AutoCAD 2011 Help system is not popular

AutoCAD 2011 Help system is not popular

My poll on this subject is still running (see right), but so far about 2/3 of respondents rate AutoCAD 2011’s new browser-based Help system as 0, 1 or 2 stars out of 5 (total fail, very poor or poor). Frankly, I’m surprised it’s doing as well as that. Have a look at this discussion group thread to get an idea of the sort of reaction I was expecting it to receive. (Kudos to Autodesk’s moderators for allowing the discussion to continue with relatively little obvious censorship, at least so far).

There are many good new things in AutoCAD 2011, but Help isn’t one of them. Even if you like the concept of online help, this implementation of that concept is a failure. Even when used offline, this release’s browser-based Help is manifestly inferior to its CHM-based predecessor. Yet another victim of the 12-month release cycle, this feature is horribly undercooked and should not have been included in the finished product. As an advertisment for Autodesk’s ability to provide efficient cloud-based and/or platform-independent software, it could hardly be worse.

I intend to pull Help to shreds in more detail in a later post, but feel free to add your own observations.


  1. I guess this is more of a rhetorical question, because anyone who knows the answers can’t discuss it, but I wonder….was the new help system…:

    A) only added to the shipping product and not included in the betas?
    B) just not tested by the beta testers?
    C) tested and accepted by the beta testers?
    D) tested by the beta testers with the same bad reaction we are seeing now, and Autodesk didn’t have time to fix or felt it wasn’t important.
    E) tested by the beta testers with the same bad reaction we are seeing now, and Autodesk ignored this feedback?

    Again, I’m just wondering out loud what failed here., since there is obviously a process in place to avoid bad reactions like this – unless the whole thing is being blown out of proportion…?

  2. Oh, yeah… Regarding your “Kudos”… I feel the same way. Some years ago, a thread like that would have either been heavily edited or deleted. I also applaud Autodesk for letting their customers air this out on an Autodesk forum these days.

  3. Diane Serda

    Recently, there has been discussion on this forum about our Web-Based Help feature in AutoCAD 2011.

    I want to start by acknowledging that there indeed are areas for performance and search accuracy improvement with the new AutoCAD 2011 Online Help. We apologize for the frustration that this may be causing you.

    We want to quickly correct these issues, so you can go back to doing your work and enjoying the benefits of AutoCAD 2011. Accordingly, we are working hard on a fix that we expect to go live shortly. Our goal is to make this fix transparent – it will be integrated into our Online Help infrastructure, and no extra steps will be required by you to implement the fix.

    In the meantime, we are immediately providing an interim solution in the form of a CHM file. This will enable you to access our help information locally.

    We have posted the zip file for download here:

    1. Download the to your local drive (such as My DocumentsAutoCAD2011Help).
    2. Extract the zip file to this same folder.
    3. To access the CHM Help, you’ll need to click on acad181.chm or create a desktop shortcut.

    You can also point to the locally installed HTML help by turning on the local help checkbox under Options, System. You can also access the PDF’s from the Online Help Home page under Online Resources.

    We appreciate your feedback.

    Diane Serda
    AutoCAD User Assistance

  4. dazataz

    Come on now…this doesn’t address the serious problem. Most of us, if not all, already have the chm help file and have already resorted to this obvious last-chance-silly-workaround that my 16 y.o. could have answered.
    Now hear this, CHM is the preferred file and is largely unmappable from WITHIN autocad unless you win the lottery. 50% of my new installs were able to get it.
    25% after hours of messing – no known steps of resolution
    25% had it out of the box
    50% impossible and given up.

  5. Andy Gore

    This is the worst possible comment I have heard about the help system. Coming from an autodesk employee its even worse and frankly shameful. The CHM files you have pointed out are not linked to the F1 calls. Also that does not solve the bigger problems with the help system in the 2011 release.
    I am not upgrading untill the following is fixed:
    1) Make the search work. It dosnt work, and stop making excuses about it. A modern help system (which Autocad 2011 is NOT) should have a working help system backed by a solid index.
    2) Where is the Table of Contents?? Am I the only one who misses that? The links on the left are a joke and unusable.
    3) The index is completely broken.
    4) The help system is not at all standards compliant. My team uses several different browsers the pages render differently on each.
    5) The path to find the command in the menu works on IE and is broken on all other browsers.

    You posting the CHM help files that Autocad user community is a bunch of kids is plain disrespectful. We have the CHM files without your help we dont need that. The least you can do is stand by your product and you are not doing that! This is a new low from a great company.

  6. Andy Gore

    Yes, it was a little harsh. My apologies if I offended anyone. The proposed plan to fix things dosn’t even talk about the other half of the people who plan to use offline help. I have a fairly new team and help is critical for me. I wish there was a way to get back CHM support (it just worked!). I really want some of the new features (like the new transparency property) but will wait until this is sorted out hopefully a Service Pack?

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