Editor’s Note: Welcome to Cadalyst's blog series by Patrick Hughes, A CAD Dinosaur's Journey into Modern Times.” In this three-month series, Hughes chronicles his transition from AutoCAD R14 to v2015 and from an outdated PC to a state-of-the-art professional workstation. Follow along and enjoy!
When AutoCAD 2015 arrived at my desk I eagerly ripped open the cellophane wrapper with my sharpened claws and inserted the 64-bit install CD. I had previously uninstalled the 2014 trial copy and was relieved that there were no conflicts during the 2015 install. The support files, block libraries, and customization files I had copied previously remained in place since they resided in a folder structure independent of the Autodesk files. I merely needed to adjust my file paths within the Options dialog box.
Upon initial startup, as with V2104, I was again greeted with the default dark drawing background, but this time AutoCAD also displayed the new dark scheme interface for the ribbon and other elements. Being the crusty old dinosaur I am, I figured I should explore my options and set the scheme to light and the background to white. I do think the new dark scheme is attractive and perhaps I’ll give it a more thorough try at some point. For now, these old dino-eyes are grateful once more for AutoCAD’s easy customization.
I updated from the default dark screen scheme to the white background. Oh, so much easier on my Dino-eyes!
Speaking of customization, since I began using AutoCAD roughly 23 years ago, I’ve written my share of AutoLISP routines and integrated them into custom menus and toolbars. Upgrading from R14 to 2015, I now had a whole new set of tools to learn and a mental shift in how to put them to use. One feature that I am enjoying is the new Customize User Interface (CUI).
Up until AutoCAD 2006, customizing menus and toolbars required creating and editing MNU and MNS text files. The CUI Editor replaces the need for editing those files in a text editor and provides a rich graphical way to add and arrange elements by dragging and dropping them into place. With AutoCAD 2010, the CUI became XML-based CUIx.
I’m by no means fully up to speed in making my desired changes via the CUI, but I’m eager to make good use of the tool. In some ways, I miss the simplicity of right-clicking on a toolbar icon and entering a new command sequence, but I’m rather certain that those of you who are responsible for a large group of CAD operators appreciate the more refined control the CUI offers.
In closing, when Autodesk first introduced the ribbon interface I worried that it consumed too much drawing real estate. After all, I’ve always thought you could never have enough drawing area. Now that I'm used to it, it’s not a major hindrance. As I continue to make modifications, I now realize how flexible it is. My biggest challenge is arriving at an efficient grouping and placement of the commands I most commonly use. However, as I discover the latest tools AutoCAD 2015 has to offer, those tried and true (but tired) methods will likely be replaced with new approaches. I already feel my T-Rex reach lengthening, soon I may even be able to scratch my nose.
About the author: Patrick Hughes, machine designer and owner of Engineered Design Solutions in Rockford, Illinois, has worked with AutoCAD since 1991. He has developed a number of AutoLISP and other software solutions to automate his workflow and increase productivity, including the commercially available time tracking program, CadTempo.