AutoCAD 2009 – The Prequel Part 18 – Another Interface Option

AutoCAD 2009 – The Prequel Part 18 – Another Interface Option

There’s one screen-based user interface mechanism in AutoCAD 2009 that you probably won’t see bragged about in Autodesk marketing materials. That’s a shame, because it has some strong points:

  • It can be docked on the side of the screen or allowed to float free.
  • While floating, it can be resized to the desired width and height.
  • If you do dock it on the side, any unused height can be used to place either docked or floating toolbars.
  • Out of the box, it provides access to a large number of the most commonly used AutoCAD commands.
  • In default form, it is context-sensitive, providing you with the options relevant to the command you’re using.
  • It can be modified (using CUI, unfortunately) to provide access to any commands or macros you like, using a tree or sequential structure as you see fit.
  • The interface reacts more quickly to user input than the Ribbon or Menu Browser.
  • Rather than cryptic graphics, it uses plain text labels that are easily understood. This is particularly useful if you have a block library where part numbers are used to identify parts that are visibly similar to each other.
  • It provides an interface that users of old AutoCAD releases will be instantly at home with, and I mean old.

Have you guessed yet?

AutoCAD 2009 Screen Menu

I seem to remember first hearing about the imminent demise of Screen Menus around the Release 12 timeframe. I wonder how long they can survive into the 21st century?

Autodesk deserves credit for keeping stuff like this going after all this time, a long time after it has gone seriously out of fashion. I’m sure the amount of resources it consumes is minuscule compared with the more modern interface elements. I know there are still some people who have a use for screen menus, and the same applies to image menus. All the tablet stuff is still there too, although I haven’t tested it.

Seriously, I’m more impressed by Autodesk’s retention of the Screen Menu than I am by the introduction of, say, the Steering Wheel. Autodesk is unlikely to brag about it, but maybe it should.


  1. Bill Fane

    The screen menu! Now there’s a blast from the past. I spent many a pleasant hour customizing it.

    Actually, its operation was remarkably similar to the now-defunct (already!) dashboard, or to a side-docked toolbar, or to a tool palette, or to a side-docked ribbon.

    I still mourn the passing of one of the best CAD input devices. The earliest mainframe systems all used a joystick, so when AutoCAD came along it did too. Unfortunately they developed a “gaming” connotation so support was dropped.

    Advantages over a mouse:

    – take up less desktop real estate
    – no problem with slipping on older ball-type mice, or trying to operate an optical mouse on a clear, black, or glossy surface.
    – absolute, not relative input.

    Bill Fane

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