Ribbon acceptance in AutoCAD and Revit

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.


  1. Hi.

    Sorry for not offering a little more backup on the assertion of the new UI usage in AutoCAD, which is based on participants in our Customer Involvement Program (CIP), an optional participation program that sends anonymous information to Autodesk about application feature use. While the program covers only those installations where CIP participation is selected, I’m assured by statisticians of the dependability of information based on the thousands of participants we have.

    I selected the AutoCAD number because it was the most conservative. The same source of data shows between 85% and 90% adoption of the new UI in AutoCAD-based products, such as AutoCAD Architecture and AutoCAD MEP.


    Anthony A. Hauck
    BIM Design Product Line Manager

  2. Anthony, thanks for the quick response here. So it’s based on CIP-enabled users of which release(s)? How is useage measured? If a user spends all day Ribbonless and plays with it for 5 minutes at the end of the day, how is that weighted? How do you allow for users who could use 2009/10 but don’t?

  3. Hi Steve.

    Okay, fasten your seat belt, I’ll try to describe how CIP works, and you can draw conclusions concerning your questions.

    CIP temporarily records all kinds of data, far more than actually gets sent to Autodesk at the close of any particular application session. What the CIP mechanism does is extract a 100K package of information at random from all the available statistics and send that information back once a day. In the sample I’ll refer to below, the data is from AutoCAD 2010-based products.

    Command count is one kind of package, and that count lists the source of the command, whether the new or old UI (there’s more information, but that’s what’s relevant to your questions). So, it’s certainly possible (if unlikely) that one could use the new UI for a day, CIP happens to take that particular sample of data for that day, and then you never, ever use the new UI again, but you have for that CIP interaction been counted as a user of the new UI.

    The way you overcome such statistical “noise” is to increase your sample size and examine results over a significant period of time. CIP tracks tens of thousands of unique users’ interaction with, in this case, AutoCAD-based products, and we have data from almost six months to examine. Over that period, I found that use of the new UI in AutoCAD-based products varied only a few percentage points in either direction, so I started to trust that I was looking at reliable data.

    Hope that helps.


    Anthony A. Hauck
    BIM Design Product Line Manager

  4. R. Paul Waddington

    Oh Dear Anthony!, “CIP temporarily records all kinds of data, far more than actually gets sent to Autodesk ”

    Thank you Andrew, that just made my job a little easier. I have stated in the passed that ALL users should have CIP turned OFF and you have just shown us why.

    That any user of a design system would be careless enough to allow their systems to communicate and transmit data to other systems without any control or validation is, at the least, very poor business thinking.

    I believe this needs repeating: ALL users should turn CIP OFF until Autodesk demonstrate they are a responsible company and do that by changing the manner in which CIP functions so that it is absolutely transparent.

    As for the ribbon Anthony; Autodesk can say what they like about the ribbon use but I can assure you it is considerably more difficult to train new users with the ribbon than it is with the earlier UI’s. If Autodesk has no interest in encouraging students to use their products by ensuring the experience is a pleasing one then that will define the future for Autodesk.

    Everybody TURN CIP OFF!!

  5. The only data transmitted by CIP concerns how the application is used, and some system information such as CPU speed, OS, monitor resolution and the like. If it worries you to share that information, by all means don’t participate. It is one of our primary hard data resources for finding ways to improve our products and understand what computers our customers are using, but it’s entirely voluntary.


  6. R. Paul Waddington

    Anthony, saying CIP is voluntary is a mask displayed by its protagonists that hides the reality of both its abilty and control.

    The facts are CIP is software that has been put on customers machines without their permission or control.

    It is irresponsible behaviour to use Trojan software and equally irresponsible for user to allow the continuation of this behaviour and allow its activation!.

    If CIP is a primary source of information might I suggest Autodesk learn to interact with its customers in a more professional manner and there would be no need to intrude in this way.

    Ask yourself this question; “At what point is it legal or responsible behaviour for a software developer to use their products – critical business software – as a vehicle to collect and remove data, any kind or type, from a customers design/business computing systems without their oversight?”

    CIP should never be activated!

  7. Anthony,

    I officially call bull**** on these “statistics.”

    By promoting that users “chose” the new Ribbon UI by a 2:1 ratio, you are inferring that Autodesk made a design win in pushing out the Ribbon. Coming from the “Autodesk BIM Design Product Line Manager” it can also be inferred that this statistic is mostly geared towards Revit users.

    However, this fails to take into account one small but pesky detail:


    Sure, you can “hack” the 2009 UI back into action, but it is not anywhere close to being an obvious option for users to choose. New users probably won’t ever know how to do it.

    If Revit offered a simple check box in Options to choose a Fully Featured 2009-style UI over the Ribbon, then perhaps the results gleaned from the CIP reports would have more merit.

    But for now, I don’t buy any conclusion that the Ribbon is better or more efficient than the 2009 UI just because of some bogus, artificially skewed statistic.

  8. Whoops, sorry, did not see the part where you stated that the 2:1 number is coming from AutoCAD users. However, when I teach a class to my customers on upgrading to AutoCAD 2010, the first thing every user wants to know is “how to turn this damn thing off.”

    So, it really doesn’t change the fact that such numbers are abstract at best, and you cannot really infer fairly that it was a step in the right direction for Revit.

  9. Anthony, I’d still like clarified exactly how the interactions are counted and what counts as Ribbon and non-Ribbon use, but thank you for expanding on the information available.

    OK, so the numbers are based on AutoCAD 2010 CIP data. Hopefully, you are aware that CIP data is based on a skewed sample of users. A massive skewed sample is still a skewed sample. The more experience and knowledge a user has, the less likely they are to have CIP tuned on. Also, the more experience and knowledge a user has, the less likely they are to have the Ribbon tuned on. So CIP data is inevitably going to be skewed toward Ribbon use. How much? I don’t know, and neither do you.

    I would expect AutoCAD 2010 numbers to be better than 2009 for several reasons. 2010 simply has a better Ribbon than 2009, although whether it has yet achieved adequacy is open to debate. New features are being more closely integrated with Ribbon use, making it harder to avoid (particularly in the verticals). Also, Autodesk has deliberately made it significantly harder for novice users to turn on toolbars; how’s that for skewing the sample?

    The biggest unacknowledged skewing of the sample is that it takes no notice at all of the customers who have avoided the Ribbon and its accompanying performance hits by using an earlier release. Of the hundred or so companies I deal with, AutoCAD 2010 is in use by less than 15% of them. 2009 use is higher, but the combined use of Ribbonless AutoCAD releases is still significantly higher than the use of 2009 and 2010 combined. That knocks a pretty big hole in your 2/3, doesn’t it?

  10. Steve,
    I’d like to see the results for the Inventor Poll. That was a limited menu deal, with a large scrolling panel, that was more like a Ribbon that anything AutoCAD had. The results comparison would be interesting.

    I am publishing a write upfor this on Monday 9/14.

  11. **R. Paul Waddington** said “ALL users should turn CIP OFF”.
    The problem with this is that is there is a few hundred people out there such as the people in this comment thread who (a) understand the impact, and (b) know how to find and disable it. The rest of the millions of users out there could not care less one way or the other…

    As far as the Ribbon itself, doesn’t everyone think it will end up like the CUI, a permanent part of the application regardless of the way the majority of exiting users feel? The longer it says in there as a default, the more (new, post-Ribbon) users are exposed. It won’t be long before it’s simply accepted as the norm…

  12. R. Paul Waddington

    R.K. McSwain,

    You are absolutely correct on both accounts.
    In regards to CIP all of those who know why CIP should be turned OFF should make sure those that don’t learn why and do turn CIP OFF. Even those ‘with nothing to hide’ have much too loose; to allow a business software application to installation of Trojan software whose only function is to remove customers data without their oversight is ridiculous. ALL have much too loose activating CIP.

    The RIBBON debate is one I believe should be propagated as Steve has done in his blog; whilst I agree with what you say and, users can change if forced. But look at this from a slightly different point. Assuming Hauck’s 2 in 3 ribbon users are happy using it and ‘productive’ that leaves 1 in 3 that have not been happy to change – for a reason – and if that reason is simply because they must now use a new interface, there is an (unnecessary) cost involved in changing, collateral damage Autodesk and the Haucks of the world seem to quite happy to ignore.

    In other words Autodesk are quite happy to inflict unnecessary cost and operational problems without any professional consideration on 1/3 of it’s existing customers. CAD is a productivity tool and the moment it causes any customer into changing for absolutely NO gain it has failed its primary function!.

    Autodesk cannot and could never justify the ribbon on productivity grounds: it is not possible. If they believe they can then let’s see those figures in a form ALL users could use to validate the results in their own businesses. Won’t hold my breath tho’ because Autodesk already knows they could not and chooses, instead, to use stooges who are only too willing to play, promote and spin the marketing line with scant regard relating to the real effect on their ‘locked in customers’.

    Never forget; Autodesk have been paid for the changed software, they’re in front, and ALL the costs from that point on are the customers – Autodesk have no reason to care and an admission they had done wrong would hurt lots of egos but still not cost Autodesk a cent!

  13. Chris Cowgill

    Steve, your poll on the right in regards to whether I am generally using the ribbon needs a little more info. I have the ribbon open, but I only use it for the custom commands I created that I cant remember how to call (few and far between). I created my customized ribbon so it could be anchored and hidden, there by providing access to the tool (in case I forget how to call it from the command line) but not taking up the normal screen space. So yes I use the ribbon, but it is pretty rare.

  14. “The same source of data shows between 85% and 90% adoption of the new UI in AutoCAD-based products”

    Does the data stream also count whiners like myself? I ran ACAD/AIP 2009 for it’s entire eleven month lifecycle. My hope was that 2010 would repair the idiotic UI and make the package productive again. Silly me. The governor/ribbon that popped up in MS Office 2007 products stopped that expenditure path as Office 2003 didn’t prevent me from getting my work completed. Maybe the oddly named Office 2008 to be will make Word usable again. I don’t hold out much hope.

    So when ACAD 2010 arrived I eagerly loaded that puppy ’cause I was so annoyed with the 2009 family, and my stupid decision to rough it out. Unbelievably, 2010 sucked even harder than 2009 and would “update” the current DWG format. Unacceptable.

    I took the easy way out. ACAD 2008 has been re-loaded on the big box and the laptop with restored outstanding performance. No drunken overlay. No UI “improvements”. No giant performance hit. The hand-made 2008 MNU file I’d been using is still easy and fast to edit/upgrade with only minor annoying trips through the CUI mess. ACAD 2011 will be shoved at us in six months. I’m not expecting any excitement.

    So, does the CIP record what percentage of ACAD users have dropped back two releases in order to regain productivity?

  15. Dan Singleton

    I don’t see how the ribbon can make you any faster. I thought they’d done comprehensive studies that proved the fastest method of using AutoCAD was typing command shortcuts. One hand on the keyboard, one hand on the mouse.

    Personally, I find the ribbon annoying and slow. It’s counterproductive. I type in some text and want to change it to another layer, so now I have to select the text, switch from the annotation tab back to the Home tab, then select the layer I want to change the text to from the layer drop down. Before I’d simply select the text then select the layer from the always present layer toolbar. Doesn’t sound like much but it’s annoying to have that single extra step in there.

    For the few lesser used “obscure” commands that I don’t just type a shortcut for I find it a pain to have to search through tab after tab and all the stupid ribbon “flyouts”. (Didn’t you learn from R13 that flyouts simply suck for the most part?) I don’t want to play hide and seek with my design software.

    I really wish Autodesk would pull its head out of its butt and realize we don’t care that your software has a “Windows Compliance” badge or not. (Which in my opinion is the only reason you ever implemented the ribbon.) We just care that it works and works efficiently.

    Don’t get me started on how much of a nightmare for administrators the CUI is either. It’s an inefficient method of loading your UI and you know it. Compiled menus will always outperform it and it’s the reason we lag when switching tabs, loading the application, etc. The CUI’s interface is a nice idea but fails horribly in implementation. Most “users” are bewildered by it and invariably screw it up beyond repair wasting my time having to rebuild their UIs for them.

    Autodesk needs to stop building bloatware, trim the crap, and get back to making solid, fast, productive, design software, not constantly adding more bells and whistles aimed at getting “newbs” up and running.

  16. Denis Sears

    I will have no problem using the ribbon when our company upgrades our monitors to 32″ so I have room to view my working dwg file with the ribbons on. Are lisp and the pgp file next to go? 2:1 using?? Our office is 1:9.

  17. Mark Engwirda

    Hi Steve, This a very late comment on the ribbon topic so I do appoligise.
    I so looked forward to the ribon because it very intuitive and would be useful in training people in using revit and that is where Autodesk is comming from. However the ribbon is very disjointed in the way it is set up and I have to say a much slower interface to use. I think everyones that tried it found that the main commands that we use are the editing tools and these seem to shift at ramdom. If the keys on my keyboard started to move around like the editing keys on the ribbon I would be writing these comments.
    It all comes down to speed and the ribbon just needed to be released when they had it perfected and not as a poorly designed prototype.

    In regards to Autodesks comments and anybody’s offical connection with Autodesk the ribbon it is wonderful and never heard anyone not liking it.
    No wonder people become very synical when it comes to Autodesk

  18. james Carr

    I can tell you from my experience that the Ribbon is ONLY used because it is forced on us. I have 77 licenses and NO ONE is pleased with the Ribbon. It takes up too much space and although a lot of the context sensitive is good, some menus open where you do not want it all the time.

  19. Henok

    I wonder who Autodesk is consulting to add such hideous rubbish on their flagship product; we (users) love AutoCAD because of its simplicity and crudeness. I don’t think Autodesk know as to how we use this product, users are really fast when using this product i mean rally fast there is no time for animated intellisense ribbon to guess your next action.
    2:1 ratio is just a joke tell your CEO if that make him happy.
    Btw CIP OFF.

  20. 2013. Well, the ribbon is still there and it still sukcs. In Civil3D it’s a part of the design flow. In Map 3d ribbon is loading each time you start Map, even if you turned it off.
    I don’t see the poll anymore, but for our company it will be.

    12 – Autocad. no ribbon !!
    1 – Autocad. occasional use
    6 – Map 3D. ribbon on, but not in use AT ALL !!
    6 – ribbon on, but Civil 3D functions ONLY !!

    5 years after ribbon was introduced ?!
    Even newbies start using keyboard as ribbons are way slower and put a lot of stress on wrist and cause a mouse syndrome.

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