AutoCAD 2009 – Video from product managers

I generally dislike blogs that just regurgitate contents from elsewhere, so I’m going against the grain here to repost something from Shaan Hurley’s Between the Lines blog. Shaan has been a bit quiet over the past few weeks, but has recently made up for this with a vengeance. A flurry of new posts has pushed this video way down the page, so you may well have missed it. I’m always happy to see Autodesk communicating with its customers (even if I don’t agree with what’s being said), so I decided to bring it to your attention. Here, Autodesk product managers Eric …

AutoCAD 2009 – Tooltips are bad for my sanity

In the general scheme of things, this is a relatively trivial issue, but it’s sometimes the little things that get under my skin. Winner of this year’s prize for most annoying new feature just has to be the new tooltips. They are really not good for my mental health. If I have tooltips turned on, I find it hard to use AutoCAD 2009 for more than a few minutes without wanting to smash my fist through the screen. I would like to leave tooltips on just a little bit so they will let me get used to AutoCAD’s modified button …

AutoCAD 2009 – ViewCube problems?

Having been very effusive in my praise of AutoCAD 2009’s ViewCube feature, stating among other things that “the ViewCube looks like a finished, polished tool”, I may need to backpedal. Those views, along with all of my 2009 Prequel posts, were based on my experience with the Release Candidate.  Although ViewCube was very stable for me in pre-release versions of 2009, I’ve seen severe ViewCube stability problems in the shipping software. I’ve seen the following problems in just a few minutes use of the ViewCube, on two different PCs: Picking the WCS button under the ViewCube and then picking a …

AutoCAD 2009 – Automatic spell checker

I’ve seen quite a few positive comments about the new automated spell checking feature, with some people saying that it alone is enough to make AutoCAD 2009 worth the price of admission. I wouldn’t go quite that far, but it is a nice feature. If you enter or edit text or mtext, a little dashed red line appears under words that are not in the dictionary. Right click on an unknown word and the menu will offer several suggestions, allow you to ignore the word or add it to the dictionary. It does have limitations, though, such as not working …

AutoCAD 2009 – Layer Palette and performance

If you’ve noticed some normal drafting operations are much slower in AutoCAD 2009 than in earlier releases, try turning off the new Layer Palette and see if the problem goes away. For example, editing viewports with the Layer Palette visible can be completely unworkable. Don’t just auto-hide it, close it altogether. Another problem presented by the Layer Palette is that any layer changes you make are applied as you make them. This sounds great in theory, but if each operation takes a while to perform then that’s much less efficient than the old method where all changes are made at …

AutoCAD 2009 – Action Recorder needs action

One of the banes of AutoCAD over the past few years is the phenomenon of the half-baked feature. A new feature is added to the product with serious design deficiencies and/or bugs and other shortcomings that make it much less useful than it should have been. I’m sure you have your own favourite examples of this. I may expand on this theme in future, but for now let’s concentrate on one brand new and particularly undercooked feature, the Action Recorder. The ability to record and play back macros is undoubtedly something that many users want, and has featured prominently in …

AutoCAD 2009 – A new release is on the cards

When AutoCAD 2009 arrives, what exactly do you get? Inside the brown cardboard box is a fatter DVD case containing one DVD and a set of cards describing the new features: I haven’t discovered the rules yet; maybe they are in Help somewhere. Is Menu Browser worth more than ViewCube? Does Action Recorder trump Quick Properties? Is DWFx a wildcard? Inquiring minds want to know.

DWG TrueView 2009 – it measures!

Autodesk’s DWG viewer history has been one of twists and turns, including name changes, attempts to charge money for it, lost features, bloat, and general confusion. One of the most obvious problems that prevented people using the recent DWG TrueView offerings was the inability to measure objects. As a result, some people who needed a DWG viewer turned to the MicroStation-based offering, Bentley View. It took a while, but that omission has now been remedied and Autodesk now provides a useful tool for non-AutoCAD users who need to check drawings. You can download it here: http://www.autodesk.com/dwgtrueview It’s a 194 MB …

AutoCAD 2009 – Putting things back to “normal”

Note: there are updated versions of this post for AutoCAD 2010, 2011 and 2012. If you’re running a more recent release of AutoCAD, have a look at the post AutoCAD 2017 – Putting things back to “normal” instead. One thing that’s regularly asked whenever a new AutoCAD release hits the streets is how to make it work like the last release. I think you should give any new features a fighting chance before turning them off or ignoring them, but that’s entirely your choice. Let’s assume you’ve made the decision to go back to the future; how do you do …

AutoCAD 2009 – The Reaction Part 1

Some people have now received AutoCAD 2009, or at least downloaded it, which you can do (legally!) here, as long as you’re in the United States or Canada. I’m closing the AutoCAD 2009 speculation poll. Other than a small blip on “Very bad”, the poll follows a typical bell curve nicely, with the peak very clearly on “OK”. I will poll on AutoCAD 2009 later, once you’ve had a chance to play with the new product. What is the initial user reaction like? So far, not good. For example, have a look at Autodesk’s AutoCAD 2009 discussion group. I fully …

AutoCAD 2009 – The Prequels Are Over

It would appear that AutoCAD 2009 is now shipping. I intend to hold off on any further comments until I get my hands on the shipping product, which I expect to be fairly soon. In the meantime, maybe have a look over the 24 AutoCAD 2009 Prequel posts and see if there’s anything you missed. If there’s something in particular about AutoCAD 2009 you want clarified or would like to see covered in future posts, feel free to add a comment here or email me.

AutoCAD 2009 – The Prequel Part 24 – Menu Browser Keyboard Access

You may be used to accessing pull-down menus with Alt-key combinations, e.g. Alt+F to get at the File menu. You can still use those keystrokes to get at menus in AutoCAD 2009, whether or not the pull-down menus are in place. If the pull-downs are visible (MENUBAR=1), they are given priority over the Menu Browser. One difference is that if the pull-down menus are visible, you can either press the keys together (e.g. Alt+F), or you can press and release the Alt key, then choose the menu (e.g. Alt, F). With the pull-down menus turned off, you can use only …

AutoCAD 2009 – The Prequel Part 23 – Recent Actions

Like Recent Documents, the Menu Browser pane also stores a Recent Actions list. Like Recent Documents, the length of this list defaults to 9 and can be set to up to 50 in Options. Similarly, you can pin actions in place to prevent them slipping off the end. Unlike the command line recall (up-arrow) method of retrieving recently entered commands, this feature only remembers commands you selected using the Menu Browser. Even if you use pull-down menus, those commands will not be placed in this list. Also unlike command line recall, the list is remembered between drawing sessions and even …

AutoCAD 2009 – The Prequel Part 22 – Open Documents

One more feature that’s crammed into the Menu Browser pane’s limited space is the Open Documents list. This allows you to switch between the drawings you currently have open. It has a similar interface to the Recent Documents list, including the persistently pale preview: Unlike Recent Documents, the filenames are displayed in the correct case, although this is not true in the preview where the name and path are all in upper case. Another glitch in the preview can be seen above, where it says Currently Oper instead of Currently Open By:. This only happens intermittently and doesn’t concern me …

AutoCAD 2009 – The Prequel Part 21 – Recent Documents

Another thing you will find lurking under the big red A is the Recent Document list. This is a mixed bag too, but most of it is good. It differs from the traditional list that still lives under the File menu in several ways: Although the default maximum list length is 9 items, you can allow up to 50 items into the list by changing a setting in the Options command’s Open and Save tab. If the list exceeds the space available, a scroll bar appears. This has the same problems as elsewhere in the menu browser: more clicks are …

AutoCAD 2009 – The Prequel Part 20 – Menu Browser Search

So if the Menu Browser isn’t much use for browsing menus, what is it good for? Searching menus, for one thing. Let’s say you’re a very occasional 3D user trying to make a 3D model look pretty. You want to access commands for placing lights, putting the sun in the right place, and changing visual style settings. You don’t really know where to look in the Ribbon or menus. What to do? Click on the red A and just start typing what you think the command is called. With a bit of luck, the appropriate menu item will present itself …

AutoCAD 2009 – The Prequel Part 19 – Menu Browser

You have undoubtedly noticed the large red A in the top right corner of the AutoCAD window. Personally, I don’t like the look of it. The concept is rather Fisher-Price and the execution is poor. No competent graphic designer would align the top of the red A exactly with the top of its surrounding button area like this: There are so many examples of poor graphic design in AutoCAD 2009 that the overall visual effect is close to that of a rather amateurish shareware product. That’s not what you might expect of a multi-billion dollar company that can undoubtedly afford …

AutoCAD 2009 – The Prequel Part 18 – Another Interface Option

There’s one screen-based user interface mechanism in AutoCAD 2009 that you probably won’t see bragged about in Autodesk marketing materials. That’s a shame, because it has some strong points: It can be docked on the side of the screen or allowed to float free. While floating, it can be resized to the desired width and height. If you do dock it on the side, any unused height can be used to place either docked or floating toolbars. Out of the box, it provides access to a large number of the most commonly used AutoCAD commands. In default form, it is …

AutoCAD 2009 – The Prequel Part 17 – Ribbon Performance 2

Testing performance under Vista can be an interesting experience. The trouble is, Vista tries to improve its performance by observing what you do and caching it for later use in case you do it again. This leads to something akin to the observer effect in science, where the very act of observing something has an effect on what it is you are observing. Every time I test Ribbon tab switching performance in Vista, the results improve. In XP, the worst tab switching time I saw on my Core2 PC was 1.6 seconds for the first exposure of the Tools tab. …

AutoCAD 2009 – The Prequel Part 16 – Ribbon Performance 1

One of the things I like least about AutoCAD 2009 (at least in Release Candidate form) is that I find it very “sticky”. That is, I find myself having to wait for an instant here, then again there, yet again over there. Most of my testing has been on a middle-aged Pentium 4 (3.0 GHz dual core – not too ancient), and it is particularly noticeable there. On my newer Core2 machine, things are better. When AutoCAD 2009 starts shipping, I suspect your perception of it will be strongly influenced by your hardware. Top gun users on slow machines are …