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.

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.

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:


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.

Autodesk Subscription support – how is it?

I’d like to hear your experiences with the support that is part of the Autodesk Subscription package. My own experiences have been mixed, but I’d like to hear from you rather than push any particular barrow. Have you used it? Good, bad, indifferent, all of the above? Is it timely, efficient, knowledgeable, clearly communicated?

Please add your comments!

Celebrating Douglas Bader

As I am currently re-reading Reach for the Sky, I happen to know that yesterday was the 100th anniversary of the birth of Douglas Bader, a inspirational man who lost both legs (one above the knee) in an air crash while a trainee RAF pilot. A sporting hero and natural pilot, he used his immense self-will to overcome this setback and mount several other obstacles placed in his path.

Retired from the RAF as 100% disabled, he relearned how to walk on tin legs (never using a stick), drive a car (he needed the clutch pedal moved), play squash (with much falling, crashing and banging) and golf (to a very high standard). When World War II started, he used the force of his personality and his old contacts to overcome official resistance and become a pilot again. He was passed as 100% fit (while simultaneously being classed as 100% disabled) and took to Hurricanes and Spitfires alongside the mostly younger men who became The Few. He and his colleagues protected his nation from an unspeakable evil.

Following many airborne successes in the Battle of Britain and more crashes (one of which would have probably cost him his legs if they had not already been lost), he had a meteoric rise through the ranks. In 1941 Wing Commander Bader was either shot down by, or collided with, a German fighter over France. Unable to extricate himself from his plummeting tail-less aircraft, he only survived because the straps that were holding on his trapped leg broke free. Captured, taken to hospital and reunited with his leg (repaired by respectful German airmen), he escaped out of an upper-storey window on knotted sheets!

Although recaptured and deprived of his legs for a while, Bader made it his business to make life as difficult as possible for his captors. After several other escapes and attempts, he ended up in Colditz castle where he continued to make life difficult for the Germans until the inmates were freed by American forces in 1945. He immediately tried to get hold of a Spitfire to join in the ongoing fight, but was not allowed to do this. He did, however, get to lead the fly-past of 300 aircraft following the victory in Europe.

Douglas Bader continued to be an inspiration after the war, and was knighted for fighting on behalf of disabled people, often against the same kind of officialdom that he had to overcome in order to get back in the air. He was always especially supportive of disabled children, writing to one little boy who had lost his legs in an accident:

Don’t listen to anyone who tells you that you can’t do this or that. That’s nonsense. Make up your mind, you’ll never use crutches or a stick, then have a go at everything. Go to school, join in all the games you can. Go anywhere you want to. But never, never let them persuade you that things are too difficult or impossible.

The internal demons that drove Douglas Bader would have driven him to greatness with or without his legs. Not always a likeable man, often rude, always strident in his opinions (right or wrong), and holding some political views with which I would not agree, he nevertheless deserves great respect. At a time when Britain, and ultimately the whole free world, needed people of great strength and bravery, he was there. I am profoundly grateful to him and his colleagues for that, and to him personally for his example. If ever circumstances knock you down and you need inspiration to get back up again, look to Douglas Bader.

AutoCAD does a Cheshire Cat

In Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, the Cheshire Cat gradually disappears until nothing is left but its smile. The AutoCAD packaging has done the same thing over the years until now nothing is left but the 0s and 1s. In Release 13, one box was not enough to keep all the materials, but Autodesk gradually slimmed it down until in recent years your slab of upgrade or Subscription cash gets you nothing but a DVD in a case (with or without a pack of cards). However, you can go cap in hand to Autodesk and ask for a real manual of your choice, which will be shipped to you free of charge.

A few days ago, Subscription customers in 37 countries were all automatically opted in to a download-only upgrade mechanism for all Autodesk software, not just AutoCAD. Here are Autodesk’s stated reasons:

  • Convenience—It’s more convenient than installing software from a DVD or CD and is available 24 hours a day.
  • Sustainability—Because there’s no printing, packaging, or shipping, it’s a more sustainable choice.
  • Central control—Software Coordinators can provide users with electronic access to upgrades and manage software permissions centrally.

So this has nothing to do with increasing Autodesk’s profit margins, it is for your benefit and to help save the planet; that’s nice to know. However, depending on your circumstances and the available bandwidth at both your end and Autodesk’s, downloading a couple of GB or so for each product (double it if you need both 32 and 64 bit versions) may not be convenient. If you want to receive an actual disc containing the software, you will need to change a Subscription setting. You should have seen an email about this containing a convenient link to a page containing that setting.

If you haven’t taken care of this yet, I suggest you log on to the Subscription site, edit your Subscription Center Profile (click on My Profile in the top right) and change the Delivery Preference setting to Box. If there are multiple contact people on your Subscription contract, I suggest you ask your colleagues (particularly the person designated to be the Contract Manager) to do likewise. Having a box shipped to you does not prevent you from downloading the software. I suggest you do this sooner rather than later, because if you leave it until less than a week before the next release (historically mid-March), you’ll miss out.

Comment censorship

I want your views on how much control I should exert over the comments that people make here. I’ve been led to thinking about this by a couple of things. Mostly by the occasion of the first troll comment on this blog, and to a lesser extent by Shaan Hurley turning off comments on posts older than three months on his Between The Lines blog. (I am not complaining about this; it’s Shaan’s justifiable reaction to mass spam attacks and it has nothing to do with censorship. There are some Autodesk blogs that don’t allow comments at all, which may in itself be justifiable).

I’m a proponent of freedom of speech and don’t want to restrict your ability to say what you think. I’m perfectly happy to see you express your contrary opinions and would never dream of removing or editing a comment simply because it contains viewpoints with which I disagree. There are plenty of comments on this blog from people who disagree with my stated views, and at least one containing an insult aimed at me personally using a variant of a word that many people would consider very offensive. I haven’t touched those comments. I haven’t even touched the troll comment.

Spam, on the other hand, is mercillesly dealt with. The vast majority of it is automatically excluded by Akismet, a handful I have to remove manually, but in all cases the comment is deleted and the sender’s IP is banned from accessing the site. I can do that with other commenters too, but I have not yet done so.

My question to you is where do you think I should draw the line? If a discussion leads to a vendor commenting to let people know that his company provides a service relevant to the discussion, is that spam or should I let it go? Should I remove deliberate trolling attempts? What about comments or words based on race or religion? If somebody drops an f-bomb or a c-bomb without attacking anybody, is that a problem for you? How about attacks on companies or individuals? If commenters start personally attacking each other, should I let it go? If somebody has a go at a company in a way that looks unhinged to some, is that OK? What if somebody else says it is loony bin material? What if that then leads to a flame war?

I’d like to draw up some moderation guidelines so everyone knows where they stand. I know I will have to make judgement calls wherever the line is drawn, but I’d appreciate it if you would give me an idea about your own preferences. I’ll consider adding a poll later if the discussion throws up a few options.

Open Letter to James Cameron

James, you don’t know me, but I see you have been getting involved in CAD events lately, which is my area of interest. Autodesk University 2009 attendees got a sneak preview of Avatar and you were a key speaker at Solidworks World 2010. I absolutely loved Avatar. It’s the only film I’ve ever seen where I immediately wanted to watch it again. Yes, it’s possible to poke holes in the plot, but that applies to 99% of films and anyway, this film isn’t about the plot, is it? It’s about the breathtaking visuals. I was dreaming about Pandora for days afterwards; good job.

I grew up in the 70s with the music of Yes and the artwork of Roger Dean. That the visuals of Pandora are based on Roger’s artwork is undeniable, and the film benefits immeasurably from the floating mountains, spectacular arches, dragons and even skin patterns that are so obviously lifted from Roger’s work. Why then, when I stayed to watch the credits at the end of the film, did I not see Roger Dean credited? I understand that Roger has received no monetary credit for his contributions, either.

James, you know the right thing to do. Please do it. Otherwise, instead of thinking of you as the guy behind the most visually impressive film ever, I’ll think of you as the jerk who ripped off Roger Dean. Over to you.

How will you react to Autodesk’s new upgrade pricing?

As I reported early last year, Autodesk is going to discourage you from paying for upgrades as and when you see fit. It is doing this by charging you 50% of the cost of a full license to upgrade from the previous release. The same 50% cost will apply if you crossgrade [edit: crossgrade from an non-current release, that is] (say if you move from AutoCAD to a vertical). If your product is more than three releases old, you can’t upgrade. This change takes effect from 16 March 2010. There were some discounted upgrade offers to get you signed over early, but these have now expired. If you are thinking of upgrading or crossgrading, I suggest you contact your reseller, get out your calculator and consider doing it in the next few weeks.

There is some laughable doublespeak in the Autodesk marketing of this change, such as “streamlining our upgrade pricing based on feedback from customers and resellers,” but I can’t imagine anyone being fooled by such nonsense. It’s obvious that Autodesk is not doing this because you all asked for upgrade prices to be trebled to make a nice predictable percentage, it’s doing this to force upgraders on to Subscription. Once you’re on Subscription, you’re paying a year in advance for an upgrade (bonus cashflow!), and you’re something of a captive market, theoretically providing Autodesk with a more regular source of income. (The financial crisis has knocked something of a dent in that theory, as many companies have chosen not to renew subscriptions for products that were previously used by now-retrenched employees).

If you’re already on Subscription, you may be feeling pretty smug right now. Don’t be. Once Autodesk’s user base is effectively converted to the Subscription model, Autodesk will be free to do all sorts of things to that user base. Things like jacking up Subscription prices, reducing or eliminating existing Subscription services, and slipping little clauses into the EULA so you’re “agreeing” that you will lose your license if you stop paying your annual fees. You may be able to think of other things that you won’t like but which will benefit Autodesk shareholders. Maybe not, because Autodesk is too nice to its customers? Maybe I’m just cynical? Then again, if a couple of years ago I had suggested that Autodesk would treble (sorry, “simplify”) upgrade prices, more than a few would have thought I was paranoid.

Autodesk’s various little Subscription carrots have had limited success among its customers, so now it’s time for the big stick. In effect, Autodesk is encouraging you to get on Subscription or get out. What to do? Jump off the upgrade/Subscription train altogether and stick with what you have? Upgrade once now and stick there indefinitely? Upgrade every 3 years? Buy a new license every 6 to 10 years? Hang on and hope Autodesk introduces an upgrade amnesty in a few years? Move over to one of Autodesk’s competitors? My guess is that a large majority of us are going to just do as we’re directed and get onto Subscription.

I’d like to hear from you. What are you going to do, and why? If you’re on Subscription already, are you concerned about what Autodesk might do in the future?

Disclosure: I manage several dozen Autodesk licences for a large organisation which has been on Subscription for quite a few years.

If you admire somebody, please let them know

This post has nothing to do with CAD or the other subjects I occasionally cover.

Last month, I unexpectedly lost two of my colleagues to cancer. Wayne was a loud, larger-than life character, full of life. Paal (pronounced like Paul) was a quieter, more reserved man, but very friendly, funny and positive. Wayne occasionally rubbed people up the wrong way with his robust manner, but everybody who knew Paal liked him. I thought he was a great guy, but I never told him that. Now I wish I had. I never even knew he was ill, so when I read the email telling me he was dead it was quite a shock.

It’s not my place to tell you what to do, so please take this purely as a suggestion. If you know somebody and you admire them for whatever reason, let them know it. They will feel better, you will feel better, and if you come in to work one day and find they are gone, you won’t be left wishing you had said something positive to them while you had the chance.

As for cancer, I can’t prevent or cure that, but I have a little idea for something I can do to help. More on that later.

CAD International interview on drcauto and other subjects

This morning I spoke with CAD International‘s Nigel Varley. Here is a paraphrased summary of the interview.

SJ: When did CAD International buy the drcauto intellectual property rights?
NV: About two weeks ago.

SJ: You are currently helping drcauto customers with authorisation codes, is that correct?
NV: Yes, masses of them. It’s taking up a lot of our peoples’ time.

SJ: Are you charging for this service?
NV: Not at present.

SJ: Do you intend to charge for this service in the future?
NV: Maybe. We may need to, both to pay for our time and to recoup our investment. I don’t particularly like the idea of annual renewals for software, so we may do something different in future.

SJ: If somebody wanted to buy drcauto products such as LT Toolkit now, could they do so?
NV: No, we’re still processing the materials we were given when we bought the rights. It wasn’t left in a well-organised state. I’m not sure if that was done deliberately or if it was just like that.

SJ: Do you have any plans to continue development of LT Toolkit or the other drcauto products?
NV: It’s too early to say at this time. I understand it doesn’t work right now with AutoCAD LT 2010 with Update 2 applied, or on 64-bit Windows, or on Windows 7. It’s not clear at this stage how much work is involved in making it work. It should be doable, but we can’t make any commitments at this stage.

SJ: So do you have a timeframe for doing any of this stuff?
NV: No, it’s too early. We’re still processing it.

SJ: What about former drcauto employees helping people out with authorisation codes?
NV: They have no rights to do that. They don’t own the intellectual property, we do. People need to be very careful.

SJ: Are you contemplating legal action?
NV: I think I’ll keep that under my hat for now.

SJ: Do you foresee any problems with Autodesk if you go ahead with LT Toolkit?
NV: I don’t think so. Autodesk would be pretty naive, with competing products around at a lower price than LT and with LISP built in, to think that they would gain any sales by blocking LT Toolkit. They would just be shooting themselves in the foot.

SJ: Autodesk has always been strongly opposed to products like LT Toolkit. Are you concerned about legal action from Autodesk?
NV: Well, people say that Autodesk has been against it, but I haven’t seen any evidence of that. When I spoke to the late Gary D’Arcy he told me that Autodesk had never once even contacted him to try to get him to stop developing it.

On Deelip’s blog there has been some discussion about resellers and what they should be allowed to do, so I asked some questions along those lines.

SJ: What is the relationship between CAD International in the USA and Australia?
NV: We’re an Austalian company, moving into the US marketplace for those people in the USA who want to buy our products. We don’t have offices in the USA, but we do have people on the ground.

SJ: Is CAD International an authorised AutoCAD reseller?
NV: No. We’ve been selling Autodesk products for 15 years without a direct relationship. We buy from Scholastic like everybody else in the same position. It’s not worth becoming a dealer; the obligations are too great and the margins are not worthwhile. We’ve been asked on several ocasions over the years and always said no.

[Note: I’ve since read (in something written well before this issue was raised here) that Autodesk Australia intends to tighten up the reseller situation in the very near future. These things go in cycles, and have for the last 25 years.]

SJ: Does Autodesk have a problem with you promoting competing products such as Bricscad?
NV: They have never spoken to us about it in the past, but as we don’t have a direct relationship with them it’s not surprising.

SJ: I see from your web site that you are selling DWG TrueView for $195. Isn’t that a free product?
NV: That fee is for supply services; research services if you prefer. People can download it from Autodesk if they like or get it from us. We just put it on the site as a trial to see if anybody wanted to buy it.  Nobody has, yet.

SJ: I can’t say I’m greatly surprised by that. Has Autodesk contacted you about this issue?
NV: No, we’ve heard nothing from Autodesk. They don’t really care about us, we’re a pretty small player in the market.

[Edit: the $195 price tag has since vanished from the site.]

More on drcauto, LT Toolkit and CAD International

Things have moved on since my first post on this subject in which I passed on the information that Leonard Liang (a former drcauto employee) could help with codes for LT Toolkit orphans. In recent developments

  • In a comment in a WorldCAD Access post, Nigel Varley from Australian company CAD International stated that they had bought the intellectual property rights to the drcauto software, and that drcauto codes and software obtained from former employees are illegal.
  • Another comment on the same post from former drcauto employee Kevin J Secomb lamented the demise of Gary D’Arcy’s dream and criticised CAD International for indicating in an email to users that they would charge for authorisation codes.
  • CAD International created a web page describing the situation with regard to drcauto products, including a statement that it would “offer immediate assistance to those needing new authorisation codes”.
  • Deelip Menezes made a blog post on the subject, followed by another one containing a reaction from Autodesk’s Jim Quanci. Poth posts are worth reading, as are the comments from various observers. The first post went off at a bit of a tangent about Autodesk’s apparent benevolence towards resellers that don’t toe the corporate line (drcauto is still listed as an Authorised AutoCAD reseller a decade after being dropped by Autodesk). The second post included words from Jim that the late Gary D’Arcy was a great character, albeit a pain to Autodesk. Having met Gary many years ago and followed the story of LT Toolkit with interest, I can confirm the truth of both statements.

I thought I would have a chat with CAD International’s Nigel Varley to see if I could clear up the situation as he sees it. It was a very interesting interview, the results of which I will publish very soon.

Autodesk’s cloudy drawing offering

Autodesk’s Project Butterfly is its latest offering in the Cloud (Software as a Service, SaaS, web-based software, whatever) area. This is a Labs technology preview (i.e. it ain’t cooked yet) of browser-based drawing system based on Autodesk’s purchase of Visual Tao. The idea is that no software other than a browser is required to create, edit or just view drawings. To try it out, head to http://butterfly.autodesk.com/ and pick on Try Now. If you’re interested in going further with it, you will need to create an account, which is a quick and painless process. This account is separate from your Autodesk ID.

For more details, see Scott Sheppard’s posts here and here, the Project Butterfly blog, and the Project Butterfly page on the Autodesk Labs site, which includes a series of videos such as this one:

I’ve had a brief play with it and while it’s not as horribly slow as I had feared (the Ribbon is much quicker than AutoCAD’s, although that’s not difficult), it’s currently an extremely limited environment. Other than viewing and some very crude drawing operations, pretty much everything I wanted to do either couldn’t be done, or couldn’t be done in a satisfactory way. Once I had discovered how to get a drawing out of the clouds and in my own hands (it’s not Save As), the export crashed with an HTTP Status 500 error. Apparently, the server encountered an internal error () that prevented it from fulfilling this request.

Teething problems aside, it’s hard to imagine anyone accustomed to full-featured CAD software actually spending all day drawing with this mechanism. In fact, I can’t imagine spending more than an hour on it before tearing my hair out; a few minutes was enough. It’s perfectly adequate for viewing and marking up, but as a drafting tool it’s just a toy.

But it’s a start, and Autodesk is wise to get its head into the clouds. If SaaS really is The Next Big Thing in CAD, then Autodesk would have looked very silly if it had missed the boat altogether. I’m not convinced that SaaS is going to have the impact that some are predicting, but I’ll cover that argument in a separate post.

Hope for Autodesk FM Desktop orphans

For those of us who have been following Autodesk for decades, it’s a familiar story. Autodesk buys a company or its technology, makes an Autodesk product out of it, and initially promotes it as the best thing since sliced bread. Autodesk subsequently ignores it to death, before finally killing it off and leaving customers in the lurch.

Autodesk FM Desktop suffered this fate, and if you go looking for information about the product on the Autodesk site you’ll find only a few dregs left over from the days when this was a viable product. At least in this case Autodesk has belatedly arranged a path out of the mire for its customers. FM:Systems will be taking over Autodesk’s FM customers, and your Autodesk FM Desktop licenses can be converted to FM:Interact Workplace Management Suite licenses. There is no data transfer mechanism yet (other than a DWF import), but something is supposed to be made available in the next few months.

(Edit: Marty Chobot from FM:Systems informs me that they will help customers who need to transfer data immediately).

For more information, see www.fmsystems.com/fmdesktop, especially the FAQ.Edit: