Autodesk has some great documentation people

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

I’ve been critical of AutoCAD’s Help system since … Full post

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 … 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 … 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 … Full post

Should Autodesk provide a CHM version of its AutoCAD 2013 Help?

I’ve added a poll asking this question over on the right. I would like to see this done as soon as possible as a courtesy for those customers who find the current AutoCAD 2013 Help system inadequate. If you agree, vote Yes. If you disagree (for example, you think Autodesk should instead concentrate on improving the current system), vote No. If you wish to make a comment on this specific issue, feel free.

AutoCAD 2013 – An Autodesk Help writer responds

Following some email discussions, I am happy to present a response from a relevant Autodesk person to the posts and comments here about AutoCAD 2013’s Help.

Thanks for the opportunity to respond to your readers, Steve.

First, I want to assure you that we’re listening to your comments about AutoCAD 2013 Help. We are adding it to the valuable feedback we’ve already received from users who participated in our Beta program. I responded promptly to every comment from each Beta user and will now address a wider audience.

Here are some of the trends we’ve seen so far in the … Full post

AutoCAD 2013 – Using Help in anger

Trying to be fair, I decided to put aside my initial hostility to the AutoCAD 2013 Help system and use it for real. I used it in a realistic situation, to find out how to work with something new or changed (model documentation) as I was working through it with my own example drawing. Try as I might to give it a fair go, I could only get so far before I got irritated. Using it in anger might not be an entirely appropriate phrase for it, but it’s not that far off. Using it in annoyance, perhaps? Here’s how it went.

I … Full post

AutoCAD 2013 – Help improved in one area

There’s one important area in which AutoCAD 2013’s Help shines when compared with its immediate predecessors. If you’re a Visual LISP user, you’ll be pleased to know that if you select a function name in the editor (e.g. (vla-get-ActiveDocument)) and hit Ctrl+F1, this now takes you to the appropriate page in the ActiveX and VBA Reference, as it should. In AutoCAD 2011 you just got a cryptic message or a 404 error, depending on the context. In AutoCAD 2012, you were just taken to the front page of Help and expected to find it yourself. Props to Autodesk for fixing … Full post

AutoCAD 2013 – Autodesk video tutorial for Help

Autodesk has produced a 2-minute video explaining the features of the new Help system in AutoCAD 2013 that I recently panned. As you might expect, it’s kind of upbeat and chirpy, but the fact that Autodesk feels the need to provide a tutorial on how to use Help says it all, really. Whatever, it may be useful to you, so here it is. It’s hosted on the Autodesk site, unlike many other Autodesk videos (and my own, to be fair), so those of you who have YouTube blocked at work may still be able to … Full post

AutoCAD 2013 – Autodesk pulls off a miracle with Help

In AutoCAD 2011, Autodesk introduced on-line Help. It was badly done and poorly received. It was slow and generally awful to use, and so obviously inferior to the generally well-crafted old CHM-based system in so many ways, that there were squeals of joy when somebody discovered that one of the AutoCAD-based vertical products hadn’t been updated to the new regime and still provided a CHM file. That file became hot property, being posted by users on Autodesk’s own discussion groups and other places. Eventually, the outcry was loud enough that Autodesk was forced to make the CHM version of Help … Full post

The worst feature ever added to AutoCAD is…

…the Ribbon, according to your selections in the What are the worst features ever added to AutoCAD? poll. As in the best ever poll, the winner (loser?) in this race had no serious competition. I’ve listed eleven top (bottom?) features here rather than ten, partly because the popular (unpopular?) choice Memory Overuse isn’t exactly a feature. But it’s mainly because I’d hate to see Action Recorder unfairly miss out on a well-deserved mention.

  • Ribbon (30%)
  • CUI (20%)
  • Help (on line / 2012) (18%)
  • Memory Overuse (17%)
  • AutoCAD Today (2000i/2002) (16%)
  • White / Cream Drawing Background (16%)
  • Full post

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 2011 online Help changes – a curate’s egg

As announced by Shaan Hurley, Autodesk has made some changes to the AutoCAD 2011 online Help system. Please check it out and see what you think. After a short time with it, here are my experiences using IE6 (yes, I know). As this is a dynamic system and dependent on browser characteristics, Internet connectivity and any changes Autodesk may make between me writing this and you reading it, your mileage will vary.

There are some cosmetic changes,  including a fixup of the Autodesk logo in IE6 that was done a couple of weeks ago. Sadly, my pink Comic Sans … Full post

Filling the holes in Autodesk’s CHM Help stopgap

It was good to see Autodesk react to criticism of AutoCAD 2011’s browser-based Help with an acknowledgement of the problems and an attempt to provide a workaround by making a zip file of CHM files available for download. That’s much better than ignoring people’s concerns, denying the validity of those concerns or shooting the messenger, which has been known to happen in the past.

However, there are some holes in the workaround, only some of which can be filled.

  • Under 64-bit Windows 7, the Search pane is blank, as it is in the CHM Help for earlier releases … Full post

Autodesk provides CHM-based Help for AutoCAD 2011

In a comment in response to my AutoCAD 2011 Help system is not popular post, Autodesk’s Diane Serda acknowledged the problems, offered apologies and posted a link to a CHM version of the Help. From Diane’s comment:

We have posted the zip file for download here:

1. Download the to your local drive (such as My Documents\AutoCAD2011Help).
2. Extract the zip file to this same folder.
3. To access the CHM Help, you’ll need to click on acad181.chm or create a desktop shortcut.

You can also point to the locally installed … Full post

AutoCAD 2011 Help system is not popular

My poll on this subject is still running (see right), but so far about 2/3 of respondents rate AutoCAD 2011’s new browser-based Help system as 0, 1 or 2 stars out of 5 (total fail, very poor or poor). Frankly, I’m surprised it’s doing as well as that. Have a look at this discussion group thread to get an idea of the sort of reaction I was expecting it to receive. (Kudos to Autodesk’s moderators for allowing the discussion to continue with relatively little obvious censorship, at least so far).

There are many good new things in AutoCAD 2011, … Full post

AutoCAD 2011’s new Help system – what do you think?

With all this talk of clouds in the air, it is interesting to note that Autodesk has moved AutoCAD’s Help system to a browser-based format, with online access as the default. So, how has Autodesk done with this first dipping of its toes into the cloudy waters with its primary mainstream product? I’ve already had a couple of unsolicited comments on the subject, and I’d like to hear from you. How do you rate the following, compared with previous releases?

  • Performance (online)
  • Performance (offline)
  • Search results
  • Content completeness and accuracy
  • Ease of manual browsing
  • Efficiency of user interface
  • Concept … Full post