AutoCAD 2009 – Tooltips are bad for my sanity

In the general scheme of things, this is a relatively trivial issue, but it’s sometimes the little things that get under my skin. Winner of this year’s prize for most annoying new feature just has to be the new tooltips. They are really not good for my mental health. If I have tooltips turned on, I find it hard to use AutoCAD 2009 for more than a few minutes without wanting to smash my fist through the screen.

I would like to leave tooltips on just a little bit so they will let me get used to AutoCAD’s modified button appearance and location. All I want is a little one-word tooltip if I hover over a button, but I can’t have that. There is some control over tooltips to be had in the Options dialogue box:

Controlling tooltips in Options

Oh, sorry, you can’t see the …

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AutoCAD 2009 – ViewCube problems?

Having been very effusive in my praise of AutoCAD 2009’s ViewCube feature, stating among other things that “the ViewCube looks like a finished, polished tool”, I may need to backpedal. Those views, along with all of my 2009 Prequel posts, were based on my experience with the Release Candidate.  Although ViewCube was very stable for me in pre-release versions of 2009, I’ve seen severe ViewCube stability problems in the shipping software.

I’ve seen the following problems in just a few minutes use of the ViewCube, on two different PCs:

  • Picking the WCS button under the ViewCube and then picking a different visual style led to AutoCAD going into an endless loop where it kept flashing up and removing the WCS menu about twice a second. Ctrl-Alt-Del was needed to get out of this. This lock-up could be repeated by using the UCS button and picking in the drawing …

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Gaahl’s Tr00 Life Adventures – Week 1

I like many forms of metal music, but I’m afraid the black metal sub-genre does nothing for me musically, particularly as far as the vocals are concerned. The Satanic themes aren’t my scene either. Black metallers in most cases really are Satanists, unlike most metal musicians who are mistakenly thought of as Satanic by some fairly clueless individuals but who are nothing of the sort.

Where black metal does score points for me is on the costume front. These guys put a lot of effort into trying to look more evil than each other, and the results are frequently hilarious. Do a Google image search if you dare, but don’t have your mouth full when you do or you may need a new keyboard. Some images may be considered offensive.

One of the big names in black metal is Gaahl, formerly of …

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AutoCAD 2009 – Automatic spell checker

I’ve seen quite a few positive comments about the new automated spell checking feature, with some people saying that it alone is enough to make AutoCAD 2009 worth the price of admission. I wouldn’t go quite that far, but it is a nice feature. If you enter or edit text or mtext, a little dashed red line appears under words that are not in the dictionary. Right click on an unknown word and the menu will offer several suggestions, allow you to ignore the word or add it to the dictionary.

It does have limitations, though, such as not working with attributes. Don’t expect it to do the things that Word does, such as auto-correct words or check your grammar. There is nothing to inform you that you have used a valid word in the wrong context, so AutoCAD considers this to be a perfectly valid sentence:

Eye cant under …

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AutoCAD 2009 – Layer Palette and performance

If you’ve noticed some normal drafting operations are much slower in AutoCAD 2009 than in earlier releases, try turning off the new Layer Palette and see if the problem goes away. For example, editing viewports with the Layer Palette visible can be completely unworkable. Don’t just auto-hide it, close it altogether.

Another problem presented by the Layer Palette is that any layer changes you make are applied as you make them. This sounds great in theory, but if each operation takes a while to perform then that’s much less efficient than the old method where all changes are made at once when OK or Apply is picked.

I know a non-modal layer interface was a common wish and it sounded like a cool idea, but now Autodesk has actually been kind enough to grant this wish I’m finding I prefer the old method. I generally don’t need access to all …

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AutoCAD 2009 – Action Recorder needs action

One of the banes of AutoCAD over the past few years is the phenomenon of the half-baked feature. A new feature is added to the product with serious design deficiencies and/or bugs and other shortcomings that make it much less useful than it should have been. I’m sure you have your own favourite examples of this. I may expand on this theme in future, but for now let’s concentrate on one brand new and particularly undercooked feature, the Action Recorder.

The ability to record and play back macros is undoubtedly something that many users want, and has featured prominently in some wishlists. Autodesk has now provided the Action Recorder. Wish granted, right? A shining example of Autodesk listening to its customers and providing what they want and need? Not exactly. In fact, this wish has only been granted at the most superficial level.

Here is the wish as seen on …

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AutoCAD 2009 – A new release is on the cards

When AutoCAD 2009 arrives, what exactly do you get? Inside the brown cardboard box is a fatter DVD case containing one DVD and a set of cards describing the new features:

AutoCAD 2009 Packaging

I haven’t discovered the rules yet; maybe they are in Help somewhere. Is Menu Browser worth more than ViewCube? Does Action Recorder trump Quick Properties? Is DWFx a wildcard? Inquiring minds want to know.

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DWG TrueView 2009 – it measures!

Autodesk’s DWG viewer history has been one of twists and turns, including name changes, attempts to charge money for it, lost features, bloat, and general confusion. One of the most obvious problems that prevented people using the recent DWG TrueView offerings was the inability to measure objects. As a result, some people who needed a DWG viewer turned to the MicroStation-based offering, Bentley View. It took a while, but that omission has now been remedied and Autodesk now provides a useful tool for non-AutoCAD users who need to check drawings. You can download it here:

It’s a 194 MB download in 32-bit form, so it’s no lightweight. It is basically a very cut-down AutoCAD 2009 and shares its Ribbon interface, albeit in much simplified form.

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Have you seen Shaan shorn?

I was intrigued to see Autodesk personality and fellow blogger Shaan Hurley posting a photo with his long-standing facial fuzz removed. Shaan may be moving in the opposite direction to myself (I’m getting hairier with age), but personally I don’t think he has gone far enough. I would like to see Shaan sporting a chrome dome. What do you think?

Shaan Shorn

Original image © 2008 Shaan Hurley.

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AutoCAD 2009 – Putting things back to “normal”

Note: there are updated versions of this post for AutoCAD 2010, 2011 and 2012. If you’re running a more recent release of AutoCAD, have a look at the post AutoCAD 2017 – Putting things back to “normal” instead.

One thing that’s regularly asked whenever a new AutoCAD release hits the streets is how to make it work like the last release. I think you should give any new features a fighting chance before turning them off or ignoring them, but that’s entirely your choice. Let’s assume you’ve made the decision to go back to the future; how do you do it?

  • Menus and Ribbon. You can turn menus on with MENUBAR 1, close the Ribbon with RIBBONCLOSE, and so on. However, there’s an easier way; just switch workspaces. In the bottom right corner there is a little button that looks like a gearwheel. This …

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AutoCAD 2009 – The Reaction Part 1

Some people have now received AutoCAD 2009, or at least downloaded it, which you can do (legally!) here, as long as you’re in the United States or Canada.

I’m closing the AutoCAD 2009 speculation poll. Other than a small blip on “Very bad”, the poll follows a typical bell curve nicely, with the peak very clearly on “OK”. I will poll on AutoCAD 2009 later, once you’ve had a chance to play with the new product.

What is the initial user reaction like? So far, not good. For example, have a look at Autodesk’s AutoCAD 2009 discussion group. I fully expected an initial adverse reaction to the new user interface, but it will be interesting to see if it persists once the shock of the new has worn off.

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AutoCAD 2009 – The Prequels Are Over

It would appear that AutoCAD 2009 is now shipping. I intend to hold off on any further comments until I get my hands on the shipping product, which I expect to be fairly soon. In the meantime, maybe have a look over the 24 AutoCAD 2009 Prequel posts and see if there’s anything you missed.

If there’s something in particular about AutoCAD 2009 you want clarified or would like to see covered in future posts, feel free to add a comment here or email me.

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Advertising, ethics and editorial freedom

In a recent blog post, Roopinder Tara included this throw-away comment:

Pure bloggers don’t do advertising, so no worry about advertising pressure — the secret and unstated fear of us all in the trade press.

I respect Roopinder, but this kind of “pure blogger” label irritates me. I have an ad on my blog for geeky T-shirts, so I’m an impure blogger? Somebody please explain the reasoning behind that distinction, because I don’t understand it. Even if I accepted (say) Autodesk advertising, the idea that it would have any influence on what I choose to write is ridiculous. Yet I see even more extreme viewpoints presented by some bloggers as the absolute truth. For example, how about this from Matt Lombard?

Advertising a product means that you are beholden to that company for cash or other rewards – you have in essence sold your right of free expression …

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AutoCAD 2009 – The Prequel Part 24 – Menu Browser Keyboard Access

You may be used to accessing pull-down menus with Alt-key combinations, e.g. Alt+F to get at the File menu. You can still use those keystrokes to get at menus in AutoCAD 2009, whether or not the pull-down menus are in place. If the pull-downs are visible (MENUBAR=1), they are given priority over the Menu Browser. One difference is that if the pull-down menus are visible, you can either press the keys together (e.g. Alt+F), or you can press and release the Alt key, then choose the menu (e.g. Alt, F). With the pull-down menus turned off, you can use only the former method; just pressing and releasing the Alt key is ignored.

Here is a list of the Alt-key combinations that will work with either the pull-down menus or the Menu Browser:



Alt+F File menu Alt+E Edit menu Alt+V View menu Alt+I Insert menu Alt+O Format …

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AutoCAD 2009 – The Prequel Part 23 – Recent Actions

Like Recent Documents, the Menu Browser pane also stores a Recent Actions list.

AutoCAD 2009 Recent Actions list

  • Like Recent Documents, the length of this list defaults to 9 and can be set to up to 50 in Options.
  • Similarly, you can pin actions in place to prevent them slipping off the end.
  • Unlike the command line recall (up-arrow) method of retrieving recently entered commands, this feature only remembers commands you selected using the Menu Browser. Even if you use pull-down menus, those commands will not be placed in this list.
  • Also unlike command line recall, the list is remembered between drawing sessions and even AutoCAD sessions (i.e. you can close AutoCAD without losing the list)

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AutoCAD 2009 – The Prequel Part 22 – Open Documents

One more feature that’s crammed into the Menu Browser pane’s limited space is the Open Documents list. This allows you to switch between the drawings you currently have open. It has a similar interface to the Recent Documents list, including the persistently pale preview:

AutoCAD 2009 Open Documents

Unlike Recent Documents, the filenames are displayed in the correct case, although this is not true in the preview where the name and path are all in upper case. Another glitch in the preview can be seen above, where it says Currently Oper instead of Currently Open By:. This only happens intermittently and doesn’t concern me greatly.

In the same way that Recent Documents doesn’t eliminate the equivalent feature in the File pull-down menu, Open Documents doesn’t eliminate the equivalent feature in the Window pull-down menu. Note that this applies only to the traditional pull-down menus you get …

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AutoCAD 2009 – The Prequel Part 21 – Recent Documents

Another thing you will find lurking under the big red A is the Recent Document list. This is a mixed bag too, but most of it is good. It differs from the traditional list that still lives under the File menu in several ways:

  • Although the default maximum list length is 9 items, you can allow up to 50 items into the list by changing a setting in the Options command’s Open and Save tab.
  • If the list exceeds the space available, a scroll bar appears. This has the same problems as elsewhere in the menu browser: more clicks are required and there is no auto-scroll.
  • If you hover over a document in the list, it displays a preview image along with some other useful document information. Unfortunately, that preview image always has a white background, despite the fact that the first thing most of you are going …

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AutoCAD 2009 – The Prequel Part 20 – Menu Browser Search

So if the Menu Browser isn’t much use for browsing menus, what is it good for? Searching menus, for one thing. Let’s say you’re a very occasional 3D user trying to make a 3D model look pretty. You want to access commands for placing lights, putting the sun in the right place, and changing visual style settings. You don’t really know where to look in the Ribbon or menus. What to do? Click on the red A and just start typing what you think the command is called. With a bit of luck, the appropriate menu item will present itself and you can click on it.

This video shows three successful Menu Browser searches by typing in “light”, “sun” and “vis”.

Searching using the Menu Browser

The whole thing is over in 14 seconds. That’s quite impressive in comparison to a manual click-and-hunt search. It’s not …

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