Autodesk has some great documentation people

The most heavily commented post on this blog is AutoCAD 2013 – An Autodesk Help writer responds, featuring Dieter Schlaepfer‘s response to posts and comments here about AutoCAD 2013’s Help. I don’t always agree with Dieter but I respect him enormously, and not just because he was brave enough to stick his head above the parapet in a hostile environment. Dieter is a principal technical writer at Autodesk with many years’ experience and is therefore responsible for large amounts of documentation content. You’ve almost certainly read his work.

I’ve been critical of AutoCAD’s Help system since it was broken in 2011, and I make no apologies for that. The Help system sucked then, it sucked even worse in 2013, and it continues to suck badly in 2017. None of that’s Dieter’s fault. It’s the Help engine that’s at fault, or to be more accurate the Help … Full post

BricsCAD V17 – the best AutoCAD upgrade in years?

I’ve been evaluating BricsCAD for a few years now, and have been looking at it pretty seriously as a DWG-based LISP-compatible AutoCAD alternative for a year or so. A couple of weeks ago, I flew to Munich for the Bricsys International Conference (at Bricsys’ expense – see the Legal page for disclosure) where I learned quite a few things I had failed to notice during my own evaluation of V17. As you may have noticed, I can be pretty hard-bitten and cynical about what CAD companies have to say about their products, but I came back impressed.

The conference and the product itself are not free of flaws, but I have to say the progress Bricsys has shown in developing the BricsCAD product is really quite astonishing. The rate at which serious, worthwhile-to-customers improvements have been made to BricsCAD over the last few releases is huge. Some of … Full post

The Times They Are a-Changin’ (guest post)

I’d like to thank Steve for the opportunity to write this guest post. My post doesn’t necessarily represent Steve, nor does it represent any company. It’s strictly a personal point of view. The purpose of this post is to prompt discussion and debate, and get your opinion.

Recent discussion on this blog has focused on Autodesk and its many changes over the past few years (upgrade pricing, policy changes, term-only aka rental licenses, move to the cloud, etc.), and there’s been a lot of skepticism. If we stand back and look at the landscape, though, Autodesk is not alone. True, they’re moving faster and more aggressively than their competitors, but many software companies are making similar changes.

Change can be disruptive, it can have positive and negative impact, and there can be winners and losers. But … it’s inevitable, and it’s better to understand change than to fight it. To … Full post

The best thing about AutoCAD 2017.1 is…

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

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

autocadrelease12bonuscdcaseFull post

Magical disappearing AutoCAD 2017.1 crash information

In preparing to write something about the AutoCAD 2017.1 non-subscription-only update, I came across something slightly strange. Google AutoCAD 2017.1 crashes and you will probably see something like this:


What happens if you click that link? Nothing useful. You’re just taken to the landing page for the Autodesk Knowledge Network. The Google cached version of the link takes me to 404 land. Searching within the Autodesk Knowledge Network doesn’t produce relating to the crash in the original link, which seems to be language-pack related. The search wasn’t entirely fruitless, because I did discover that 2017.1 breaks linetype preview images for those of us who prefer a light user interface. But of information about the crashes, I see no sign.

On Twitter, … Full post

How to download Autodesk software without the Akamai download manager

For reasons beyond my understanding, Autodesk chooses to make life difficult for customers and prospective customers who want to download its products by imposing the use of a download manager (DLM) by Akamai. You really don’t want to let such a thing loose on your system even if it works, for reasons that have been explained in previous posts.

Until a couple of years ago, Autodesk allowed prospective customers to get at a direct download link after jumping through a few hoops and ignoring a bunch of bullshit warnings, but in recent times even that small measure of semi-decency has been removed. It became impossible for anyone who couldn’t or wouldn’t use the Akamai DLM to try out Autodesk’s products! Here’s what you get these days; there is no direct browser download option to be found, just a downloader stub you’re expected to install and give open slather … Full post

Selfie contest – we have a winner!

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

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

Some clarifications:

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

Autodesk Answer Day – 27 October 2016

Autodesk is holding another Answer Day to encourage you to use the Autodesk Community (discussion forums). Hop along and get answers to your questions (hopefully), because this is a special day where Autodesk people will attend and be responsive.

Here is the announcement. When is this event, exactly?

Join us on Thursday, Oct 27th from 6:00am to 6:00pm Pacific Time.

Autodesk, if you’re promoting a “global event”, please try to remember that the globe extends beyond the West Coast of America and include UTC (GMT) times in your announcements. Most of us know where our time zones are in relation to UTC, but seeing something listed only in Pacific Time is likely to mean we have to head off to a site like or to work it out.

To save you all the effort, Pacific Time is currently UTC -7 … Full post

Dear Autodesk Recap 360 team…

…your software (, came with AutoCAD 2017) fails to allow sign-in (a prerequisite to connection to the cloud) in a secure proxy server environment. This happens (see picture):


I am online. I did try to inform you about this problem using the feedback mechanism in the product. This allowed me to type my problem report, but on hitting the send feedback button, I got this (see picture):


I am connected. In fact, I’m so connected I’m typing this post online while reproducing the problem. While this is going on, I’m able to sign in to Autodesk Account, A360 Drive, AutoCAD Beta forums, the Autodesk … Full post

Selfie of the day – who is this man?

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

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

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

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

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

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

When is a subscription-only update not a subscription-only update?

Before I get started, I want to clarify the meaning of the word ‘subscription’. For about 15 years, the word Subscription (note the initial capital) meant something specific for Autodesk customers. It meant you had bought a perpetual license and instead of paying for periodical updates, you paid for a year’s Subscription in advance. In allowed access to any new release that appeared during that year plus various other benefits.

That thing that was once called ‘Subscription’ has now been renamed ‘maintenance’ (no initial capital) in Autodeskspeak. So what does ‘subscription’ (no initial capital) mean? Rental. You pay in advance for use of the product for a period and when you stop paying, you stop using the product. This is now the only way to obtain Autodesk software you don’t already own. In addition to access to any new release that appears during the subscription period, it provides other benefits … Full post

Props to Autodesk for supporting education

I have to raise a glass to Autodesk for supporting students and educators by making its software available free. Further props are due for removing the virus-like educational watermark.

A further program that Autodesk supports is the FIRST robotics competition series, helping to develop young people into technology leaders; a member of my family has benefited directly from that.

Credit where credit is due, Autodesk deserves praise for supporting education. Of course, Autodesk will ultimately benefit from this support, but there’s nothing wrong with that. Doing good and being smart are not mutually exclusive.

Autodesk excludes maintenance customers from AutoCAD 2017.1 update (Edit: actually, it doesn’t)

Edit: it turns out that when Autodesk said this was subscription-only, that wasn’t true. See my later post for details.

A mid-term update containing a bunch of useful stuff, AutoCAD 2017.1 is the first update made available exclusively to subscription customers (renters). I’d love to tell you about how great this update is, but I can’t because I’m not allowed to use it.

If you’ve been a loyal customer of Autodesk for 30 years and have paid countless thousands for your software, upgrades and Subscription (now called maintenance) over those years, even if you are right now still paying maintenance to keep that software up to date, Autodesk is rewarding that loyalty by waving a virtual digit in your general direction. If you’re not a renter, you’re now officially a second class customer.

Autodesk is going to progressively hammer in a wedge to try to separate … Full post

Any BricsCAD users out there? v.2016

Back in 2010 I asked the question Any BricsCAD users out there? and there were a few of you who had tried to replace AutoCAD with BricsCAD. Most who responded had made the change successfully, others not so much.

Six years on, the situation is different. The fact that you can’t buy a permanent AutoCAD license any more has prompted some Autodesk customers to look more seriously at alternative vendors who do provide that option. Bricsys is one of those vendors, and their DWG-based AutoCAD alternative BricsCAD has improved way more rapidly than AutoCAD over the same time period. No, that isn’t a guess, I’ve been keeping an active eye on things. BricsCAD today is by no means perfect, but it’s impressive in many ways. LISP compatibility and performance are excellent, for example. BricsCAD v16 superior to the also imperfect AutoCAD 2017 in several … Full post

Battle of the Bullshit part 4 – Bentley tells the truth

Behold, the latest episode in the Autodesk versus Bentley PR battle over perpetual licenses versus rental!

Bentley has issued a response to Autodesk’s response to Bentley’s response to Autodesk’s move to all-rental software. This is entitled Bentley Responds to Autodesk – You Have a Choice. I have already dissected Bentley’s and Autodesk’s previous responses and found neither of them entirely truthful.

So, how does the latest effort from Bentley shape up? Very well. It’s pretty much spot-on for accuracy. There’s nothing that could be described as disingenuous, misleading, or even exaggerated. I encourage you to read it and make up your own mind.

Bentley PR also invited me in on a press conference call, having first invited my questions. Although I was unable to take part in that call, I have listened to a recording of the event and that was similarly … Full post

When is a global offer not a global offer?

Confusion reigned yesterday when my post on Autodesk’s “FY17 Q3 Global Field Promotion” assumed that Global meant what it said, and the offer made to me in Australia was the same as in other countries. That was a mistaken assumption, and I have updated the post to reflect that; my apologies for the confusion.

That said, it was a not entirely unreasonable assumption given the superficial similarity between offers worldwide and the following in Autodesk’s fine print in multiple global Autodesk sites:

Offer available from 7 August 2016 through 21 October 2016 worldwide with the exception of the Crimean Peninsula of Ukraine, Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Sudan and Syria

The situation is not that simple. There are two very different offers that look the same at first glance. People in some countries get a much better offer than others. The offer I discussed in yesterday’s post allows you … Full post

Autodesk’s mixed rental and perpetual license offer

If you’re on Autodesk’s mailing list you have no doubt been receiving increasingly desperate offers aimed at tempting you into renting your software. None of those have really been worth a mention, but the latest Autodesk FY17 Q3 Global Field Promotion for Asia Pacific contains something noteworthy. It acknowledges the value of perpetual licenses and allows you to retain yours. Don’t get too excited though, it does not apply in other regions and only allows you to retain your old  license. Anything new is still rental-only.

Here’s how the offer works. Let’s say you have an old copy of AutoCAD lying around. This acts as a magic token allowing you access to cheaper rental. Autodesk halves the cost of a 3-year subscription (rental) of pretty much anything (doesn’t have to be AutoCAD, it could be something much bigger) and your old AutoCAD perpetual license remains unaffected. You can … Full post

How do I know most Autodesk customers don’t want rental?

In a recent comment, I was asked how I know Autodesk’s move to all-rental is the opposite of what customers want. Have I conducted research? This is an excellent question and deserves a proper answer.

So how do  I know this? Why am I so convinced? There are several independent sources of evidence, one bit of critical thinking and one undeniable proof. They all point in the same direction. First, a bit of evidence.

  • There are many public places on the Internet where this issue has been discussed, including Autodesk’s own discussion groups. The viewpoints expressed everywhere are overwhelmingly against Autodesk’s all-rental plans.
  • There are private places Autodesk customers hang out where I have access, and I receive private emails. Again, the overwhelmingly majority of the viewpoints I see expressed are very strongly against Autodesk’s strategy.
  • There’s a poll right here. How’s it going?
  • None of … Full post

Disaster in progress – Getting it wrong

No, not Autodesk getting it wrong, me  getting it wrong. In recent posts, I supported my arguments against Autodesk’s move to all-rental software with faulty evidence. As pointed out to me by several commenters, I completely failed to take deferred revenue into account. I would like to sincerely thank those who pointed out my error.* Although I included a disclaimer about not being a financial analyst, I should have gone further and simply not ventured into areas I am ill-qualified to cover. I got it wrong. I therefore offer unreserved apologies to Autodesk and my readers.

What now?

I have done myself a bunch of graphs that I think paints a fairer picture of Autodesk’s position, but there’s a reasonable chance I’m wrong about that too so I won’t be publishing them. Instead, In a day or two, I will remove the content of the offending … Full post