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?

Vernor v. Autodesk – right decision, wrong reason

As I have stated before, I believe Autodesk to be in the right (morally, not legally) in its battle to prevent Vernor’s resale of old, upgraded copies of Release 14. In the latest installment, Autodesk has won its appeal to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. There will be be further legal moves yet, but Vernor’s chances of winning this case are now more slender. So the right side has won (at this stage). I should be happy, right?

Wrong. Although I think the latest court to look at this has picked the right side, it has done so for entirely the wrong reasons. (Again, morally wrong, not legally. I have no qualifications on legal matters, but I can spot an injustice a mile off). In a diabolical, dangerous, far-reaching decision, it has concluded that the doctrine of First Sale does not exist at all for products where the copyright owner merely claims not to sell its products, but rather to license them.

So all those programs, games, maybe even CDs, DVDs, books etc. you have at home and thought you owned? How about that laptop with its pre-installed Windows? Or that iThing with its iOs? If you’re in the jurisdiction covered by this ruling, you quite possibly now don’t own them at all. Check out the fine print on each of those items; if it includes the magic word “license”, then you may not legally own it, or be allowed to sell it if you no longer need it. If you’re not outraged by this attack on your private property rights, you should be.

What’s more, the Court ruling explicitly rewards companies for making the “license” terms as ridiculously restrictive as they can:

We hold today that a software user is a licensee rather than an owner of a copy where the copyright owner (1) specifies that the user is granted a license; (2) significantly restricts the user’s ability to transfer the software; and (3) imposes notable use restrictions.

One of the Autodesk EULA’s more unconscionable and unenforceable restrictions, that of only being able to use the software within a certain geographical region, wasn’t used to point out the unreasonableness of Autodesk’s claimed power over its customers. Instead, it was actually used by the court to help justify its decision!

Amazingly, this ludicrous outcome wasn’t decided in ignorance. The court carefully considered the effects this decision would likely have, but apparently for reasons of legal nicety, decided to go ahead anyway. Common sense and justice be damned, a convoluted and narrow interpretation of partially-relevant previous decisions just had to rule the day.

We can only hope that this case is reviewed and overthrown (again). While such a revised outcome might be unfortunate in terms of failing to right a wrong (Vernor’s sale of already-upgraded software), that would be much preferable to the terrible damage that the 9th Circuit’s decision has inflicted on the people it is supposed to serve. I’m only glad I’m not one of those people.

Other commentary:

EFF: “Magic Words” Trump User Rights: Ninth Circuit Ruling in Vernor v. Autodesk

Wired: Guess What, You Don’t Own That Software You Bought

Techdirt: Appeals Court Destroys First Sale; You Don’t Own Your Software Anymore

ars technica: No, you don’t own it: Court upholds EULAs, threatens digital resale

Lawgarithms: In Autodesk case, 9th Circuit missed better reason to bar resales

Public Citizen: Ninth Circuit says consumers may not own their software

Right of reply

From time to time, I have been known to be critical of companies, products, policies, publications, and even people (although I do try to “play the ball, not the man”). If somebody objects to what I write here, what can they do about it? They have several possible options.

  1. Post a comment in direct response to the allegedly objectionable post.
  2. Contact me by email to point out any inaccuracies or any other perceived unfairness in my post. If I consider the objections valid, I will amend the post and/or apologise as appropriate. If I disagree, I will explain my position. Such correspondence will remain private if requested.
  3. Contact me by email, requesting equal-exposure right of reply. If I consider such a request reasonable under the circumstances, even if I disagree with the objection, then I will either append the reply to the post in question, or create a new post containing the requested reply, verbatim and in full.
  4. Those with their own blogs, sites, newsletters or other media can of course use those to reply. Those without such facilities can raise objections using media controlled by others, such as discussion groups and other online forums.

None of the above options apply to obvious trolls and other spammers; they have no rights at all here.

I guess it’s also possible to threaten legal action, without first trying any of the above. That hasn’t happened to me yet, but if it does, it promises to be quite entertaining. I take an extremely dim view of those who use legal threats to suppress free speech and other legitimate activity. The gloves will be off. Any such threats will be deemed “correspondence for publication”, to be reproduced in full, with commentary (probably laced with heavy sarcasm).

Executive summary of Deelip’s AutoCAD for Mac interview

Deelip has just published an extensive interview with several Autodesk people about AutoCAD for the Mac. Deelip had a good set of questions and I suggest you read the whole thing, but if it’s all too tl;dr for you, then here is the lazy reader’s version of what Autodesk had to say:

  • The AutoCAD code was split up into 3 sections: the core CAD engine (platform-independent), the Windows-specific (MFC) parts and the Mac-specific (Cocoa) ones.
  • AutoCAD for Mac is incomplete. Choosing which features to leave out was done with the aid of CIP (oh, dear) and Beta feedback. (Hang on a minute, I thought CIP said most people were using the Ribbon…)
  • No comment on when or if AutoCAD for Mac functionality will catch up with its Windows counterpart.
  • No comment on the stability or performance of the Mac version.
  • Buying Visual Tau wasn’t a complete waste of money.
  • If Mac users want Windows-level functionality, they should use Bootcamp.
  • The Mac version is intended to expand the AutoCAD market to those Mac users who are frustrated by Bootcamp or who find it too hard.
  • Some mind-blowing spin was attempted in a valiant but vain attempt to explain away the Ribbon = productivity, Mac <> Ribbon marketing problem. You will really have to read it for yourself, as I can’t do it justice here. But “just because 2+2=4 doesn’t mean 4-2=2” will give you some idea of what to expect.
  • The Mac version is the same price as the Windows version, despite being incomplete, because Mac users won’t know or care about the missing stuff.
  • There are no plans for a Linux port, or any other platforms.
  • Autodesk will wait and see how AutoCAD for Mac does before porting any of the vertical products. (Very sensible).
  • Autodesk closed off the AutoCAD for Mac Beta program on announcement day because it wouldn’t have been able to cope with the mass of feedback from new users.
  • Autodesk will not allow dual use (Windows + Mac) licenses. If you want to have both products available to you, you will need to buy the software twice.
  • You can cross-grade AutoCAD from Windows to Mac for a nominal fee, or for nothing extra if you upgrade at the same time. (Although at 50% of the retail price of a whole new license, such an upgrade hardly represents a bargain).
  • Autodesk really doesn’t have any idea what is going to happen in the Mac CAD marketplace. (Refreshingly honest).
  • Little comment on why AutoCAD WS is called AutoCAD, other than iOs users not expecting their apps to do much anyway, plus it’s “part of the AutoCAD family.”
  • WS doesn’t stand for anything.

AutoCAD WS contest poll added

Thanks to all entrants in the AutoCAD WS contest. I have now closed the entries and added a poll (see right). Although I did state that there would be no prize for this contest, I have some exciting news! I am happy to announce that thanks to an exclusive* arrangement with Autodesk, the winner of this contest will receive a free** copy of AutoCAD!*** I will keep the poll open until I feel like closing it or the entry I like best is winning, whichever is the most convenient.

* Exclusive to people with Internet access.
** Excluding any Internet access expenses the winner may incur.
*** AutoCAD WS. If the winner is unable to use AutoCAD WS due to iThing insufficiency, browser-based access to Project Butterfly will be provided instead.

AutoCAD 2011 Update 1.1

As I described earlier, Autodesk recalled AutoCAD 2011 Update 1 because it killed AutoCAD under certain circumstances (e.g. plotting with the layer palette open). Now there’s a fixed version available for AutoCAD and LT. There is no news yet about Updates for vertical AutoCAD variants.

If you have installed Update 1 and the hotfix, you don’t need to do anything. If you have not installed Update 1, you should install Update 1.1. If you have installed Update 1 but not the hotfix, you can either install the hotfix or uninstall Update 1 and then install Update 1.1.

For the full story, I suggest you read Tom Stoeckel’s Without a Net post. At the risk of sounding like a broken record (remember those?), make sure you read the readme before installing or uninstalling anything.

AutoCAD WS Contest

Autodesk’s linking app to allow iThings to connect to Project Butterfly is called AutoCAD WS. Never mind the “AutoCAD”, that’s just there to confuse matters. What does the “WS” stand for? William Shatner, perhaps?

There’s no official answer, but I thought it might be fun to run a contest for the most appropriate and/or amusing answer. I have some ideas of my own, but most of them are rude so I’ll keep them to myself.

Please just add a comment with your idea(s), up to 3 per person. When I have enough responses, I’ll run a poll. No prizes, this is just for fun.

Apple – Autodesk history revisited

In a post on WorldCAD Access, Jay Vleeschhouwer makes some reasonable observations. However, the timing of the 1990s Autodesk / Mac history looks all wrong to me. Jay quotes himself from a 2008 note:

…until about the mid-1990s Autodesk did have a reasonable presence on the Mac … commitment waned when Apple’s fortunes faded a dozen or so years ago

The last of the original Mac AutoCADs was Release 12, a 1992 product. Apple market share continued to increase after that; indeed, 1994 was a bumper year. However, Autodesk’s commitment had already vanished by then, and its 1994 product, Release 13, had no Mac version.

Apple’s fortunes did indeed fall away “a dozen or so years” before Jay’s note, largely as a result of the success of Windows 95. But this decline could not have been the cause of Autodesk’s lack of commitment to Apple; by that time the parting of the ways was already well in the past.

What did cause Autodesk’s commitment to vanish? According to what Adeskers told me at the time, Apple did.

Because of the relatively tiny Mac market share, Autodesk relied on Apple to effectively subsidise the Mac AutoCAD development work by providing significant development resources. Apple, which in the early 90s was in a state of internal turmoil, decided to cut back on those resources and expected Autodesk to go it alone with Mac development. Instead, Autodesk killed it off as an unprofitable distraction.

Although at the time I was critical of Autodesk orphaning its recently-acquired Mac customers, it was almost certainly the right thing to do from a business perspective. It would be interesting to know how much Apple is subsidising Autodesk’s current Mac development effort, but I guess we will never know.

iPad, iPhone app – good and bad news

Good news! Autodesk has announced an app that will link iPads and iPhones to Project Butterfly. This provides viewing, markup and limited editing facilities.

Bad news! Autodesk has decide to call it AutoCAD WS, which is bordering on the fraudulent. It’s not AutoCAD, is nothing like it, and is unlikely to ever be anything like it. I can call my dog Prince, but that doesn’t make him royalty. Unfortunately, much of the mainstream media appears to be blissfully unaware of this. This is gaining Autodesk some short-term column inches, but at the longer-term expense of furthering the myth that “AutoCAD” is going to run on iPhone and iPads. People will start using Butterfly, think it’s AutoCAD, and then, if they need CAD for their Macs, wonder why they should spend thousands on something so basic and limited.

Good news! It will be available Real Soon Now, and you can sign up for it at

Bad news! You can’t sign up for it using your iPhone or iPad (unless it’s jailbroken). Apple may be convinced you don’t need Flash, but Autodesk disagrees. The Butterfly signup page requires Flash, you see. It wants to send you off to

Ouch! You have to admit, that’s pretty funny. Cluelessness? There’s an app for that. I guess iUsers will just have to use their Macbook Pros to sign up.

AutoCAD for Mac – what’s missing?

According to Autodesk, the forthcoming OS X version of AutoCAD has “many of the powerful AutoCAD features and functionality.” So what doesn’t it have? What are the holes? Autodesk hasn’t bothered to let me know a single thing about this software, so I guess I’ll just indulge in some irresponsible and uninformed speculation, based on what I can glean from marketing materials and various better-informed sources. I could have just asked, but who knows if I would have ever got any real answers? Besides, this way is more fun.

First, here’s a quick list of some things that don’t appear to be missing, but which might have been lost in translation:

  • Command line (in fact, the Mac one appears to be better than the Windows one).
  • Xrefs.
  • 3D, including visual styles and rendering.
  • Some kind of Quick View Layouts and/or Drawings feature.
  • Navcube.
  • Constraints.
  • Dynamic Input.
  • Selection highlighting.
  • LISP (at least some form of it).

Now for speculation on things that are possibly missing or not fully functional (based largely on screenshots, which is not a reliable indicator):

  • I don’t see a Communications Center, but I do see an Online Contact pull-down. Maybe that gives access to the same functionality, maybe it doesn’t.
  • Navbar.
  • Coordinate display in status bar.
  • Layout tabs (there’s a control instead)
  • The layer palette, in its docked form as shown in screenshots, looks very cut-down and would be tricky to use productively in complex drawings. It’s not clear if the old layer dialogue box is supported, but it needs to be.
  • Action Recorder? As this is a “brochure feature”, it’s no great loss if it’s absent.
  • Visual LISP? It’s not mentioned, so maybe it’s missing, or lacking the ActiveX bits. That would be a big problem for many organisations. Edit: I have since seen it confirmed that the Visual LISP environment is missing, as are the COM APIs.
  • Other APIs? DCL? ActiveARX? Deelip’s developing stuff using something, but the blurb just mentions a “flexible development platform” without giving any indication of what that means. Which leads to…
  • Add-ons, large and small. Many of us use various third-party utilities for making our AutoCAD lives more productive. Will they work? Probably not. Can the developer make them work? Maybe. But only if they want to, and feel the need to make the investments required. For small developers, that may not be the case.
  • Will your tablet, image and screen menus work in this environment? I don’t know, but here’s a guess: no.
  • Profiles? I couldn’t possibly work without being able to store and switch between profiles.
  • Object enablers. Has it got a full set? Or any at all? Dunno, but Autodesk’s object support for DWGs from its own AutoCAD verticals has been patchy, even on Windows.
  • Performance. Has it got any? Dunno.
  • Reliability. Has it got any? Dunno.
  • Longevity. Has it got any? Dunno. I think we can confidently expect an AutoCAD for Mac 2012, and probably 2013 too. Beyond that, it’s anyone’s guess. Maybe I should run a book on it?

Finally, things that do appear to missing:

  • Ribbon, QAT and The Big Red A. What, no Next Big Thing in UI Design, embraced wholeheartedly by Autodesk from AutoCAD 2009 onwards and still spreading out to the outer reaches of the product range? How will Mac users be able to live with the terrible loss of productivity when compared with their Windows-using colleagues?
  • CUI. There is a screenshot of a very cut-down interface customisation thing, but it’s not the CUI interface you’ve grown to love. Seriously, it looks extremely limited.
  • Express Tools. Last time Autodesk tried to sell an AutoCAD without these was 2000i. Remember that? Maybe not, because the i apparently stood for ignore and upgraders avoided it in droves.
  • AutoCAD verticals. Civil 3D for Mac, anyone? Mechanical? Architecture? Not yet. Verticals, if they ever arrive, are likely to be years away.
  • Network licensing. All of your Macs will need individial licenses.

It will be amusing to see how the various omissions are spun or glossed over. My guess is that they will be ignored altogether, or some vague indication being given to them being investigated for possible inclusion in a future release. But maybe you can think of more interesting ways of handling it. How about something like this for the missing Ribbon?

Mac, Windows. Chalk, Cheese. Ribbon, no Ribbon. Oil, Water. Creative, Productive. Cat, Dog. Trendy, Nerdy. Choose one. Be whatever you want to be. Because with AutoCAD®, it’s your choice™.

Have a go with your own Spin Segment. Who knows? Autodesk may even use your ideas.

When is AutoCAD not AutoCAD?

When is AutoCAD nor AutoCAD? When it’s AutoCAD WS. But it’s not quite that simple.

I’ve been correcting people for months when they say things like “Project Butterfly is AutoCAD on the Cloud.” No, it’s not. It’s a DWG editor of sorts, but anybody who has used both will know that it’s not AutoCAD or anything like it. Although it’s useful for viewing and markup and is improving all the time, Project Butterfly is still very restricted and is likely to remain so for a long time. You wouldn’t want to spend a significant portion of your day drawing with it.

OK, so Project Butterfly isn’t AutoCAD. I’m glad we’ve cleared that up. But wait! Now it is AutoCAD! AutoCAD WS, that is. AutoCAD WS is the recently-announced free iPod/iPhone/iPad app to access Project Butterfly. But it’s not really AutoCAD either, despite being named thus. Confused yet?

AutoCAD is Autodesk’s strongest brand name, but it has been diluted a great deal in recent times. Let’s have a look at things that are called AutoCAD or somehow based on AutoCAD, and try to make some sense of it all. Here they are, in alphabetical order:

  • AutoCAD – the real thing
  • AutoCAD Architecture – AutoCAD-based vertical
  • AutoCAD Civil – AutoCAD-based vertical
  • AutoCAD Civil 3D – AutoCAD-based vertical
  • AutoCAD Electrical – AutoCAD-based vertical
  • AutoCAD for Mac – AutoCAD with a few bits missing
  • AutoCAD Freestyle – a cheap and simple DWG editor, not much like real AutoCAD
  • AutoCAD Inventor Suite – this is basically Autodesk Inventor, which is neither AutoCAD nor based on AutoCAD. But a real AutoCAD and AutoCAD Mechanical also comes in the box.
  • AutoCAD LT – AutoCAD with some features disabled to make it fit into a lower price bracket
  • AutoCAD Map 3D – AutoCAD-based vertical
  • AutoCAD Mechanical – AutoCAD-based vertical
  • AutoCAD MEP – AutoCAD-based vertical
  • AutoCAD OEM – development platform for using AutoCAD subsets as a basis for 3rd-party applications
  • AutoCAD P&ID – AutoCAD-based vertical
  • AutoCAD Plant 3D – AutoCAD-based vertical
  • AutoCAD Raster Design – not AutoCAD, but adds features to AutoCAD and various AutoCAD-based verticals
  • AutoCAD Revit Architecture Suite – Autodesk Revit Architecture, which is neither AutoCAD nor based on AutoCAD. But AutoCAD and AutoCAD Architecture come in the box.
  • AutoCAD Revit Structure Suite – Autodesk Revit Structure, which is neither AutoCAD nor based on AutoCAD. But AutoCAD Structural Detailing comes in the box.
  • AutoCAD Revit MEP Suite – Autodesk Revit MEP, which is neither AutoCAD nor based on AutoCAD. But AutoCAD and AutoCAD MEP come in the box.
  • AutoCAD Structural Detailing – AutoCAD-based vertical
  • AutoCAD WS – not AutoCAD, but an iPod/iPhone/iPad app to access Project Butterfly
  • Autodesk Design Review – not AutoCAD, but a DWF viewer & markup tool, works with DWG TrueView to allow DWG markup
  • DWG TrueView – a very heavily cut-down AutoCAD to provide a free DWG viewer and release converter (includes DWG TrueConvert)
  • Project Butterfly – not AutoCAD, but rather a cloud/browser-based DWG viewer/editor

That’s a lot of products, but I haven’t even included all the various new suites that include AutoCAD. I’m not sure this plethora is such a great thing, leading as it does to customer confusion and brand dilution. When “AutoCAD” can mean almost anything, does it still really mean something?