AutoCAD

Another Service Pack for AutoCAD 2007 (Bug Watch AutoCAD Tutorial)

1 May, 2007 By: Steve Johnson

Ddedit distractions in AutoCAD 2008 and will your menus live past 2009?


Dodgy Dimension Ddedit (2008)
The biggest attraction in AutoCAD 2008 is annotation scaling. It has the potential to be extremely useful, but as with any major new feature I'm sure we'll see a few problems. I expect some of the grief to occur when annotation scaled drawings created by 2008 users are passed back to users of earlier releases, but we'll see.

This first AutoCAD 2008 insect isn't an annotation scaling bug and can be reproduced with the annotation scale left at 1:1. It wouldn't surprise me if it were introduced by changes to AutoCAD's code that were needed to make annotation scaling work, but that's pure speculation.

In a blank drawing, change the Standard dimension style such that it uses an overall scale of 10 and draw a dimension. Now use the Ddedit command to edit the dimension text. You might see something like the image below.

figure
Editing dimension text -- a strange, oversized rectangle.

That isn't too bad, although there is a strange rectangle around the text. Zoom out a bit more and have another go with Ddedit. You might see something like this.

figure
Editing dimension text while zoomed out -- a strange undersized rectangle.

The text, which should almost be readable, has some kind of small rectangle partially obscuring it. Let's zoom in and take a closer look.

figure
A closer look at the strange undersized rectangle.

The text you're trying to edit is displayed in an edit box that is a fraction of the size that it's supposed to be. It's not 1/10 of the size of the text that's being edited, so it's not clear where AutoCAD is getting its scaling ideas from, but the dimension scale does affect what's happening. If you use dimension scales much larger or smaller, you can see more dramatic results, such as this example with the scale set to 100.

figure
Seriously undersized text editing.

Workaround: None known other than zooming in to make the text clearly readable before selecting it for editing. You'll still see an oversized rectangle, but you should be able to see the text to edit it.

AutoCAD 2007 Service Pack 2
What's this? A second service pack for an AutoCAD release? It's been a few years since we've seen one of those, although users of the buggier vertical AutoCAD variants will be familiar with multiple service packs per release. More remarkably, this is the only time in my experience that a service pack has been released for a superseded AutoCAD release. There have been occasional patches for old releases (often to fix up compatibility issues with the current release), but never a full service pack.

What is the point of SP2? In a word, Vista. AutoCAD 2007 SP1 runs on Vista, but it's not supported and there are problems. SP2 should fix those problems. For example, some problems have been reported with add-ons written in VBA. In my own Vista tests, I found that 2007 SP1 crashes on startup unless I have administrator rights and UAC was turned off.

What is UAC? It is the infamous User Access Control, an attempt by Microsoft to offload responsibility for Windows security problems onto you. It does this by forcing you to repeatedly answer so many questions that you eventually either just automatically blindly pick at anything that appears on your screen or (more likely) turn UAC off altogether. That way, when your system is infected or otherwise compromised, it will be your fault rather than Microsoft's.

SP2 should also fix problems with Internet Explorer 7 that cause AutoCAD 2007's iDrop and parts of Help to fail. Those problems can affect XP users too, because unless you blocked it, you may have already had Internet Explorer 7 imposed on you by Windows Update. If I could keep Internet Explorer off my system altogether, I would be happier, but Microsoft and Autodesk won't let me. I have railed against Autodesk's imposition of a specific browser since AutoCAD 2000i demanded the use of Internet Explorer 5.5, and this has only strengthened my resolve on that issue. The Internet browser installed on my system and used by me should be my choice. Mine. Not Microsoft's, and certainly not that of Autodesk or any other application developer.

But, I digress. Let's return to SP2. Autodesk's decision to provide Vista support for users of last year's AutoCAD is commendable. Autodesk also deserves credit for including some fixes for other bugs in the same service pack. At the time of writing, it has yet to be seen whether AutoCAD's vertical siblings are going to follow suit.

You can find SP2 at www.autodesk.com/autocad-updates. As usual, read the Readme before doing anything. That's not just an idle disclaimer; there is important stuff in there. For example, the Readme file informs you that if you're running Vista and 2007 SP1, you won't be able to install SP2 over the top, but you must uninstall AutoCAD and start from scratch.

Death of Tablet and Screen Menus?
In the Autodesk discussion groups and elsewhere, Autodesk is asking if people still use tablet and screen menus. The first time I saw Autodesk hinting at the future demise of the screen menu was back in the Release 12 cycle. It was too early then to do away with it and subsequent repeated reports of its death proved to be exaggerated. The screen menu has survived being deeply unfashionable for a decade, but perhaps the end really is nigh this time?

Tablets were once very popular, but poor driver support during the early AutoCAD for Windows days delivered an almost fatal blow. To stay current, people were effectively forced to adopt other input methods. Vast numbers of tablets were disconnected and today lie sadly gathering dust in forgotten corners of offices.

Without wishing to start a debate, I can think of several scenarios in which tablet and screen menus are still more productive than the other methods that AutoCAD currently makes available. If Autodesk thinks the number of users is small enough, it's safe to assume that a future release will kill these menus. If you still have a use for these input methods, go to a discussion group thread and let Autodesk know about it. There are threads in various groups, for example AutoCAD 2006, 2007 and 2008.


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