How to break Civil 3D 2013

In Civil 3D 2013 (with or without hotfix 2.1), use the PLOT command and use the Window option. While being prompted for the window corners, use the middle button mouse wheel to zoom to locate the exact point you want. Civil 3D then enters a loop in which it displays:

Document “drawing name” has a command in progress.
Hit enter to cancel or [Retry]:

At this point, the user can do nothing with the program. Hitting Enter, Esc, R, etc. or doing more all do nothing except cause the message to be redisplayed. Picking a point or further wheel zooming does nothing useful. Using the application’s red X, or attempting to use the Taskbar to close it are equally ineffectual. The user has no alternative but to terminate Civil 3D using Task Manager, losing all unsaved work in all drawings.

This happens for me in Windows 7 64-bit. It … Full post

Why Autodesk’s Cloud push will fail, part 1 – failure defined

It’s probably unwise to make predictions about what is going to happen in technology. If so, I’m about to be unwise. So be it; if I’m wrong you can taunt me about this post in a few years. Here’s my prediction:

Autodesk’s attempt to move CAD users onto the Cloud is doomed to failure.

This is the first of a series of posts that will examine what I mean by that and the reasons behind it. The first thing that’s important to lay out is what I mean by failure. What I mean is that reality will not match Autodesk’s expectation of what will happen with its products moving to the Cloud. What expectation is that?

I’d say two to three years from now, every one of our products will be used online. The only way to use them will be online.

Carl Bass, April 2012, Full post

Dilbert and the Cloud

I have an Autodesk-related Dilbert story to share. Back in the late 90s, I was visiting Autodesk’s San Rafael offices (at Autodesk’s expense) and had an appointment to see a product manager. There was some confusion when I arrived at Reception, but after a few phone calls I was shown into a meeting room containing the manager and a lot of other Autodesk people. However, the open mouths told me that they were discussing very confidential stuff. They were clearly shocked and horrified that an outsider had been allowed into that particular room at that particular time, even though I had signed an NDA and was due to spend that day giving some important future software a very thorough going-over.

The manager quickly shuffled me off to his own office and let me know he would be back as soon as the meeting concluded. I waited a while, staring into space. … Full post

Autodesk confirms outrageous upgrade price increase

As I indicated in May, Autodesk will be increasing the cost of upgrades to 70% of the full retail cost of a new license. This renders it totally pointless upgrading Autodesk software at all, which is obviously Autodesk’s intention. This change probably won’t affect many people, as those who have chosen to stick with Autodesk despite everything have already been effectively forced onto Subscription. Anyway, here’s the confirmation from Autodesk:

In early 2013 Autodesk will simplify the current upgrade pricing model, which may affect pricing and/or eligibility for upgrades.  Autodesk is providing advance notice to help ease the transition and ensure that customers have enough time to plan and budget for any impact to your organization.

 As part of this change, Autodesk will be simplifying upgrades into a single offering available for licenses that are 1-6 versions old at a discount of 30% off new license SRP*.  Under … Full post

Let’s critique AutoCAD’s parametric constraints

One of the big-ticket features of AutoCAD 2010 was parametric constraints. This was old hat for many applications, even some based on AutoCAD like Mechanical Desktop. Parametrics and constraints already existed in vanilla AutoCAD in the guise of dynamic blocks, but this was the first time ordinary AutoCAD allowed ordinary AutoCAD objects to be constrained and linked to parametric dimensions.

Contraints mean that you can draw some objects and tell them that they are only allowed to behave in certain ways. For example, two lines have to remain parallel to each other. Parametrics mean that objects can be tied to special dimensions such that the dimensions drive the objects, not the other way round.

How good a job has Autodesk done with creating and improving this feature in AutoCAD? Has Autodesk done its usual trick of releasing a half-baked feature and then ignoring it to death? In one vital respect, the answer is … Full post

Autodesk buys more social media stuff

Following up on its acquisition of Socialcam (which was then abandoned by 50 million users), Autodesk has acquired social media platform Qontext from Indian company Pramati. What exactly is this? I have no idea. I tried to find out by reading the Pramati site, but it’s so heavily obscured in trendy but vague corporatespeak it’s hard to work out anything firm. I played Buzzword Bingo while reading the site and won within seconds. Maybe the Autodesk statement clarifies things?

“Mobile, cloud and social computing are dramatically changing the way engineers, designers and architects work. The addition of the Qontext technology to the Autodesk portfolio will lead to new technology innovations that help our customers embrace these disruptive technologies and leverage them for competitive advantage,” said Amar Hanspal, Autodesk senior vice president of information modeling and platform products. “It was great to work with the team at … Full post

How good is Autodesk’s customer focus?

Autodesk has grown and prospered by always, as much as possible, placing the customer’s needs foremost.

John Walker, 1990, The Autodesk File

That was the dominant philosophy back in Autodesk’s ancient history, to the benefit of all. However, is that still the case today? I’m not going to offer an view one way or the other in this post. Instead, I will leave it open to the floor. Good or bad, please comment below using specific examples if you can. If you’re short of time, you can still use the poll on the right to express your opinion.

Autodesk is firing. No, wait! Hiring.

August 2012: Autodesk increases profits, but not as much as expected, and gets rid of 500 people. This sort of thing has happened before, resulting in the loss of good, skilled people, some with many years of priceless and irreplacable experience.

September 2012: Autodesk goes on a recruiting drive.

So, if you want to work for a company that will put you out with the trash the next time reality doesn’t quite match some financial analyst’s estimate, you know where to go. Good luck with that.

AutoCAD Help suckage to continue – confirmed

In a recent post on Between the Lines, Shaan passed on the following response from the AutoCAD Team:

There has been some recent discussions about the built-in help system in AutoCAD 2013, both positive and some criticism.  As our longtime users know, AutoCAD help has been through many evolutions.

We are particularly proud of the new AutoCAD 2013 online learning environment we recently released (AutoCAD Online Help Mid-Year Updates.) This update addressed several user requested fixes and changes, and we will continue to take our direction from our user’s feedback.

We do recognize that the online learning environment may not be the solution for every user, so while we are focused on creating a rich and personalized online experience, we will continue to maintain our current basic offline experience.

(The emphasis is mine). This statement, although couched in marketingspeak, confirms what I’ve had to say on the subject. … Full post

I was wrong about AutoCAD 2013 Help, it still sucks

In my effusive welcome of AutoCAD 2013’s updated Help system, I wondered if I had been shocked into missing some glaring problem. Unfortunately, that’s exactly what happened. In my enthusiasm, I managed to totally miss the fact that the new system has not been introduced for offline users.

If you use the new system, there’s a link on the front page to the offline files. I got as far as downloading and installing what I thought was the offline version of the new system and discovered that it didn’t want to install because the old one was already installed. What I should have then done, and didn’t, was to uninstall the old and install the new, before running it in offline mode. I intended to get around to that to check the performance and responsiveness of the respective versions, but didn’t have the time right then. … Full post

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to AutoCAD explained

Following my comments on The Hitchhiker’s Guide to AutoCAD, Autodesk’s Dieter Schlapfer has sought to explain the reasoning behind it. Here’s what he has to say:

As mentioned previously, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to AutoCAD is designed for occasional AutoCAD users and those coming back from their initial training. These are people who just need a base level of knowledge in 2D AutoCAD to get things done, and who don’t necessarily want to become experts. To make future versions more effective, I really want to get some input on the 42 AutoCAD commands, and any descriptions or illustrations that are not clear. Especially valuable to me is feedback coming from occasional users.

Here’s some history. Believe it or not, the 42 commands came first! I kept flaunting this number, which was based on an internal AutoCAD overview class that I taught a while back, in response to people who complained … Full post

AutoCAD 2013 Help shock – it no longer sucks

Some months ago, I gave Autodesk several damn good (and thoroughly well-deserved) thrashings over its hopelessly inadequate AutoCAD 2013 Help system. When Autodesk’s Dieter Schlaepfer responded and asked for feedback, he sure got it. There are 142 comments on that one post to date, most of them leaving nobody under any illusions about how short of the mark the new system was.

There is now an updated version of the AutoCAD 2013 Help system. It has been an interminably long time coming, a fact made far worse by Autodesk’s stubborn refusal to provide a CHM stopgap (which could have easily been done on the ship date with minimal resources if the will had been there), but at least an update is here now. Is it any good, though?

I’ve seen fit to give the online version of the … Full post

AutoCAD 2013 Service Pack 1 – Now you see it, now you don’t

Last week, Autodesk released Service Pack 1 for AutoCAD 2013, and then removed it a few days later.

Service Pack 1 for AutoCAD 2013 has been temporarily removed due to a newly discovered fatal error. The AutoCAD team is actively working on resolving this and a new service pack will be posted here as soon as it is available.

This is the sort of thing that Beta testing is supposed to prevent, but in this case it obviously didn’t. Somebody in a position of influence at Autodesk needs to investigate whether this is just a freak one-off, or if there is some systemic weakness within the Beta testing program.

One of the supposed benefits of Cloud software is that there are no updates for users to worry about. It’s all taken care of on the vendor’s server and you’re always using the most up to date version. OK, now … Full post

Olympic Fencing – Mythbusting the Shin v Heidemann Controversy

This is a departure from the usual subject matter of this blog, but one of the advantages of running my own blog is that I can write what I like on it. This post does have a mention of AutoCAD, but it’s so minor and marginal it’s probably not going to interest many of my usual readers.


Now the Olympics are over and a video has been made globally available, I’m going to discuss what happened in the Women’s Epee semi-final between South Korea’s Shin A-Lam and Germany’s Britta Heidemann. The image of Shin sitting disconsolate and alone on the piste, in white on a black background, is one of the iconic images of the London 2012 Olympics. It was replayed at the closing ceremony. Besides making for ‘good’ television, it’s one of the human stories that go to make the Games more than just a vehicle to sell junk food. I’m driven … Full post

AutoCAD 2013 for Mac – the holes live on

A couple of years ago, I reported on the missing features in AutoCAD 2011 for Mac. While some generous souls were prepared to accept something half-baked as a first attempt, even that excuse doesn’t wash when it comes to a third iteration. So how well is Autodesk doing at filling those holes? Decide for yourself. Here’s an updated list of missing features in AutoCAD 2013 for Mac:

  • Quick Properties Palette
  • Layer State Manager
  • New Layer Notification
  • Various layer commands including LAYCUR, LAYDEL, LAYMRG, LAYWALK, and LAYVPI
  • Autocomplete doesn’t work entirely properly, including offering commands that don’t exist
  • Filter
  • Quick Select
  • DesignCenter
  • Tool Palettes
  • Navigation Bar
  • ShowMotion
  • Sheet Set Manager (but there is Project Manager)
  • Model Documentation Tools (but at least now there are object enablers)
  • Geographic Location
  • Table Style Editing
  • Hatch Creation Preview
  • Multiline Style Creation
  • Digitizer Integration
  • Change Space
  • Express Tools
  • Material Creation, Editing, and Mapping
  • Full post

AutoCAD Exchange bites the dust

Three years ago, I was happy to promote Autodesk’s then-new site AutoCAD Exchange. However, Autodesk has now given up on this attempt to maintain a social site of its own. My comment at the time, “AutoCAD Exchange is an important and potentially very useful site for AutoCAD users” turned out to be optimistic. I was closer to the mark with “It has yet to be seen if Autodesk manages to develop a real community on this site”. Now we’ve seen the answer. No, it didn’t. Autodesk has instead handed control to more socially successful sites, as this message indicates:

Thank you for visiting AutoCAD Exchange. In an effort to consolidate our online AutoCAD community efforts to more popular networks, we will be migrating AutoCAD Exchange content and activities to Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

Through the AutoCAD Facebook page we provide tips & tricks, tutorial videos … Full post

LISP programmers, have your say again

Autodesk wants your input again in its annual API survey. This used to be a closed survey for Autodesk Developer Network (ADN) members, but has been open to all for the last few years. If you do any AutoCAD-based development at all, I encourage you to take part. That includes those of us who do most of our development in LISP.

Here’s the direct link to the survey. As you can see if you click the link, there’s a lot of stuff in there that assumes you’re keen to get developing for AutoCAD WS. If you’re not quite so filled with Cloudy enthusiasm and would prefer Autodesk to expend its resources elsewhere (on fixing and improving Visual LISP, for example), please fill in the short survey and say so. It closes on 22 June, so you only have a week.

Why bother, when it’s obvious that … Full post

Cloud concerns – Security – Autodesk puts its arguments on line

I’ve made the point before that while Cloud proponents like Autodesk have been happy to talk big on the potential benefits, they have been conspicuously (suspiciously?) silent on the legitimate concerns their customers have raised. The best responses you have been likely to see regarding such concerns can best be characterised as “glossing over”.

So it’s good to see that Autodesk has put together a white-paper-type-thing called Autodesk® 360: Work Wherever You Are – Safely. This 275 KB PDF, with 5 pages of actual content, puts Autodesk’s point of view about one of the aspects of Cloud that people commonly raise as a concern. This is a good start, but of course there are quite a few potential dealbreakers that need addressing yet.

How well does this document address this issue? As you’d expect from Autodesk, it’s gung-ho positive, but there is at least some acknowledgement of Cloud … Full post

Trebling upgrade prices was not enough for Autodesk

A blog post from BIM person Gregory Arkin contains a number of confidently-made statements about what Autodesk intends to do with its upgrade and Subscription pricing model. If the information is correct, the news is all bad for customers. The prices for both upgrade and Subscription are getting jacked up substantially. In fact, for upgraders the pricing (70% of full whack for the cheapest upgrade) will be completely non-viable and you’ll effectively be forced onto Subscription. This goes beyond the trebling of upgrade prices that Autodesk’s Callan Carpenter spent some time defending here two years ago. The link in that post to the relevant Autodesk page doesn’t contain any pricing specifics other than the vague statement “save up to 20%”, but I’ll take Gregory’s word for it.

Gregory sees this business of upgraders being hunted to extinction as something that Subscription customers should have … Full post