Why do you comment here?

One of the things that most pleases me about this blog is the amount of comments it gets. I’m sure there are several AutoCAD-related blogs that are much more frequently visited than this one, especially the Autodesk ones. However, I’m not aware of another AutoCAD blog with the volume of comments I see here. On average, each post here receives just under 5 comments, and the most popular subject for discusssion is now not far short of the 100 mark.

I recently went four complete calendar months without making a single post, but comments kept trickling in anyway. When I returned to normal posting, the commenters returned as if I had never been “away”. What’s up with that? I’m curious. Why do you comment here and not so much elsewhere? Or am I mistaken and there’s an AutoCAD blog I’ve forgotten that’s a hotbed of commentary?

AutoCAD 2012 – Massive download bloat

Note: this post is not an April fool’s joke. It may be ridiculous and hard to believe, but unfortunately it’s all true.

After I managed to overcome Autodesk’s obstructive download manger and download AutoCAD 2012, it became available on the Subscription site (when that site wasn’t running unusably slowly). Or it became kind-of available. Here’s what is actually available:

  • AutoCAD 2012 Multilingual 32 bit
    Download File Size: 2,080,558,319 bytes (1,984.2 MB)
  • AutoCAD 2012 English Korean Traditional-Chinese Simplified-Chinese Win 64bit
    Download File Size: 2,240,915,999 bytes (2,137.1 MB)

These file sizes are roughly double those of the AutoCAD 2012 English files I’ve already downloaded from the trial page and installed. The 32-bit English file is 1,144,011,680 bytes, or 55% of the size of what the Subscription site is trying to offer me.

Why? Because the Subscription downloads contain three bonus Asian language packs. It has apparently escaped Autodesk’s notice that Australia is an English-speaking country, and that the ability to install a Korean version of AutoCAD 2012 isn’t going to be spectacularly useful here. Duh!

There was a a distribution fiasco last year when Autodesk couldn’t make up its mind which AutoCAD 2011 language variant Australian users were supposed to use. This resulted in weeks of delays, uncertainty and disrupted shipments. This year, there’s less uncertainty. Somebody has made a firm decision about what we’re getting, right from the start. What a shame it’s the wrong one, and it makes Autodesk look utterly clueless.

Just in case you’re wondering, the AutoCAD 2012 English from the trial page installs and works fine, correctly detecting that I’m in Australia and presenting the correct legal information. The installation also registers and authorises correctly using the serial number provided on the Subscription site. No problems there, then.

What, then, is the reason for the massive download bloat? Is it really just stupidity, or is there some legitimate reason for it? I’m informed that installing the English version of 2012 in Australia may cause some problems with Migration when upgrading to 2013. I am unconcerned about this for two reasons. First, I’m sure migrating from 2012 English to 2013 English will work just as well here as it does elsewhere in the world. it’s not as if the Migration utility has to invert the bits or anything for Down Under users. Second, I have avoided Migration anyway since AutoCAD 2006, when “improvements” rendered it effectively unusable to me.

AutoCAD for Mac Update 2

As reported on Without a Net, there is a second update for AutoCAD 2011 for Mac. This will be welcome news to those of you who have discovered that AutoCAD crashes when using Copy/Paste after installing the 10.6.7 OS X update.

If you haven’t applied Update 1 yet, you will need to do that first. As always, read the readme before applying the update itself.

AutoCAD 2012 – Nudge encourages ‘bad’ drawings

If you preselect some objects in AutoCAD 2012 and hold down [Ctrl], then the objects will move a bit if you hit an arrow key. Great, cool!

Exactly how far do they move? Let’s try it, shall we. First time, the move was about 4.5565 units. Zoom around a bit and try again. This time, it’s about 11.6677 units. Zoom around a bit more and it’s different again. And again. What’s actually happening is that the Nudge feature is moving the objects by 3 pixels. What? Since when has AutoCAD dealt with object location in terms of pixels? Since 2012 came out. Does object snap help? No. So you can expect to see a bunch more drawings that have been eyed in. “Looks near enough to me!”

OK, so you can turn Snap on and have the objects nudged around in a more rational way, or just ignore the feature altogether. But that’s not going to help you clean up the messy drawings that are now going to come your way for editing. Of course, some people have never needed any help to make messy drawings, but those that needed a little nudge in that direction have just been given it.

ClassicArray pricing proposal

I am considering the following pricing model for ClassicArray™ when it’s released:

Individual licenses: $12
Up to 20-user license: $100
Up to 50-user license: $200
Up to 100-user license: $300
Unlimited site license: $500

Prices in US$, payment by PayPal, delivery by download only. Australian purchasers would have to pay 10% GST on top of that.

Comments? Suggestions?

ClassicArray Beta 2 (0.5.0)

I have just posted the second public Beta of ClassicArray™ (version number 0.5.0). There are some documentation updates (still no Help, though), and the main changes are:

  • Bugs fixed with rectangular arrays where single-row and/or column arrays confused AutoCAD.
  • The command now remembers its settings from one invocation to the next, within a single drawing session.
  • Timebomb has been moved on 7 days to 21 April.

The ReadMe.txt file in the zip explains how to uninstall the old version. Simply delete the old ClassicArray.bundle folder from the place you put it. Replace it with the new ClassicArray.bundle folder from the later zip file. Then try to break it!

Please see the main ClassicArray Beta post for the download, and add any comments there.

AutoCAD 2012 – How’s the Help now?

You may have noticed that the much-derided AutoCAD 2011 Help has had something of an update for AutoCAD 2012, integrating it with something called Autodesk Exchange. Rather than critique this myself, I’ll hand it over to you.

What do you think of AutoCAD 2012’s Help? Is it all better now? Is it fast, accurate and easy to use with a useful search facility? Or do you hate it and hope someone at Autodesk is scrambling to create a CHM version of it like last year? Please comment.

AutoCAD 2012 – ClassicArray Beta

People have already started to notice that AutoCAD 2012 has killed the dialog box interface for the Array command, and not everybody is happy about it. So I guess it’s time to launch ClassicArray™ Beta.

ClassicArray is an add-on for AutoCAD 2012 for Windows that allows the creation of arrays using a dialog box interface similar to that provided in AutoCAD from 2000 to 2011, but enhanced to include new AutoCAD 2012 functionality. I will create another post later have created a Help page that describes ClassicArray more fully, but for now here are the commands ClassicArray adds to AutoCAD:

ClassicArray (short form CA)
ClassicArrayRect (short form CAR)
ClassicArrayPolar (short form CAP)
ClassicArraypAth (short form CAA)

In addition, there are the same names with N appended, which default to creating non-associative arrays. For example, ClassicArraypAthN (short form CAAN) will create a non-associative path array. However, it is easy to create associative or non-associative arrays of any type, whatever command you use to start it. Toolbar and Ribbon buttons are provided. Help is currently non-functional now complete. This pre-release software is time-bombed, meaning it will no longer work after the date shown below.

Here it is to download:

ClassicArray.1.0.0.zip (Shipping product – 850 KB – will not create arrays after 15 day evaluation period
ClassicArray.0.7.0.zip (Release Candidate 2 – 850 KB – will not create arrays after 15 day evaluation period)
ClassicArray.0.6.0.zip (Release Candidate – 787 KB – will not work after 28 April 2011)
ClassicArray.0.5.0.zip (49 KB – will not work after 21 April 2011)
ClassicArray.0.4.2.zip (48 KB – will not work after 14 April 2011)

It’s a small zip file; unzip it and read the readme to see what to do with it run the setup routine of your choice, depending on whether you want to install it for just the current user or for all users. Installation is a matter of simply copying a folder to a specific location; uninstallation is simply a matter of removing that folder. The mechanism I used for this is AutoCAD 2012’s new Plug-In feature. This feature is A Good Thing that deserves to be described more fully, which I intend to do when I get the time.

This is pre-release software. It generally works fine, but it will contain bugs. Please let me know about them, either in a comment here or using my email form. Over time, I expect to update this post with later versions, so I would appreciate it if you let me know the version number along with any other relevant information, such as the AutoCAD variant and OS you have installed it on. If you have any suggestions, of even if it works without problems, please feel free to let me know that, too!

AutoCAD 2012 – Missing a few things?

The Array dialog box isn’t the only thing you might notice by its absence in AutoCAD 2012. I’ll do a proper “Putting things back to normal” post later, but here’s a quick one for those of you wondering what happened to a few things that appear to be AWOL in 2012.

Are you missing your aerial viewer, blips and/or screen menu? They’re still there, but the commands are undefined. To get them back, just redefine the commands:




These features are deprecated. That means unless enough of you kick up a fuss about needing them, they are likely to vanish without trace in a release or two.

Edit: Jimmy Bergmark pointed out that the same applies to the TRACE command. If you need it, redefine it.

AutoCAD 2012 – Downloading the trial is a trial

Let’s say you’re trying to download some software and it insists on first installing some intermediary download manager. Do you think, “Great, this will make my life easier, things are bound to go quickly and smoothly now”? No, didn’t think so. How about when it’s by Akamai? Does that make you feel more confident? No, nor me.

If I download stuff without a manager, it just works. Sometimes it’s slow, but it works. If I use a general-purpose download manager that’s part of my browser, or one I chose to install and use (e.g. Free Download Manager), things generally go very well. If there’s a direct download link to use, success and a very quick download are almost guaranteed. But it seems that every time some company wants to force a download manager on me, something bad happens. Now maybe I’m only remembering the failures and forgetting the successes, but I’m absolutely sure that download reliability is way, way poorer when companies insist on inflicting their download managers on me. I’ve had issues with them at home with a straightforward ADSL connection, and I’ve had no end of problems with them at work in a proxy server environment. Even when they work, the download speed is generally significantly poorer than when I use something like Free Download Manager.

The latest in a long line of download manager difficulties is this morning’s attempted download of the AutoCAD 2012 trial. Why, as a Subscription customer, am I downloading the trial? Why don’t I just get it from the Subscription Center? Because Autodesk hasn’t got around to putting 2012 on there yet. Paying customers come some way down the priority list, apparently. I hope it’s just a temporary delay, because last year here in Australia the delivery of AutoCAD 2011 software to customers was a complete debacle that took some weeks to sort out.

I went to the AutoCAD 2012 Trial page yesterday. At the time, it said 2012 wasn’t available to me, but by this morning that has been fixed. So I went through the fill-in-your-details stuff, and was told to Click “run” or “open” to start the installer. There was no “run” available, so I clicked on the link that said Don’t see the installer? Try reopening it. I got a Security Warning dialog with the option to Run something called installer.exe from client.akamai.com.

Now at this point I’m getting pretty dubious about this process, as I’m being asked to put faith in an undocumented and generically named executable that does who-knows-what, from a company that has messed things up on numerous past occasions. Call me an inveterate optimist, but I crossed my fingers and picked Run anyway. Then I got another Security Warning dialog to run Akamai Installer. Fingers still crossed, I hit Run again. A small Connecting… progress panel appeared, which almost immediately got a quarter of the way though, then threw up an Install Error. Can’t say I was surprised, really. I went through the process several times and couldn’t find a simple download link anywhere. I gave up on this and decided to try later at home.

At home, free of any proxy server complications, I had another go at it. This time, running installer.exe seemed to work, the installing-the-installer-to-download-the-installer-installer progress bar got all the way to the end, and the download allegedly started. A progress bar appeared on Autodesk’s download page, purporting to show the progress. Unlike a proper download manager, there is no mention anywhere of the size of the file, the amount downloaded so far, or the rate at which data is being transferred, so this bar is all I have to go on. In the past, a large AutoCAD download has taken 20 to 30 minutes using Free Download Manager. As I type, 32 minutes into the alleged download, have a guess at how far the progress bar has moved. Half way, perhaps? A bit less? Nope, it hasn’t moved at all. Not one pixel. My browser is sitting there, alternating between saying Waiting for and Transferring data from, but otherwise appearing to do nothing. A brief speed test tells me that my ADSL is running at pretty normal speed while this is going on, so it’s my guess that nothing useful is really happening.

Akamai download manger fail. Again.

Autodesk isn’t the only culprit here. There are other companies who insist on throwing this sort of unnecessary complication into the lives of their customers and potential customers. For example, Adobe is doing its best to make Flash unpopular by inflicting unpopular and bloated download managers on its users.

I know Autodesk will say that it has to use a content delivery network like that provided by Akamai in order to prevent server bottlenecks when providing large files to lots of people. I can see that is a legitimate problem, but these download managers are a clumsy and inappropriate solution. There are countless other places on the Internet that don’t do this. Most downloads I perform just use a simple link. Guess what? They just work.

Companies, don’t leverage your technology to simplify and enhance my seamlessly integrated user experience with your intrusive download managers. Just provide a simple link to the file the downloader is trying to download. It’s not rocket science, so don’t try to make it overcomplicated. If you really, really insist on offering a download manager, make sure it’s optional and there’s a real link available. Please.

Edit: Thanks to a comment from Helper, I have successfully downloaded AutoCAD 2012 using Opera. Downloading and installing Opera was very quick, and Autodesk/Akamai doesn’t support it, so a real link is provided instead. Opera’s built-in download features are showed me exactly what was going on, and it took about 45 minutes to download the 64-bit version. Doing the same initial steps again with the 32-bit version, I copied and pasted the link into Free Download Manager, rather than letting Opera do the download. This time, it took about 14 minutes. Awesome!

AutoCAD 2012 – Array has good and bad points

For many users, the most useful new feature in AutoCAD 2012 is going to be the updated Array command. It adds a great deal of very welcome new functionality that will provide a potential productivity boost for 2D and 3D users. But it’s from an Autodesk wedded to its infernal 12-month product cycle, so of course it’s half-baked.

The Good

So what’s good about the Array command in AutoCAD 2012?

  • Associativity. By default, arrays are now associative objects. This means that if you want to, say, modify the distance between columns a couple of days after you drew them, you can now do so. If you’re a Ribbon user, it’s easy to change array parameters because when you select an array, you get a Ribbon tab dedicated to just that task. If you’re not, then the Properties palette allows you to do the same thing.
  • Dynamic preview. Once you have set your various options appropriately, you can just move your cursor around and click to choose things like the number of rows and columns.
  • Path option. In addition to rectangular and polar arrays, you can now array along a path such as a polyline, similar to the Measure and Divide commands. But because it’s associative, if you edit the path, the array changes too.
  • 3D functionality. It is now easy to create 2D or 3D arrays with the Array command. You can add levels (Z) to the rows (Y) and columns (X) of arrays, and this applies to all three types of array. You can also provide a elevation increment, which means the items get progressively higher the further they are from the base row. Think of the seating in a stadium as an example, although real seating arrangements are usually more complex than you will see in the Autodesk examples, so in the real world I don’t expect this feature to be used much.

The Bad

So far so good, then. But what’s not so good?

  • 1990s user interface. Can you remember when the Array command had only a command-line interface? Because that’s what it has now. While some of us old-timers may yearn for some aspects of the “good old days” of 1997’s Release 14, I don’t think many of us want to lose truly useful functionality. But that’s what has happened here. The Array command uses the new command line. The -Array command uses the old command line. Nothing uses a dialog box; there’s no ClassicArray command. *
  • Bugs and limitations. The new command line interface ain’t cooked. There are a bunch of bugs and limitations that mean some valid inputs get rejected, some arrays get drawn incorrectly, and some can’t be created at all. There are other aspects of the feature that strike me as not well thought out, such as the extra step involved in creating a non-associative array (not everybody will need or want associativity), or the clumsy way in which users who want to keep existing objects are expected to mess about with a system variable that affects unrelated things. **
  • Missing API. Autodesk’s long-standing grotesque neglect of LISP continues with the new Array object. There is no meaningful ActiveX API for such objects. If you wanted to use ActiveX to create a simple array, you would have to pretty much reproduce Autodesk’s array creation code (it’s an anonymous block, really) and hope you got it right. There is, of course, no documentation whatsoever to help you do this.

On balance, the AutoCAD 2012 Array command should be viewed as a positive, but it could (and should) have been done a lot better.

* Disclaimer: I have written my own ClassicArray™ command, and I intend to provide it as an add-on soon. Watch this space over the next few days for a public Beta. Edit: here it is.

** ClassicArray acts as a workaround for many of these bugs, limitations and design failings.

Autodesk survey for 3D users

Autodesk is conducting a survey about 3D work in AutoCAD. Here is the announcement:

Do you use 3D in your AutoCAD work? We want to learn from you!

If you are familiar with 3D modeling, lighting, rendering, or visual styles, either in AutoCAD or in other software, we’re interested in finding out more about how you work.

We are conducting a survey to learn about your 3D work process. The survey should take less than 10 minutes to complete, and your feedback will help us improve future versions of AutoCAD. Here is the link:


We are also conducting a series of paid research sessions over the next few weeks. At the end of the survey, you will have a chance to sign up for sessions if you are interested.

Who we’re looking for: People who are familiar with lighting, rendering, or visual styles

What it involves: If you are selected to participate, we will get in touch with you to set up a study time. During the 1-hour session:

* You will work 1-1 with a facilitator using meeting software and the phone
* We will observe part of your work process and ask questions
* You will be given a $30 Amazon gift card as a thank-you for your time

Dates: We are conducting studies during the week of March 7th and the week of March 14th.

CAD Managers, please do this survey

Autodesk has issued another survey, this time asking questions about AutoCAD customisation, migration and deployment. Anybody who has to manage AutoCAD or its variants knows that these areas contain some major pain points and have needed serious attention for some years. It looks like Autodesk is finally considering paying some attention, so it’s important to make sure the right kind of attention is being paid.

It’s a fairly large survey (allow yourself half an hour to do it justice) and some of the questions are imperfect in traditional Autodesk survey fashion (especially the “Other” boxes, which don’t provide enough space). But if you are at all interested in improving your experience and that of your users when introducing future new releases of AutoCAD (and its variants; changes to AutoCAD should flow on), I urge you to spend the time and fill in the survey.

Autodesk for Mac – the hole story

You may remember my pre-release speculation about what was likely to be missing from the Mac version of AutoCAD 2011. It turns out that my list was pretty accurate as far as it went, but very incomplete.

In a move that I can only applaud, Autodesk has now published its own list of missing Mac features. It includes this statement:

Although AutoCAD 2011 for Mac is based on AutoCAD 2011, it was written to be a native Mac application. As such, it is a new and separate product and not simply a port from the Windows version. In the first release of this new product, there are some features and functionality that exist in AutoCAD 2011 that are not yet available in AutoCAD 2011 for Mac, including (but not limited to):

This is followed by a list of over 80 holes in the product. Many of them are minor, but the number of absent but important features is quite an eye-opener. I really can’t imagine anyone who is used to the Windows-based product being content with AutoCAD for Mac 2011 if forced to switch by a Apple-centric boss. Hardware, great. OS, fine. App, not so much. I expect future releases will gradually fill many of those holes, but Autodesk isn’t promising that. For now, I can state that at least one of my dire predictions was spot-on. AutoCAD for Mac is indeed half-baked.

Autodesk has stated that the Mac version is the same price as the Windows version, despite being incomplete, because Mac users (particularly architects) won’t notice the missing stuff. That may be true (if somewhat insulting to architects and fanboys) or not, but it definitely doesn’t apply to the rest of us.

Existing AutoCAD users, have a look at the list. What in there would be a dealbreaker for you? From my own CAD manager point of view, I can see about a dozen killer omissions, with the API holes at the top of the pile. No DCL support, for example? Wow.

Fencing at the Commonwealth Championships

This blog has been a bit quiet over the last couple of weeks, as I have had other things to occupy me. I have recently returned from the Commonwealth Fencing Championships 2010 which were held in Melbourne from 30 September to 5 October. There, I was representing my country in the veteran (over-40) events. Which country? Read on.

Fencing is one of the few sports to have featured in every modern Olympic Games, but at Commonwealth level it has been held separately from the main Games since 1970. Although not part of the Commonwealth Games currently being held in Delhi, fencing is a Commonwealth-recognised sport and the Commonwealth Fencing Championships is a sanctioned event. It is a fairly large event, with representatives from 15 nations. There were 51 fencers in the England squad alone.

England Squad

You may recall me mentioning my participation in August’s Western Australian International Tournament, where I managed to snag a win in Veteran Men’s Sabre and a third place in Veteran Men’s Foil. At that time, several people raised with me the possibility of national representation. After some thought and with the support of my family, I nominated for Australian selection in Veteran’s Sabre at the Commonwealth Fencing Championships, where there were still a couple of places available. However, I was eventually knocked back and others were chosen for those places.

Not entirely content with the way in which this had been handled, and with just a couple of days to go before the deadline for entries, I contacted England Fencing. That organisation was happy to find me a last-minute spot in the team representing the country of my birth, England. This was the place where I had learned to fence and spent most of my fencing life. As a bonus, I could fence in both Foil and Sabre and would have a chance of qualifying for the team events based on my results in the individual events.

When I turned up in Melbourne, I was wholeheartedly accepted by both my new England team mates and the generally amused Australian fencing community. The spirit of camaraderie and sportsmanship among veteran fencers is excellent, and there were handshakes and back-slaps all round. My England team mates enjoyed having a “tame Aussie” on their side. I doubt that any of them had ever before been encouraged by one among them shouting the very Australian expression, “You bloody beauty!”, but nobody seemed to mind.

Fencing Sabre

I was very pleased with my results, coming 12th in the Veteran Men’s Sabre event, finishing above 8 Australian fencers. I was even happier with 9th in Veteran Men’s Foil, which placed me above not only 9 Aussies, but also above most of my England colleagues, thus qualifying for the Team Foil event. It was very exciting to fence on the Finals Piste with full ceremony in front of a vocal crowd. Unfortunately, England was beaten by Australia and New Zealand into the bronze medal spot, but at least I was a Commonwealth medalist!

Bronze Medal

It was a very emotional experience for me to receive my medal on the dias alongside my England colleagues, even if I had to remember not to sing along to Advance Australia Fair when the flags were raised.

On the dias

Is AutoCAD stability getting better or worse?

The term “stability” is sometimes used as a euphemism to refer to how many bugs a program has. I don’t use the word in that way. To me, stability is a measure of a program’s basic ability to keep functioning without crashing or corrupting data. A program can have a thousand tiny irritating bugs and still be very stable. Another program might have only one bug, but if that causes it to crash a dozen times a day, taking down your data with it, then that is very unstable.

So, given that definition, how stable is your AutoCAD, or vertical AutoCAD variant? How often does it crash, or mess up your drawings? How does that stability compare with your experience of earlier releases? How does the stability of plain AutoCAD compare with that of its vertical siblings?

Please add your comments. If this proves a popular topic, I may run some polls.

Dealing with blacked-out leader plots in older AutoCAD

Any drawing created in AutoCAD 2008 and later which uses Multileaders will present problems to users of AutoCAD 2007 and earlier. The users of the earlier release will find that rather than having leaders to deal with, they have proxy objects. As a result, it is impossible to edit these leaders in any way other than erasing them. Also, depending on the setting of the PROXYSHOW system variable in the earlier release, the objects may not display at all, or could display only as rectangles.

If the user of 2008 or later used the background mask feature when creating Multileaders, they might appear to be fine on the screen. But when plotting, the text part of each leader will come out as a filled black rectangle. That sort of thing has a long history of happening with wipeouts in some cases, depending on the output device and driver. This problem is different because it happens every time, and with all output devices.

What can be done if you are the recipient of such drawings? The -ExportToAutoCAD command, which can be used to create a version of the drawing with most proxy objects converted to standard AutoCAD objects, does not work with Multileaders. So I can see three options, in descending order of desirability:

  1. Upgrade to a more recent release of AutoCAD. Depending on your circumstances, this may not be a practicable solution.
  2. Forbid the use of Multileaders among your users and all parties producing drawings for you. This also may not be a practicable solution.
  3. Explode the leaders. This results in them becoming dumb text and lines, with no background masking. However, the masking can be easily re-established using the Textmask command that is part of the Express Tools.

It fills me with horror to suggest something as awful as exploding anything even remotely dimension-like, but if you have one of these drawings and you’re forced by circumstances to use AutoCAD 2007 or earlier, what alternative do you have?

This, along with various other Multileader design issues (such as non-integration with dimension styles), appears to be a natural by-product of Autodesk’s decision to add these objects part-way through the lifetime of a DWG version. The 2007 DWG format is shared by AutoCAD 2007, 2008 and 2009, but this interoperability issue affects even users of those releases that supposedly share the same format. Users of vertical AutoCAD variants are, unfortunately, accustomed to this sort of thing happening every year.

Owning software – what you think

In February 2009, I ran some polls here that are relevant to the discussion regarding the US court system’s most recent backflip in the Vernor v. Autodesk legal saga. Here is a reminder of the results.

Software ownership poll results

In April 2009, I ran another set of polls that are also relevant, as they provide an indication of your attitude to license agreements. Here are those results.

License agreement poll results

If you voted in these polls last year, have your opinions changed in the meantime?