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.

Note
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.

Quick and dirty clicks and drags in AutoCAD

I’m sure most of you draw your objects with great precision. But sometimes even the most precise among us may want to make a quick and dirty move or copy of some drawing objects and are not too bothered about the exact place they end up. Text, for example.

As always in AutoCAD, there are many ways of doing this. Long-termers like me may automatically gravitate towards the short-form commands for Move and Copy, but there are various alternatives.

In this post I’m going to cover the click-and-drag method. This isn’t grip editing; although you will see grips appear when you select the objects, you’re not going to use them. To move an object this way requires just two clicks and no commands. Admittedly, one of the clicks is a long one and you also need to move the mouse and then release one of the clicks, but it’s still pretty efficient.

Move
1. Left-click the objects to preselect them.
2. Long left-click on one of the selected objects (not on a grip) to initiate the drag process.
3. Move the cursor to the desired location and release the left button to drop the objects there.

Copy
1. Left-click the objects to preselect them.
2. Long left-click on one of the selected objects (not on a grip) to initiate the drag process.
3. Once you have the little rectangle glyph on the cursor, hold down Ctrl to change the mode from move to copy. A little [+] symbol will be added to the cursor.
4. Move the cursor to the desired location and release the left button to drop the objects there. Release the Ctrl key.

Alternative method
1. Left-click the objects to preselect them.
2. Long right-click on one of the selected objects (not on a grip) to initiate the drag process.
3. Move the cursor to the desired location and release the right button to drop the objects there.
4. Left-click Copy here or Move here on the cursor menu that appears.

This method works in all recent AutoCAD releases and vertical variants. The above description assumes that your AutoCAD settings have been left in their default state.

AutoCAD 2009 & 2010 users – out of memory errors?

Some of the users I support have repeated out-of-memory errors while editing fairly simple drawings. I have some 2010 users who suffer from this problem while others using the same drawings on the same hardware get by without ever seeing it. When swapping users to differerent PCs, the problem seems to follow the user. Despite various experiments, I have no idea what is going on here.

Is this happening to you or anybody you work with? Have you managed to work out if there is something that triggers it? Is there a user interface setting or method of drawing that you suspect of being the culprit?

Carl Bass on TV

Autodesk big cheese Carl Bass gets a friendly interview on NBC’s Press:Here (amusing name, “press colon here”). It’s kind of funny seeing CAD described by non-CAD people (the presenters, not Carl). Among other things, he discusses being fired by Carol Bartz, Autodesk’s role in Avatar, the benefits of piracy, iPhones, 3D printing, open source and Autodesk being green. I’ve embedded the two Bassy bits here for convenience; these embeds will display ads that are not under my control.

Edit: I’ve removed the embedded clips as they were slowing down this whole site for some users and even disabling some features. If you want to view the interview, please go to Press:Here and look at Episode 46 Autodesk Part 1 and Episode 46 Autodesk Part 2.

Why don’t you use the current release?

While a lot of you are running one of Autodesk’s current-model products, there will be a very large portion of you that are using something older. This post is addressed to the latter group. Even if you’re on Subscription and have the current release available, but have chosen to keep running an older release, this question is still addressed to you. In fact, even if you’re now using the current release but have avoided installing some releases in the past, so at some stage you didn’t use the current release, I’d still be interested to hear your answer to this question.

Here’s the question:

Why?

Send your screen to Autodesk

No, I don’t mean Autodesk is now so impoverished that it is running short of monitors for its staff, I mean send a capture of your screen to Autodesk. Guillermo Melantoni, one of AutoCAD’s Product Managers, would like to see how you arrange your user interface for production use. As I’ve mentioned before, Guillermo is a very smart guy who is responsible for recent 3D enhancements to AutoCAD. He is open to listening to customers and trying to accommodate their needs. Here’s what he has to say:

I would like to ask all of you to send me screen capture of your AutoCAD in production. I’d like to understand how you organize the diverse components, how you use the Ribbon and/or the toolbars, if you display the command line or not, if you use tool palettes.

I’m very happy Guillermo is seeking to gain a fuller understanding of the diverse ways in which we use AutoCAD, and I encourage you to send him a screen capture of your working environment. If you have several workspaces, send him several screen captures explaining what each capture is showing and how often it is used. If you are a CAD manager or other person with access to several users who set up their interfaces differently, then please send in examples from those other users too.

There are many ways of creating screen captures, but the good old Print Scrn button should do the job fine here, capturing both screens if you use a dual-monitor setup. You can then fire up any graphics app such as Paint (e.g. in XP, Start > Run > mspaint [Enter]) and paste in your capture. Please don’t save it as a BMP file even if that’s the default, as that’s extremely space-inefficient. The PNG format works well for screen captures, being compact without losing quality.

Please send your captures by email to guillermo.melantoni@autodesk.com, and use a subject that begins with MyUI, to help Guillermo deal with what I hope is a lot of screen capture emails!

Can you work without a command line?

On the Project Butterfly blog, a recent poll gave these choices:

  • I can’t work without the command line
  • I think it’s time for a new way to draw without the command line

In a follow-up post, the observation was made that “We thought that only a few people would work without a command line, but the results were refreshing.” Apparently, only 66% of respondents selected the first of the available options.

To this I respond, “Beware the trap of the biased sample”. The poll asked people who are largely users of a product that involves drawing without a command line if they can work without it. In response, an amazing 2/3 of them say “I can’t work without the command line”, i.e. they can’t possibly do what they are currently doing, every time they use the product on which the blog is based.

How is that “refreshing”? 34% is an incredibly small number when the only alternative answer is self-contradictory. It should be very close to 100%, surely?

Every poll has a biased sample, including my own polls here. The trick is in working out how strong the bias is and determining if it invalidates the results. In this case, readers of the Butterfly blog are largely users of a command-line-less product and therefore likely to have a strong bias against the command line. So that 66% number would be a bit bigger if addressed to a more general population, I reckon.

I’ve added my own poll for my own biased sample (that’s you lot out there, largely users of a command line-based application) using exactly the same question format. I’m not entirely happy with the way the options are worded as it is not entirely neutral, but I’ll stick with it for the purpose of the comparison.

While I might dispute the conclusions that might be drawn from the poll, I must say that I like the way the Project Butterfly team is doing this in the open. It’s much better than the traditional Autodesk practice of claiming that what they are doing is supported by polls among customers, then refusing all requests for the full details of those polls. As the devil is in the details, I automatically discount any such claims based on secret research, from Autodesk or anyone else. I encourage the Butterfly people to keep doing what they are doing, regardless of any nitpicking from me; it is very refreshing (there’s that word again) to see Autodesk being open and I want to encourage it.

In addition to voting, I’d love to have you add your own comments either for or against use of the command line in CAD. It may be old and unfashionable, but does that make it inefficient? Have you tried turning it off in AutoCAD and running purely on Dynamic Input? Have you had experience with CAD or similar products without command lines? Let’s hear it.

This is what I do in my spare time

Fencing. With swords, not pickets, barbed wire, etc. I gave it up 25 years ago, then took it up again about 18 months ago. I now fence all three weapons, having started Sabre about six months ago. Fencing is a very aerobic sport, and participating in it has done wonders for my fitness and mobility over the past year or so.

Here are a couple of videos of me fencing foil in a Masters competition last year.

YouTube link.

YouTube link.