Autodesk Answer Day – 18 May 2016

Autodesk is encouraging you to use the Autodesk Community (formerly know as forums, discussion groups, newsgroups, etc.) to get answers to your questions by setting up a special day where Autodesk people will attend and be responsive. I don’t know if this includes responding to people’s concerns over Autodesk ending the sale of perpetual licenses, but it’s worth a try anyway. The forum for discussing that particular issue is somewhat hidden. It doesn’t appear among the list of forums, so you would only know it existed if you happened to pick on the Installation and Licensing link and had a look at the header to see the Perpetual License Changes link. But now you know it’s there, you can go and ask your questions. Meaningful answers are not guaranteed. Here is the announcement. When is this event, exactly? Join us at our first “Big Bang” Answer Day online event on Wednesday, May 18th from 6:00am to 6:00pm Pacific Time. Pacific Time is currently UTC (GMT) -7 hours, so for people outside North America, that means UTC 1 PM Wednesday 18 May to 1 AM Thursday 19 May. To calculate the times in your own location, I suggest using the very handy timeanddate.com site.

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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.

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Autodesk discussion group changes – user reaction

I will be airing my own views on the Autodesk discussion group changes in a future post. In the meantime, I have collected some reactions from other users. For the record, there has been only a little censorship in this area. Here are some of the comments that made it through unhindered: I’ve given it a fair shake and it’s just as bad as I imagined Goodbye, people. It was nice while it lasted it sucks it doesn’t look like you have any intention to meet the expectations of these people not [as] much traffic as there was before the change.  I hope things improve I’m sure you’ve noticed the sourness many folks are having with this interface What a f’in f-up This is so aggravating that I am resorting to posting questions that may have already been answered vs. trying to find them via the search tool Very annoying We use NNTP because it’s easy and fast, and better very slow, compared to “other” html forums This was hyped as a “state-of-art web experience”. It is clearly not Extremely slow compared to the previous web forum we are screwed with this interface This is like having your high performance vehicle (NNTP) stolen and having to take the bus to get to your destination 4 days later, still sucks Still very slow, cumbersome, difficult to track and navigate, unintuitive It took me literally 30 seconds to get that smiley to insert I really was expecting something better I see too many people who may not be around anymore. In most cases their expertise far outweighs any improvements to the forums Welcome to the new and improved Autodesk forum brought to you by high school students near you You keep using that word [“upgrade”]. I do not think it means what you think it means…

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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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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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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 of online Help Anything else you want to mention Please comment to express your views and use the poll on the right to provide an overall rating of the new system.

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These messages are brought to you by AutoCAD

Over the past few releases, and particularly in AutoCAD 2009 and 2010, I have noticed an increase in the number of information notices (bubbles, warnings, task dialogs, Communication Center notices, etc.) being displayed. Shaan Hurley has pointed out that 2010 Update 1 introduces a balloon notification that periodically makes you aware of how much time remains before your subscription expires. Is this a good thing? There’s a poll on the right that asks a specific question about the default state of AutoCAD 2009 and 2010, but I’d also like to see some comments on this. What do you think of these messages? Are they useful? Do they get in the way? Do you take any notice of them? Are there too many? Do we need any others? Do you turn them off? Is it easy enough to control them?

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Autodesk’s Revit rebellion reaction

It’s time to examine how Autodesk has reacted to the widespread criticism of Revit 2010. Is Autodesk listening? To be more specific, is Autodesk’s Revit team listening? The Good It has been good to see extensive public participation by Autodesk people in various discussions in different places. The Revit team isn’t hiding. It is asking for feedback on the Autodesk discussion groups, the AUGI forums and its own blogs, and getting lots of it. Much of it is negative, but it is to Autodesk’s credit that I’m not seeing much in the way of denial, or demands that the criticism must be constructive. I’ve been trying in vain for years to convince some people at Autodesk that denial is counterproductive and that criticism doesn’t have to be constructive to be useful. The sort of messenger-shooting that I’ve seen some Autodesk people do from time to over the years (*cough* R13, CUI *cough*) is generally absent. I’m not seeing Adeskers arrogantly accusing users of their criticism being based on a failure to understand the product. I’m not seeing asinine comments that infer that the negativity is simply a symptom of the critics’ resistance to change. Actually, I’ve seen one such comment, but it wasn’t from an Autodesk person. Overall, the Revit team’s responsiveness, openness and level of public availability is impressive. It’s so good that it puts other Autodesk teams to shame. When was the last time you saw an Autodesk person respond to criticism of AutoCAD in the Autodesk discussion groups or AUGI forums? Revit people are doing quite a bit of it, and by looking back I can see that they have been doing it for a while. There was one attempt at a traditional corporate “the product is great, we just need to review our communications” message. Unsurprisingly, it…

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Revolt of the Revit Ribbon Renegades

I hesitate to cover this subject because my understanding of Revit is very close to nil. I’m going to cover it anyway, because it relates to the Does Autodesk Listen? theme that I’ve discussed here in the past. Revit 2010 has appeared with a Ribbon interface, and many users don’t like it. Some well-known Revit users, including bloggers, former Autodesk employees and Revit founders, have railed against the new release. Autodesk has been accused of ignoring long-standing wishlists and pre-release feedback. Autodesk has (it is said) wasted precious development resources by introducing a badly-designed and poorly-performing pretty new face at the expense of solving long-standing and much-requested improvements to the core product. The main complaint appears to be that Autodesk didn’t do much with this release, other than introducing an interface that doesn’t work as well as the one it replaced. All this will sound very familiar to AutoCAD users, but there are some significant differences between the AutoCAD 2009 situation and the Revit 2010 one. First, I think it’s fair to say (even based on my limited knowledge) that the old Revit interface was in some need of attention. It was basically an old NT-style interface that had been left neglected for some years. Revit users may have been mostly happy with the way the interface worked, but the way it looked must have been a bit embarrasing, especially for Autodesk. Second, AutoCAD 2009 left the old interface in place for those people who wanted or needed to use it; with Revit 2010 it’s Ribbon or nothing. There is no transition strategy. I’m not qualified to make a judgement on whether the complaints about the usability of the new interface are justified. I should also mention that not every Revit user hates everything about Revit 2010, and there are…

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Autodesk discussion group alternatives

As I’m typing this, the Autodesk discussion groups are down for maintenance again. Let’s hope that when they come back up, some of the problems are fixed. In the meantime, if you’re an AutoCAD user and have something to ask or say, where can you go? Here are a few suggestions. I like the AUGI forums. It’s an even more modern, more graphical and less space-efficient web interface than the new Autodesk one, but there’s a good community there and, hey, the search feature works. Mike Perry and colleagues run a tight ship, so please read the rules and be good. If you have something to tell Autodesk and want practically no restrictions in the way you say it, submit a new message on dear Autodesk, or vote for the existing messages you like. It’s looking a bit bare and empty at the moment, so go fill it up. As a Cadalyst person, it would be remiss of me to avoid mentioning the Cadalyst forums. The Swamp is biased heavily toward CAD programming, so if you have a LISP question then head there, but it also hosts general CAD discussion. In this community, you are expected to be courteous and professional. Old-timers like myself will remember that the CompuServe ACAD forum’s Take 5 section was carried over into the AutoCAD discussion groups. It was kept going for a few years before Autodesk felt it was getting out of hand and killed it. That community refused to be killed, and actually still flourishes for newsgroup (NNTP) users at the t5 dot dynip dot com server. R. K. McSwain suggests the CADTutor forums. If you wish to point out any other sites I’ve missed, please let me know and if they’re relevant I’ll edit this post to include them. While I was…

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More Autodesk discussion group angst

When you start using the new AutoCAD discussion groups, in addition to the broken search facility, you will have other issues to deal with. There’s a new editor with lots of features and lots of problems. Quoting formatted messages results in a mess. Switching from one tab to another messes up your text. Submitting your message results in an error page like this: Autodesk Discussion Groups Discussion Groups Oops! Server Error 500. The resource you’ve requested is not available.       © Copyright 2007 Autodesk, Inc. All rights reserved. Legal Notices & Trademarks — Privacy Policy Despite this, the message does actually get submitted. People are unaware of this (possibly because the list of topics, and the popular discussions pane’s “last post” displays are not being updated as new posts are made) and re-posting their messages, resulting in duplicates. There is some confusion about what constitutes a category in the discussion group structure. If you go from the top level to the AutoCAD level and then into AutoCAD 2009, picking the “Up one category” link takes you right to the top. The speed of the web interface varies from quite acceptable to something rather less than that. People are reporting problems with losing their old watched threads, and not being allowed to watch new threads without email notifications. There’s nowhere obvious for people to report problems, so people are just starting complaint threads in random locations. What if you report problems directly to Autodesk? According to a poster in one thread, this is what he got in reply to his report that search is broken (which it still is): Thank you for contacting Autodesk Support. Here is the recommended resolution to your Support Request: Discussion Group is just a BBS for all Autodesk Customer. This BBS is not product support…

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Autodesk newsgroup changes

As I mentioned yesterday, the Autodesk newsgroups have been overhauled. After spending yesterday going up and down like a whore’s drawers*, the site is now up, albeit still not 100% of the time. At this stage, newsreader users appear to be generally unaffected by negative issues, which is a pleasant surprise. The space efficiency for Web users has improved since yesterday, and while it’s not as good as it was a week ago, it’s now good enough for me. I’ve now managed to log on, and was impressed to see that it had retained my old settings of 100 topics per page and no limit on the number of posts per page. Unfortunately, the new control panel imposes a limit of 50 topics per page and 50 posts per page, so I’m not going to be able to change any of my other control panel settings for fear of forever losing my long-page settings. Autodesk, please add options for 100 topics per page (more, if you like) and unlimited posts per page. The litttle blobs to indicate read and unread posts may look cute, but they’re not much use to me. Before, I could open a long thread such as this one and look for “NEW!” within the page using the browser search to find the new posts. Scrolling through the page looking for brown blobs is seriously inferior to the mechanism I had last week. Autodesk, can I please have an option to have easily searched words like “NEW!” instead of blobs? Oh, and “NEW!” is much more useful than “new” because the newsgroup is obviously scattered with large numbers of words that begin with those three letters. Search? Still broken. Autodesk, you know what to do. Also, it logs me off every so often. What’s up with that? So, what do…

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What you like best about AutoCAD 2009

I’ve closed the poll asking you to choose the top three things you like about AutoCAD 2009. For some reason it wasn’t getting many votes. Only 37 people participated, rather less than many other polls here, and I’ve now put it out of its misery. The small sample size makes the results of dubious value, but here are AutoCAD 2009’s “best things”, as voted by at least five of you. Spell checking in text editor (30%, 11 Votes) ViewCube (22%, 8 Votes) Action Recorder (19%, 7 Votes) Modeless layer interface (19%, 7 Votes) Improvements available only in vertical products (16%, 6 Votes) Rollover tooltips for objects (14%, 5 Votes) LISP bug fixes (14%, 5 Votes) It came as no surprise to see that there was no love at all for the enlarged tooltips or pale model space, but I would have thought that ShowMotion would have been a useful addition for somebody.

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You don’t think much of AutoCAD 2009’s buttons

I’ve closed the poll about the button images. It’s a general thumbs-down from you on that particular change, albeit not a spectacularly vehement one. I agree with most of you. The images themselves don’t offend me greatly, but their role in making things harder to find means that Autodesk erected another unnecessary barrier to Ribbon acceptance. The images themselves have crisper edges, but are sadly devoid of colour, making them harder to tell apart. One exception is with the object snap buttons, which I consider an improvement over their predecessors. More important than that is the fact that there were many, many things Autodesk could (and should) have done instead of putting development resources into this area. I know from personal experience that creating button images can be a very time-consuming job. I have some sympathy for the poor Autodesk people who put the effort into producing these images, only to have customers wishing they had never bothered. Nobody likes wasting their time. This sort of thing (there are many other examples), makes it obvious that Autodesk needs to obtain customer feedback on design decisions much earlier in the development cycle, while there is still time to throw out the dumb ideas. Doing so would offer Autodesk a lot of potential for more efficiently targeting its resources, to the benefit of both Autodesk and its customers.

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What’s the best thing about AutoCAD 2009?

It’s starting to look a bit negative around here, and it is only going to get more negative when I start describing the details of my still-unresolved Autodesk customer service debacle. So here’s something to provide a bit of balance. What do you like best about AutoCAD 2009? What is better, faster, easier, more cool or just plain fixed when compared with the release you were using previously? I have a few ideas of my own, and will run a poll when I get a few suggestions from you.

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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 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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AutoCAD 2009 – The Reaction Part 3

I’ve closed the poll asking for your initial reactions to the shipping release of AutoCAD 2009. It’s interesting to compare it with your reactions when asked to speculate prior to the release date. It seems your collective opinion of AutoCAD 2009 has taken a sharp drop now you’ve actually had a chance to use it. In the speculative poll, the average opinion was “OK”; in the first reactions poll, the average opinion has slipped two levels to “Bad”. In the speculative poll, 39% of voters used the “bad” half of the poll; in the first reactions poll, that number has increased to 61%. Bear in mind that the numbers in this poll are relatively small and I am not claiming that this is a scientific study. However, it is completely neutral, open and transparent, which is one thing I demand whenever anybody tries to use statistics to support a particular viewpoint. See the Polls Archive page for the full details.

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AutoCAD 2009 – Putting things back to normal revisited

I see Lynn Allen has written a post explaining how to restore the “classic” interface. I commend Lynn for doing this in response to the requests she’s been receiving. It must be pretty painful for some people at Autodesk to see their Technical Evangelist showing people how to turn off AutoCAD 2009’s Big New Feature, but it’s absolutely the right thing for her to do. The worst thing Autodesk can do right now is go into denial mode, which has happened more than once in the past when users have reacted negatively to various things. This post from Lynn gives me hope that maybe we don’t have to go through that stage this time. Anyway, if you want more detail about putting things back to normal, have a look at my earlier post on the subject.  I’ll add one more tip here that you might otherwise miss: if you want the old layer interface to be invoked by the Layer command rather than the new pallette, set the undocumented system variable LAYERDLGMODE to 0.

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