AutoCAD 2009 – The Prequel Part 16 – Ribbon Performance 1

One of the things I like least about AutoCAD 2009 (at least in Release Candidate form) is that I find it very “sticky”. That is, I find myself having to wait for an instant here, then again there, yet again over there. Most of my testing has been on a middle-aged Pentium 4 (3.0 GHz dual core – not too ancient), and it is particularly noticeable there. On my newer Core2 machine, things are better.

When AutoCAD 2009 starts shipping, I suspect your perception of it will be strongly influenced by your hardware. Top gun users on slow machines are going to feel frustrated; slower users on fast machines will wonder what the problem is.

I made a video that shows Ribbon tab switching performance. This is an important aspect of the new interface. Because the Ribbon hides tools behind different tabs, quick access to those tools relies on near-instant tab switching. How well does AutoCAD 2009 do at that? Let’s have a look on a fairly quick PC (Core2Duo E6600 with 4 GB RAM, under Windows XP SP2 32 bit). I intend to do the same in Vista later.

Ribbon tab switching performance in XP

Measured on a faster machine and viewed objectively, it looks rather better than my perceptions from the slower machine had led me to believe. The real problem is the first exposure of each tab, because after that the tab contents can be retrieved from cached memory. The Tools tab is tardiest; 1.6 seconds here translates to 3 seconds or more on an older PC. For the most part, the tab switching speed is acceptable after the tab has been exposed for the first time. For most users, a delay of 0.3 seconds between input and response is quick enough to be considered instant, and most tabs switch in a time fairly close to that after the first exposure.

One way of avoiding or reducing tab switching frustration is to make your own custom Ribbon with a home tab full of the things you use most of the time. How easy is that? Unfortunately, it’s not. Using CUI to make Ribbon parts is not a pleasant experience. That interface makes the Ribbon look super-snappy in comparison. The Ribbon’s more complex internal structure combines with CUI’s snail-like performance, bugs, restrictions and design errors both old and new, to make custom Ribbon creation a loathsome task.

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