3dsout is Back In (Bug Watch AutoCAD Tutorial)

31 May, 2007 By: Steve Johnson

Annoyances galore for Visual LISP users, plus AutoCAD developers find it hard to get a handle on Help.

3dsout the Window - Revisited (2007 to 2008)
In the October 2006 "Bug Watch," I bemoaned the unannounced demise of the 3dsout command in AutoCAD 2007. The arrival of AutoCAD 2008 didn't directly rectify that situation, but Autodesk has provided a solution. See here for a utility that adds the 3dsout command and lets you convert your drawings to 3DS files. I commend Autodesk for considering the complaints of customers and coming up with a solution.

Vile IDE (2008)
The Visual LISP Integrated Development Environment is accessed from within AutoCAD using the Vlide command. Over the years, I've become used to the Vlide icons occasionally doing strange things from time to time. In earlier releases, they sometimes went blank so you had to hover over them to see the icons. In other cases, the images were replaced with black squares. Occasionally, strange things have happened to the icon colors, but AutoCAD 2008 is the first release I've seen that never seems to get the colors right. Every time I start an AutoCAD 2008 session and invoke the Vlide command, I get a new and interesting set of icon colors. The picture below shows you what I mean -- the top panel is from 2007's Vlide and the bottom ones are all from 2008.

The non-united colors of Vlide.

This problem occurs on the vast majority of systems, with all kinds of specifications and various graphics cards. Despite the fact that there are a few systems without this problem, it's hard to blame anything but AutoCAD 2008 for this bug, because 2008's Vlide is the only application that suffers in this way. Most of the time, this bug is kind of cute, but I've had AutoCAD give me light gray icons, which makes it rather difficult to see which buttons are active and which are disabled.

Workaround: None known other than closing AutoCAD and trying again until you get a color that makes the icons visible. Closing and opening Vlide doesn't change the colors.

No Help at All (2008)
If you access the Developer Documentation from within Vlide, the resultant Help window has a broken search tab that contains nothing at all.

Vlide Help is less than helpful.

Workaround: Fortunately, you can access the same documentation from within AutoCAD using Help/Additional Resources/Developer Help, and the Search tab works fine when you get at it that way. Unfortunately, due to a long-standing bug, it insists on hiding -- see below for more.

Hiding Help (2000 to 2008)
If you access the Developer Documentation from within AutoCAD rather than Vlide but Vlide is still active, the resultant Help window pops up for a second and then the main AutoCAD window takes focus. If your Help window is placed in the same place as the AutoCAD window, that means Help vanishes behind AutoCAD.

Now you see me, now you don't.

Workaround: All you can do is arrange your Help window to be where you can see it or bring it to the front when this happens.

Help Hardship (2000 to 2008)
If you have more than one AutoCAD release running at the same time and attempt to use the Developer Help from more than one release, things don't work as expected. You can have only one release's Developer Help going at a time. Whichever one you use first wins, and other releases just use that Help rather than its own. This situation even applies after you have closed the first Help or even the whole AutoCAD that called the first Help. You need to close all of the disputing AutoCAD versions before this Help confusion is reset. This problem doesn't apply to the main AutoCAD Help files, which happily coexist.

Workaround: This only applies when the Developer Help is called from directly within AutoCAD. If you call it from within Vlide instead, you can have multiple versions of the Help going at once.

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