, not just this blog. Some other blogs may use other avatar standards, though.

Here’s how to do it:

  1. Visit gravatar.com and pick a sign up link.
  2. Provide a valid email address; the same one you provide when adding comments to blogs. I have not received any spam as a result of doing this, which is no surprise because Gravatar is owned by Automattic, Inc., the highly reputable WordPress people.
  3. You’ll be sent a confirmation email; click on the link in that and follow the prompts to set your password and so on.
  4. Choose your gravatar image from your hard drive, the internet, a webcam or a previously uploaded image. You can point to any size photo and will be prompted to select a cropped square area to display.

That’s it, although you can manage your account to provide multiple email addresses and images if you wish. Wait 5 or 10 minutes, then check out this or other blogs and web locations where you have made comments in the past. Those blogs with layouts that support gravatars should now display the picture that you associated with the email address you supplied when you made your comment. If the image doesn’t show up, do a reload/refresh and/or clear your browser’s cache and try again.

Full RSS feeds restored

Apologies to those of you who have stated that you prefer truncated feeds, but I have now restored full RSS feeds. I will attempt to deal with the issue of blog scraping in ways that do not have an impact on blog nauseam readers.

Thanks to all of you who provided feedback about this change, both in comments and by email. Negative feedback is very often the most useful kind, and this is no exception.