There are many areas of AutoCAD 2009’s new user interface that pointlessly waste your screen space. Floating toolbars do not. You have probably already noticed that AutoCAD 2009 concentrates on the Ribbon as its primary screen-based user interface, with the default state lacking any toolbars at all. So it’s somewhat ironic that AutoCAD 2009 sports what are easily the best floating toolbars in the history of the product. Ironic but very welcome.
Why are they better? Because they’re smaller. Let’s compare the number of pixels taken up by a typical small group of floating toolbars in different AutoCAD releases. These are the Express toolbars, which I mocked up in Releases 13 and 14 to show the same number of buttons and dividers (the Release 14 Bonus toolbars had more buttons than shown here). This provides for a totally fair comparison of the interface itself.
Using Release 13 as the base for comparison, Release 14 uses 103% of the number of pixels, AutoCAD 2000 to 2008 use 93%, and AutoCAD 2009 uses only 43%. That is, it’s 2.3 times more space-efficient than Release 13 and 2.15 times more efficient than any recent release. Good stuff!
This space efficiency is gained at the expense of having a visible toolbar label. So how can you find your way around a bunch of floating toolbars as you get used to things? Hover over the dark grey area to the right of the toolbar and a tooltip will show you what’s what.