AutoCAD 2012 – Array has good and bad points

For many users, the most useful new feature in AutoCAD 2012 is going to be the updated Array command. It adds a great deal of very welcome new functionality that will provide a potential productivity boost for 2D and 3D users. But it’s from an Autodesk wedded to its infernal 12-month product cycle, so of course it’s half-baked.

The Good

So what’s good about the Array command in AutoCAD 2012?

  • Associativity. By default, arrays are now associative objects. This means that if you want to, say, modify the distance between columns a couple of days after you drew them, you can now do so. If you’re a Ribbon user, it’s easy to change array parameters because when you select an array, you get a Ribbon tab dedicated to just that task. If you’re not, then the Properties palette allows you to do the same thing.
  • Dynamic preview. Once you have set your various options appropriately, you can just move your cursor around and click to choose things like the number of rows and columns.
  • Path option. In addition to rectangular and polar arrays, you can now array along a path such as a polyline, similar to the Measure and Divide commands. But because it’s associative, if you edit the path, the array changes too.
  • 3D functionality. It is now easy to create 2D or 3D arrays with the Array command. You can add levels (Z) to the rows (Y) and columns (X) of arrays, and this applies to all three types of array. You can also provide a elevation increment, which means the items get progressively higher the further they are from the base row. Think of the seating in a stadium as an example, although real seating arrangements are usually more complex than you will see in the Autodesk examples, so in the real world I don’t expect this feature to be used much.

The Bad

So far so good, then. But what’s not so good?

  • 1990s user interface. Can you remember when the Array command had only a command-line interface? Because that’s what it has now. While some of us old-timers may yearn for some aspects of the “good old days” of 1997’s Release 14, I don’t think many of us want to lose truly useful functionality. But that’s what has happened here. The Array command uses the new command line. The -Array command uses the old command line. Nothing uses a dialog box; there’s no ClassicArray command. *
  • Bugs and limitations. The new command line interface ain’t cooked. There are a bunch of bugs and limitations that mean some valid inputs get rejected, some arrays get drawn incorrectly, and some can’t be created at all. There are other aspects of the feature that strike me as not well thought out, such as the extra step involved in creating a non-associative array (not everybody will need or want associativity), or the clumsy way in which users who want to keep existing objects are expected to mess about with a system variable that affects unrelated things. **
  • Missing API. Autodesk’s long-standing grotesque neglect of LISP continues with the new Array object. There is no meaningful ActiveX API for such objects. If you wanted to use ActiveX to create a simple array, you would have to pretty much reproduce Autodesk’s array creation code (it’s an anonymous block, really) and hope you got it right. There is, of course, no documentation whatsoever to help you do this.

On balance, the AutoCAD 2012 Array command should be viewed as a positive, but it could (and should) have been done a lot better.

* Disclaimer: I have written my own ClassicArray™ command, and I intend to provide it as an add-on soon. Watch this space over the next few days for a public Beta. Edit: here it is.

** ClassicArray acts as a workaround for many of these bugs, limitations and design failings.


  1. vrphillips

    This is most counter-intuitive, user-unfriendly piece of junk I have seen, yet. Is anyone working on an add-on to get this command back to useful functionality? Someone should be soundly flogged for this.

  2. Dilli Babu

    The Polar Array isnt working as it should . it aint taking the input i type. (for eg if type 20 number of items, its taking 4 as input which was default). Array command is annoying in auto cad 2012. it was good in older version.

    New versions are supposed to be more user friendly but its just vice versa

  3. Autodesk pays someone to build this slightly over-populated dialog box to do arrays, and once all the users are finally used to it, decides — “You know what, screw technological advancement, let’s make you guess what to do next.” Dear Autodesk, every last one of us knows how to do what you’re software is supposed to. Sell yourself to Adobe already and get with the 90’s.

    There are unemployed programmers in Marin County who can take your array dialog box (and your hatch dialog for that matter) and make it awesome for me and my unhappy colleagues here.

  4. G P

    It takes a little time to get used to the new array since it requires typing everything into the CLI. I mostly use basic rectangular array, and it’s working OK for me. It’s not as fast as the old way; definitely more cumbersome. It doesn’t remember my last input, and so far I can’t find how to change the default settings. The default spacing is .45, which never works for me. When I tried to click for spacing using a base point instead of typing it in, the array wouldn’t go on snap. I guess I’ll go back to the old array dialogue box until they work out the bugs.

  5. Csaba

    Hi All!

    Yes, the polar array isnt’t the best in the AutoCAD 2012. I realized, that after polar array, the elements are together, not separat. I don’t edit them separately. And one thing more: if i would like to use the “plate” command, it doesn’t work. Because i wolud like to “pull” the plate later… I had to install the SP1 and then it works…

    Do you have tipp, if does it work also without SP1 so?

  6. Todd Oeftger

    I have used the new Array command quite a lot for rectangular arrays. However, it works best by visually starting and array then exit. After exiting, double click the array and a dialog box pops up where you can make adjustments to quantities and spacings. After deselecting the array, you can delete or move items in the array by “Control-cliking” any array item then move or erase. The only problem is that you can never know how many items you have on the screen. It still thinks the items you deleted are there, even if you delete a whole row by picking items. You can also restore the array to the original with a restore command. You can also revise the array items after it is created. The new array has saved me a lot of time, but it does require some learning. Autodesk has a tutorial video that demonstrates some of these new features.

  7. Jeff

    As with all new releases, no matter what software, companies follow the lead of Microsoft. Most of the new items are “eyecandy” and nothing more. The whole ribbon concept follows Microsoft but doesn’t necessiarily make things easier or quicker for the user. Knowing the old commands and especially short-cuts, is very often quicker.

  8. Thomas

    I just found out another problem with the attributable array. Once you have one drawn you can’t stretch it, with other items, to a different location. Everything but the array moves. Good times!!!

  9. R. Paul Waddington

    ARRAYCLASSIC in AutoCAD 2013 = Autodesk programming incompetence.

    Had reason last night to have to show a large group of students how to use differing methods to array objects. Knowing something of how the new 2012 ARRAY command works and has carried through to 2013 was one component of the explanation. I am required to teach as close to generically as is possible using a product (not all students can access the latest & or use alternatives) – therefore I was also required to show how the earlier ARRAY command worked – it ain’t easy but possible.

    It becomes very difficult when Autodesk’s programmers demonstrate their total disregard for those who use their software by deliberately implementing a faulty function. That was necessary because not all the students participating have access to the latest versions of AutoCAD and some use entirely different systems.

    It would appear – in response to a market reaction to their changing ARRAY in 2012 – it was deemed necessary to implement an ARRAY command which looked like the earlier version; and that is all it does because it performs differently and in a manner which renders it all but useless.

    Thank the Lord Autodesk programmers are where they are and not writing programs our lives depend on; it will be a tragic day any of the code cutters responsible for the renewed ARRAY command are let lose writing code to control our transport or toasters.

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