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%) Unreconciled Layers (16%) Nudge (10%) Blipmode (9%) Proxy Object Compatibility (9%) Action Recorder (8%) Given the reception the Ribbon received when it was introduced, maybe it’s unsurprising to see it top the lists here. Cloud observers may find it interesting to note that that Autodesk’s attempt to move AutoCAD’s Help on line has been very poorly received. Yo Autodesk with your Cloud an’ all, I’m really happy for you, I’ma let you finish, but on-line Help has been voted one of the worst features of all time! Of all time! The dislike of the intrusive, useful-to-some but short-lived AutoCAD Today feature remains strong a decade later. Light drawing backgrounds remain unpopular, which should not be a surprise to anyone, except maybe some people at Autodesk who thought it was a good idea to rehash old mistakes in a new and exciting way (“This time it’s magnolia!“). History, doomed to repeat, etc. As for poor old Action Recorder, that has to be the ultimate brochure feature. It’s something for Autodesk to boast about rather than something for customers to actually use; “We responded to customer requests and fulfilled AUGI wishlists for a macro recorder!” Well, you did, kind of, by giving us something that’s about as useful as a chocolate…

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Cloud benefits – processing power

A frequently stated advantage of CAD on the Cloud is the access to large amounts of processing power. Instead of relying on your lowly local processor to perform complex tasks, you can instead zap the job up to the Cloud where vast numbers of processors churn away in massively parallel fashion and then zap the results back to you before you’ve even had time to head for the coffee machine. This is a scenario that applies only for certain types of very complex tasks that are suited to subdividing the calculations among many processors. Autodesk already has a big toe in the waters in several of those areas. The recent Autodesk Cloud changes made available Inventor Optimization, Cloud Rendering, Green Building Studio and Conceptual Energy Analysis to a small subset of Subscription customers. It’s safe to assume that these services will be improved and expanded over the next few years. (Is there anybody out there using Autodesk Cloud services for these processor-intensive tasks? Let’s hear about your real-world experiences.) What this doesn’t mean is that it makes sense for us all to be using CAD on the Cloud, all the time. The processing time gained by using the Cloud is offset by the communication time spent passing the data back and forth, so any processing gain has to be substantial to make it worthwhile. Twenty years ago, when every zoom extents was followed by a looooong wait, a big swag of extra processing power would have come in very handy. These days, processors are ridiculously fast in comparison. They are also very cheap and getting cheaper. Even low-end PCs have had multiple cores for some years, and these days seeing eight almost unused cores on your performance monitor is pretty normal. The performance of today’s CPUs and the variable performance of today’s Internet, mean that…

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Ribbon poll roundup

Further to my last post, Here is a brief summary of this blog’s various poll results that relate in some way to Ribbon and CIP use. The most recent polls are at the top of the list. I have placed in bold those percentages that relate directly to the proportion of AutoCAD Ribbon use among the voters on this blog. AutoCAD 2010 users’  Ribbon use: 44% (AutoCAD 2010 users’ CIP on: 36%) Ribbon love: 28% AutoCAD 2010 menu bar non-users: 23% Inventor Ribbon use: 44% (Inventor 2010 users’ Ribbon use: 59%) Revit Ribbon use: 42% (Revit 2010 users’ Ribbon use: 58%) AutoCAD Ribbon use: 32% (AutoCAD 2009/2010 users’ Ribbon use: 38%) CIP on: 27% AutoCAD 2009 menu bar non-users: 21% AutoCAD 2009 Ribbon one of 3 best new features: 11% AutoCAD 2009 Ribbon turned on in some way: 29% (fully visible 13%) The polls were run at different times over the past couple of years with different questions being asked in different ways about different releases, and responded to by very different numbers of voters. Don’t expect consistent or directly comparable results; this is not a scientific study. As with all polls here, there is a self-selection bias; those people who feel most strongly about a subject are more likely to find these polls and make the effort to vote in them. The more recent polls generally have significantly greater sample size than the early ones. The smallest poll (AutoCAD 2009 best new features) has 37 voters, the largest poll (AutoCAD users generally using Ribbon) has 751. While the former certainly qualifies as Shaan’s “a few dozen”, the latter does only if you consider 62 to be “a few”. In which case, can I give you a thousand dollars and you give me a few hundred back? Here are the poll…

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Autodesk’s CIP data – massively biased?

You may have seen Shaan Hurley and I having a discussion (ahem) over the validity of his statement: I really do use the ribbon now with AutoCAD 2010 along with most users as evidenced by the CIP data we receive daily from thousands of AutoCAD users who choose to send the great data. So, now you know. Most of you use the Ribbon now,  Shaan said so. Shaan, as he always has done in the past, declined my invitation to back up this assertion with more details. He has vast amounts of data collected from huge numbers of users. How could that possibly be wrong? Here’s how. CIP data is biased. How can millions of data points be biased? Actually, all samples are biased. Only the degree of bias varies. The polls on this blog are no exception. I do my best to keep the questions and options neutral; the only leading questions you’ll see here in serious polls are the ones I copy and paste from Autodesk blogs. But readers of this blog are one self-selecting small portion of Autodesk customers, and people who vote in my polls represent another self-selecting portion of that portion. The question is, how biased is Autodesk’s CIP data? Without access to Autodesk’s data (which it won’t provide) and resources for alternative data collection from its customers (ditto), the best I can do is use my own biased sample (that’s you lot out there) as a cross-check. Let’s examine it in light of Ribbon use among AutoCAD 2010 users. In an earlier comparison of my 2009 poll figures and Shaan’s CIP data, I wrote this: But Shaan’s CIP users are also a biased sample, comprising those AutoCAD users who have CIP turned on. Are users who go with the flow and have CIP on…

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How is your AutoCAD 2011 hatching?

Hatching is the poster child for AutoCAD 2011’s 2D drafting feature changes (although there are several other significant ones), and also for demonstrating the advantages of providing a contextual interface via the Ribbon. It looks great at first glance when working with simple demo drawings, but how are things going in the real world? I’d be interested in hearing about your experiences. Is the hatch Ribbon tab snapping into place and going away quickly enough, both the first time it is used in a session and subsequently? Is the Ribbon interface easy to use, efficient and complete? Does the hatch preview always match what’s actually hatched when you accept the preview? If not, how often is it wrong? Are you happy with the new default double-click hatch action? (If not, see the Hatch double-click section of my AutoCAD 2011 – Putting things back to “normal” post). Does the hatch preview work quickly and accurately in simple areas? How about more complex areas? How about areas bounded by complex polylines with lots of vertices? Is the performance up to scratch when creating and editing both associative and non-associative hatches? How about when grips are visible on complex bounding areas? How about when you make changes to hatches using the Properties palette? Is boundary detection working reliably in finding and filling a closed hatch area? Even when using a solid or gradient hatch pattern? How is your zoom and pan performance in drawings with a lot of hatching? Have you noticed any problems with the new transparency and background features? Have you experienced any hatch-induced crashes or lockups? Are any of your hatch problems new to 2011, or do they also exist in earlier releases on the same PC when using the same drawings? If your hatching performance is poor, have you tried changing the values of system variables…

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What do I think of the Ribbon?

I’m curious. What do you think I think about the Ribbon, particularly in AutoCAD? Do you think I’m a hater, a lover, indifferent, or what? Now, on what evidence do you base that view? Feel free to quote back to me anything I’ve written on this blog or any other public place to support your opinion. If you can’t find anything that gives you any clues one way or the other, feel free to mention that, too.

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Polls, especially CIP and Ribbon settings

I encourage all my readers to participate in the variety of polls I have made available, over towards the right of this site. In particular, if you’re a user of base AutoCAD 2010, please have a go at the AutoCAD 2010 users, what are your Ribbon and CIP settings? poll. The results so far are very interesting, but the numbers are currently too small to be significant. My two longest-running polls are now approaching a thousand votes each, and it would be great to see several hundred responses to the Ribbon/CIP poll. While I’m on the subject of polls, I’ll repeat some comments I made a while ago. Back then, I noticed that more than one person had been voting multiple times. While this is technically possible for people who have access to the Internet via multiple IP addresses, it’s obviously not desirable. The idea is that you have one vote each. While you might be able to work around that restriction to give yourself a little extra influence on the result, doing so is less than honest. I accept that people who have access via home and work might accidentally vote twice on occasions, but if I perceive a continued pattern of deliberate abuse I will remove the offenders’ access rights to this site. As I respect everybody’s privacy I will not reveal any identities, drop any hints or make any announcements about this, I will just do it. Just to make the privacy issue completely clear, I will not, under any circumstances in public or private, reveal who has voted for what. To anybody. Similarly, I will not reveal to any party any identifying information behind any of the users of this site, with the exception of spammers. Fortunately, the influence of dodgy votes on poll results has…

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Ribbon acceptance in AutoCAD and Revit

AutoCAD Ribbon use (and non-use) may have been the hottest topic on this blog to date, but it’s a storm in a teacup compared with what has been going on between Revit users and Autodesk. More on that later, but for now I’d just like to pass on a statement made by Autodesk BIM Design Product Line Manager Anthony A. Hauck on the AUGI forums that: Recent data on other Autodesk applications having both the new and “classic” UI show about a 2 : 1 split in favor of the new UI. I would be interested to know the full details behind this assertion. Whenever I see a baldly-stated statistic like this, my first thought is “where did it come from?” Without full details of the data and how it was obtained, every statistic like this is suspect at best. It could just as easily be useless or misleading. I’m afraid I’ve become rather cynical whenever I see any kind of Autodesk statistic. When challenged in the past, Autodesk has consistently failed or refused to back up its marketing statistics (or even vague assertions that certain secret Autodesk-supporting statistics exist) by providing the comprehensive details required to make them useful. I’d love to be proven wrong in this case, but I won’t be holding my breath. Instead, I’ll just ask you and we’ll see how the numbers compare. Over on the right, there are two new polls on Ribbon use; one for Revit and one for AutoCAD. If requested, I’ll do similar polls for Inventor and 3ds Max. Please add your vote and feel free to comment.

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AutoCAD 2009 – An outsider’s look at the Ribbon

Kirill Grouchnikov is a developer who has a blog called Pushing Pixels. This wouldn’t normally be of particular interest to AutoCAD users, but he recently wrote a piece describing the AutoCAD 2009 Ribbon. It is always interesting to things described from a different perspective, in this case the Ribbon from a non-user’s point of view. He pays particular attention to the ways in which the AutoCAD Ribbon differs from Microsoft’s standards. As a non-user, he has skipped lightly over several aspects of AutoCAD Ribbon use, including some drawbacks of the current implementation, but it is still a worthwhile read, as are some of the comments that follow.

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Ease of use and the Ribbon

I have Office 2007 on my newest computer at home, which I bought primarily to familiarise myself with the Ribbon interface and allow me to discuss it from a position other than ignorance. I use Word and Excel 2007 on that computer, and find the ease of use about the same as earlier releases. Some things are easier to find and use, some things are harder. My 9 year old daughter recently asked if she could use PowerPoint at home, as she had started to use it at her new school for making little presentations and wanted to make her own at home for fun. I put a shortcut on her desktop and let her go for it, and she has produced some pretty impressive stuff with no help from me. Not only that, but my 7 year old daughter is now doing the same thing, having learnt just by looking over my eldest daughter’s shoulder. They don’t ask me for any help, they just get on with it. A vindication of the Ribbon’s ease-of-use claims? Not exactly. You see, they are using PowerPoint on my old computer, which has the completely Ribbonless Office 2000. I don’t hate the Ribbon. I just don’t see much benefit in it, even for novice users.

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Matt Stein’s Blog and Microsoft’s Mojave Marketing

Thanks to Shaan Hurley for revealing to the wider world the existence of Ribbon Man Matt Stein’s blog. I’m not sure it’s appropriate for a blogging n00b like myself to welcome somebody with a blog four years older than his own, but I’m going to do it anyway. Welcome, Matt (no pun intended). Some of Matt’s blog posts (particularly the early ones) make for, er, interesting reading, so don’t click if you’re easily offended. Please bear in mind that this is a personal blog, not an Autodesk one. Matt and I generally get on fine, but we have had some frank exchanges of view and often agree to disagree. One subject where we are unlikely to share the same views is the Microsoft Vista marketing exercise The Mojave Experiment. This is something I planned to post about some weeks ago but then something more important came up and I didn’t bother. Here’s what Matt thinks, and here’s what I think: While this is a cute marketing ploy and might convince the terminally naive, it pretty obviously qualifies as propaganda rather than any kind of meaningful study. Here’s how it’s done: Find a selection of people with no experience of a product but with ignorance-based negative feelings about it. Make sure the hardware and software you’re going to show them all works well. Fix up the settings for minimal annoyance. Present an expensively prepared, well-choreographed demo that presents all the best features and none of the worst. Result: oh wow, what a surprise, it’s better than they thought. A marketing company could reproduce the same results with practically anything if they set it up right. I bet I could do it with Linux, OS X, Windows Me, whatever. Give me Microsoft’s resources and open slather to present things as fairly or…

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AutoCAD 2009 – Top reasons to be Ribbonless

I’ve closed the poll for those of you who are using 2009 with the Ribbon turned off to show us the reasons why. The top 10 choices were: Tab concept means extra clicks (65%) Uses up too much screen space (64%) No advantage over existing methods (64%) Dislike concept of hiding tools – want buttons to stay visible (60%) Too hard to find things (51%) Using it minimised requires an extra click/hover (47%) Doesn’t make good use of my screen size/shape (45%) Tab switching is too slow (45%) Customising it is too difficult (44%) Ribbon content doesn’t match my needs (44%) I was hoping that the poll would help Autodesk in deciding how best to improve the Ribbon in future releases, but it’s pretty hard to do much about the top 7 choices here. Except number 2, perhaps; the Ribbon could be considerably tightened to remove waste space, in the same way as the excellent AutoCAD 2009 floating toolbars. The new poll is slightly related to item 5 above. Autodesk combined the Ribbon with a change to the button images. Personally, I don’t think this was a good idea. If you move people’s stuff around, changing the appearance of that stuff is only going to make it harder to find things and reduce people’s acceptance of the changed interface. Enough of my opinion, what do you think?

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AutoCAD 2009 – How many people really are using the Ribbon?

I was interested to see Shaan Hurley reporting the Ribbon usage figures from the Customer Involvement Program (CIP). Shaan’s figures show Ribbon non-users at 46%, my poll results show it as 71%. Why the discrepancy? Is somebody telling fibs? I don’t think so. First, blog nauseam poll respondents represent a biased sample, comprising people who are more interested in AutoCAD than average users. Dare I say more knowledgeable? More likely to be power users or CAD Managers, anyway. They are probably more likely than average users to make changes from the default AutoCAD settings. But Shaan’s CIP users are also a biased sample, comprising those AutoCAD users who have CIP turned on. Are users who go with the flow and have CIP on also more likely to go with the flow and leave the Ribbon on? Possibly, but I would have thought the CIP-on bias would be less significant than the blog-reader bias. Second, Shaan’s sample size is likely to be very substantially larger than mine. I currently get about 5000 unique visitors to this site each month, with only up to about a hundred bothering to respond to a given poll. Shaan’s numbers are likely to be in the hundreds of thousands, and thus much less prone to a few people skewing the results. Finally, the method of measurement differs. My poll is totally open and transparent, but requires active participation by the respondent. This means that the more strongly you feel about something, the more likely you are to be measured. Shaan’s measurement method avoids that pitfall. However, because the details of the CIP measurement mechanism aren’t public, its accuracy is open to conjecture. For example, if somebody spends 8 hours working in a Ribbonless session and then tries out the Ribbon in another session for a few…

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AutoCAD 2009 – Why aren’t you using the Ribbon?

Following on from the earlier poll to find out what you were doing with the Ribbon (mostly turning it off, apparently), I’ve added a poll for those of you who are using AutoCAD 2009 Ribbonless. I hope I’ve covered all the bases with my 23 possible reasons! You can pick as many or as few as you like.

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AutoCAD 2009 – Why do you hate the Ribbon?

Judging from the results of the Ribbon usage poll (and the usual poll caveats apply), you are turning off AutoCAD 2009’s Ribbon in droves. I’m surprised. I thought there would be a significant minority of 2009 users who turned it off, but it looks I was wrong and it’s a large majority. The non-Ribbon numbers have hovered around the two-thirds mark right from the start and have now settled above the 70% mark. If nothing else, this validates Autodesk’s decision to make the Ribbon optional and keep all the old user interface elements. Now I’m curious about the reasons. Why do so many of you dislike the Ribbon so much? Is it an unwillingness to change, a reaction against Microsoft’s influence, or are there more practical reasons? Is it screen space, extra picks, performance, customisation difficulties, difficulty in finding things, or something else? Did you turn it off straight away or did you give it a fair go first? Is the whole idea a write-off as far as you’re concerned, or is there something Autodesk could do that might convince you to use it? Please comment and let me know. If I get enough responses, I’ll post a multiple-choice poll to get a better idea about how many of you have the various reasons for going Ribbonless.

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AutoCAD 2009 – Ribbon content for Express Tools

One of the many unfinished aspects of the AutoCAD 2009 Ribbon is the lack of Express Tools content. One enterprising user has put the effort into correcting this, and has posted an Express Tools CUI replacement in this Autodesk newsgroup thread. I have not tested this myself. As usual with CUI, be paranoid. Back up everything before you touch anything. While I wouldn’t normally suggest you do any Ribbon custom work in 2009 in its current state, it shouldn’t hurt in this case as it should be easily redoable once Autodesk has fixed up the worst of the 2009 CUI problems. Anything else you do should be considered as disposable. The problems with 2009’s CUI are so fundamental that it is quite likely a restructure will be required to fix them, either in a service pack or in 2010. That means your 2009 CUI efforts may need to be redone, just like your AutoCAD 2008 Dashboard modifications.

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AutoCAD 2009 – How do you use the Ribbon?

It would appear from comments made on the Autodesk newsgroups that a lot of AutoCAD 2009 users have their Ribbons turned off. That’s actually one of eight possible states for the Ribbon to be in. Is it really the most popular configuration? Does it apply to 12.5% of you or is it more than that? I’ve added a poll to find out. Please vote only if you’re an active AutoCAD 2009 user, as I want to see what people use in production.

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