The worst feature ever added to AutoCAD is…

The worst feature ever added to AutoCAD is…

…the Ribbon, according to your selections in the What are the worst features ever added to AutoCAD? poll. As in the best ever poll, the winner (loser?) in this race had no serious competition. I’ve listed eleven top (bottom?) features here rather than ten, partly because the popular (unpopular?) choice Memory Overuse isn’t exactly a feature. But it’s mainly because I’d hate to see Action Recorder unfairly miss out on a well-deserved mention.

  • Ribbon (30%)
  • CUI (20%)
  • Help (on line / 2012) (18%)
  • Memory Overuse (17%)
  • AutoCAD Today (2000i/2002) (16%)
  • White / Cream Drawing Background (16%)
  • Unreconciled Layers (16%)
  • Nudge (10%)
  • Blipmode (9%)
  • Proxy Object Compatibility (9%)
  • Action Recorder (8%)

Given the reception the Ribbon received when it was introduced, maybe it’s unsurprising to see it top the lists here. Cloud observers may find it interesting to note that that Autodesk’s attempt to move AutoCAD’s Help on line has been very poorly received. Yo Autodesk with your Cloud an’ all, I’m really happy for you, I’ma let you finish, but on-line Help has been voted one of the worst features of all time! Of all time!

The dislike of the intrusive, useful-to-some but short-lived AutoCAD Today feature remains strong a decade later. Light drawing backgrounds remain unpopular, which should not be a surprise to anyone, except maybe some people at Autodesk who thought it was a good idea to rehash old mistakes in a new and exciting way (“This time it’s magnolia!“). History, doomed to repeat, etc.

As for poor old Action Recorder, that has to be the ultimate brochure feature. It’s something for Autodesk to boast about rather than something for customers to actually use; “We responded to customer requests and fulfilled AUGI wishlists for a macro recorder!” Well, you did, kind of, by giving us something that’s about as useful as a chocolate fireguard. Looks nice, though. Autodesk, please try again, but this time do it properly.

It’s interesting to note that the “worst ever” list is significantly younger than the “best ever” list. Only poor old blipmode is truly ancient. Only a single “best” feature (dynamic blocks) comes from AutoCAD 2006 or later. (In fact, that’s the only feature in the “best” list that was even introduced this century). In comparison, most of the “worst” list comes from AutoCAD 2006 or later, including the top (bottom?) three. So what does that tell you?


  1. I’m kind of split over this poll. When it comes to the Ribbon, I really don’t use it or menu pull downs (and even when I do, it is in such small levels of use, their functionality is of minimal concern) in AutoCAD. The user interface as a whole is of little consequence. However, in Civil 3D (which wasn’t polled here, but I’m using as a point of reference), I can’t see how I ever did without the Ribbon. The fact that the Ribbon is so very flexible to be used however anyone wants to, though, would have reduced the high level of distaste for it. Obviously my opinion shouldn’t be a litmus for the user-base, but I wonder how many of these voters against the Ribbon ever really gave it a chance, or just immediately switched workspaces to Classic?

    1. I have to agree with Bryan regarding the Ribbon in Civil 3D. The contextual tabs are a great feature, and in general the C3D Ribbon is organized fairly well. Now having said that, I don’t use the Ribbon at all for regular AutoCAD commands, and quite frankly I see people trying to do that and they hunt and peck for what seems like forever… 1-3 letter keyboard shortcuts will always be faster than any GUI, at least for me.

      I also have taken my most frequently used C3D commands and created a toolbar (yes, an old fashioned toolbar) for even faster access.

  2. Clint Newton

    I am not opposed to the online version of help at all. Autodesk must still provide a local version as well since we are not yet, 100% connected to the internet. What I like is the potential to have relevant and continuous updating of help content. The potential to have instant correction of flaws and mis-information. The potential for a fully integrated and responsive help system. You will note that everything I like about it has potential.

    What I don’t like about Help has nothing to do at all with it being online or offline. It is the consistent lack of coordination between the help topics and reality. I find it humorously appalling that the new online content refers to regular help as a solution. (Search for “Array Dialog Box”) That is the regular offline help that is only available by turning off the online help that refers you to the same document as the online help, thus thrusting you into an endless loop of dead ends.
    The online help has no means of reporting erroneous information or dead links. According to an Autodesk employee in the Forums, the Forums themselves are supposed to be the method of reporting problems with the help system? “in recent versions we dropped the private feedback mechanism for a public one that relies on forum comments such as yours.”

    I have tested this idea ( and while I did receive a feedback, the help text in the cloud remains un-clarified. But it has only been a few weeks, so to give the benefit of the doubt, change does take time.

    I think to be successful, the HELP content has to:
    1. Provide feedback directly from the page where the problem exists.
    2. Be scalable to the needs of the user by providing a response hierarchy.
    a. Verify the search term and give links to relevant topics.
    b. Be brief and concise at the top level.
    c. Add content as one goes deeper into the topic.
    3. Show graphically where the command, tool, pull down, right click, tab, ribbon, palette, floating command line, or menu is. (Oh my, that is a lot of ways to get functions.)
    4. Link to the forums as a search option.
    5. Cross index help terms and topics so the searches yield results. (currently the exact terms used to explain a command, do not show up in the search)
    6. Make the Exchange window minimize when you click back into the drawing.

    Currently none of the help systems past or present come close to doing this, so it doesn’t matter where it is if it doesn’t work.

  3. Jimmy, I think it still is.

    I find it curious Blipmode even made the list. It’s less a feature than a behavior. Just turn it off people. I personally like having them on – they provide a little feed back to help me know if I’ve mis-picked something or when needing to reselect a window, to click inside or outside of my previous pick.

  4. ralphg

    Here’s why people like me get cynical about marketing claims. Autodesk paid somebody to do a study to show that using the Ribbon was 40% more efficient than not. Then they release the Mac version without the ribbon. (It’s possible to do the ribbon in Mac: see Word for Mac.) When I asked Autodesk marketing if Mac Acad users will be 40% less efficient than Windows Acad users due to the lack of a ribbon, I got no answer.

    Those who set up strawmen should expect to get burned.

  5. Phil Clark

    I’m fairly surprised by these results. I understand the hatred of the ribbon, as I’ve heard it countless times. I teach a customizing Acad class and the other teachers (that teach the basic CAD classes) dislike the ribbon and set all the computers to “classic”. Therefore the students don’t like the ribbon either. I teach them how to create a custom ribbon tab and put all their commonly-used commands and controls on it. Suddenly they have a single large “toolbar” that has everything they need and they say “ok, the ribbon is pretty cool now”. Obviously, this is not at the expense keyboard customization, which I still feel is most efficient.
    Most of my surprise though is regarding the CUI coming in second. Do people really prefer customizing the menus by editing MNS files in notepad?

    1. I teach AutoCAD everyday (basic, advanced,…) and also advise the classic workspace. It’s a static and faster environment, when needed you can get additional toolbars and still have a larger drawing area. In the advanced course I teach how to create ONE toolbar with everything most used. Of course I always advise command aliases as the fastest way.
      Concerning CUI, old TOOLBAR command was much faster and no buggy than using the CUI for creating toolbars. About CUI, I still don’t understand why a blank icon is not available and we have to choose one existing and save it under a different name.

  6. Bill Fane

    The two most efficient ways to use AutoCAD:

    1. Type in comamnds at the keyboard, especially the 1 and 2 character shortcuts (L=line, C=circle, etc.) Watch the real power users; one hand on mouse, other on keyboard.

    2. Turn on the old DOS screen menu. Autodesk have tried to hide it in 2012, but simply enter (setvar “screenmenu” 1) and it comes back.

    Advantages to DOS screen menu:

    a). no graphics, no icons so it loads “instantly” & no more hovering over several icons waiting for the tooltip to come up until you find the right one.

    b). all commands & sub-menus are arranged alphabetically.

    c). it was created before multi-button mice, so everything is context-sensitive no matter how the commad was started. No more right-click to get command options. For example, start the Arc commad (shortcut=A) and it automatically displays all the Arc command options.

    d) The row of asterisks near the top always shows, and always brings up osnap over-rides.

    e) Clicking AutoCAD at the top always brings you back to the root menu.

    f) Much easier to customize; no need to create icons, tooltips, etc.

    “Icons are great for displaying objects but are terrible for displaying concepts.” – quoted from the AutoCAD release 11 manual when the (now-largely-defunct) “image” menus were introduced.

  7. bauters

    this is a message for bill frame, i have tried to type in setvar but it doesnt let me shoose the option for screenmenu
    it gives me “enter variable name or (?):
    i have tried also to type in the commandbar screenmenu but it doesnt recognize it.
    hope you can help me out

  8. Albert Kalman

    So what does that tell you?
    (continued from … “best ever” list) for next 10 years Autodesk works for them : marketing, facelift, low buget, short time lunch version, unfinshed version, slow, paper economy

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