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 …

AutoCAD 2009 – The Prequel Part 15 – Background

You may have noticed that the default AutoCAD background is an off-white shade. In a comment, Tim asked if this is the same as the Block Editor background. No, not quite. This image shows the different backgrounds and some linework, with black as a comparison: Paper space is pure white (Red, Green, Blue is 255,255,255), Model space is very pale cream (254,252,240) and the Block Editor is a slightly darker cream (255,252,229). In common with most people in my experience (and most people who need to use drawings with yellow linework), my backgrounds are all going to be 0,0,0 (black). …

AutoCAD 2009 – The Prequel Part 14 – What do you think?

I’m interested in people’s perceptions of the forthcoming AutoCAD release. Based on what you’ve seen so far, how good a release do you think it will be? Please speculate using the poll on the right. If you feel the poll doesn’t give you the opportunity to adequately express yourself, feel free to add a comment here. I intend to follow this up in a few months with a similar poll when people have had a chance to use the shipping product. It’s not scientific, but it will be interesting to see if actually using the product changes people’s opinions.

AutoCAD 2009 – The Prequel Part 13 – ViewCube

For many 3D users of AutoCAD, the ViewCube is likely to be the most useful new thing in AutoCAD 2009. There are a couple of problems with it, at least in the Release Candidate: It does not work in 2D wireframe mode (which is, paradoxically, where 90% of my 3D work is done). You need to choose another visual style before it will appear. It seems to slow things down quite a lot in complex drawings. That said, if you have more than enough computing power for the drawings you usually deal with, then this is a very, very nice …

AutoCAD 2009 – The Prequel Part 12 – Controlling Screen Elements

How do you turn the new screen elements on and off using the keyboard? How about the not-so-new ones? See this table: Element On Off Toggle Advanced Render Settings RPPREF RPPREFCLOSE   Clean Screen CLEANSCREENON CLEANSCREENOFF Ctrl+0 Command line COMMANDLINE COMMANDLINEHIDE Ctrl+9 dbConnect DBCONNECT DBCCLOSE Ctrl+6 DesignCenter ADCENTER ADCCLOSE Ctrl+2 Layer palette LAYER LAYERCLOSE   Lights LIGHTLIST LIGHTLISTCLOSE   Markup Set Manager MARKUP MARKUPCLOSE Ctrl+7 Materials MATERIALS MATERIALSCLOSE   Menu bar MENUBAR 1 MENUBAR 0   NavCube NAVCUBEDISPLAY 1 NAVCUBEDISPLAY 0   Properties palette PROPERTIES PROPERTIESCLOSE Ctrl+1 Quick calc QUICKCALC QCCLOSE Ctrl+8 Ribbon RIBBON RIBBONCLOSE   Rollover tool tips ROLLOVERTIPS …

AutoCAD 2009 – The Prequel Part 11 – Docked Vertical Ribbon

This video shows how the AutoCAD 2009 vertical Ribbon behaves when it is docked on one side. The labels explain what is going on. The main thing that used to drive me batty with the Dashboard was the way in which expanding one panel would contract another. The vertical Ribbon doesn’t do that, it leaves panels how you left them, which I much prefer. Something else you may have noticed is that when there is no docked horizontal Ribbon, the red A in the corner shrinks. I’ll describe what’s lurking beneath that A in future posts.

AutoCAD 2009 – The Prequel Part 10 – Dude, where’s my Dashboard?

Dude, Dashboard’s dead. Defunct. Done. AutoCAD 2009 replaced the Dashboard with the Ribbon. If you type in the DASHBOARD or DASHBOARDCLOSE commands, they are just converted to the RIBBON and RIBBONCLOSE commands, which turn the Ribbon on and off. If you’re a fan of the Dashboard (and I never was), there is good and bad news. The good news is that you can right-click on various parts of the Ribbon, pick Undock and you get a Dashboard-like floating vertical Ribbon that can be resized and configured very easily in terms of turning panels on and off. You can’t do that …

AutoCAD 2009 – The Prequel Part 9 – Docked Toolbars

If AutoCAD 2009’s floating toolbars are the best ever, what about when they’re docked? As a starting point, here is AutoCAD 2008 with the Express Tools toolbars docked. Here is the same thing in AutoCAD 2009. So a few pixels have been shaved off in one direction and added in another. The end result is that they use about 99% of the space used in 2008. Not too bad, but I think it could be better. Here’s my suggestion: That uses about 80% of the space. In addition to shaving off a few more pixels, I think this looks a …