In a recent post on Between the Lines, Shaan passed on the following response from the AutoCAD Team:
There has been some recent discussions about the built-in help system in AutoCAD 2013, both positive and some criticism. As our longtime users know, AutoCAD help has been through many evolutions.
We are particularly proud of the new AutoCAD 2013 online learning environment we recently released (AutoCAD Online Help Mid-Year Updates.) This update addressed several user requested fixes and changes, and we will continue to take our direction from our user’s feedback.
We do recognize that the online learning environment may not be the solution for every user, so while we are focused on creating a rich and personalized online experience, we will continue to maintain our current basic offline experience.
(The emphasis is mine). This statement, although couched in marketingspeak, confirms what I’ve had to say on the subject. Here’s my translation into plain English:
AutoCAD 2013 Help sucked, the customers said so, the recent update improved matters somewhat for online users, but the awful old system stays in place for offline users. The offline system is in maintenance mode, and the experience will continue to remain basic (i.e. it will suck long-term).
There’s no mention of correcting this situation; it’s clearly a matter of policy rather than some unfortunate accident.
Today, I was using Autodesk Navisworks Manage 2013. As you might expect from an Autodesk product, it’s powerful but unstable. In addition to the lockups and crashes, it has various bugs and annoyances. In looking for a way of working around one of the annoyances, I delved into the Help system. Strangely enough, this product (much younger than AutoCAD) uses something that looks remarkably like an old-fashioned CHM-based Help system. It worked offline. It was quick. It had contents, search and index tabs, and they worked on a Windows 7 64-bit system. It had a hierarchical structure and a breadcrumb bar that helped me understand the context of what I was reading. Using it was, in short, a breath of fresh air.
Memo to Autodesk: if you’re going to try to make online Help look good by mangling offline help, you’re going to have to do this to all your products at once to make it remotely convincing.